Structure of the piece: some ideas

January 26, 2009 at 3:31 pm (MaxMSP/Jitter Progress)

What initially started as a way of reflecting upon my journeys and the visual element of my final piece, turned into thinking about the possible ways of structuring the work within MaxMSP. This lead me back to think about the visual element again, as I will explain!


Firstly I drew a quick sketch of my 3 journeys. There are locations which I have travelled through more than once – the bridges. I started to make notes… Could these cross-over points be a way of structuring the final piece?

I started to think of this in terms of my sound compositions.

One of the issues I’ve been trying to deal with is how do I link my journeys together within MaxMSP. Do I approach it in a linear way; using Logic to create ‘complete’ compositions and then linking them in Max. Or do I take a more open approach to time; using Logic to prepare individual sounds or small groups of activity, which could then be composed in Max and allowed to form relationships with other sounds more ‘freely’.

The ideas I came up this afternoon, could serve the first approach quite well.

The first draft of my London Bridge (South) journey used a chronological approach to ordering my sound material. This gave my drawn lines a trajectory. I started to imagine my sound composition being played until it met a ‘crossover’ point (denoted by a ‘switch’ below). Here the direction of the journey could change (fading into a different journey composition) or stay on the same route. This could be done quite simply in Max, with or without user input; random numbers and toggle switches.


My mind was brought back to the group crits and the idea of separating my work –  the visual and the audio elements. I imagined having the sound element within a dimly lit room and the visual element outside of the room on a screen. I envisaged the MaxMSP interface as part of the visual element, which the audience could interact with.

I’m wondering if I could import an image of a map into Max/Jitter and incorporate it into the patch, so that I could show the routes, current location and place toggle switches [X] along a route, which could then be tick or unticked and change what will be heard in the room.

I’ll come back to this idea later…

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London spaces re-created

January 26, 2009 at 11:13 am (Logic Progress)

I’ve been experimenting with Logic’s Space Designer reverb plug-in and learning how to use its Impulse Response function.


Impulse Response (IR) is a term used to describe the reverberant character of a room when stimulated by a signal spike. (e.g. a loud, short sound).

The Space Designer IR function allows you to load an a audio sample (for example, I used a clap underneath Lambeth bridge) and create a reverb template from it. You can then effect another sound using that reverb template, effectively putting it in a that particular acoustic space. So, you can put a sound of say Big Ben chiming, in the acoustic space underneath Lambeth bridge.

Although the claps I have recorded have a bit of background noise which effects the way the Space Designer IR responds, the depiction of acoustic space sounds fairly accurate.

So, I can effectively create a whole batch of my own reverberant spaces derived from the claps I record in different spaces around the City.

Now that I have the option of displacing the sound from location into another it may be useful for me to return to Trevor Wishart’s Landscape chapter in On Sonic Art, since it deals with the juxtaposition of sounds in space and different ways of approaching this relationship.

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Course Rep meeting 22nd Jan

January 24, 2009 at 5:31 pm (Final Show)

During this meeting people it was mostly the final show that was addressed. The main things that were covered were:

– location

– designation of space

– curation

– dates / external examiners

The location of this years show has been decided:

Wilson Road building (same as last year)

The reason being that setting-up our work at the Peckham road building might be too hectic and stressful, since the BA students will be having their show directly before us. This would leave us with very little time to install our work, since they’d need time to take down theirs!

With regards to the designation of space, if there is a particular location / room that you feel is very well suited or essential for your work you have to apply / put a proposal forward to Alain. Also, it’s likely people from the same course will generally be within the same area. For example, last year MADA had the whole basement (as well as a few other areas).

Curation will be slightly different this year from the previous. According the Alain the students last year were essentially the ones who organised and implemented the curatorial aspect of the show. However, this year he has suggested that the students from each course curate along with their subject leader and Alain will oversee everything. Alain also put forward the idea that the amount of students on a particular course should dictate how much space designated to them.

