Movement and space
Yesterday we worked with the dancers for 5 hours and then I kept working into the evening. Technically I’ve been using Spat and ambisonic for spatialisation. For most of the session I used Spat. It works really well and I don’t think I ever before have been able to create by far as convincing illusions of sound coming from a far distance.
In the evening I had the stage room to myself and also wanted to test the ambisonic Audio Unit plugins made by Digenis. As Max doesn’t support Audio Unit plugs at the moment I had to use Plogue Bidule.
I like their way of integrating Audio Unit plugins. You don’t notice any difference of behavior between AU plugs and full fledge Bidule modules. Apart from that patching in Bidule feels awkward as compared to MaxMSP. It might be habits only or not knowing all shortcuts but it takes much longer for me to create patch cords and in addition I’ve not yet found easy and good ways of creating control modules for algorithmic manipulation of audio parameters. I’m not sure if they exist at all at the moment.
I did not manage to get any useful results using Bidule and the AU ambisonic plugs. Either I was doing something wrong or there’s a problem with some of the algorithms. The sound always seemed to be dragged towards the loudspeaker closest to me. Changing the azimuth of the source didn’t seem to work as expected. Azimuth has a range of -180 to 180 degrees but all negative values seemed to produce the same result. My laptop and the mixer is positioned at one of the corners of the space used by the dancers close to one of the 8 loudspeakers surrounding the space. Several times I went out on the floor to see if my experience was caused by a high degree of sensitivity of the listening experience depending on wether you’re standing within the sweet spot or not. Regardless of what I tried I was not able to make any real sense of it.
So much for the technical part of it. The real topic of this work session is how positioning and movement of sound relates to the movements of the dancers. Yesterday we approached this by doing a series of improvisations trying to discuss and summarize what happened and making reflections on that a point of departure for the next improvisation. I guess it all boiled down to three general categories of approaches:
Spatialisation as a way of creating room and virtual spaces. – Placing some sounds at a far distance and others really close suggested a big open space expanding far beyond the the borders (walls) of the stage. In one of the improvisations the three dancers got cramped together stepping on each others toes and getting in the way of each other. The contrast between the big soundscape and the uncomfortable small space used by the dancers was one of the most fascinating situations happening.
Movement of sound in space as a physical quality. – We didn’t find good ways of approaching this yesterday. If sounds are to move around the space fast in a meaningful and convincing way the kind of source used becomes important. If you use the sound of a train passing it can make sense (easily boring though) but why would e.g. the sound of a church organ keep bouncing around the space? Unless you find the right kind of sound to work on or otherwise a convincing way of doing it it might appear artificial to have sounds moving. Abstract sounds and for instance rhythmic beats works well though. We’ll keep working at this.
- Loudspeakers as physical objects in the room. – We’re using 8 fairly small loudspeakers mounted on mic stands positioned evenly at the corners and middle of the sides of the space used by the dancers. The loudspeakers become a visual element of the space and some of the really interesting things happening during improvisations are direct physical interaction between the dancers and the loudspeakers: Approaching loudspeakers touching them tilting and moving the loudspeakers etc. Maybe I’m more and more turning into a loudspeaker fetishist but I find it interesting not trying to hide the loudspeakers but instead being able to move back and forth between creating virtual illusions of space and treating loudspeakers as an object and source of sound in itself.
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