The links between sound, space and objects trough an experimental creative process.
Victor Manuel PĂŠrez Rul Altamirano
Sound and Music Production Pathway Supervised by: Hans Timmermans August 2010
0 Getting Started Triangles Experimental Process Working tools The Atelier The blog
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Through the experimental process, step by step. 1 Knowing our Tools and Goals 2 Experimental Collaboration 3 Defining a concept The creative model Origins How it works in a few lines The sound and its relations with the audience and the venue How is the performance space conceived? Why does sound is meant to start as a soundscape and then matched with a rhythm grid? Transmission Arts 4 Prototyping Backpacks Script Interaction Sound 5 The Build up Backpacks Sound Script Interaction 6 Testing 7 Presentation and Improvement Analysis On the creative process On the sound References
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FONCA The artist Victor Manuel Pérez-Rul Altamirano has the support of the National Fund for Arts and Culture, Mexico (Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, FONCA) via the “Programa de Becas para Estudios en el Extranjero”.
Apologies My main language is not English; although I did my best there might be some spelling and syntax mistakes in this text.
To Karen Fregoso, the inspiring woman that made my quest possible. -
To my father, mother and sister, the core of my spirit. -
To Arne Boon, my colleague, friend and support.
En la realidad el número de sorteos es infinito. Ninguna decisión es final, todas se ramifican en otras. J.L. Borges. La Lotería en Babilonia.
Introduction Through all my life I have been deeply charmed by objects, these things that exist in our space, forms and shapes, materials. I always had this tendency to keep simple objects that somehow say something to me: A big rusted nail found on a beach, stones from the Huasteca Potosina in México, a glass sphere shaped aquarium filled with hundreds of lighters and matches, signposting pieces, electronic parts, speakers, computer waste, and even more insignificant or significant stuff, tiny pieces of life that can have meaning or with some mysterious halo can communicate that they are just parts of something bigger: parts of a bigger device or system, parts of something that was but is not anymore, parts of the story of somebody, a material that travelled millions of years through outer space and finished as the play button of my walkman. The fascination for objects leaded me to the Design School of the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. As an Object or Industrial Designer I was able to gaze into the building of objects but also into the implications of their shape and how do they communicate or reveal information to the human being, the meaning might be inside our brains and not inside the objects, but this relation can easily connect ourselves with our culture, our animal nature and our perception of the universe. Objects of course should exist on the space. Objects and space have a so tight relation because somehow objects are just another shape of space: space filled with air, space occupied by a monumental sculpture, vacuum space where you cannot find a thing but a bunch of atoms spread around lots of kilometres. Architecture is about this. My fascination for monumental architecture grows as we shiver in front of this huge amounts of space and matter, the tension between this two things is beautiful and reminds us the amazing skills of human beings to create and modulate (by adding small pieces), it reveals that we are part of the universe and that in our own way, we emulate the construction of it. Through my childhood I was also fascinated by sound, I could go through complete days playing with tape recorders and microphones, stereo players and so on. During year 1998, my dear friend Gabriel Arrache introduced me to digital samplers. A very low profile sequencer on a Compaq computer was my first approach to electronic music. During some years and long nights I experimented with sound and made my first pieces of what I used to call electro music, some years after that I realized that it was no electro music at all but my first steps on sonic arts, concrete music and artificial soundscapes, highly influenced by ambient music. The sound was slowly (and still is being) revealed to me, attached to meanings and shapes, to actions and reactions, to space and perception, and of course, to context and culture. To shorten the story, while I was studying Industrial Design these three fascinations (objects, space and sound) started to merge as I found sound as a physical consequence of matter and energy, and a phenomenon through space. During the late years of my Design studies I started to produce sound and object installations and stand alone sonic art pieces. After that some of
my most loved people and my own interests pushed me to take this track serious and find a way to embed all this elements together in my professional life. This year, 2010, as part of the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht I co-worked with the great man and interaction artist Arne Boon. We built this ambitious project, an experience where we could pour all our fascinations together. We are the kind of people that wants it all and believe that it’s actually possible to have it all, so, the path wasn’t easy to walk, but was full of discoveries and amazing people. Patterns started as a three member team project. Unfortunately our dear Boris Van Anrooij was not able to continue with this and had to left, that marked a huge change of tracks when it happened. The origins of Patterns where sparked by the interest of developing a piece of art through an experimental process, where sound, interaction, image and also theatrical experiences where merged together and grow equal along the process. When Boris (who was in charge of video and image) left, the project suffered some mutations but the experimental process remained, the spirit remained as well. Because of the experimental nature of the project we knew that one of the most interesting things to show and speak about would be the process itself, it was somehow all about that, about the answer to this question: ¿How to build an art project from zero, with a videointeraction-sound team, where all disciplines have the same importance? And in my particular case I really wanted to answer this question: ¿How can I show to the world the relations between sound art, electronic music and objects in space? This text reveals the creative process that Arne and me created to build Patterns and also shows how I could lead, conceptually wise, to this piece of art: a well rounded complex of ideas that joins the dots between sound art, beat based electronic music, object design and space. In three bullets: • Patterns is the result of an experimental creative process. It is a piece of Transmission Arts that mixes theater and sound art. • This text exposes the creative process followed to generate Patterns. • Along the text and creative process it is also an interest of mine to show how sound art, electronic music, objects and space can be related conceptually wise and use this relation to create a piece of art.
0 Getting Started Triangles To start the process we developed some schemas in a triangle format to visualize our strengths and goals as a team, and to put our minds on the same track. Basically the triangles are composed from the three elements we had on the beginning: image, sound and interaction; and the goals of each part or discipline, our ambitions as artists and our ideals. Of course we walked through this immense path where everything but speak about the project was possible because it had everything and nothing at the same time.
Experimental Process As we decided to do an experimental process, inspired on iterative cycles 1, we didn’t knew the concrete outcome. We did not started thinking about the final result but how we wanted to get there. Of course this idea had lots of freedom and possibilities and of course this was the advantage of the project but also its weak point (or at least the most risky element). The experimental process started by defining “experimental process”, so we knew it was: •
A series of experiments that would lead us slowly from abstract to concrete things. We had to start with ideas about our fascinations and turn them into short experiments, execute them and keep the result, then follow to the next experiment.
