I Heard There Was a Secret Chord

“I Heard There Was a Secret Chord”, 2017 – Daily tous les jours

At any given moment, hundreds of people are listening to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah at the same time. I Heard There Was a Secret Chord creates a metaphysical connection between them through a sensory experience. At the heart of the work is a virtual humming choir powered by online data, where the number of voices fluctuates according to how many people are listening to the song right now. This ‘data choir’ perpetually hums Hallelujah in an octagonal room comprising a series of suspended microphones. The microphones are not meant to record or project voices; they are used to transform voices into vibrations. When one hums into a microphone, the sound makes the floor vibrate, adding to the vibratory powers of the universal hymn.

About the Artist

Daily tous les jours is a Montreal-based art and design studio. They lead an emergent field of practice combining technology, storytelling, performance and placemaking to reinvent living together in the 21st century.

“Our studio is continuously exploring new forms of storytelling to expand ideas of connection and community, like Cohen did with his poetry and music. Revisiting Cohen’s body of work, we kept returning to one basic question: Why is Hallelujah so popular, in so many places around the world, with people from different backgrounds and from different generations? As we write this, a single version of the song’s official video online has been viewed over 99 million times by people across the planet. This ever increasing number inspired us to expand our research into collective experiences to virtual space. It attests to Cohen’s ability to make that leap from the personal to the universal that is so critical in our own practice as we strive to connect strangers to one another. The way he observes and questions the human condition reveals the power artistic works can hold when they succeed in tapping into the collective spirit. Could some of Cohen’s magic rub off on us somehow? Could it provide another layer from which to expand our own work? By spending enough time with this song, we hoped to learn from it and build on its affective qualities to discover new means of touching people. I Heard There Was a Secret Chord is an homage to this universality. It celebrates the emotional thread that connects us as humans; it imagines a sense of unity through a transcendent experience. As it can be difficult to understand large numbers cognitively, we chose to embody the data (these millions of listeners) in a physical and emotional experience—both online and in the exhibition—that focused on the mystical experience of the song. Using humming instead of words, we hoped to amplify the song’s ability to reach the core inside ourselves, transforming both real and networked space into magical, sensory, pulsating fields that transport people across the planet to a unique shared place—just as Cohen has been doing for decades.” – Daily tous les jours

Fast Facts presented by 

  • The more people that are listening, the more voices are added to the choir and the more the floor will vibrate.
  • The room is designed using targeted sound, meaning that it will often sound like someone is singing directly in your ear.
  • The choir that you hear is made up of seven different choirs, 1250 different voices, and 635 different recordings.
  • The data that prompts the choir comes from streaming (Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, etc.).