Thursday, 3 October 2013

My very first ever ever Radio show: not Steve Wright. "ROOM."

Hello folks, sorry to have been so long since adding to these pages, I know you've been busting for an update from my crazy escapades.
Well, good news is I've got a few posts coming in the next few days about all kinds of exciting stuff like GPS-led immersive soundwalks in Berlin,
the first ever conference of SoundStudies.EU, "Functional Sounds" from where I will be reporting each day for the next three days
and some of my own weird discoveries in the surprising and increasingly fascinating
Hampshire coastal town of Gosport,
where I have been making field recordings
First though, now it's no longer being broadcast, 
my show from September 2013, 
a reduced length, massively edited version, for headphones (or really lovely speakers) 
of a piece called "ROOM", made for the Hansard Art Gallery at the end of 2011. 
We used 14 speakers in four rooms and asked the audience to move around the space and explore. 
In "ROOM" I took, as a starting point, 
Alvin Lucier's 1969 sound work 
"I am sitting in a room", 
developing ideas it suggests, 
but using a 21st century digital studio.

The original piece is based on 
the idea of a room's unique resonant characteristics 
gradually overwhelming the original recorded content, 
through playback and re-recording of the same initial sounds, 
again and again until no longer recognisable 
but transformed into a series of tones and pulses, 
the cadence of the spoken word 
gradually collapsed into a narrow band, 
like a dimly flickering flame.

The sounds of my own speaking voice (reading my own text) 
gradually become the 'instruments' of a virtual 'orchestra', 
in music that develops over time and across space, 
to simulate and distort reality in ways that are 
impossible in the physical dimensions.  

"Room" is an exploration of musical composition as 
the building of virtual physical structures which the listener may enter, 
taking changing routes to build shifting impressions of a sonic landscape.

Here is a reduction from physical to virtual space of the composition ROOM, 
which explored uses of the voice as a sound source 
whose 'meaning' or character was related to but distinct from 
any meaning imparted by the text.

As the text unravels, 
folds over itself, 
becomes truncated, looped, distorted and overlaid 
with itself and other sources, 
flashes of memory and premonition interfere, disrupt, distort. 

It is like a journey in an open car through a dark landscape, 
peopled with versions of the sensory world and 
the liminal spaces between 
'reality' and a sleeping reinvention of it.


Imagine music you could enter and explore, or wear like an invisible atmosphere, 

the instruments and singing voices in the air about them like dust particles 
that dart and race in the sunlight or the heavenly bodies themselves, 
after millennia of straining, audible to human ears.

Consider the musical composition a physical object 
which if given spatial dimensions, 
you may enter and examine at will.

If words are only labels symbols for an idea of a thing, 
may they not also serve as musical notes, which are the same?

Is a sound any more or less meaningful than a word?  

What is its interaction with the space in which it is heard?

The relationships between 
   - the sound, 
   - the space in which it resonates and 
   - the imaginative associations of the listeners 
combine to create a wild thing that has no name, 
cannot be captured or described, 
is only experienced 
by one person, 

Isn't that a mystery beyond understanding?

If Futurism and Modernism are dead 
and post-Modernism still doesn't know exactly what it is, 
long live the ambiguous fecundity of the present.


Alongside composing for classical instruments, I have worked 
first with tape recordings and 
latterly, with audio montage in the digital studio 
for eighteen years, in search specifically of two things.

Firstly, using the digital studio to create 
simulations of human performance 
in explorations of musical ideas that 
would be impossible for actual players to achieve.

Secondly, as a result of this, 
the creation of virtual environments within the sound 
that are transformed and juxtaposed, interwoven 
in ways that could not be achieved in the physical dimensions.  

I believe that sound is as richly potent an expressive form as the verbal lexicon, 
in and in spite of its conditioned associations and with its scope for 
extension, subversion, flexing, demolition and restructuring 
in the image of the wordless visions of hallucination and dreaming.

For this reason I have been exploring the simulation of acoustic environments in which 
the sound appears to be produced, 
just as film makers are concerned with finding and adapting location 
and theatre designers of creating perfect stage sets, 
tightly appropriate to the purpose of their narrative.


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