As a stair model, every phase of the process should get the project closer to a concrete outcome, it is not about doing crazy experiments all the time, it is about defining a track while experimenting, from abstract to concrete things, this is the main representation of the process and also the general index of this document:
Iterative Cycles is a design process taken from software developers, the interesting part of it is the circular configuration: As the timeline goes forward the outcome will improve and grow from its previous status, so, in that sense it is a very natural way of developing systems and ideas. To read more about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iterative_and_incremental_development [July 2010]
Working tools To pinpoint the starting line it was also very important to define some working tools. Working tools always shape your final results and they really contribute to a concept, or in a bad stage they limit your concept. To deal with defined working tools is a great advantage if your outcome is unknown. You have a big piece of rock and some limited tools to shape it, but still the final result is unknown. Freedom sparkled with some focus and mobile fences. Here is how our tools where defined: •
Interaction: The interaction part of the project will be mainly Open Frameworks 2 based, if some coding and digital processing is necessary. The creation of hardware it’s also a great tool available.
Sound and music: the sound and music will be at least partially performed live, sample based. In a few words sampling is to take a previous existing piece of sound and use it in a different context. There are many tools and ways to sample sounds; it can be live or step by step, done with hardware or software. In this particular case I defined three ways of sampling: a. Through sound editing and sound generating software: Adobe Audition, Sound Forge, Reason, Fruity, Sony Vegas… b. Through Live performance Dj software: Traktor Pro 3
“Openframeworks is a c++ library, the material is open source and its goal is to assist creative processes, involving artists, designers and developers”. http://www.openframeworks.cc/ [May 2010]
http://www.native-instruments.com/#/en/products/dj/traktor-pro [May 2010]
c. Through hardware: Korg Electribe SX-1 4 Drum machine/sampler â€˘
Image and video: we were focusing on the narrative structures, the buildup of them, knowing that the sound will be a live construction and its content. The symbolic value of image that had to be strongly related with the art piece meaning, object mapping, projections, film and non straight timelines were the main tracks to take. 5
The Atelier During this phase of the project we realized that we needed a working space where we could have the needed freedom to experiment. We were dealing with ideas that had no place inside a computer. If you take a look to the triangle schemas, the central part of them, that represents the mixed outcome of the three vertices always has to do with things happening somewhere: a performance, an art installation, a sculptural thing, etcetera. How could we experiment with this? Well the answer was very simple: by doing it. The Atelier was born, also from zero. We got some space as part of Stitching Magdalena 6 in Hilversum. The Atelier was a great decision, it gave us the opportunity to experiment but also to expand our horizons, to have people coming and going, to know more artists and to have handy advantages of belonging to the stitching, like discovering the great place the Melk Fabriek in Hilversum is, and use it as a working spot. Space and its implications became such an important raw material: hallways, columns, platforms, handrails, light, acousticsâ€Ś
http://www.korg.com/product.aspx?&pd=159 [May 2010]
Video elements where no longer used on this project.
http://www.stichtingmagdalena.nl/ [May 2010]
The blog We started a blog to share all the information, inspirational material and registration of the process. It is possible to access to it through this address: http://triangle.hku.nl/ [August 2010]
Through the experimental process, step by step.
The first set of experiments was worked individually. Each team member had to focus on their own tools and know them. The reason to make it this way was to start the creative process on a very practical way and also know the limits of the tools and the interests each part of the team had and share them, that way I could have running in the background of my brain the ideas of the interactive artist and start getting into his world and vice versa. On the multimedia appendix is possible to find some material regarding the â€œknowing our tools and goalsâ€? phase. Folder name: 01 tools and goals Experiments done in this phase: 1. Moving speakers: a set of speakers hanging free from the ceiling was the first attempt to make sound visible or obvious as a physical event. The same power that moves air into sound waves was used to move the source object (speakers). The vibration of the speaker cone had to be a specific frequency that could balance vibration, intensity and timing good enough to produce a pushing air column. As in a swing or in a pendulum
the power had to be released during the highest moments of its oscillation and not during the action of the restoring force 7. 2. Doppler Effect 8: This experiment was about creating a sample based sound and process it into a Doppler Shift aural event. The reason to make this was to create sounds with the expressive capacities of movement. As the sound spins with the listener at the inner circle you could interpret the moving object through distance and speed. The sample was a recording made on the Atelier, and processed with Adobe Audition which has a Doppler Effect generator tool, giving you the faculty to control distance, speed and the track shape. 3. Live sets and music: Simple electronic music sets, sometimes mixed with sound art openings or closures, mainly done in Traktor Pro and sometimes using the Korg Electribe SX-1 drum machine. 4. Straight lines in sound (conceptually): From all the inspirational material I got, I was extremely interested on R. Murray Schaffer thoughts about modern soundscape. I will develop these ideas on the 3rd phase texts, including the needed citations. By now I will only mention that modern soundscape is mainly built by layered sounds produced by electronic devices and machines. Electronic devices and machines have the characteristic of producing straight line sounds, with very low variation, the result is a straight line or plain soundscape, the consequences of this phenomenon are huge because the way we perceive the world, sound and our living and urban spaces changed drastically compared to other eras. In this case I built a small set of instruments done with the repetition of the same source sound: a drop. The drop is pitched and repeated on this short electronic music track. Conceptually it is a straight line, constructed by the repetition of the same element (dot, drop) all along the timeline. The track was produced with Adobe Audition and the Korg Electribe SX-1 drum machine.
“When a pendulum is displaced from its resting equilibrium position, it is subject to a restoring force due to gravity that will accelerate it back toward the equilibrium position.” Pendulum. Wikipedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pendulum [May 2010].
“The Doppler shift (sometimes called the Doppler effect) is a change in frequency of emitted waves produced by motion of an emitting source relative to an observer. The Dutch meteorologist Buys-Ballot conducted one of the most famous experiments to confirm the Doppler shift. He put a group of musicians on a train and took up his position on a station platform. He asked the train driver to rush past him as fast as he could while the musicians played and held a constant note, and was able to detect the Doppler shift (as a change in pitch) as the train passed him (Filkin and Hawking 1997, p. 65).” Weisstein, E.W. 2007. Doppler Effect. Available from: http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/DopplerEffect.html [May 2010].
