link titleAs a producer of experimental, arguably dance-oriented electronic music, I am always looking for and thinking about new ways to present my artistic ideas to a crowd on a dance floor. This project was inspired by my experiences at Envelop at the Midway, a new ambisonic venue inside of a pre-existing San Francisco club that gives musicians full spatial control of their sound in 28.4 channel surround.My original intention was to craft an hour long hybrid DJ/live set to perform at an event at Envelop, and to present part of this piece at the CCRMA showcase. However, due to logistical issues (too little time to organize the event) and technical difficulties (incompatibility of Envelop software for presentation at CCRMA), my chance to play has been moved from May to September, when I will be performing in a showcase with my music collective. I made the decision to work more in depth on a shorter piece that may later be incorporated into a longer set.
The piece uses the Spat spatialization engine with a custom Max for Live plugins that allows for composition and playback in Ableton. The plugins can be automated with spatial controls; this signal and the audio signal are sent to Spat in Max for processing and rendering (I started composition binaurally prior to testing and presenting in an ambisonic space).
Spatially, the piece builds up an abstract landscape over time, beginning with an almost mono hint of a far away children's playground. As the "aperture" of that signal is increased, the soundscape envelops the listener from all directions, blending into the bass, which stays stationary over time to provide a sense of stability in the piece. The kick drums that come in next are located almost directly at the location of two of four subwoofers at a time (alternating hits come from alternating pairs of subwoofers). A main synthesized drone element layered over the playground field recording stays just outside of the radius of speaker location over the course of the piece, alternating hemispheres depending on the entrance location of other narrative synth lines. The latter higher pitched, more localized sounds travel into and out of the listener's field of perception but come much closer than any other elements--these move in a more directed way through the soundscape already built up to guide the listener through an emotional story. Cymbal hits travel up and down as the energy rises and falls, moving in a sine-like pattern through vertical space that alternates with the vertical location of the rock samples. These bell-like sounds stay at the radius of the speakers and their azimuth changes randomly between each hit, placing the listener in the midst of an atonal shimmer throughout the pice. At the end, the bells are the last sound left and recede all together in one direction as the listener seems to move so far away from the soundscape that it is no longer possible to perceive their angular separation.
Aperture was inspired by Natasha Barrett's work on the Oslo Sound Space Transport System. This installation allows users to take an auditory journey through the city of Oslo, alternatively moving through accurate and interactive ambisonic recordings of different locations and in-between areas where the user hears Natasha Barrett's interpretation of these spaces: abstract yet somehow familiar compositions utilizing the sounds of the environments and expressing the emotions she experienced there. My piece utilizes a field recording of a children’s playground and a set of samples of the Mysterious Ringing Rocks in Montana, captured by Richard Devine and distributed through his Soundcloud. These two elements become part of the texture and rhythmic structure of the piece. The rest of the sounds are recordings of my hardware synthesizer (Korg MS-20) and drums created with Ableton’s Operator. The listener is taken on a nostalgic yet synthetic journey located somewhere on the border between sleep and waking, reality and abstraction.