Call Numbers: The Library Recordings



Call Num­bers: The Library Record­ings allowed view­ers to turn their cat­a­logue searches into musi­cal com­po­si­tions. Using the Van­cou­ver Pub­lic Library’s on-line cat­a­logue at, view­ers per­formed an author or key­word search. Enter­ing the call num­bers accord­ing to the guide­lines on the Call Num­bers: The Library Record­ings web­site trans­lated the data into a musi­cal com­po­si­tion and cre­ated an audio file. Past­ing call num­bers from the list into the Call Num­bers: The Library Record­ings music engine became com­po­si­tional choices. View­ers could enjoy their search results musi­cally, along with other users, as a down­load­able file — a col­lec­tion of musi­cal works com­posed by library users.

Lai­wan is inter­ested in impro­vi­sa­tion, trans­la­tion, and the effects of tech­no­log­i­cal cul­ture. Call Num­bers: The Library Record­ings explores what the Library col­lec­tion ‘sounds’ like, as it is trans­lated from words to let­ters and num­bers, to musi­cal notes, tempo and style. Her project sum­mons up the image of a fluid mass of data, routed and re-routed through a sequence of orga­niz­ing sys­tems – our lan­guages, the phys­i­cal books them­selves, the cat­a­logue index, the dig­its of the call num­bers, music nota­tion and sounds. Along the way, each sys­tem bears a set of mean­ings that we de-code and re-code to make new mean­ings in new forms.

The on-line cat­a­logue is one of many ways we enter the space of the Library, and this por­tal to its col­lec­tion reflects our chang­ing con­cept of access to infor­ma­tion in a tech­no­log­i­cal soci­ety. As in her pre­vi­ous work, Lai­wan sug­gests the curi­ous con­tra­dic­tions of our embrace with the dig­i­tal world. Call Num­bers: The Library Record­ings cre­ates a space for col­lab­o­rat­ing with other users in build­ing a col­lec­tion of music, a forum for con­nec­tion, impro­vi­sa­tion and exchange. At the same time, it high­lights the dis­tance between the play­ers: the shared aural space of a musi­cal per­for­mance is delayed through time and space. As Call Num­bers: The Library Record­ings grows in unpre­dictable ways, this call and response between the artist and the audi­ence echoes the seem­ingly end­less vol­ume of infor­ma­tion and our drive to con­tain it.

Image: Courtesy of the artist. Group Search was made pos­si­ble through the invalu­able con­tri­bu­tions of The Canada Coun­cil for the Arts, the BC Arts Coun­cil, the Spirit of BC Arts Fund, the Van­cou­ver Foun­da­tion, Emily Carr Insti­tute of Art and Design and Gen­er­a­tion Printing.