Sound Clip: Freud’s Desk by Andrew McNiven
A recording was made by placing a microphone inside the front right-hand drawer of Sigmund Freud’s desk, situated in the study of his former home, Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead, now the Freud Museum. (This was also the room in which he died.) The intention with this work was to demonstrate the sonic conditions experienced by the desk as it exists within the museum, and place it firmly within material culture – this is the same desk that resonated to the sound of Freud’s voice and those of his patients, the motions of his pen as he wrote and other sounds associated with him, intimate and public, perhaps even those of his death. The present sound environment in which it exists includes a particularly jarring telephone ringing tone, the commentary of visitors, the sound of an audio-visual display elsewhere within the museum – looping Glück’s ‘Eurydice’ – and the sounds associated with people moving around a space of that kind – the creak of parquet, for example.
The sonic effect of placing the microphone within the desk was significant; it picked up sound resonated through the object as well as the air so the sounds were muffled, distorted, sometimes elusive. The atmosphere created could be described as dark, somewhat mysterious, suggesting something hidden or concealed. It also contains narrative elements, with distinct events occurring throughout the recording, which lasts about nineteen minutes. The work fore-fronted the object – Freud’s desk, resonant as one of the primary sites of his activity (the other, his couch, the couch, was a few feet away) – and through an auditory scopophilic process, the work ‘showed’ or perhaps better, demonstrated, what the object ‘experienced’, listening to the room and its activity. Through this process the object’s own agency, its active presence, emerged, despite the object itself being physically absent. It could be considered analogous to the ‘point-of-view’ shot in cinema, an analogy assisted by the diegetic nature of the sound.