Jacob Kirkegaard - Phantom Bell

This work combines sounds of tinnitus interpreted from tinnitus sufferers’ descriptions of the sounds they hear, with verbal accounts of their subjective reactions to their tinnitus. It was installed in a darkened cell in the museum - a former panoptic prison. 

Phantom Bell explores tinnitus, a hearing condition in which people hear sounds that have no outside or inside physical source. Tinnitus is therefore not a sound that can be recorded or objectively heard. Perhaps therefore it becomes the most intimate sound of all. This work aims to portray a non-existing yet present sound.
When interviewing tinnitus sufferers about what they hear, Kirkegaard found that they don’t all hear the same sound. On the contrary, these phantom sounds are very individual and vary a lot from person to person. Some experience various extended tones and others abrupt noise.
Jacob Kirkegaard interviewed nine musicians, all of whom have tinnitus, and asked them to describe their tinnitus as precisely as they could in terms of pitch, frequency, timbre, loudness etc. Since tinnitus for most people is an unwanted phenomenon - a sound they would prefer not to hear - it became obvious to have them really concentrate on it and describe it in depth. From their descriptions Kirkegaard worked on producing a sound that would resemble their tinnitus as precisely as possible.
He then asked them to describe what associations their tinnitus evoked. Everyone could give vivid and detailed descriptions. It could be a description of a foggy space, a horizon with a thin sharp grey line. Or a metal tube with frost crystals on the edges.

Deriving from in-depth interviews with 9 tinnitus sufferers the result is 9 immersive compositions that invites the outside listener into some of their deeper associations linked to these intimate and present yet non-existing sounds.

In order of appearance:
- Bjarke Kristensen
- Anna Lundh
- Mariel Roberts
- Anthony Moore
- Anna Lundh
- Nicolas Villa
- Anna Lundh
- JG Thirlwell

Phantom Bell, 33-minute composition, Jacob Kirkegaard @ 2011
Commissioned by Espacio de Arte Contemporaneo, Montevideo, Uruguay, 2011
Thanks to Bjarke Kristensen, Anna Lundh, Mariel Roberts, Anthony Moore, Nicolas Villa and JG Thirlwell for being interviewed.

Released digitally on May 15th, 2020 via the TOPOS digital series 00/00/00. Catalogue number Topos-200515
All proceeds from the 00/00/00 series will fund future releases from the E.A.T. archives.

One evening I decided I wanted to just take a little evening trip
On the skis alone while my friends did the dinner
There was this trail that went through the forrest

Up just above the tree line
I guess it took like 45 minutes
I remember the first few kilometers

There was lights by the trails to lid up the trails
But suddenly there was just no lights
There was just the dusk

And I remember the silhouets of these dark trees
All around me and the snow was very bright and
I just remember this rhythm of the skis over the snow

And suddenly I was just above the tree lines
So there was nothing in the horizon
Just the dusk and the snow

And I just remember when I stopped
I stopped the skis to take a pause
And it was almost like there was no ambient sound

There’s no sound, there’s no smell and there’s no colours



You walk out on this wooden structure, I guess
I wouldn’t say it is a bridge but it kind of is
You walk actually where it is still

But when you’re approaching it, at first it is so still
You don’t even think there’s anything
Ahead of you that could be as big as that
But then you start to hear it.

And you can’t tell how big it is going to be
Because you haven’t seen it yet

You become very alone in a way because
It is so powerful
And now when I think about it
I imagine it being almost a cleaning out all of your thoughts or
Refreshing your brain


It’s very sharp, it is very shrill
Like a metallic feeling
It feels like a sharpness in the roots of my teeth
I guess it is very much on the inside of my head
In that way connected to my jaw and connected to my skull

I guess I would imagine it like aluminum
Like if you’re ever a little kid and accidentally chew on aluminium foil
It feels like that
But it is like a constant feeling feeling of very sharp, like electric
Like electricity flowing through metal

I guess it is bluish silver, I don’t know if it looks like anything
It almost tastes like,
A little bit like blood or something like
If you cut yourself and if you try to clean away the blood
It tastes a little bit like that, it kind of feels like that but more harsh

Its right at the back center of your head
A very sharp flavour, it is really high
I feel like it almost prevents me to thinking of things
Because sometimes it gets to be so overwhelmingly loud that
It blocks out whatever else I might be thinking of


I sense an enormous space behind me
Across the back of my head but at a great distance
Something like a horizon

As if one was able to see the curvature of the planet that we’re standing on
Or something perhaps not curved but like a distant line on a flat sea
When it meets the sky and you can see this horizon

And it has a kind of quality which is thin
It could almost be like a ring around the planet
The thin line is there but it is imbedded in this haze or shimmer

The valley
The whole world in the is dark
And obviously probably reflects in some sense what I imagine the inside of my head looks like

I think it is not particularly hot or cold the temperature
And there are obviously some darker trees
which makes sort of blackness against the not quite blackness of the sky

It is close but it is also far
It seems to obscure the vision
And obscure the feeling of somehow being able to fly or

It really brings you down to earth in a very rough way



There’s a little bit of a round pace to it
Like this situation
An area

And it is definitely cold
And it is definitely glittery or something it’s like this.
There is so many pieces that you can’t distinguish one piece from another in it

It feels silver color, sharp in a way
Metal, metallic
Ice cold metal from a freezer

It’s very
If that one was amplified up
It would be very unpleasant

If you would look at a steel tube, at its cross section, not from the long side of the tube,
You would look at it straight on at the cross section,looking through the tube,
But you would look at the edge of that cross section, let’s say it’s about a couple of millimetres thick

If your eye follows that edge and then you see all these little crystals
Going around the edge of that tube
Do you know what i mean

And if you touch it you would get stuck
It’s that sort of cold metal that almost, that you almost wanna
You wouldn’t really want to touch it



Lo llevaré a un sitio silencioso y muy resonante
En donde realmente no importa que tanto silencio que haya
Siempre se puede escuchar una mezcla de sonidos que lleven de la calle el exterior
Sonidos que producen los materiales como madera
Que gracias al espacio tus amplifican y forman un ambiente

Si tuviera comparar lo con algo físico
Era como si tuviera metida la cabeza adentro campana
y alguien le pegar esta campana por fuera
Y ese sonido sus tenido que viene después del golpe inicial
Seguía constante en mi cabeza

Es un poco difícil pero es como si estuviera el centro de mi celebro
A veces
Obviamente se siente mas que todo en los oídos
Pero es también adentro de
Como resonando entre la cabeza por todos partes


I think I was about five or something I woke up
Still in the dream by the sound
What is that sound

I walked out of my bedroom
And I walked out to the kitchen window
which faced the road outside

And there were these creatures
They weren’t human, they were more like
Very muscular I think brown coloured creatures

And they had these large wooden,
You can use to club down things with them, huge
They were oversized

And they used them to sort of jump with
They would paddle with them on to the ground
And then they would jump almost like use them to jump

And they were many,
There were maybe twenty
And each time they were using those big things to jump

They were moving in a very unnatural way, tumbling
They got stronger and stronger, the closer they came
Their bodies were of a kind or of a density that

They treated air
The moved through air
As if the air was thicker with them in it

They were pushing away the way with their huge bodies
They were really lumpy and bulky and
And they were slower maybe as if they were on the moon

It didn’t seem that if they were moving as fast as human would
The whole movement of them jumping over their own sticks was
Sort of friction in the air


My perception increases with quiet environments
Like the country side

It’s like a clamp on my fucking head