Imagine exploring the sound of a choir or orchestra from the inside, not just walking among the instruments, but entering the very stuff of sound itself, the “partials” that make up the complex musical sounds you hear.
The Exploded Sound consists of 60 individual suspended loudspeakers. Each speaker contributes a tiny proportion of the overall sound of the installation. Listeners moving through the space are able simultaneously to perceive the whole and its parts. Spatial perception is disrupted. A slowly evolving chord appears to hang in space, at once everywhere and nowhere! A disembodied voice gradually fuses and disintegrates!
The Exploded Sound was premiered at the Jakopic Gallery in Ljubljana in 2012 as part of the International Computer Music Conference and EarZoom Festival. It is the first public outcome of of a long term research project investigating the idea of freezing a decomposed sound in space to allow the listener to walk around inside the overtone structure (or partials) of the sound. The project has gone through a number of research phases both at the Lansdown Centre for Electronic Arts at Middlesex University and at CRiSAP, University of the Arts. These included the use of Ambisonics, and a live performance at the Science Museum in which I decomposed the sounds of a Mongolian overtone singer (Michael Ormiston) in real time across 77 loudspeakers. The installation runs on a specially designed hardware system by Jamie Campbell. This version was shown in at the Jakopic Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia in September 2012 as part of the EarZoom festival and ICMC2012.
Below is an extended extract from of the sound recording used in the video.
The recording is made from a fixed point which I suppose misses the point somewhat but it does give an impression of the aesthetic of the piece. Slowly evolving static chords hang in space. Each of the 60 loudspeakers contains separate partials of the sound. Occasionally speech sounds emerge, decompose or come into focus in addition to the static sounds. The excerpt starts with one of the more active phases of the piece (it goes through different behaviours, never quite repeating itself) with speech sounds entering and starting to fall apart. During the second speech section the harmonic material gradually drops out and can be heard returning one speaker (partial) at a time!
To give a slightly better idea of what it feels like to be inside the installation try listening to this binaural recording with headphones: