The past few weeks have been very busy, working on soundscape and music projects with the National Trust, Tea Dance For Little People and story-teller Richard Neville. Along with this I have been developing new systems to teach spatial awareness to young children by using soundscape (while having a lot of fun!) and developing wireless systems to be used within my projects. More about these in the upcoming weeks.
It hasn’t all been work though! In terms of soundscape curiosities, I went to ‘see’ the production ‘Ring’ at the Battersea Arts Centre and I went to the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival to check out Audible Forces.
Audible Forces was a fantastic example of what soundscape can do to enhance an atmosphere. The exhibition has been touring various festivals and consists of a number of sound-art installations that use wind to produce sound. On display were variations on the wind harp, homing pigeons wearing whistles, various installations with objects clinking in the wind, vibrating wires amplified by drum skins and a mirco-controller-based ‘field’ of fans that played synthesisers, reacting to direction and strength of the wind.
The latter two installations were particularly absorbing. Amongst other things, ‘Howling Wire’ by Dan Fox used long lengths of wire attached to drums of various sizes. When the wind vibrated the wire, the energy was transferred to the drum skins, causing them to vibrate, creating wonderful droning sounds of varying intensity. The drones were so rich that it was a pleasure just to sit and experience them, like bathing in a warm pool.
Mark Anderson’s “Phantom Field” consisted of twenty one computer fans mounted like head-hight weathervanes in a grid. Each one was attached to its own synthesiser. The direction and speed of the wind at each fan then influenced the synth: as the wind got stronger, pitch would smoothly increase and more and more fans would join in. The organisation of the fans in a grid meant that you could walk around the space being surrounded by the fans and their sounds. Check out the video below to see what I mean. Of course, a video just doesn’t do the experience justice; being totally immersed on all sides by varying, although related, sounds is a wonderful experience. You will see people lounging around just to listen to the soundscape and relax.
Fast Tube by Casper
Using natures richness
For me, the most important idea to take away from Audible Forces is the fact that the wind is seemingly random and this lack of structure provides a very rich experience. With music, the listener is led on a journey dictated by structure that allows the composer to have a lot of control over how the listener feels. With orchestral and other complex types of structured music, the sheer number of sounds creates a rich soundscape to explore. The fact that nature works of its own accord in such a way that much of it seems random is a wonderful creator of this richness and this is an idea I use in a lot of my work. Leaving processes to their natural order creates both surprises as well as comfortable, stable themes. Nature, i.e. sound outside ordered music and sound design, is very complex and this provides a fantastic platform for the creation of rich and interesting works of sound.
Wonder around my website for examples of my work, starting with my homepage soundscape.
Check out my next post to read about “Ring”. This was an audio-only production that took part in a pitch-black room…