You Love Me Truly, 2010
Porcelain urn for Ada Eugenia von Böös-Farrar (1873 - 1966) with recording of her singing I Love You Truly on the exterior. 6 x 9.5 inches.
Publication, perfect bound, black and white, 30 pages. 8.5 x 5.5 inches. 200 copies.
Archaeoacoustics explores the acoustic properties of built objects and spaces. In 1953 a hypothesis emerged that inadvertent audio recordings could have been captured in the surfaces of ancient clay pottery while rotating on a potter’s wheel like a primitive phonograph. We applied this theory to create an urn for the interment ceremony of opera singer Eugenia Farrar at Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery in 2010, which we were asked to participate in because of a work we had made two years earlier.
You Love Me Truly (2008/2010) began as a radiophonic response to Eugenia Farrar’s historic singing of I Love You Truly over the radio in 1907. The singing, broadcast from inventor Lee DeForest’s studio in Manhattan, is believed to be the first song to be sung live over radio waves. Eugenia’s voice was heard by 19-year-old Oliver Wyckoff aboard the USS Dolphin, during a test of the ships new radiotelephones. Upon her death in 1966 he became the first trustee of her remains.
101 years later we invited singer George Positive to our studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and broadcast a live performance of the song from the original point of reception. We later discovered the site of these transmissions and receptions was also the home of Eugenia’s cremated ashes which were stored in the Navy Yard’s archives. We used phonograph cutting techniques to record Eugenia singing I Love You Truly onto the surface of the porcelain urn, surrounding her ashes in her own voice.
Read about Eugenia’s ceremony in the New York Times.
Listen to the Oct 5, 2010 program about Eugenia on Michael Cumella’s Antique Phonograph program on WFMU