This second set of experiments was made to trigger the encounter of disciplines and to boost creativity, also to know the working partner and the possibilities as a team making small creative cycles. On the multimedia appendix is possible to find some material regarding the experimental collaboration. Folder name: 02 experimental collaboration Experiments done during this phase: 1. The Victorizer: The Victorizer is a small noisebox constructed by Arne Boon, the interaction artist. The box works as an Arduino 9 powered oscillator 10. Once the noisebox was ready to scream we started to plug it in different ways to different sound and non sound systems. 2. The Victorizer vs. TV: We plugged the audio out signal of the Victorizer to a TV set video in jack. The aimed result was to control with a sound feed the visuals displayed on the TV screen. Finding the consequences of the different frequencies, intensities and rhythms on screen. Why? Well, at this part of the process we still where considering image as a raw material for the installation, the intention with this experiment was to create a straight connection between sound and visual elements on a nice software/hardware combination.
â€œArduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.â€? Arduino. Arduino. Available from: http://www.arduino.cc [May 2010].
An electronic oscillator is an electronic circuit that produces a repetitive electronic signal, often a sine wave or a square wave. Electronic Oscillator. Wikipedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_oscillator [May 2010].
3. Live sets with the Victorizer: Arne and I performed some electronic music sets wiring the Victorizer to the Korg sampler. In this way we started to know each other as performers and improving our performance communication skills. During this sets Arne where performing the Victorizer and I was able to sample this sounds and morph them and of course, add some good beats to it. 4. Open Frameworks Drum kit: with this experiment we continued exploring the possibilities of integrating devices, hardware, code and sounds in the same object and focus on them as performing tools. The main experience here was for Arne, because he was able to dive into the Open Frameworks libraries available for sound interaction devices with these experiments. As part of this phase we tried to assist to different shows, exhibition, lectures, conferences and festivals to get involved with the right people and also to get wet with new ideas that already merged disciplines. It was also a good way to know the possibilities of each other disciplines, share and dream. All the team wasn’t at all these events, but at least one of us assisted. Here is the list, so far: lectures • 31/05, Interview Dries Verhoeven, faculty of Theatre • 12/05, Lecture on Installation Art, Theatre and Artistic Research, faculty of Theatre • 10/05, This Happened, presentations by new media artists • 08/04, Setup Utrecht opening talks, new media art platform in Utrecht • 24/02, Lecture Art Games & Experience Theatre, by faculty of theatre • 01/02, Dynamics of the creative process model, Nirav Christophe • 29/01, Interview Heiner Goebbels, musician/director of theatre plays using technology • 17/12, Performance lecture, lecture about theatre performances mixed up with technology expositions • 15/02, Exhibition Decode, London: latest developments in digital and interactive design • 11/02, Opening: the show, opening art house in Utrecht, exposition with experimental media art • 10/02, Urban Design, vision on public spaces 2035 • 25/01, Breaking Ground Filmfestval, movies by students dutch film academies • 13/01, Projectenmarkt Faculteit BKV, presentation of projects design students performances • 22/05, Life Streaming by Dries Verhoeven, Festival ad Werf Utrecht • 10/05, Motel Mozaique, music shows combined with cinema and art • 02/05, The sound of movies, NDSM Amsterdam, theatre show combining music / video / theatre • 25/03, Sabotage HKU, experimental sounds and visuals • 23/03, Tweetakt festival Utrecht, No man is island • 25/02-28/02, Sonic Acts, festival on special explorations in art, science, music, technology • 09/02, E-live, new music of music composition students
15/01, Mount Everest: presentations interdisciplinary plays by students theater en dvtg
workshops • 21/05, Processing workshop by Daniel Shifman, Mediametc Amsterdam • 04/05-08/05, openFrameworks workshop by Zach Lieberman as event of Graphic Design Festival Breda
On the multimedia appendix is possible to find some material regarding the concept definition process. Folder name: 03 defining a concept The creative model According to Nirav Christophe 11, the creative process has, mainly in this order, the following phases: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.
Sensation Realization Preparation Saturation Frustration Incubation Intuition Illumination Evaluation Verification Acceleration
Different disciplines can have the same phases in different orders and with different durations. We took this model as an example but changed the duration and order some phases of it, giving us the experimental freedom and a more adequate timing. Nirav affirmed during the supportive lectures at the faculty that this model is just a way to visualize the process but, it is different in order and duration to every person, with this experimental process we tried to tune ourselves to work in the best sync possible. The sensation and realization phases where merged in the first part of the experimental process, on the second step we could experiment a saturation phase, and the incubation grew together with all the phases mentioned above. The advantage of having a long hidden incubation phase was that we could come up with a good and well rounded concept in a matter of three days of focusing on the concept development phase. Of course the work to get it didn’t started three days before we got it, actually it started with the first talks and 11
Christophe, N., 2010
experiments, and was complemented with long discussions about our fascinations and goals, about what do we wanted to communicate with art, and how (technically speaking). In the following schema itâ€™s possible to visualize how the concept development worked according to Nirav Christophe creative model.
So, without any more preambles, here is the concept in short, same that I will analyze to the deep in the following pages. Origins The straight line as an idea is a human contribution to the universe. A straight line is made by the infinite succession of dots, dots are the minimum expression possible to locate on a given space, they do not have length or height neither depth nor weight. This dot successions are repeated through space to generate shapes, with the less possible lines we build the triangle, adding one line more will turn it into a square and so on. Repeating these plain shapes will deliver volumes, for instance a cube or a prism. If we think about a specific prism, a real object, letâ€™s say a brick, we know that through its repetition it will shape a wall, walls shape houses and buildings, houses and buildings shape cities. The human world will arise in front of our eyes through the repetition of human thoughts and concepts, objects and behaviors. The truth is that the whole known universe works in this same way: by the repetition of small particles it builds bigger elements and by repeating this new things or collection of things we can scale up to the next level. Is something to mention and at the same time logic or tacit that as we can find this structure as the scale grows, we can also find it as we gaze into microscopic scales. We, humans, as part of the universe, copy this principle and use it to generate our world. It is an issue of this art piece to work with this view of the world and to construct the experience based on repetition and modular construction.
