Just a little example of the attention to detail I’m trying to bring to the sound rebuild:
As before, the sounds for the ‘traces’ – the little trails of particles that are left behind by user movement in the space – which I think might be one of the key interaction sounds, is made up of little clicks which set off (pitched) resonant filters.
In Istanbul and London, these clicks were made synthetically (just a tiny burst of white noise with an envelope) – they had no ‘texture’ to them and were all exactly the same.
What I want to do now is for every click to be different, and for the clicks for each portal to be very slightly different to the others. To do this, I’ve gone back to my musique concrete roots, and have used recorded sounds instead of synthetic ones. I’ve found four sources that are excellent sources of clicks – polystyrene packing material, combs, magnetoids (anyone remember them?) and dead leaves (from the back yard of the Transcultures house). I’ve recorded a stretch of sound for each of them, and then edited out every seperate little click. So now, each portal has over 100 clicks to choose from, which makes a subtle but crucial difference, and makes the whole thing a little more ‘alive’ somehow.
It’s the little things..
I’ve evolved the sound a bit more over the last few days. It’s the same basic idea and material, but with a little more variety in terms of the layers I’m using and the way they’re controlled. I feel like this is a bit of a balancing act here – it needs to be quite approachable I think, given the sheer variety of people who are likely to engage with the final piece. But it also needs to be distinctive and characterful – I don’t want to play to the lowest common denominator. It also needs to be interactive, but I want it to have a convincing musical flow to it. It needs to be a result of the users’ movement, but also encourage people to move (in some way be ‘good to dance to’). Finally it needs to be sparse enough that cause and effect are clear (I’m hoping the sound might function as an integral part of the navigation and general usability), but complex and varied enough to be interesting. Tricky..
I don’t think I should develop this much more before we reconnect the sound and image (and interactivity). Hopefully we’ll do this over the next couple of days and start to form an overall audiovisual aesthetic and a new model for interaction. We should hopefully be building the first portal during this time, so it’s an exciting few days we have ahead!
I’ve completely re-thought the sound over the last couple of days. I didn’t develop it at all in London as we focused on the core logistics of getting four portals working, so as the piece started to take shape the sound didn’t really keep up.
One of the key things we developed in London was the way in which users can be creative in the space, and we ended up with two paradigms – ‘shadows’ (we called them ‘sculptures’ in London, but shadows makes more sense given the title of the piece) and ‘traces’ (‘trails’ in London, but I think traces sounds better). The former is long term, and full-body – regular imprints users leave in the space. The latter is short-term, and involves the particles left behind by the key points of the body (which we first developed in Istanbul).
Only the latter has been sonified so far, making a bit of a disconnect between sound and image. I’ve also realised that the shadows potentially have more audio, and audiovisual potential. If the shadows get left at regular intervals (but different intervals for each user), and these have corresponding audio events, then some nice polyrhythms can be produced. These would be more sonically interesting that the signification of the particle traces, which are so numerous that they tend to produce overly-dense sounds, which just blend into sonic soup. They could also provide cues to the users as to when the shadows will be created, and – being more clearly identifiable, could even help with the navigation.
This sound is a first attempt at what this might sound like at this point. Of course, it’s slightly meaningless without the visual element (so far!), but it’s an attempt to ‘compose the soundtrack’. The high ringing sounds represent the shadows, on regular cycles corresponding to a 4:5:6:7 ratio. The tinkly/rustly (those are technical terms) represent the traces. The low pulse and short high rhythmic sounds are global, and are a byproduct of the 4:5:6:7 polyrhythm. They’d be spatially attached to the light at the centre of the space I think, or possibly ubiquitous throughout the space.
We’ll keep tinkering over the weekend, but I’m pretty pleased with where we’ve ended up in the first week here in Istanbul – actually it’s only really been four days. You can see the latest on the visual front above – basically it’s the skeleton particle trails shown below combined with the 3D mesh display, somewhat improved from the earlier versions shown a few days ago.
And below you can listen to an early version of the soundscape (play it with the video if you like, though of course it won’t be synced) – this is basically just the ‘singing sand-dune drones’ emitted by the traces/sculptures. The soundbursts themselves aren’t sounding very nice yet – something for the weekend..
This is very much the first first first first version, and I’ve no idea if the final thing will look and sound anything like this at all, but it’s a start I think, and definitely something we can start to work with with the dancers on Monday..
I’ve started work on the audio side of the project – I want to get at least some kind of interactive audio going for when we start to work with people in the space next week. I find the audio side of this project a little harder to conceptualise than the visual, which is a little embarrassing given my background in music and sound. However, I’ve struck out in a direction today which I think is promising.
I think there need to be (at least) two types of sound at play in the space. First, I imagine dynamic, short-lived sounds that are produced directly by the movements of the player, giving the instant gratification of immediate sonic feedback. Secondly though I’d also like the ‘shadows’ – traces and sculptural forms left behind by players in the space – to vibrate, resonate. I’m thinking of the way that sand dunes ‘sing’ in the desert wind (not that I’ve every actually heard that!). I want the whole landscape to have a low level glow to it, only sonically.
This is what I’ve been building today, as a starting point: any sufficiently rapid movement in the space will trigger a little impulse – a little starburst of noise – localised at the point where the movement happened. So as you move, you’ll leave a trail of sonic pinpricks behind you. Each of these tiny sounds will trigger a tuned resonance, and the resonance will feed back on itself, over and over. What begins as a noiseburst turns into a singing resonance, which then – very slowly – decays into a low ambient hum and eventually disappears altogether.
I think this is an idea we might explore visually also, as we form an idea as to what the shadows should look (as well as sound) like. It would be interesting if they had a ‘half life’, and decayed – or were slowly eroded – over time, like those sand dunes I mentioned.
The picture’s not directly relevant to this post of course, but I want to put some faces to names – that’s Phill, Tolger and Aylin at lunch. Check Phill’s impressive ‘programmer’s tan’ – i think he threw the white balance on my camera. Did I mention that the weather’s really nice here at the moment?