The following excerpts refer to questions of interrelationships between sound and space, architecture and hearing, transformable places and projections. This investigation was inspired not only by the installation practices and Hörspiel (radio theatre) dramaturgies pioneered in recent years by Liquid Penguin, but also by lab participant Luca Forcucci's practice as a sound artist working with sound spatialization. Forcucci's currently plans to begin doctoral research in this area, and his present and forthcoming projects engage the following propositions:
Space as an Element of Composition in Music Composition and Sound Art
The area of research I plan to investigate is based on the conceptual idea of space as an element of composition. The projects I shall develop will be included in a portfolio of sound-based composition and sound art. All these projects take place in contexts of performance spaces, acoustically and architecturally interesting places, abandoned sites, natural resorts, electromagnetic architectures, immaterial architectures and digital environments. The main element of the work is naturally sound, but I would like to employ text and visuals as stimuli and elements to help define and investigate these spaces.
Influenced by the
work of Maryanne Amacher, I explore the environment and observe how it can affect
the composition or the composer. This idea includes the notion of site specific
where the psychoacoustic illusions are determined by the acoustics of the architecture.
sound pieces for specific architectural and natural localities, calculating
resonant properties of the ambient materials, fitting
sound to resonating space, overwhelming the internal "mental" properties of musical sound so that sound and mind (or this way my extrapolation)
threaten to go to war.” (Stein, 1999)
In the area of space explored in the sound art domain, the works that influence me the most from Amacher are “City Lights” series, which as mention Labelle
(Labelle, 2006, p. 170 - 172) consisted of installing microphones at given locations and feeding these sounds to another, distant location to create “synchronicities” of different places. This idea reveals the concept of field spatialization, where distant and close sounds are re-unified in a single location.
The other work is at the Kitchen in New York, where she played with several loudspeakers hidden behind walls or floor in a manner that avoided the possibility to locate the sound, is another effective successful way to integrate space into the sound close to my research. Here the notion is also about perception modification or disorientation.
“It was difficult to tell exactly where any of the music was coming from,
and yet each sound took on a particular spatial characteristic”
(Johnson, 1989, p.171)
My interest in the area of acousmatic music looks back to the notions developed by the musician, Pierre Schaeffer and his concepts of the sound object and “reduced listening”. I would like to explore how “reduced listening” is emphasized through the use of multi-track software in comparison to magnetic tape that Schaeffer (among others) employed. The multi-track will help in considering the sound object from a spatial point of view, leading to an idea of sound blurred by space, as sound and space are intrinsically related.
The key aim is to explore further the concept of artificial space and environment in the sound object itself through the use of multiple layers of real space and / or environment. Multi-layering (with multi-tracks and I am speaking of 10 and more tracks) is impossible to achieve on most traditional tape recorders. I think the distinct approach from tape-based composition to today’s software-based technology can augment the perception and sensation of the sound object, because we have the possibility to see the sound wave and work very closely with it. It provides the opportunity to create a more detailed sound object.
“Acousmatic music is the only sonic medium that concentrates on space and spatial experience as aesthetically central.” (Smalley, 2007)
My quest will address also questions about ecological issues, including environments, social relationship and human subjectivity, as stated by Guattari:
articulation, that I called ecosophy, between the 3 ecological registers, the
one of the environment, the one of the social
relationships and the one of the human subjectivity” (Guattari, 1989, pp. 12 - 13)
The concept of space involves the assumed presence of reverberation and how it relates to architectural shape.
“Architecture especially articulates sonic imaging in “structure - borne” sound, magnifying color and spatial presence as the sound shapes
interact with structural characteristics of the rooms before reaching the listener”
(Labelle, 2006, p.172)
On the other hand, the approach of the artist and musician Max Neuhaus invigorates my idea of sound placed in space or more in depth, the radical idea to define space
with sound. He spoke of himself as a sound sculptor, it implies that exist a possibility to build an environment / space from sound, where sound is a material.
“In terms of classification, I’d move the installations into the purview of the visual arts even though they have no visual component, because the
visual arts, in a plastic sense, have dealt with space. Sculptors define and transform spaces; I create, transform, and change spaces by adding
sound. The spatial concept is one which music doesn’t include. His motivation was the desire to develop our aural understanding of the
spaces and places we inhabit, ?our culture is so visual we tend to forget the aural side of things?. (Shaw-Miller, 1997)
To go further with the idea, I suggest that instead of our verticalized concept, (we believe what we see most of the time) dating back to Gutenberg and saying that our conception of truth of perception is entirely built on the visual (Maconie, 1989, p.106 - 107), I would like to define 3D worlds by sound.
