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Baby, I’ve Been Here Before

Baby, I’ve Been Here Before is an experiential work about the virtues and perils of our rapidly propagating, “viral” culture. Put another way, it’s a designed experience about finding a meaningful signal in the seemingly inscrutable noise of mass-media.

Following Leonard Cohen’s passing in 2016, I was reflecting on the virality of culture. Cohen’s “Hallelejah” is arguably more widely known than he is, having been reverently covered by other artists ad nauseam. I both love and loathe that the culture gobbled up “Hallelujah” and spit it out a million times over.

“Hallelujah” encourages the vocalist to speed up and slow down at their leisure. Using Ableton Live, I went through multiple versions of the song and matched them, one beat at a time, so the tracks were in sync with one another. With a USB audio interface and consumer-grade FM transmitters, I then broadcast these songs on separate FM channels simultaneously.

The viewer / listener can tune any radio to find other stations, static, and my transmission(s) — the signal in the noise.

While the form was a designed experience — encountering these radios, tuning them and discovering the synchronicity — the traditional graphic design “frame” was called into question. What was the “arena” of the work? One could argue the arena was simply the radios themselves. However, I hoped the audience would see the arena as the radio waves — unseen and intangible, and all around us. In this way, the arena was as far as my transmission could reach. Anyone with a radio or two in the general vicinity could experience it.


nathan dot young at temple dot edu