“Respect simple, humble materials.” —Paul Kos

 

13-4-128-1-1

What does ice sound like as it melts? It sounds absurd. But it’s not, as Paul Kos demonstrated in his 1970 installation “The Sound of Ice Melting,” based on the famous Zen koan “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” It’s just that any attempt to hear it is inevitably carried to an absurd extreme.

The installation consisted of two twenty-five-pound blocks of ice set side by side on the floor, tightly ringed by eleven state-of-the-art, highly sensitive boom microphones, which fed into a powerful amplifier. Positioned just inches from the melting ice, the microphones detected even the faintest sound emitted.

Perplexed by the visual, aural, and contemplative conundrum, viewers experienced a state of heightened awareness. But of course they could not discern a difference between the white noise of the electronic equipment and the “sound” of the ice melting: there was, in fact, no difference. All sounds melded into one sound, emanating from the speaker.

—Adapted from text written by Ron Meyers and included in the catalog of Paul Kos’s current retrospective, “Everything Matters.”

Temple
Get Daily Dharma in your email

Start your day with a fresh perspective

a photo of a Buddhist meditating
Explore timeless teachings through modern methods.

With Stephen Batchelor, Sharon Salzberg, Andrew Olendzki, and more

See Our Courses

Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.

This article is only for Subscribers!

Subscribe now to read this article and get immediate access to everything else.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Log in.