ABN, LBS & VBS combined

May 31, 2009 at 3:16 pm (MaxMSP/Jitter Progress)

I’ve been working on a new patch today:

At regular intervals it cross-fades between random sections of 3 compositions; Albert Bridge (North), London Bridge (South) and Vauxhall Bridge (South). I’m quite happy with the results and looking forward to pushing it further. Perhaps it could be improved by making the moments between transitions slightly longer and more unpredictable.

I quite like the idea of disrupting the chronology of my journeys and allowing each listener to experience their own route through London. I must balance this with my own compositional judgement of where the journeys link together and what the connotations of creating transitions between two specific places may be.

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Getting reacquainted

May 30, 2009 at 9:45 pm (MaxMSP/Jitter Progress)

I made a simple patch today to get me thinking about ways to work with my audio in Max again, now that my room is confirmed.

It was a slow start since I no longer have any of my old patches as references, but I persevered and managed to achieve… something slightly useful at least!

Asides from memory refreshment, I didn’t have a particular aim for the patch other than wanting it to play a number of randomly selected samples from a larger batch, and do it (somewhat) seamlessly.

Though the seamlessness wasn’t quite achieved (partly due to the length of samples, as well as being left raw), it could easily be improved upon and adapted towards the final piece.

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Room Plan / Ideas

May 30, 2009 at 9:45 pm (Visualisations)

measurements5Slightly more detailed measurements to be made next week.

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Testing acoustics & visualising

May 28, 2009 at 10:43 pm (Presentations, Crits & Tutorials, Visualisations)

I spent today testing the acoustics of my room and trying to visualise how to create the immersive listening experience I’m after.

Last week I made measurements and took some photographs in the space to use as reference. I have included the photos in the video below, which was a simple test of the spaces acoustic character:

I recorded a few claps in the space to my WAV recorder.
I then transferred the recording to my computer and played it back in to the room over the loudspeaker.
I recorded in the space once more using my WAV recorder.
I repeated this process 10 times.


In Logic I then sequenced the same 2 claps from each recording chronologically, allowing you to hear the gradual transformation of the sound as disappears in the acoustic character of the space.
I can experiment using these in Space Designer next week.
I also tested what it sounded like approaching the room with a) the door open and b) the door closed. I wanted to listen to how much the sound spilled in to the corridor.


The spill in test a was a lot greater than b, so much so that you could hear my piece from the main stairwell! I don’t think I will be able to have the door open at all, since doing so could disturb work in the corridor. I made a recording of both, but I have uploaded b, which I think has the potential to be more exciting in terms of experience:

Asides from the creaking door, which may be a distraction, I enjoyed the feeling of suddenly entering a completely different sonic environment upon opening the door. This separation could work well and even be exploited….

I also had a tutorial with Jonathan today, which was extremely helpful. I wanted to get his input on how to work with the space to create a dark, immersive listening environment.
He suggested creating an enclosed room within the room, sealed from light so that it’s completely dark. Apart from the practical benefits of hiding equipment and not having to cover the windows / paint, it would mean that the illusion of space in my compositions would not be shattered by the visuality of the physical space encountered and would make people engage with the work solely with their ears. I like this idea.

There are more things to consider. Would they feel uncomfortable in complete darkness? Would they want to stay if other people were in there too? Would the possibility of bumping in to people detract from the experience?

I am reminded of Anthony Gormley’s Blind Light (2007), which I was lucky enough to experience. The loss of ones body beyond arms length and everything within ones peripheral vision was sublime. It was a playful experience, one lead by the ear and movement through a space. It felt quite comfortable, open, inviting. There was an interesting dialogue between those inside and outside of the space. It felt like a heightened conscious experience, where the sense of my own being slipped into the ether. It was a shared experience; all our ears became tuned to the sound of one anothers cautious passage through the space, the shrieks and yelps of children, the apologetic tones of near misses and the playful freedom of anonymity!

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Digital Art Symposium 09

May 28, 2009 at 6:31 pm (Presentations, Crits & Tutorials)

The symposium went well. We presented 3 batches of 6 videos, having a Q & A session in between each batch. I created the vimeo playlist on here:

Very useful site!

I edited down my video presentation from ‘Digital Noise’. It was alot more condensed, as people commented!

We also pinned up our artist statements outside the lecture hall. I adapted the narration text I had written previously. I will adapt this further for the final artist statement / project reflection paper.


Sonorous City

“…how do we listen to sounds never before noticed, sounds long vanished, or sounds that are not sounds, exactly, but more like the fluctuations of light, weather and the peculiar feeling that can arise when there is a strong sense of place?” (Toop. 112: 2007)

My work explores the dialogue between sound and space. More specifically, it focuses on the relationship between the soundscape and our perception of the urban environment.

I undertook this project to investigate this in relation to my own experience of London. I felt my interaction with the city was becoming increasingly dislocated and often dictated by routines of work and necessity. Inspired by Situationist ideas of urban exploration, I embarked on a series of journeys stemming from the River Thames. I didn’t plan any routes, I simply let the allure of the landscape and the sounds I experienced lead me towards my next location.

These soundwalks through London’s urban terrain were the initial steps I took towards freely recreating my experience of the city. It gave me the opportunity to examine how my perception of the spaces encountered was being shaped by the sounds present and vice versa. En route I collected and recorded the material I’ve used to create my final piece Sonorous City.

My methodologies and aesthetic decisions have been strongly influenced by experimental music and sound-based artistic practise; in particular Acoustic Ecology, defined by R M Schafer as ‘…the study of the effects of the acoustic environment or SOUNDSCAPE on the physical responses or behavioural characteristics of creatures living within it…”

The final work I am presenting has been realized as an immersive sound installation, which invites the audience to use their ears to engage their minds eye, and experience London in new sonorous light.


