A lot of my work is concerned with the use of space as a structural element of music and sound design.
I am particularly drawn to navigable sonic structures, in which the movement of the audience through a space determines aspects of the musical experience, turning a spatial structure into a temporal form. This can be an extremely low-tech form of interaction such as in my sound design for the 2005 Nelson and Napoleon exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, where this was achieved through the simple act of walking down a staircase, or a more high tech approach in projects such as the Moods and Music interactive at the Heineken experience (2001) or the Scratch (2008) locative drama, which was part of ongoing research into translocational (non- sitespecific) use of locative media such as GPS. The most recent manifestation of this work is an iPhone app based on material from Triptych (2001) which can be explored in any outdoor location. It is due for release in Spring 2013. In a slightly different vein, the Exploded Sound project explores the spatialisation of individual partials in complex sounds, playing at the boarders of perception.
Posted on 2011-03-12 20:09:09 .
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:
Posted on 2014-03-02 16:33:39 .
Significant Birds was created for the ILLUSION exhibition at the Science Gallery in Dublin in 2013. The Gallery specialises in shows that use art to illustrate, comment on or otherwise deal with scientific ideas, and ILLUSION looks at how we can learn about perception through (mostly visual) illusions. I took the principle behind my Exploded Sound installation to create an audio illusion in which a spoken text is broken down into individual harmonics which chirp away in 12 bird cages – the listener hears them drift in and out of phase. As they coalesce it is impossible not to hear the voice although no individual speaker contains any more than a single fluctuating pure tone (like the chirping of a bird – the bird imagery extends my piece Bird:Cage).
There are a couple of interviews with me online here:
(this one is a little stilted at first because they had just persuaded me to demonstrate some vocal harmonics on camera so I’m trying to express myself in a way that will make that feel natural )
Significant Birds will tour the USA and Canada from May 2014 – watch the home page for details!
Posted on 2011-03-12 16:02:01 .
Locating Drama is a collaborative research project between the BBC radio drama development team and the Lansdown Centre for Electronic Arts at Middlesex University. Its aim is to find new narrative possibilities for locative media such as GPS enabled mobile devices by uncoupling them from the site-specific paradigm that has been prevalent, instead exploring what we call a translocational approach. We have produced one trial drama so far, entitled Scratch and written by Penelope Skinner. I was responsible for the interaction design and programming in Hewlett Packard’s MScape as well as the sound design (with Caleb Knightley at the BBC).
Scratch was trialled at the 2008 Free Thinking festival in Liverpool. I am currently extending this idea with musical material from my piece Triptych, originally created for the Science Museum.
Posted on 2011-03-08 21:19:54 .
This was another piece of museum sound design which also allowed me to experiment a bit with spatial structure. I worked with interactive designers Rom and Son to produce two pieces for a major exhibition on Nelson and Napoleon at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. The important part of the project from my point of view was the stairwell installation which was designed as a transitional space between a room focussing on Nelson’s domestic life in rural England and a room on the floor below which looked at the Battle of Trafalgar. I used sound design to literally take the visitor out to sea, with different sounds on each level, so that at the top there was a church bell, birds and horses, and sea sounds from below could be heard in the distance. As you walked down toward those sounds the church bells were replaced by the tolling of navigation boyes and the birds by seagulls etc. For each sound at the top there were corresponding sounds lower down so that a musical narrative emerged for each visitor as they moved through the space.
The other part of the project consisted of a 5.1 Battle of Trafalgar interactive exhibit. The sound described the battle and you could watch ship movements projected onto a huge table and interact to find out mor details about the ships involved.
Posted on 2011-03-08 20:53:10 .
The Moods and Music project was created with designers OnTap and Simon Grosser for the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. A commercial project using classic music from a variety of genres while (frankly) forcing footage from Heineken adverts onto the visitors, it nonetheless had interesting formal properties that have a strong relationship with other pieces on this site. The idea was to get people to mix and match different soundtracks and video clips to experience the variety of emotional moods and nuances that music can impose on an image. The interesting element for me was the use of visual and audio icons, little abstract loops of video and sound which drifted past the viewer who would use two joysicks to zoom in, revealing the clip or music associated through nice transformation effects. I can’t really post examples here for copyright reasons so you’ll have to try and imagine it!