Now, as for dates. The show will happen at the beginning of July and assessment will take place within the two weeks prior to that. Assessment has two stages, one by our subject leader/s and then once more by the external examiner. From my understanding, the external examiners look at a sample of student projects across all the MA’s, so your work may or may not be seen by them.

Alain mentioned he will be giving a lecture on Wednesday 28th Jan to talk the above issues and more.

That about covers it. If you have any questions or issues you’d like me or Simon to put forward to Alain, please get in touch – – Cheers, Zai

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Group Crit reflections

January 24, 2009 at 3:09 pm (Presentations, Crits & Tutorials)


We had a part-time year 2 group critique recently, in which we all presented some of the key issues we need to resolve in order to push our projects forward. It was extremely useful to hear my coursemates perspectives on the issues written below. The main focus of the discussion was the visual element of my work, which the majority of people felt wasn’t needed because the sound ‘speaks for itself’.

On listening to my sound composition, some of my coursemates envisaged a dark installation space, the creation of an environment in which the audience first lets go of their vision and becomes a listener; leaving space for them to form sound-images in the minds eye.

Whilst I can imagine this working quite well, the implications on my approach to the sound compositions would be that I’d have to use more of the signifying sounds of the City to locate the listener (e.g. Big Ben). There is also a difficulty here when it comes to representing the feeling of a particular space. With the visual severed, the dialogue between that space and the sound that occurs might become too obscure. What I mean by this is that by handing over the visual element to ones imagination, a plethora of ever changing spaces and sound-images may arise, perhaps moving too far away from really conveying anything direct about a particular location and how the soundscape effects us there.

Other ideas put forward by my coursemates were separating the sound and the visual element, which I explored to a certain extent in my Big Ben piece. I particularly liked one suggestion of using a darkened corridor with the sound in the center and a visual (perhaps a still) at either end, helping to frame the work.

What I need to do now is to experiment with the visual element of my work. I’ve given myself to the end of February to come up with the idea I will go forward with.

Over the next 5 weeks 1/3 of my time will be dedicated to sound (Logic and MaxMSP), 1/3 visual experiments (Jitter, other software, etc) and the other 1/3 will be collecting material via my journeys. Any further research at this stage will be focused more on sound-based installation and their agency. One of my coursemates suggested I look at Janet Cardiff. I will!


I have produced this calender, which has been really useful so far, particularly the post-it notes! I am currently putting together a more detailed master plan (than the one in my MADA2 report) to make sure I stay on track over the next few months. I shall post this soon.

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Key Issues

January 20, 2009 at 10:15 am (Presentations, Crits & Tutorials)

Zai Tang

MADA 3: Key Issues

My project draws from an area of research called Acoustic Ecology, which investigates how the soundscape affects the way we perceive and behave within certain environments. London is the environmental setting I have chosen to study, initially by embarking on journeys through the City’s urban spaces and making field recordings. These sound recordings will form the basis of a series of audio-visual compositions, which reflect the experience of City from both a realistic and observational angle, as well as an elaborated and personalized points of view.

Issue 1 – the visual element

One of the main things I want the audience to take away from the final work is a new awareness of London’s soundscape and how it relates to our perception of the City’s urban spaces. Whilst I am getting closer to a clear and focused approach towards composing the audio aspect of the work, the visual element needs much development and it is this that I’d like feedback on.

Idea 1

An idea I have had in regards to the visual aspect is to return to the locations I made my field recordings in and take photographs late at night / early morning, when there is little / less activity going on. I will then work on subtle animated distortions of these photos digitally, based on my audio composition of that particular location. So, in this instance I will end up with a series of sound and moving image pieces of the spaces I have travelled through. Using MaxMSP/Jitter, I will try and link these separate compositions in to one fluid whole and present them within one installation space.


Idea 2

In contrast to this, another idea for my visuals is to create a series of still works, which are effectively ‘visual scores’. These will describe each sound composition, using a variety of mediums (photographs of spaces, drawings, etc), and will focus more on describing the sonic behavior of individual sounds and their relationships with other sounds from the same location. I could then present these as separate pieces, which could be installed at different places within the Wilson Road building.



