My current creative output and practice have 2 important points of origin. The first came about from a technical concern the second as an aesthetic development, derived over many years. For a number of years I have been exploring methods of live performance of electronically generated music. This was not specific to any genre; I was more interested in creating a situation where I could create an engaging experience for both performer and listener. It should be satisfying in both terms of sonic output but also in the level of interaction and control offered by the technology in directing this output. I was not just interested in representing recorded material, I wanted to be able to create, transform, direct, and be directed by the sound. In this way there is a communal enjoyment for both performer and listener, with a shared sonic experience neither have heard in exactly the same format as before. As this technical development continued it took the form of a custom instrument designed in software and a method of controlling this using perceptual mapping and a hardware interface. In developing this work I have come to anthropomorphise the technology, viewing it as an extension of my thoughts and engaging in a dialogue with me in attempting to achieve our goals. Developing the software and hardware instruments became part of the composition with the aesthetics intertwined within them. Therefore all areas overlap; there is not a concrete division between idea, process, and output.
The aesthetic development has been evolving over a number of years. I have been preoccupied with the inescapable din you encounter when living in the modern world, and in particular a city environment. When in a city or an industrialised area it is quite impossible to escape the noise, there is no respite. This is no surprise as the ear is a highly evolved mechanism, more sensitive than the eye, yet due to circumstance the ear has been relegated to mere functional tasks with the eye now our primary source of sensory data in these situations. The more I thought on this issue the more frustrated I became at the thought that this was the sonic world I inhabit and it has to be accepted. Like most people I am aware that in order to escape this situation and environment you need to travel, to the seaside, to the forest, to the mountains, anywhere that is free from human interference. However, even when you go to these places, they are never completely free from man-made sonic interference. “One square inch of silence”, was this too much to ask? It is commonly accepted that city soundscapes are noisy, stressful, and disturbing, while natural soundscapes found in nature are soothing, peaceful, and relaxing, with scientific evidence and numerous papers to back this up. However, while it is easy to accept this notion, and on a point on transparency and fairness, not all city soundscapes are ugly and not all nature soundscapes are beautiful. This is separate from any notion of “silence” or a search for the perfect sonic environment. This thought became an important point in retuning my ear to look on any soundscape from many different perspectives, where beauty and tranquillity can be malevolent and bleak and cacophonous and dense noisy situations can be thrilling and full of life.
In working with the field recordings and the soundscape I live in I wanted to create an aural representation of how these sounds effects us, and how we interpret them. I wanted to abstract them so they are experienced at a deeper level, which is closer to the impact these sounds have on us in the real world. Whether it’s a noise train charging forward saturating the senses or the buzzing of a bee going about its business, these experiences are often interpreted on many levels both physical and psychological.
I began to deconstruct field recordings from both environments in an attempt to explore their inner detail and to experience them separated from their natural location. In this way I could derive new meaning, experience, and understanding from the sounds. It was a goal to breakdown the interpretation of the sounds, whereby city and natural soundscapes could be interchangeable, not homogenised, but shown to have the same capabilities, features, and effects.
After a period of examination of these sounds using various technical processes to deconstruct the spectral, timbral, temporal elements, the sounds are used unprocessed as the first building block of sound generation in the “composed instrument.” At this the stage the instrument has become a partner in the composition/exploration and in the further development of the sonic world these field recordings have to offer. The sounds source can be made audible, but this I rarely do, not intentionally anyway. Using various processes from basic pitch shifting to more elaborate spectral modulation, a sound is explored to see what sonic possibilities it can offer or conjure. The exploration serves 2 functions; the material is probed to see what it is capable of, and to learn how the instrument responds to each sound and how to perform and direct the sounds. The instrument is designed to interact with itself and the performer and there is much overlap in the controls used. In this way, it is quite difficult to recreate a particular timbre or compositional structure. This was a deliberate intention in the design. Sounds are derived in the real world through many overlapping interactions. The same sound can be repeatedly generated but never quite the same twice (even in mechanical devices), or just heard once and never again. To reflect this, every experience with the instrument derives a new experience. This satisfies my goal of creating unique soundscapes realised only for the first time in performance.