How it works in a few lines 1. A limited amount of people is grouped to participate actively in the performance. This group of people, now performers, will receive a piece of equipment developed by us. It is a back pack with a built-in sound system, a headphone set and a radio receiver. 2. The active audience has to gather at the starting point, the rest of the audience is not asked to be at any specific spot, on the opposite they should be scattered around through space, in a natural way. This might work better if the performance has place within a bigger series of activities or festival. The space required is a public one, big buildings with some levels and a central hall are ideal. The acoustics of the place may vary, from reverberating rooms to dry open areas; the specific sound characteristics of the place will affect the sound piece completely, making obvious the relation between the performance, the sound and the space. 3. The performance begins. A live sample based soundscape is transmitted through radio waves. The backpacks receive this signal and spread around the soundscape. The active audience that now carries the soundscape is asked to follow a set of rules communicated by headphones, the people starts to move through the location. The sound piece, repeated through all the speakers starts spreading around the place and changing as time evolves and the performers change their position. 4. The instructions heard by the performing audience through headphones are part of a spoken word track. A group of characters speak about patterns in everyday life, their repetition, the way we construct the world, and how this is also related to a bigger scale or a small unknown world, the art feeling of this spoken word track is a basic element to make the performer understand what is he doing and what is the relation of it with himself. 5. Along this tracks the active audience people might find themselves in charge of executing some other tasks than walk. The soundscape they are carrying around is just a part of the piece, and to complete it they will have to unlock some devices that are all around the place. The devices to unlock are some robotic interactive sound creating things 12 that plugged to the central brain and broadcasting centre of the installation generate sound in sync with the backpack speakers by pounding, spinning, crawling etcetera and 12
These devices (because of time, budget and planning) where changed for shaker speakers, attached to different surfaces of the building.
repeating it. This will reveal a rhythmic grid, constructed by these small pieces and devices and adding up a beat based music feeling to the first given ambient and soundscape layers of the piece. The small beat robots might be controlled live by us, the creators of the piece. Through the repetition of actions and orders the performers will morph the sound from sound art to electronic music, and also they will morph the sound and the space by their presence, localization and actions. 6. The revealed full piece grows by the add of the sound elements and actions to a climax part, then it fades away or finishes. Note: because of different factors such as time and money, steps number five and six where not included anymore on the final performance, this leaded to some changes on the performing structure and sound composition, but it still works in all the aimed levels. The sound and its relations with the audience and the venue Soundscape is “the sonic environment. Technically, any portion of the sonic environment regarded as a field for study. The term may refer to actual environments, or to abstract constructions such as musical compositions and tape montages, particularly when considered as an environment.” Schaffer, R. M. (1994, p. 274) Composed by a variety of sources, the soundscape is built by pieces, just as the rest of the universe. The whole being grows from tiny (and sometimes not so tiny) elements spread around a given time and space. As we have a strong (predominant) visual culture, is natural that we embed the sound to images, but also to objects. Image as an abstraction of objects carry de association of given sounds, but the strong relation is with sounds, objects and space, because that is how it works: objects (also the living) produce sound as a way of energy dispersion. The sound happens in space. Sound events and aural perception are morphed by the space and also by objects (besides source object). Let’s forget about bi-dimensional image and think about the real locations where sounds, objects, and life have place: the land, the ground, a cave, a leaf, a forest, your room, a hall, a mall, the city, a whole country, the earth, the solar system, a galaxy. All this things are composed by smaller elements and form part of bigger systems, they have their own physic characteristics and they relate with each other in numerous ways. One of this ways is by a vibrating energy that we can perceive as sound. A sounding object expands its limits; it traces a sphere with no fixed boundaries 13. Patterns is a series of objects that move in a given space, where this sphere with no fixed boundaries changes as the performance evolves. It is a construction and a living object that grows and shrinks into repetition, just as our cities, just as our bodies. One of the main interests (speaking about the concept) of this project was to pinpoint the importance of repetition and modular construction in our world and universe and how could 13
“Auditory space has no favoured focus. It’s a sphere without fixed boundaries, space made by the ting itself, not space containing the thing” Schaffer, R.M. (1994, P. 157)
be this related with our daily life and surroundings, how soundscape, music, architecture and objects are related and linked by the space where they happen and by the way they are constructed. By repeating the same constructive element a new world can born, like repeating cells in a body or repeating bricks on a building. The repeating elements in Patterns build the metaphoric body or architecture. A series of backpacks with the same characteristics are given to a series of persons; by ripping 14 the sound out of its source, with the help of radio broadcasting, we can place the same sound in a dynamic space that changes as the people walk and move as performers. A new aural event is build by the adding of the modules, a whole soundscape with moving boundaries arises by the principles of repetition. So, a soundscape is transmitted through radio signal, the radio signal is received by 16 backpack speakers, the backpack speakers are carried by 16 persons that spread around the sound, building this invisible body in space. This part of the audience then has become active performers. How is the audience layered then?
According to the image, the relation between audience and performers is: 1. Performers: the artists, Arne Boon and me, Victor PĂŠrez-Rul, we are at the core of the performance, controlling and broadcasting the sound, both the soundscape and the spoken word track that gives behavior instructions to the Performing Audience.
