This post continues from last weeks blog on the BE OPEN Sound Portal, displayed in Trafalgar Square as part of the London Design Festival. The previous post introduced the event and talked about the first piece and what effect it had on me as a listener. This week, the second post will talk about the next two very interesting pieces. The third will talk about the remaining pieces as well as the talk on the BE OPEN Sound Portal I attended which was hosted by Ben Evans, the Director of the London Design Festival. The fourth and final post will be about the application to real-world design of the ideas and lessons gained from this wonderful experience.
The second piece I experienced at the BE OPEN Sound Portal was created by Nathaniel Robin Mann and consisted of a journey through various sounds that were meaningful to the artist. Among other things, a folk choir, steam train and an aviary all featured, moving the listener on a journey from one space to another. In effect, this seemed to be an exploration of space and how it makes you feel; the various spaces were all very different and their mixture created further atmospheres. As each space visited the BE OPEN Sound Portal, the listener was transported to a different place and to a different set of feelings. The noise of the steam train, carefully intertwined with open urban spaces created a sense of freedom and re-assurance by immersing the listener anonymously within human interaction. For me, the visit to the aviary brought back exciting and wondrous feelings of exploring pet-shops and being mesmerized by exotic animals as a child; the recorded acoustics working wonderfully with the birdcalls. However, to somebody else, the notion of caged animals may bring an entirely different feeling. The interaction between the different spaces rather than what they contained created the sense of immersion and movement from one place to the next, solely through hearing different acoustics. This gives the listener a magical sense of travel and exploration, wondering where you will travel to next. The effect that space has on emotion and action is also very important, but more on this next week.
With the next piece at the BE OPEN Sound Portal, Jo Thomas aimed to create a hot space with the use of symbols. In a piece of improvisation, symbols were hit in various ways to create a sizzling mix of frequencies and pulses. This was a very interesting piece with only cymbals as a reference point. This very narrow focus meant that meaning is somewhat taken away from the equation, allowing the listener to focus on the physical experience of the sounds. However, the fact that the piece used a musical instrument meant that the listener is also tempted to create some kind of meaning usually associated with music ie. sense of story. Sound, instead of music was being used to influence the mind and other senses. Composers try this manipulation of the mind all of the time (think Vivaldi and The Four Seasons) but music is a very elitist method of communication due to its very abstract nature. Is simplifying the delivery going to make it more primal/human and therefore more relevant to more people and their experiences? More about this in a couple of weeks.