Project Proposal (first draft) & Presentation

January 29, 2008 at 10:37 pm (MADA UNIT 1)

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London: City of Transformations

Aims

The focus of my project is to redefine and transform my experience London through the creative exploration of its spaces. I will create a series of interconnected audio-visual compositions, stemming from recorded materials I collect whilst travelling around the City. The work itself will derive from the observations I make during my journeys, as well as my research in to various areas of study related to project.

Objectives

1) Explore the effect of the visual and sonic landscape on the individual, by letting my sensitivity towards the environment guide me through the City:
-How can I piece together the fragments of City that appeal to me to create personal spaces and narratives?
-How can the routes I take around the City feedback in to my compositional process?

2) Investigate the relationship between sounds and the spaces in which they occur:
-How does this sonic activity redefine a space: both acoustically & emotionally?
-How does the sonic activity within a space change at different points in time?
-How do different sounds from a space interact with one another?
-How can these various sonic behaviours & relationships be understood and elaborated upon to form a basis for constructing visual abstractions of a space?

3) Explore the dialogue between natural and man-made forms (visual or auditory), on my journeys around London:
-How can the observations I make about this relationship be used as a catalyst to create new, hybrid forms?
-How can my research in to the construction/growth/behaviour of these natural and man-made forms be used as a foundation for audio-visual composition?

4) Research and reflect upon the histories experienced by myself or by people before my lifetime, at different locations around London:
-How can I utilise and transform these traces of the past to engender new meanings within these locations?

Rationale

Having lived in London for the majority of my life, I feel a strong connection to the place; it forms part of my identity, home to the sounds, spaces and familiar faces that I identify with. However, it’s only recently that I’ve begun to uncover new aspects of the ever-changing metropolis and my relation to it. Out of necessity my journeys around the city have been via public transport, mostly the tube, which itself has transformed in to a claustrophobic, hideously loud and relatively uncomfortable space to be in.

Living roughly 20+ miles from the City of London (Square Mile), I didn’t see a great deal of the centre as a child. Getting acquainted with the City through my teens and early adult life, it always struck me as odd that, on occasion, I couldn’t locate myself when resurfacing from the underground. I’d struggle to find my own bearings, let alone be able to direct a lost tourist to ‘Lie-Sestor Square’ or ‘the River Thames’ (pronounce the ‘h’).

With time and familiarity (and a map of course), this changed. However, seldom choosing to walk through London, locations and their relative distances still seemed somewhat distorted. I felt disoriented and removed from the city that I call my home, detached from myself. When I did begin to embrace longer journeys on foot, new aspects of London’s sonic and geographical environment became apparent. It was like I was rediscovering the City and beginning to redefine it for myself as an individual.

My research so far has led me the area of Psychogeography, a practise concerned with how individuals respond emotionally to the physicality of their urban environment; its ambience, architectural forms and spaces. Psychogeography itself stemmed from an artistic movement called Situationist International (SI), active from 1957-72. SI were focused on the alienation and domination of the individual through mass media and consumerism, referred to as “The Society of the Spectacle” by Guy Debord (one of their key figures). To overthrow Capitalisms power over the individual the Situations aspired to create and actively engage in situations and moments in everyday life, transforming ‘the spectacle’ in to art.

Though I share some of their ideals, I’m much more interested in their methods rather than their manifesto, particularly the method of Derive (meaning to drift).

Debord encouraged the individual to break from their daily routine and the same paths they take to get around the city, instead following their emotional responses to their urban terrain and embarking on new routes with a newfound sensitivity towards their environment. Through this exploration of the city, the individual can redefine and transform their surroundings, regaining their sense of self.
On the Passage of a few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International 1957-1972

Whereas psychogeography’s focus is how the physicality of our urban environment affects us, Acoustic Ecology (another area of my research), focuses on the relationship between people and their sonic environment. The other side of my research has been based on Acousmatic music; composition using found sound/playing with perceived space, and Synaethesia; a mental condition whereby one sensory input stimulates another. I will update my blog with this research over the next 2 weeks, to use as personal reference.

With this project I want to regain the sense of London being part of me and transform my personal relationship with it via: (1) the act of derive, (2) studying sonic activity in spaces, (3) exploring the dialogue between natural and man-made forms in the City, and (4) uncovering the traces of the past in locations.