Schaffer, R.M. (1994, P. 90-91)
2. Performing audience: the audience carrying speaker backpacks. They build a big amount of the performance and make it happen by “playing the game”, as I mentioned before, they have to wear the backpack and spread the sound, but they are also following a set of instructions (i.e. being asked to walk this way or this other way, to find a red light bulb flashing device attached to the handrail and turn it on) they hear by a headphone set 15. The instructions are mixed with a spoken word track, a sound art track, of course related to the expressive needs of the art piece, where many characters have place, exposing their own thoughts about repetitions and patterns in life and how do this builds their life. So, this layer of the audience is performing and at the same time experiencing a stratum of the performance hidden for the rest, this marks a complicity, the performing audience is object of a direct touch: the piece of art is speaking directly, from inside of each person’s head, mixing with its own thoughts. 3. Active audience: this layer is experiencing the performance with the intention of doing it but without taking part of it. They are active in the sense that they are at the place with the will of enjoying and analyzing what is happening. They form part of the social happening and part of the space and they can experience how the sound takes over the place and how it grows and morphs while the layers number 1 and 2 perform. 4. Passive audience: the passive audience can be named also casual audience, they are there more by coincidence than any other thing, for example, they assisted to the festival where Patterns is being presented and by a matter of luck they are there when it is happening. As the performance is not meant to be a closed event, I mean without controlled access like a traditional concert or theater presentation, people can walk across the performing area and also morph the space and feel the changing boundaries of the sound, watch the performers execute their patterns and tasks and presence the rhythm grid grow. If further research or information about what is Patterns in terms of theater and interaction I highly recommend taking a look into Arne Boon’s document, “Designing Interactive Installations that Live by the Participation of an Audience”, also finished and delivered as graduation material for the European Media Master of Arts, where he focused on this themes to the deep.
“In the head-space of earphone listening, the sounds not only circulate around the listener, they literally seem to emanate from points in the cranium itself…” Schaffer R.M. (1994, p.119)
How is the performance space conceived? According to Ianis Xenakis (2008, p. 152) spatio-temporal relationship classification of “receptacles” or spaces where a performance can have place, we can find: a) The sources are placed in front of the audience and can be distinguished from the latter in a frontal manner: for example, symphonic concerts, theatre, parliaments. b) The sources are placed in the center – on a stage, in a ring, or a sphere – and the audience is placed around it: for example, boxing rings, sport stadiums, anasterenaria, certain theatres and concert halls, my Diatope. Ancient Greek theatre constitutes one of the first such enveloping spatial relationships. c) The sources surround the audience, which is placed in the center. Some such examples have been used in theatre. d) The sources and audience are freely mixed. This would correspond to walking through a town. More precisely, it suffices to imagine several sources dispersed among the audience. For example, in two of my orchestral works, Terretektorh and Nomos Gamma, the public is scattered among the musicians and the conductor is in the middle of both the musicians and the audience. e) Another type of relationship exists, a linear one. This corresponds to parades and other processions. The audience remains immobile on both sides of an artery: for example, military marches, religious processions, bike races, official receptions – re all examples of such linear relationships. f) Obviously, nothing prevents us from imagining any combination of the preceding five relationships. Patterns is conceived to change with the receptacle, but in a general way we can say that it may work with a configuration like the one exposed on section “d”: sources and audience freely mixed. The importance of the receptacle is huge; it changes the complete happening, because space is a raw material for Patterns. The reason is conceptual (building structures with sound, emulating other structures, such as buildings, cities or forests, inside a place that has been built the same, through the repetition of elements) but it is also known in another way: the relation of sound and space, of architecture as frozen music, it is really interesting to see, through a series of presentations how the performance changes with its different containers. The acoustic space 16 is completely affected by the container in a so important way that along history venues have defined the structure and characteristics of sound compositions, a nice 16
“The acoustic space of a sounding object is that volume of space in which the sound can be heard.” Schaffer, R. M., (1994, p. 214).
retrospective is made by David Byrne in this talk: TED. 2010. How architecture helped music evolve. Available from: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/spa/david_byrne_how_architecture_helped_music_evolve.ht ml [August 2010] 16 Backpacks playing at the same time in sync with 9 shaker speaker drum parts 17 (shall I say percussion or rhythm parts?) in a place like the Melkfabriek, where a 6 seconds reverb reign the atmosphere, the expressive powers of the installation will grow in an imperialistic 18 way (a single backpack might not sound too loud, but it is clear that Patterns invades the space, and of course, somebody getting closer to you with a loudspeaker attached to his back its imperialistic enough). The reverberation of the sound and the omnipresent feeling of it and its increased volume, will communicate the installation in a more mystical way and maybe, speaking about perspective, less spacey. An imperialistic sound is optimum to speak about life and the universe, about the power of structures and how they build life, it is a very good location to touch the audience feelings in a very transcendental and mystical way. But this is not just a matter of sound imperialism on a primitive or negative way, the sound should be loud enough to fill and dominate the space, but the reverberation will give it the mystical cut: “Reverberation and echo give the illusion of permanence to sounds and also the impression of acoustic authority. Thus they convert the sequential tones of melody into the simultaneously heard chords of harmony.” Schaffer, R. M., (1994, p. 219) Reverberation has a lot to do with the size and materials of the building as a consequence the speed of the performance, and of course the sound will morph. 19
This is still under development and might not be completely ready for the first official presentations during August 2010
“When sound power is sufficient to create a large acoustic profile, we may speak of it, too, as imperialistic. For instance, a man with a loudspeaker is more imperialistic than one without because he can dominate more acoustic space.” Schaffer, R. M., (1994, p. 77) 19
“The size and shape of interior space will always control the tempo of activities within it.” Schaffer, R. M., (1994, p. 219)
Why does sound is meant to start as a soundscape and then matched with a rhythm grid? Well this is a performance meant to highlight the importance of patterns and building models in different levels, one might be the universe, another might be the human world, and speaking specifically about the questions I made to myself to start with this work, I wanted to highlight how electronic music, soundscapes, space and objects could be related in one piece of art. As I confronted this question I realized that there are two main things that can relate them: • The symbolic value of them (of music, of sound, of architecture, of objects) • The way they are constructed Of course this piece has expressive goals that hang from the expressive, cultural and symbolic values of sound, space and objects, but we started from the constructive focus: Modules and repetition. Cycles. It has been rich to find lots of quotes and thoughts that strongly relate music and architecture 20 from different fields: Djs, Architects and musicians, me as an object designer, can say the same. Murray Schaffer (1994, p. 42) also relates music and soundscape by calling music “the ideal soundscape”. Of course ideal is subjective, depending on the music and taste of the listener. There is no better example of modular music construction than Dj’ing and electronic music, because Dj culture it’s about sampling and remixing, this means taking previous existing material and using it again, creating new pieces and arrangements through repetition. It’s the same principle of nature and architecture: from previous existing things they create new, by remixing them, adding them to different systems or repeating them. When rhythm or cycles are too long we have difficulties to notice them. This is the case of some soundscapes, that morph through time and have structures but they are too long for the common people to notice. Influenced by that I decided to create “hidden” rhythms, long pieces of sound art and atmospheres, soundscapes that match a rhythmical grid but they are long or plain enough to not be perceived as loops and rhythms on the beginning. Of course part of the intention here is to think of the performance timeline and the interaction empowerment: the soundscape might grow and change during the performance, from plain or straight lines to obvious rhythms, enhancing the experience and the art effect. As the performance evolves, through the execution and sampling of behavior of the performing audience layer a rhythm grid is revealed, the piece then can lead to a climax: 20