Idea 3

Alternatively, instead of focusing on single areas or locations for a sound composition, I’ve been experimenting with the idea of condensing the material collected during one single journey into a single piece. These could be presented using either of the methods describe for the previous ideas.

Here is a draft composition of my London Bridge (South) journey:


I feel I need to establish location visually as well as aurally, so next time the audience passes through a certain place their ears will (hopefully) pick up. It is of great importance for me to take a minimal approach to the visuals, since sound is the main carrier of meaning within my work. So with that in mind, what other approaches to the visual element could I explore in order to draw attention to how sound relates to our perception of urban space?

Issue 2 – the interactive element

The other key issue I am tackling relates to the possibility of incorporating an interactive element into my final piece. The interactive element may utilize motion tracking and allow the user to explore the sounds of the City through movement within in the installation space – an idea that ties in with the use of the journey within my project. Will giving the audience the possibility of affecting their experience of the work help cultivate within them a greater sensitivity towards the sound, and thus the soundscape? Should the interactive element be hidden or ‘on display’?

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January 17, 2009 at 7:50 pm (Presentations, Crits & Tutorials)


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Derive from Golden Jubilee Bridge (South)

January 14, 2009 at 11:56 pm (Main Derives)


I was drawn towards tunnels and underpasses many times during this journey and recorded claps in each space I encountered. There seems to be quite an interesting mixture of sounds along the River…

Recordings made:

1. train, then trumpet and accordion on bridge

2. train, underneath bridge DELETE

3. train, underneath bridge, slow steady rhythm


4. claps underneath bridge

5. train, accelerating

6. drilling, building work at London Eye

7. London Eye being serviced

8. seagull by L.E, Big Ben chimes (2.45pm)

9. building work opposite L.E

10. exorcist theme – “wanna see some blood and guts? A horror show, live! A real horror show!”, seagulls

11. 2 birds chirping, distant tubular bells

12. birds, crying child

13. walking in to tunnel, claps


14. pigeon flutters past

15. water by steps on bank opposite Big Ben

16. Big Ben – 3pm

17. cyclist

18. runner, chatting

19. claps in tunnel underneath Lambeth bridge

20. claps in passage way near Lambeth bridge – raw hands!


22. extractor fan

23. police sirens, distant (on Black Prince Rd)

24. boy cycles past underneath train tunnel

25. traffic, passes – underneath train tunnel

26. car stereo underneath train tunnel – claps

27. claps underneath train tunnel

28. stone path on a green

29. claps, train underneath second train tunnel


30. seagulls feeding time!

31. seagulls, walking past

32. claps in passage way near Vauxhall bridge

33. walking on a small bank at high tide, near Vauxhall bridge

34. St George Wharf claps

35. St George Wharf claps

36. St George Wharf tunnel-pathway between flats

37. kids shouting near main road entrance at St George Wharf

38. building site at SGW

39. building site at SGW, passing police sirens – interesting reverberations


40. building site, continued

41. building site, near tube entrance

42. underneath train tunnel

43. underneath train tunnel

44. Vauxhall bridge underground passageway – choir over speakers

45. walking through bus station

46. street DELETE

47. blue underpass

48. school boys on a corner


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The Map

January 14, 2009 at 1:40 pm (Main Derives)


I will embark on another journey today…

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Derive from London Bridge (South)

January 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm (Main Derives)


This journey initially began south of the River walking along the Southbank. I changed direction halfway, crossing the River upon hearing music being played on Golden Jubilee bridge.