I wanted to find a way of approaching a work about London that would allow me to explore and uncover meanings in an intuitive way. Using psychogeographic methods I may discover places and sounds that otherwise I may not have considered with a more concrete, formalised approach. This process will allow the work to evolve in a more organic way, rather than setting its boundaries from the onset.

Outcomes

Develop a series of interesting, dynamic and meaning audio-visual works that fully explore my objectives.

Present my finished pieces in an immersive audio-visual environment, allowing the viewer to play a part in the creation of the work. (using sensor technologies)

Methodologies

Derive – exploring the city: noting down my observations/reflections, my route, making drawings and recordings with my camera.
Studying sonic behaviour in spaces – making sketches of sound on location, recording with my WAV record for later analysis. Revisiting these spaces at different points in time.
Research – libraries and internet (starting point) – architectural forms, natural forms (e.g. the growth of a tree) and histories of locations and how they’ve transformed.
Continue my reading on composing with found sound and using perceptual space.
Refresh my memory of MaxMSP/Jitter and develop my skills to create sound transforming tools & possibly use it for ‘interactive’ element of my installation.
Utilize and expand upon my knowledge of FCP and Photoshop to develop my visual transforming tools.
Create work using gathered material (along the way), to generate ideas.

Risk Assessment

All equipment installed safely (e.g. If camera is used above viewer to track movement, wires kept out of the way, no exits blocked!)
Be careful where the landscape leads me…

Timetable

Next few months:
Refine project proposal – end of Feb
Each week at least one journey must take place.
Each week at least one blog entry will be written as a means of reflecting
Every 2 weeks I must reflect on the material by starting or adding to a composition (to generate ideas)
Schedule in time to expand software skills
End of Year 1:
Work towards making a ‘scaled down’ version of my work for MA show
Reflect upon its success, refine further
Develop idea and make/refine all separate audio-visual compositions
Develop software environment (MaxMSP/Jitter) and sensory data transmitters for my immersive environment
TEST
End of Year 2:
Install final show!

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Journey

January 8, 2008 at 12:00 pm (MADA UNIT 1)

This piece of music is derived entirely from a single sample (which you can hear in isolation at the end of the piece).

This piece is cyclical and there are 3 sections to it. In the first section you hear the initial manipulations of the sample. In the second, I sampled the ‘green area’ from section 1 and used that as the sound material for section 2. The ‘blue area’ is the material I used from section 2 to create section 3! In the ‘yellow area’ of section 3 you may hear tiny traces of the original sample, as well as the fragments from the first section once more, completing the cycle.

The image that accompanies that piece are ‘snapshots’ of the audio waveform, arranged in an octagonal shape. The top part of the waveform is the left (stereo) and the bottom part is right (stereo).

*note – best listen to on headphones (or a speaker set-up where L & R are defined)

With this piece I wanted to restrict my source material so that I would push myself to compose in a different way within Logic. I thought it would also lead me to explore the potential transformations of a single sound and its relationship with a space more. My process (explained above) helped me with this too. I limited myself to the use of one sampler (EXS24mkII) & Channel EQ for shaping my sounds and used a single reverb, Space Designer.

Listening back to the piece now, I feel that there are some aspects of it that worked and that others didn’t. I think there are some nice ambient passages (particularly the final section) and a few curious otherworldly jungle-esque sounds (in the intro!). Although in some places the sonic gestures seem a bit flimsy and lack dynamism, the use of space and distance make it interesting again (through the simple use of panning and amplitude). I tried to make the spatial relationship consistent throughout the piece; whenever a sound got quieter (further away perceptually) the ‘space’ surrounding it would get louder (reverb would increase for that sound), much how sounds behave in ‘real’ space.

In terms of what I learned technique-wise, I feel that I explored the use of the EXS24 more, as well as finding ways of making the spatial relationship between sounds interesting for myself.

I think the piece could have been improved in some ways for the listener. For example, I could have presented the transformation of the original source material more gradually (retaining at least some sense of what it was).

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Train piece (in progress)

January 5, 2008 at 10:42 am (MADA UNIT 1)

This is a composition I started using recordings I made on London Underground.

For me the first minute is interesting, but after that it kind of falls apart. I wanted it to build in to a big rhythmic crescendo, but this proved difficult because of the frequency range of the samples I worked with. I think through careful layering techniques I could achieve it. I tried adding sampled drums to enhance the rhythm, but decided against it in the end since they have very little relation to the other sound used in the piece.

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