“Composers are architects of sounds” Schaffer R.M., (1994, p. 206)
“Architecture, like sculpture, is the frontier between the spaces of sight and sound” Schaffer R.M., (1994, p. 222) Xenakis also goes around this idea in most of his works. Xenakis (2008) “Architecture is nothing but frozen music” Miller (2004, p. 112)
soundscape and music find their common spot through space, a new body will born, constructed by pieces and modules, by samples and bits, all disposed by the audience and contained in space, wrapped by a building: the ultimate body that can wordless, speak about sound, music, patterns, objects, architecture and behavior at the same time. Transmission Arts This piece of art is a performance/experience. The tools used in it are sound art (sample based), beat based electronic music, interactive rule sets and space, however a big part of this happens on the air by the radio signal, the art that is done using electromagnetic frequencies has a name: Transmission Arts “When speaking about Transmission Arts in terms of contemporary media and conceptual art, quantifying the movement is an implicitly difficult charge. In simplest terms “Transmission Arts” is defined as a multiplicity of practices and media working with the idea of transmission or the physical properties of the electromagnetic spectrum (radio). Transmission works often manifest themselves in participatory live art or timebased art, and include, but are not limited to, sound, video, light, installation, and performance. Like the work encompassed by the genre, its lineage is anything but linear.” Joseph-Hunter, G. (2009, p. 34)
As this genre seems to be relatively new, at least as something official, the pieces are most of the times fresh and edge cutting, but in the other hand there is not much literature about it. The pioneers, at least as a serious institution are the New York based guys from Free103.9 21, who research, work and impulse transmission arts. Here I present my own eight different approaches to transmission arts, it is a matter of this work to gaze into transmission arts because the artists that work with the electromagnetic space to deliver sound, image, performances or experiences have a very similar point of view about space and the experience of it through devices like radios, sound systems, sensors and so on. There is a “guerrilla” feeling that merges the entire scene, because in general the Transmission Arts take over the place with devices but also with frequencies, they also reveal hidden data and spread modular particles of art, and of course I have to point out that it is on the edges of law (using the electromagnetic space without legal permission). As far as I could research, the applications of the technology and concepts can be divided in this way:
Free 103.9 Available on: http://free103point9.org/ [July 2010]
1. One transmitter to a group of receivers: The signal is sent by a single source to many receivers that spread the signal, morphing the outcome by the location. A good example is, of course, this same project: Patterns, available from http://patterns.hku.nl [August 2010]. Another good example, very related with Patterns is the Nomadic Sound System, available from http://vimeo.com/13105123 [July 2010] 2. Pick up devices: The user reveals hidden frequencies with the help of a device or receiver. example: Troika, shit I forgot the iPod, available from http://troika.uk.com/installations/shitiforgottheipod [July 2010] 3. Tuning already existing transmissions by the influence of external factors: The receivers are triggered or tuned by external factors, like proximity, movement, wind, etcetera. example: Jane Edden: Mass Movement, available from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dPu4GwIJJg [July 2010] 4. Receivers or sensors attached to the body: The body becomes a controller, making possible to merge the transmission to dance movements or body movement. The outcome of the transmission is strongly related to the movement of the performer. example: New Media Dance: Solo E BRODIN, available from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAwWloNZMFI [July 2010] 5. Tuning with special antennas: The design of the antenna can change the outcome of the transmission. From still devices to moving, spinning, multiple antennas, the composition changes with the device. example: Radio Jaundice, available from http://www.vimeo.com/5257243 [July 2010] 6. Multiple transmitters on fixed locations: The audience reveals the transmissions by walking or moving through a given space. This can work as an audio-tour where multiple performances have place at the same time in separated locations, close enough to fade into each other. 7. Wireless networks: The outcome of the piece is given by the relation between a network of input/processing/outcome stations. Example: Troika, the tool for armchair activists, available from http://troika.uk.com/thetoolforarmchairactivists [July 2010] 8. Fragmented pieces by space. The distance separates the piece into parts, the transmission embeds it together: Here big distances play an essential role. The piece of
art is fragmented because of the space, the sources, performers and outcomes might be in many countries, but the piece of art is embedded by the transmission: the waves join the dots and work as medium. example: Jane Grant, John Matthias & Nick
Ryan "The Fragmented Orchestra" Available from http://www.vimeo.com/6589827 [July 2010] Most of the cited examples are simple. In fact that’s the intention, to present some “simple” ways of transmission arts, so the reader can get the point and imagine the endless possibilities. Patterns as transmission art works as the number one type, where a series of receivers reveal the same signal: there is only one source or transmission and the receivers spread the sound around the given space. As the radio transmission is an FM stereo signal it is possible to split the channels after they are receiver by the backpacks, there right channel is routed to the headphones and left channel is routed to the amplifier and then to the speakers. The technical details are on chapter five but right now I can tell that this use of the radio signal gives the possibility to have the spoken word track in sync with the live soundscape, both transmitted by the same set of instruments and machines (also described on chapter 5). Why is this important? Well, it is all about how the experience of this performance flows: A soundscape is created by a single source. This soundscape has two layers, a hidden one (spoken word track only hearable by using the headphones attached to the backpack), and an open one (the sound that come out from the backpack speakers). The hidden layer has the behavior instructions of how the sound is meant to be spread around the place, audience people is transformed into performers by using a device, an object. Repeated objects repeating sounds, giving instructions to repeat, the patterns are ready to be uncovered, the executors are the ones that will make them real, they become the source, the receiver and the pattern. All is conceptually wrapped together, but still there are some things further than that keeping all the pieces as one: •
Closure: Closure is in general a perception phenomenon. When a shape is suggested but not told, the brain does the rest. Patterns have lots of closure within its pieces. In the crowd you can see a guy walking with a purple backpack, that’s ok. A second one with the same bag could grab your attention; a group of people using the same device means something. Join the dots between this people, are they walking straight lines? Tracing circles? Drawing shapes? Devices, behavior and sound are the elements that imply lines between the persons wearing our backpacks. Having the same object makes you belong, having the same object and the same sound makes a blink between you and the rest of the users, complicity comes with similar behavior.