This can be viewed as well through a composition like “I am Sitting in a Room” by Alvin Lucier, where space was fully integrated in the composition and affects it. AsLucier said:
“The signal goes through the air again and again…the space acts as a
filter; it filters out all of the frequencies except for the resonant ones”
(Chadabe, 1997, pp 75 - 76)
The investigation concerns the poietic transformation of real world space to the artificial one of the composition. Behind this idea I wish to investigate further the relation between mimetic VS aural and real VS unreal described by the Simon Emmerson grid (Fischman, 2008) Finally the space of performance is part of the research in terms of the respective positions of the performer and the listener. The space of performance acts also as resonating element of the composition and depending of where and how a composition is played, the result can be very different.
Another space or place exists in my research; it is in the immaterial architectures, the electromagnetic fields, virtual worlds or networks where a relation to digital environments defines sound:
“When we speak of the materiality of sound, for instance, we speak of projection, acoustics, sculptural mass, architecture. In the age of
broadcast, and even more so of network communications, those architectures become geographies, where speed and space convenes in
the experience of place, proximity and distance. Such spatio-temporal disjunctures are the empirical underpinnings of contemporary
communication.” (Cubitt, 1997)
Contextualization of the works
The area of research I intend to investigate with the conceptual idea of space as an element of composition is defined by 2 types of spaces: real ones and virtual ones. The notion evokes an articulation of sound in space in-situ for the real spaces and time specific for the virtual ones. As space and sound are intrinsically related, the sound object, from an acoustical point of view, reflects the notion of resonant properties of the space. The sound object expands to the terminology of augmented listening not as opposed to the reduced listening, but as a metaphorical vision of sound where several sound objects or space layers are superposed; thus the sound is shifted from a sound object to a broader notion of sound as space.
On the one hand the spaces I explore for the compositional process are used as amplifiers with their intrinsic aural potentialities or with their sonic multi-layered properties in contexts of sound art when they are part of a field spatialization. On the other hand the spaces are investigated as case studies for performance experimentation in the relation between the performer and the composition or the sound piece and the space of performance and the position of the listener.
(This is an excerpt from a longer research project description)
For an interesting example of contemporary music theatre performance, see this video of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Michaels Reise um die Erde (2008 Philharmonie Köln)
(Composé dans les années 1970 par Stockhausen,
un "opéra sans chanteur", mis en scène par Carlos Padrissa
(La Fura dels Baus)/(film direction: Janos Darvas)
Le voyage de Michel autour de la Terre est l'acte central de Donnerstag, extrait de l'opéra Licht, monumental cycle sur les sept jours de la semaine dont l'écriture occupa Karlheinz Stock-hausen pendant vingt-cinq ans. Le voyage... a pour héros un trompettiste, Michel. Chaque personnage de cet "opéra sans chanteur" est d'ailleurs incarné par le son d'un instrument. Carlos Padrissa le met en scène avec une profusion d'images grandioses. L'éclat de la musique de Stockhausen trouve ainsi un contrepoint visuel d'une grande force dramatique.
Barrett, Natasha, 2002, Spatio - musical compositions strategies, Organised Sound, Vol. 7, no. 3, pp 313 – 323
Chadabe Joel, 1997, Electric Sound the Past and Promise of Electronic music, New Jersey: Prentice Hall
Cubitt, Sean, Online Sound and Virtual Architecture (Contribution to the Geography
of Cultural Translation), Leonardo Music Journal, Vol. 7, pp 43 - 48
Fischman Rajmil, 2008, MimeticSpace–Unravelled, Organised Sound, Vol.13, no.2, Cambridge University Press, pp 111-122
Guattari, Félix, 1989, Les Trois Ecologies, Paris: Galilée
Johnson, Tom, 1989, The Voice of New Music by Tom Johnson New York City 1972- 1982 A collection of articles originally published in the Village Voice, Editions 75
Labelle, Brandon, 2006, Background Noise, Perspective On Sound Art, London: Continuum
Maconie, Robin, 1989, Stockhausen on music, London: Marion Boyars publishers
Reynolds, Roger, 1980, Voicespace, liner notes Available at:
Shaw-Miller, Simon, 1997, Sounding out, Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp 105-109.
Smalley, Denis, 2007, Space-form and the acousmatic image, Organised Sound, Vol. 12, no.1, Cambridge University Press, pp 35–58
Stein, Charles, Spring 1999, An Essay On Music, The Open Space Magazine, Issue 1, p.156
Goethe Institute, 2009, Munich, Germany, viewed 17 March 2009
In juxtaposition to Luca's research description, we post an article that recently appeared in the FAZ, July 6, 2009:
Texte und Kommentare zum Labor 2009 werden hier veröffentlicht
Texts and commentaries on the 2009 lab and related research subjects will be published here.