This is the list of sound recordings made:

1. walking towards cathedral – church bells, bicycle wheels

2. stationary – church bells

3. 4 old gents sing, distant church bells

4. walking past operatic singing under archway

5. footsteps

6. wind DELETE

7. water (close up)


8. footsteps on Millennium Bridge (recorded underneath)

9. inside Tate Modern Turbine Hall

10. walking up escalators

11. coins and spheres

12. rulers

13. radios

14. kids shouting and people chattering inside Turbine Hall

15. chattering DELETE

16. walking past accordion player

17. police sirens (from boat) and waves

18. bfi restaurante

19. chattering DELETE

20. skateboards and bikes

21. train on GJ bridge

22. Latino band

23. yellow corridor

24. charing cross station

25. old London bus engine

26. “North on Rupert st”

27. band in pub on Rupert st

28. “Spare any change?”, suitcase rolls past

29. “Take a right on Oxford st”

30. shop music

31. street chatting

32. screeching bus breaks (outside)

33. screeching bus breaks (inside)

There’s certainly alot of usable material. Now I’m just waiting on my laptop to be delivered so I can begin working with it!

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Derive from London Bridge (North)

January 10, 2009 at 10:39 pm (Main Derives)


Today I embarked on a journey from London Bridge, heading North of the River. I took photographs and recorded sounds along the way. I only documented half of my journey with photos since my batteries ran out, but this was not crucial as I was more interested in gathering good sound material to work with – the photos were more of an aid to let me know where I had walked and also where I stood when I recorded a sound! I ended up speaking the street names in to my WAV recorder for later reference.

This is a list of sound recordings for reference:

1. “journey begins 4.36pm 10th Jan 2009”

2. walking down steps towards water in passage way (underneath bridge)

3. French tourists, near peer DELETE

4. runner

5. water underneath peer, shells brush gently against one another emitting delicate tinkling

6. clap underneath peer

7. throw stone

8. warm extractor fan!

9. claps / wind from fan DELETE

10. claps, next to above

11. gift shop “I always like the Skittles, things like that”

12. tiny walking (heels), ice skating rink at Tower of London


13. Ice skating rink, closer – Xmas choir singing / skates grinding

14. footsteps in passage way

15. car passes, then clap (foreboding place)

16. train (above location)

17 & 18. DELETE


19. ambiguous sound, arch underneath train bridge

20. train passing / walking

21. “Cable.. Cable Street”

22. Train passing /walking

23. quiet residential area (Christian st)

24. “Still on Christian St, passing Burslem St”

25. “Commercial Rd”

26. vehicles passing (at bus stop), nice break piston

27. “Filpot St”

28. “Varden St”

29.  band practise (quiet)

30. “Turner St onto Walden St”

31. “North towards Bethnal Green, Filgate St.” cough

32. “not sure…” “…park near Brick Lane”

33. “Osborn St”

34. shop pop music, stops abruptly

35. “Coming on to Brick Lane now”

36. walking, quiet singing

37. talking / laughing

38. walking / talking

39. in Rough Trade

40. laughing / walking

41. “Left out of Brick Lane, walk straight on to Redchurch St”

42. music from a pub

43. stationary vehicle

END 6.30pm on Shoreditch High St.

I feel the journey was successful in gathering usable materials. After reviewing the recordings a couple of times, my instinctual reactions to the sounds captured is to create a non-linear montage of them rather than composing a chronologically structured piece.

There are a few things I made a mental note of when on this journey.

1) There is a lot of “lo-fi hum” from the City, particularly along the River – this is probably due to the open nature of the space.

2) The main roads, whilst quite boring sonically (it’s just cars!), act as dividing lines between much quieter residential zones (e.g. walking north to Commercial road)

3) There isn’t always interesting sound present. In these moments I let the terrain lead me. Sometimes instinct overrides urges to go in a certain direction (particularly if I don’t know the area) and draws me to a more familiar direction.

4) Identifying interesting spaces to revisit may not be necessary. Instead the entire journey could be experienced as a singular aural space (e.g. a single composition of all the journey’s elements). However, I will keep an open mind at this point until more journeys are made…

5) Shorter recordings are more effective. Previously I always experienced the problem of having too much material to sift through after going out and recording. These recordings were mostly 30 secs each, which is more than enough (even for sustained sound activity since it can be looped).

Tomorrow I’m hoping to catch the last day of Cildo Meireles at the Tate Modern, perhaps I’ll embark on another journey afterwards.

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