Electromagnetic frequencies: electromagnetic frequencies are not visible, but they glue the performance together in a very concrete way. The radio signal is poured over the place like an invisible sheet, under it a world is meant to grow and be revealed, but this implies a limited range, further than what the transmitter is supposed to reach the waves fade and the transmission disappears into noise. Performers are maybe inside a
building or in open fields or in the middle of a forest, thatâ€™s not a problem, the real limits of the performance are marked by invisible waves. â€˘
Space: space implies dimension and position. The amounts and forms of the container space of Patterns will mark how the dots (performing audience) interact with each other. Tight places will keep dots closer and sound denser, spaces with no walls and dry sound will make the sound spacialization more remarkable, spaces with more than one level will allow tridimensional patterns.
I wanted to take a deeper look into transmission arts; during my research I found a book that puts together theories, essays and deep analysis of transmission arts by engineers, curators and artists on the field. Unfortunately I found this book too late to dive into it and pour the outcome in this thesis, but still I highly recommend to all the readers of this document to give it a try: Radio Territories. Edited by Erik Granly Jensen and Brandon LaBelle. Los Angeles: Errant Bodies Press, 2007. 264 pages plus an audio CD with 19 tracks. 22
Backpacks On the multimedia appendix is possible to find some material regarding the prototyping phase. Folder name: 04 prototyping The first backpack prototype was built by second hand materials. A couple of radios and some old speakers were necessary.
Some reviews about this book: Radio territories http://www.errantbodies.org/radio_territories.html [August 2010] Rev-radioterritories http://liminalities.net/3-3/rev-radioterritories.htm [August 2010] Free103.9 http://free103point9.org/works/428 [August 2010]
Script The main ideas of characters where conceived. We gave the first steps on the developing of the performance structure and started to co-work with a professional theater writer, Jorrit van der Post 23. Interaction Basic principles for rule sets where planned. The idea of keeping the simplicity of the actions was present during all the process. As a reference of the testing made during this part of the project it’s possible to check the video made in Oerol and the second and last test at the Melkfabriek. Sound The first scores for the sound and small pieces. The sound was planned for the Melk Fabriek since this early start.
Backpacks On the multimedia appendix is possible to find some material regarding the build up phase. Folder name: 05 the build up The final backpacks where constructed with the consultancy of the hardware artist Bas Bosinade 24. We spent some weeks full time at the location in Beverwijk to have them done, from the very beginning to the last screw. The backpacks have: • A pvc casing was made to host all the parts and wires • Two 6 inch x 4 inch dual cone speakers where used (stereo) and a twitter • A 2 channel 160W amplifier • A 12 volts ACCU battery 23
www.jorritvanderpost.nl [September 2010]
www.blw.nl [August 2010]
A custom made interphase to control the input, the volume, the charging of the device and to protect it with two way fuses.
The sound given by the backpacks is highly directional. A neat column of sound can be perceived, this is planned and used during the performances, when you can really appreciate the effect of the sound carried around, a spinning or a turning person can be noticed clear. Sound The final setup was composed by: • Pc laptop running Traktor pro • Akai LPD8 midi controller • Midisport Uno USB to MIDI Interface • Korg Sx1 sampler/drum machine • Mackie Onyx Satellite audio interface • Yamaha RM602 mixer • Edirol Recorder • IPod Mp3 player • FM Radio Transmitter
The sound is meant to be related with the script, the spoken word track. As a final stage and after all the testing here is the score, when the lowest parts of the timeline are related to electronic beat based music, and the highest areas are merely soundscapes and abstract atmospheres. The performance is divided in four parts according each character: 1. Mathematician: the mathematician represents the rules and lines of the universe, the way it is built in a practical way, structure. Its basic representation is a straight line in sound. Pads and looped synths are used in this section. 2. Teenage girl: the teenage girl represents conflict and moving energy, tension. The composition at this point smashes into crude beats, pitching up with the developing of
the story. Some arrhythmia might be included. The public is meant to react to the rhythms on this part. 3. Gardner: the gardener section merges some beats and nature organic sounds, progression and harmony is the key during this part of the performance. 4. Young man: the young man represents the power of decision and perspective. It is a confronting but solving character. Beats and energy are meant to be expressed during this last part of the performance.
Script Please review the last version of the script the multimedia appendix. Folder number 05: the build up Interaction The final rule set is composed by four instructions, each one before each character. The instructions are simple and representative of what is happening along the story. They are also planned to generate an interesting dynamic soundscape and a communicative choreography.
Please review the last version of the script the multimedia appendix. Folder number 05: the build up
The testing phase is of first importance. It gives room to get rid of unpredicted problems, but it also gives room to realize what is really working and what is not, and also to clean the concept, and practical issues. More than one test in different situations and with different focuses worked perfectly to improve the performance. Lots of insights and adjustments were made thanks to this testing process. Since it is very hard to point everything here I recommend checking out the appendix, folder number six. And still, the information there will never be enough to explain how important and revealing the testing is. During this phase we could notice (as a very, very short example): â€˘
No using wet sounds in the performance at the Melkfabriek. High reverberation and multiple delay lines are already delivered by the space, to add more effects to the sounds just mess them up. Simple beats are also better than complex rhythms.
