The Missing Voice


Janet Cardiff and George Miller are artists who have become known for their work with sound. They have designed interesting projects in creating an acoustic environment that transforms the listener into a different time, which provides an experience of being in two places at once.


‘The Missing Voice’ is Cardiff’s first work for a large modern metropolis when she arrived in London in January 1998.  Coming from a small town, she experienced that in the city one is constantly in the company of strangers. For Cardiff the project, The Missing Voice was partly a response to living in a large city like London for a while, reading about its history in quiet libraries, seeing newspaper headlines, overhearing gossip, and being a solitary person lost amongst the masses. Having an affection for sound, Cardiff used to walk around  the streets and take notes on her mini voice recorder. While listening to these notes again she realised that her voice became another woman, a character different from herself, a companion of sorts.

Cardiff recreates this feeling in her soundwalk – as throughout the walk, the walker has a companion with him/her  (through audio). This companion metaphorically represents how we all have multiple personalities and voices. Cardiff says that she saw the woman in the story not only as alienated from her self, but also searching for herself through the voice, play-acting, creating false dangers and love affairs, wanting her story dramatised. At the same time, her voiceover, the one that speaks in the third person, removes her from the story, and keeps her at a safe distance.

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An excerpt from The Missing Voice. Cardiff narrates every scenario with a theatrical voice and dramatised background sound effects that transport the listener inside a thriller genre novel set in London. In this particular scenario Cardiff asks the listener to read a scene from a book, through the medium of sound she paints the listeners imagination resulting in the listeners actually living the scenario. I think the location of the soundwalk – the White Chapel Library is very important as a starting point. The listener starts from a very quiet place, everyone in the surrounding is engrossed in their own work, no sound whatsoever, you feel like a stranger. It’s almost like how Cardiff felt when she was in London to compose The Missing Voice – thats what inspired her. I think that has been very effortlessly translated in the soundwalk.

When the listener hears her voice you can literally feel the emotion she is going through – whether it is scared or suspicious – every emotion is felt by the listener through her voice. When she is running down the streets, the slow panting in her voice makes you feel like you were just running beside her. I think this pursuit of translating visuals into sounds has been achieved very well in this soundwalk.


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