Tuesday 23 October 2012

Mixing 'Virtual' Music With The 'Real' World

Locative and Geo-Located Audio: Editing a Place with Sounds

After my presentation at UoS Creative Digifest2, Guy Stephens of Cap Gemini invited me to speak at their London offices: Monday 22nd October, presenting recent musical and academic research on virtual sound in real environments.

Fantastic opportunity to discuss my musical and academic research with an audience at Cap Gemini yesterday, in their astonishing 8th floor "Accelerated Solutions Environment" - an entirely mobile arrangement of walls and furniture on wheels, capable of almost instantaneous transformation. 

I was more than a little apprehensive about speaking straight after the man from Google - Ed Parsons, Geospatial Technologist at Google Maps, on the future of Annotated Landscapes - who described some mind-boggling concepts for emerging mobile connectivity.

I presented the reasons for wanting to create music you can walk inside - how the studio lets us do extraordinary things that seem really to be happening but which are impossible - but we are then obliged to listen to music on speakers; aware of the sounds' artificiality and having a rather boring sensory experience, when compared to the highly visual psycho-drama of live performance.

So early last year I approached ISVR at UoS to talk about a system I wanted to build, that is now turning slowly into 3DBARE, a virtual spatialisation tool for immersive and interactive audio.

The audience saw for the first time the audio rendering engine drafted by ISVR's Miguel Galindo and Iyad Assaf's excellent user interface / control platform, which is going to be ready for prototype demonstration in the next few weeks, using a table-top version.

They also heard about the geo-located music tool, noTours, which I have been using to place music in a landscape works directly with the Google Maps API and has the potential for really immersive and interactive audio embedded into the main map search platform.

I'd spent the weekend at St Paul's Cathedral, recording interviews and the acoustic environment. Then I placed my choral piece "Take Me By The Hand" into the landscape and mixed it with the traffic, fountains, machines, bells, skateboarders, fighters, Big Issue sellers, tourists, lovers, wedding parties and historical reconstructions that were all around the area.

Met the inspired team of Unreal City Audio - and found myself on their tour "Hawkers, Harlots & Hacks" - thanks for the brilliant audio, guys!

I've been considering how to develop sharing of virtual soundscapes, distribution to listeners in diverse locations, multi-contribution work that can take place in several locations simultaneously (and each player can hear the other players, selectively as s/he chooses).

It seems that at the very moment of its first appearance, the album as software application is already a fleeting obsolescence, being only a fraction removed from the fixed format of the gramophone disc.

Perhaps this is the first time since the advent of recording that music has been a changeable, living entity, where as one walks inside it, the experience is controlled and determined by one's movement and position.

To dissect and spread a piece of music across a landscape anywhere in the world now permits listeners to download the music and map data then go there and enter the composition as though it were a physical object.

We are doing this not just with musical compositions but audio montages of a particular place and time - sonic snapshots of constantly changing acoustic environments.

Surround stereo clip from St Paul's Churchyard Audio Portrait here (with headphones please!)

For geo-located version at location of your choice, send me a postcode and I will attach the music to the place and send you a link to your private Music You Can Walk Inside download: @benjaminmawson

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