Regarding the interaction we concluded that rule sets are meant to be simple and direct, no counting or complex decisions are possible because the audience gets distracted from the story line. Still there is a healthy tension between the soundscape, the rule sets and the spoken word track; the elements pull the attention of the performer to many directions, keeping him aware and reflective. It is not necessary to have full attention on all the pieces composing Patterns, the goal is to push the performer to make decisions and reflect on them.
Meaningful or noticeable patterns and choreography is necessary as a reward for the performing and watching people. Too encrypted interaction or results leads to misunderstanding.
A group feeling arises with the use of the same device.
Special surrounding sound is really noticed by the people. Along interviews with participants and spectators we heard many times that the sound of Patterns is a very special experience, because it isn’t too loud but it takes over the place. It is surrounding and physically moving with the sources.
The most important testing days or presentations where: • May 23, 2010: Melkfabriek open dag (Resident Artist) http://www.atelierdagenhilversum.nl/2010/ • June 05, 2010: Young Art@ Timboektoe (Invited Artist) http://www.youngartcircus.com/ • June 12 to June 18: Oerol Festival (Guerrilla Art) http://www.oerol.nl/ • July 12 to July 18: Young Art Festival (Invited Artist) http://www.youngartcircus.com/ • August 06: Melkfabriek (Resident Artist)
At the moment this document has to be delivered this phase of the project would not be complete yet, but, everything will be ready for the presentation of the improved version of Patterns (with improved I mean that after the testing phase changes were made to the script, sound, equipment and dynamics of the performance). • •
August 15, 2010: Official Presentation (Main Act) http://www.stichtingmagdalena.nl/ September 10 and 11, 2010: HKU Graduation Exhibition (Official Graduation Event) http://www.hku.nl/
The results of this presentations and updates are available at our official web page: http://patterns.hku.nl/
Analysis On the creative process Responding to the question: ¿How to build an art project from zero, with an interactionsound team, where both disciplines have the same importance? There are some highlights about experimental creative process to generate multidisciplinary art work, and they might be the axis of the process. 1. Choose a ground and start together: there are plenty of creative models with different focuses and phase order. The truth is that no creative model is absolute and, along the development of the project the model sometimes will not fit what is happening.
Creative models are just tools and guidelines to make easier the track. One of the most common problems of multidisciplinary creative works is that different disciplines have different mindsets and in consequence the team members can be out of phase during the development of the project. To work better and stay tuned it is necessary to create a common ground for all disciplines, in the case of Patterns the common ground was the first and second sets of experiments, where we could gaze into each other’s discipline, but also into each other’s world and interests. Share it’s a key for success, share experience (and experiences, thoughts, ideas and methods, grow a friendship or at least a good working relationship). Fix from the beginning goals and ambitions of all the members and try to stick to them. Be open for collaboration and to experimental work: in most of the cases there are no ideal circumstances happening; time, money, knowledge and other resources are always tricky. A good disposition to experiment new ways of generating material will always be appreciated. Sticking to a proved method is not always good when the requirements of the moment are pulling to other sides. Sometimes even if we are specialized on something, it will be necessary to put our hands on something else, on other fields of knowledge or work. That is pretty alright, it will improve the team skills and view, different mindsets solve the same problems in different ways, leave room to understand how it is done by others and share it. Recognize who is better in what: as simple as it sounds. I’m not very interested on efficiency or strict troubleshooting, I like to generate the ideas but I easily get bored of them. Arne was a great motor for problem solving and accurate solutions, I had to recognize that and grant him some leadership about this, just as he respected my skills for concept development, sound creation, critical analysis and a limit marker. Flexibility: Creative people can be hard to move when they are in love with ideas. It’s really important to be aware of this. Collaborative art needs flexible ideas and minds, still, this do not means to tilt the balance to the other extreme. Integrate all the ideas and leave open room to everything is also dangerous. Live it: if you are working on multidisciplinary teams you have to live the experience of the outcome. If you are for example a designer in charge of the visual part of a theatre performance you should experience the theatre and not the design. This is a basic change of focus that will lead to the understanding of all the parts, their importance and the value of each member of the team. Leave space in your agenda to integrate as much as possible to the world of your project, attend to festivals and participate, talk with the experts and with the fresh people, test, discuss and be open to new insights. Registration and reflection: register the process and the experiments. This is the core of the creative process, to have a good registration is a priority, but registration without analysis is useless in this terms. After every experiment or testing the results have to be analyzed and shared with the team, new ideas, insights and changes will come with it. Be ready to change or improve stuff; know that every change is getting a step closer to the goal. Make no small plans: it is not about being pretentious, it is about giving enough energy to what you are making. Deep in ourselves there is no place for pointless or small achievements, creative processes have the goal of changing the established or playing on the edge, a big task like this needs a big but landed mindset.
On the sound Responding to the question: ¿How can I show to the world the relations between sound art, electronic music and objects in space? In Patterns the links between sound art, electronic music, space and objects are shown in the way they are created. Conceptually wise all these things have the same construction: samples. Pieces of already existing things are arranged in order to make a new composition. Objects made from pieces, architecture built with bricks and constructive elements, music and sound, art made with remixed samples. The room for the things to meet is a given space, where sound waves bounce and recreate it. It is about looping and repetition through a timeline. The relation is shown conceptually, but it is also the way sound is constructed by samples and loops, and still there is a next level, where the same sound source is repeated on space (people with backpacks), creating a new construction: a tridimensional soundscape that flows along the timeline and morphs thanks to the actions of the people, which are also loops, behavior loops. To close this I have to say that it is also known that space, a container, will always change the sound happening inside, architecture and acoustics are of course embedded, but in this case the relations are highlighted stronger, because the repetition of constructive elements of sound, architecture and behavior are the links that relate all the content and message of this performance.
Electronic music and Dj culture is about sampling and remixing, remix a piece of sound art or a preexisting sample of white noise or a drum loop. This leads to new sound expressions.
Remix objects: a backpack, some radios and speakers. This will lead to new devices and platforms.
Remix the behaviors of an audience through rule sets and you’ll get theatre.
Put all these pieces together and you’ll construct a complete performance that relates itself with the space, a multilayered piece of Transmission Art that speaks to the audience, to its performers and to its container through sound: sound art, spoken word and electronic music coming out of remixed objects arranged on the space, symbiosis.
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