Steve Roden
Forms of Paper

LINE_007 | CD | Edition of 500 (sold out/out of print) | October 2001

Forms of Paper was originally created for the “Art in the Libraries Exhibition” and installed in the Frank Gehry designed Hollywood branch of the Los Angeles Public Library in August, the work was created with the quiet space of the library as a major consideration, amplified at a very low volume level. All of the sounds in the composition are the sounds of book pages being handled. This cd version has been expanded and re-worked into a one hour composition. Roden says of the CD “I imagine the work as something of a folded piece of white paper sculpture; where shadows, folds, and light enable one to see not only the white of the paper, but a full spectrum of grays as well.”

Steve Roden is a visual/sound artist from Los Angeles. His work, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film/video, and sound, combine conceptual strategies and intuitive movements, found structures and systems lifted from their original intentions and used as the basis for improvisation and abstraction. In the sound works; objects, architectural spaces, and field recordings, are abstracted through electronics to create audio new spaces or “possible landscapes” concerned with subtlety and the quiet activity of listening. The Wire (UK) recently referred to Roden’s cd The Radio as “a particularly modest form of genius” and listed it in their “best of 2000” for experimental releases.

Since 1986, Roden has exhibited his visual/sound installations and performed his works live internationally, including recent exhibits at the UCLA Armand Hammer Museum (LA); the MAK Center for Art and Architecture (LA); the Drawing Center (NYC); the Jennjoy Gallery (SF), Kunsthallen Brandts Klaedefabrik (Odense, Denmark); Podewil (Berlin, Germany) to name a few. Roden has released CDs on such labels as Trente Oiseaux (GERMANY) Sonoris (FRANCE); GMBH (FRANCE); Digital Narcis (JAPAN) Meme (JAPAN) and on compilations. In 1999 he co-edited the publication “Site of Sound: of Architecture and the Ear.”


los angeles artist steve roden often reconfigures physical objects and spaces in his recordings and installations, in pursuit of 'possible landscapes'. that is, by abstracting objects, architectures and field recordings through electronics, he creates new audio spaces. he refers to his microsonic aesthetic, which at times shares affinities with bernhard gunter's hushed work, as "lower case sound" or "sound concerned with the subtlety and the quiet activity of listening". fittingly, "forms of paper" is an expanded version of a recording initially designed for installation in the los angeles public library which dealt with the materiality of the printed page.

all of the sounds on "forms of paper" are derived from the turning and touching of book pages, but the way that they've been processed and reconfigured with protools strips out any obvious sonic hallmarks. what's left is a shifting constellation of crackles, rustles, and static, swirling together eddy upon eddy of clicks into a pouros drone. it's certainly not a vast imaginative leap to imagine these sounds as a sort of sonic metaphor for the surface of paper viewed under magnification, cratered with the natural grain of compressed pulp, littered with dust, and scraped with angled light. Indeed, the narrow scope of roden's conceit contributes the work's success. his philosophical interest is summed up in a quote from hiroshi ogawa: " when you hold a clean immaculate piece of paper, no matter what size it may be cut or folded into, you can find the meaning of its form there. it is clear that the surface of the sheet encloses infinite space." like the object that it takes as its point of departure, "forms of paper" unfolds from a nominally two dimensional plane into a space shot through with hidden depths and cavities, each one a wormhole leading to a realm as full of possibility as silence itself.
(the wire, uk)


Roden creates austere compositions, using only the "sounds of book pages being handled." You'd hardly know it, though, since-through the magic of ProTools, Roden transforms the dry rustle of paper into hums, pulses and taps that occasionally seem positively liquid.
(XLR8R, usa)


... Don't expect obvious page-flipping or cover-thumping noises... the book sounds have been thoroughly transmuted within Roden's computer. Decidedly unfamiliar soundforms unfurl in one longform excursion... thrumming energies, scritchy bumps, wavering murkiness, tiny pips, grittily grinding glass noises, the occasional "shhh" of a librarian (just kidding about the last one!). Frankly it's baffling as to how these strange emissions could have come from paper; it's more like an electron microscope scan of a page's surface, which of course isn't even remotely as smooth as it appears... About 35 minutes in, more vaporous currents begin to stream in high ephemeral drones, as semirhythmic patterns clunk along like distantly clopping hooves. All fades several minutes before the piece actually ends...
(ambientrance, usa)


...from renowned visual/sound artist Steve Roden who resides in Los Angeles. Forms Of Paper was originally created for the "Art in the Libraries Exhibition" which was then installed in the Frank Gehry designed Hollywood branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. This CD contains a 50+ min expanded version of the original ten minute sound loop. All the sounds in the composition are the sounds of book pages being handled. From this limiting source there is quite a wide canvas for the micro sounds to unravel. Designed to be played at a low, unobtrusive volume. Alluring.
(boomkat, uk)