Sounding Out Spaces

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The Challenge

The Challenge: 

Sounding Out Spaces explores how we can use digital means to participate directly in our environments, leading to novel and inclusive experiences. This research proposes an approach to incorporating both acoustic and environmental factors within a large-scale multichannel sound installation. Sounding Out Spaces is an ongoing project that concerns context-based live electronic music and sonic art. Specifically, it aims to develop performances and installations that occur in response to a particular location or space. The sites involved range from retired industrial structures and visually stimulating landscapes, to architecture with unique acoustic properties, natural environments, and places of cultural or historical significance. Common to the collection of practices that has been developed is the theme that sound is produced in response to certain perceived or measured attributes of a particular site. These features may be acoustic, environmental, historic, and, perhaps, even imagined.

The Approach

The Approach: 

The goals of the project are developed through iterative practice. The series began in 2014 with a focus on guerrilla performance using portable analogue technologies, and has evolved to involve, most recently, large-scale public installations. The most recent work in this series focuses on developing transferable techniques and methodologies for both spontaneous and planned works. In this latest iteration we explore the implications of an ecosystemic approach where the resulting sound is contingent not only on all agents involved and their organizational relationships, but also the environment and the effects of its perturbations on such a system.

Findings and Impact

Findings and Impact: 

The work involved the development of an ecosystemic framework, which included several autonomous systems coexisting in the same place, unique in output, yet responding to perturbations from the same environmental cues, and each other. We built upon prior research into musical systems that are structurally coupled to the environment by incorporating environmental information that is extra-sonic. We developed techniques for working with organic vegetation and changes in weather states. While this post-digital approach successfully bridges the physical and digital worlds, in future iterations we hope to explore in more in-depth techniques that have been established within the bio art communities, such as Laura Cinti’s radical work on plant neurobiology, which engages with the perceptual and cognitive capacities of plants. Technologically, this work has made significant progress in the design and creation of a portable, low-cost toolkit for site-responsive projects that can be implemented at and will be responsive to a range of locations. For example, the technology has also been used in the sub-arctic tundra during the 2017 Ars Bioarctica Residency in Kilpisjärvi, Finland, a location with a drastically different environmental profile to the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.

Areas of Impact

Areas of Impact: 
  • Creative youth development and arts education
  • Equitable community development and creative placemaking
  • Equity and inclusion
  • Health and wellness
  • Sustainability
  • Technology
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