Schafer, R. M. (1977) The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment & the Tuning of the World, Vermont: Destiny Books

Toop, D. (2007) To Move Within Sound, In: Carlyle, A. Autumn Leaves: Sound and the Environment in Artistic Practise, Paris: Double Entendre

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Presentation @ Digital Noise

May 13, 2009 at 2:54 pm (Presentations, Crits & Tutorials)

Video presented at Greenwich University, as part of “Digital Noise” event 12th May 2009.

It touches on some areas of my MA research;

Situationist International , Acoustic Ecology, Acoustic Design

as well as talking about my approach to soundscape composition (briefly).
I’ll probably edit this down for the symposium.

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3 & 4. How do these observations feed in to how the soundscape may effect our perception of the urban environment & how can this inform my compositional process and aesthetic decisions?

May 6, 2009 at 3:21 pm (Artists Statement & Reflection, Main Derives)

Sound + Space

Sound and space are always engaged in conversation. The activity of sound characterizes space; it can inject rhythm, texture and mood in to it, imbuing it with a sense of identity. Likewise, the physical form of space helps to define the character of sound; its size, shape and material effects its acoustic qualities, which in turn alters how we perceive the sonorities that occur within it.

“You enter a space and close your eyes and you can know simply through your hearing whether it is a large or small space, whether it is made of plasterboard or of concrete… The history of architecture… cancels materiality and the way it is expressed in space through the ear.” (Bernard Tschumi cited in Rebelo, 2003: 35)

“…the brain compares the signals from our to ears to detect where a sound source is located, not just on the horizontal plane around us, but also vertically, to give us an accurate three-dimensional impression of the soundscape around us.” (Davies, 2007:105)


Sound always exists in a spatial context, whether we are experiencing it within our memory, imagination, or the present moment. When I listen to a field recording my mind takes me back to that specific location and moment in time. Likewise, whenever I listen to a new dance music 12”, my mind is always transported to a club space I’ve experienced.

– Use real IR reverbs, as well as synthetic spaces (real vs imagined)

– Use reverb spaces to link journeys (this is a solid reason)

– Use surround sound, more realistic depiction of space

… + Time

Sound can bring temporality into our perception of space. Imagine a deserted residential street at night; the warm orange glow of the streetlights remain constant, the sky is clear, without a cloud in sight, nothing within the scene is changing. Time appears to be static, completely still.  However, in the background the sonorous city swells with activity; a police siren violently cuts through the indescript drone of distant motorway traffic, whilst the crystalline glissando of an airplane drifts gently overhead. Our sense of time is restored.


In each passing moment our experience of the soundscape is completely unique; both in the sense that our exact location defines what we hear at any particular moment, and also that each synchronized occurrence of sound at any particular moment, when listened too intently, is different from the last.

– Each listeners experience should be different from the last (MaxMSP – structure – linking)

– Solidity of space vs fluidity of sound

– Our experience of sound is endless, “there are no earlids” (Marshall McLuhan)

Chance + Accident

If one were to listen to the soundscape as an endless musical composition, then undertaking a sonic derive (or soundwalk) would be way of actively engaging with it and, in a sense, creating it through our individual experience. Though certain locations may have regularly or predictable types of sound activity, the dialogue between different sounds is largely determined by chance. This leads to one of the most important parts and exciting parts of creating a piece of work: discovering the Accident. The sounds occur without intention, without trying to work together, creating interesting and unexpected moments.


Perhaps this leads to the question ‘to what extent should we control and shape the acoustic environment’? Going too far may remove these moments of chance, creating a dull, predictable sonic experience of spaces where sound has no freedom. As with most things the solution is balance.

–    Utopian vs distopian soundscape

–    Real vs imagined soundscape

–    How much control is too much control? Leave room for ‘the
Accident’ within process

Nature + Dynamics

Green spaces, waterways and other natural habits for wildlife are important for a City since they retain a balance between natural and man-made sounds. They are also relatively quiet in comparison to commercial public spaces. By straying from more popular locations and journeying further along the River, one can move from being in a lo-fi sound environment to a hi-fi one:

“Abbreviation for high fidelity, that is, a favorable signal-to-noise ratio… a hi-fi environment is one in which sounds may be heard clearly without crowding or masking.” (Schafer, 1977: 272)

Clarity is something to aspire too. Perhaps the density of sounds within urban environments has made us tune out, as a means of survival! (Chris Watson)

Recognition of a sounds source is important. Nature is often perceived as more beautiful and calming than mechanical (man-made) sounds:

“‘People can completely change their perception of a sound once they have identified it,’…. ‘In the laboratory, many listeners prefer distant motorway noise to rushing water, until they are told what the sounds are.'”(Davies, 2007)

–    Treat natures sounds with respect (Hildegard Westerkamp)

–    Dynamics of journeys (nature / man-made, quiet / loud, etc)

–    Giving individual sounds context within composition for source recognition


Carlyle A. (2007) “Autumn Leaves: Sound and the Environment in Artistic Practise” Double Entendre, Paris

Hill A. (2007) “Why we love sounds of the City jungle” The Observer: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/sep/23/science.ameliahill [accessed 1.5.09]

Schafer R M. (1977) “The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment & the Tuning of the World” Destiny Books, Vermont

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Positive Soundscape Project

May 4, 2009 at 9:12 am (Research, Lectures & Contextualisation)

“The project aims to broaden the current paradigm of noise control toward an understanding of how positive sounds can be characterised and designed into the everyday environment. The work involves integrating perspectives from acoustic engineering, social science and sound art to produce a holistic account of sound perception in the environment.”


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