(Composed and performed by Rahul Agnihotri)
Elysium is a piece that involves a live performance that is accompanied by pre-rendered ambient music. Initially, the principle of this project revolved around making a multi-channel reverse reverb/delay effect (as described here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_echo) for the performer. This task turned out to be incredibly hard to accomplish in the given amount of time for the performance. Instead it has been decided to use conventional audio effects to create a pleasing ambiance for the audience. The ambient sounds accompanying the performer are partially generated through SuperCollider. Third order ambisonics (sixteen channels) are the chosen strategy to spatialize the sound. The AmbiX plugin seemed like a viable option for this purpose and the DAW chosen to be the helping hand throughout this process was Cockos Reaper. Elysium was imagined having a single act performed solo.
All the pieces involving the spatialization of sound are mostly contemporary pieces which are most definitely impressive, from the point of view of innovative implementations of spatial sounds, but I personally do not particularly enjoy them. I understand the need to have 'motion' in music (if spatialized) but I believe that motion needs to be bridled and used with some self-restraint. An overuse of this tool has me question, "What is the composer is REALLY trying to convey through their piece?" This opinion might make me sound like a bigot. However, I can at least partially understand emotions conveyed through traditional, stationary music, which has a definite tempo, rhythm, REAL acoustic instruments and all the bells and whistles surrounding that. So I decided to take upon myself to create a performance which best expresses MY understanding of how music should sound when spatialized around an audience.
Behind The Scenes
The primary instrument in use here was an acoustic guitar that was octa-tracked with accompanying percussion generated though the Xpand2! plugin suite in Reaper. It was decided to use 16 channels for this performance (3rd-order ambisonics). The task of spatializing the eight separate guitar sections was accomplished using the AmbiX plugin in its 2ch->16ch setting. Since this was conceptualized as a live performance, the pre-rendered audio section was pre-positioned (using ambisonics voodoo) and kept static thoughout its duration. The performer, with his magnificent electric guitar, were directly patched into two-overhead speakers (without any ambisonics encoding) directed at the audience.
The signal chain for the guitar was as follows: Guitar->Compressor->Transparent Overdrive->Analog Delay->Reverb (Obviously!!)->Speaker System
For the purpose of listening pleasure for people who could not attend the performance, a binaural mix-down was made. To create a sense of false-space, this binaural mix has 'swells' and motion (used with extreme moderation). This was also accomplished using the AmbiX plugin suite. Alas, in the quest to give the online listeners a spatial peek into Elysium, the electric guitar section was intentionally left out. It was observed that with the movement of the acoustic section (or without!), a static and focused electric guitar overlay sounded incredibly displeasing. (Look out for future live performances to experience Elysium in its full glory!)
All things aside, this project was a lot of fun to do (and compose!). For reference I made a stereo mix of the same without any use of plugins and if anything, the last line of this wiki page page best describes my inner-conflict with sound spatialization.
- You can listen to the binaural mix here:
- If you have the gear and the decoder (in ACN/SN3D) here is the 3rd order ambisonics file (its really big!):
- Stereo mix (NOT Binaural!!!) for contrast:
(p.s. Don't tell anyone, but this is the best of them all! And its just stereo! What? *insert surprisedLook.gif here* :p Also, there is a separate reason for naming it differently. If we meet, and you still wonder why, do ask. Its would be a fun conversation!)