Curation notes for Presentations, Crits and Tutorials

July 2, 2009 at 2:28 pm (Presentations, Crits & Tutorials)

The groups crits (towards the bottom of the page) and presentations (both Digital Arts Symposium 09 and Presentation @ Digital Noise) detailed below, helped me to analyse and reflect upon both my own and others work, as well as giving me the opportunity to communicate my area of research in a professional context.

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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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Group Crit

April 25, 2009 at 5:43 pm (Presentations, Crits & Tutorials)

Us PT year 2’ers had our group crit this week.

It was great to get an update on everyone’s project, I think pretty much all of us are in a good position i.e. on track!

I found the session extremely useful. I borrowed my course mates ears (& minds-eyes!), playing them three of my compositions in progress.


Before doing so, I explained that from my experience, soundscape composition is essentially a visual form music; it relies on the listener focusing their ears and engaging their imagination to picture the aural scene taking place. I asked my coursemates to be open/receptive to the spaces they perceived, how these spaces changed, and what they felt like…

Vauxhall Bridge ( I played about 2 mins):


Rain . Wind – Natural scene pictured
Wind = Movement of the cars across bridge perhaps (?)
Rain = Trickling water from large circular drain

The UFO Siren . Imminant danger . Invasion

Apocalyptic scene; cold, desolate

No use of beats (rhythm) – in traditional sense – Using beats (e.g. Window Music) may capture the rhythm and repeatition within the activities in the City.

Rhythm is apparent within some audio used, it’s subtly repeated – the paving stone on Vauxhall Bridge perhaps helped identify this.

Transition from one space to another – second space ‘felt like inside a tunnel’. Muted sound of cars on the bridge ‘appeared above’ and water was dripping.

5 Sketches (I played the first 3):


Structure built / composed seems more chaotic than the actual ‘real’ representation of the City.

Sounds like electronica, not the soundscape

Albert Bridge North:


Bike – seemed aliened, obscure. When bird sound appeared, it made it seem like a normal day –  e.g. an alien purchasing milk from the shops!

Some sound too easy to identify – lost the listener’s interest.

More temporal, less spatial than Vauxhall Bridge composition.

The changes were much more abrupt than Vauxhall Bridge composition – seen as sudden ‘cuts’. Listener was in one space, then suddenly placed within another.

A bridge is an open structure, yet narrow, the direction is defined for us. Our experience of it is more linear, more whole perhaps – so the seemlessness of the Vauxhall bridge composition makes sense. The cuts in ABN could potential represents how we experience cities and the nature of urban space better – it’s fractured, discontinuous nature.

Voices passing by are unknown, anonymous – our relationship with people in the city.


The feedback was excellent, everyone seemed to engage with the work and get something from it – which made me feel more positive about the direction I’ve decide to take things. I will reflect more upon what people said after I finished my other writing.

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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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