Sparse Version


The initial version of the sound composition was quite strong, physically. A general problem of generative structures is how you balance the need for unforseen things to happen and the wish for certain boundaries within which to confine these things.

Everyone that has worked with sound installation knows that one of the most difficult things is to find the correct volume of the sound, and the control of the volume is often much more important than other seemingly complex aspects of a composition such as timbre, rhythm or form.

In fact volume is a strong form factor, as it interacts with the environment of the installation. That environment is often changing. The Betanovuss is a semi-open space, sounds from the city easily enter, the level of traffic changes during the day, on the weekend etc. You can find the perfect balance of volume, only to find out that it doesn't apply on another occasion.

The initial version was somewhat "robust" against this problem, as the normalisation function applied to the sound structures produces an overall dense sound. To account for the problem of sinusodial sounds in the mid frequencies being perceived much louder than for example an impulse train, already the first version included a loudness based compression of volume that was applied after the normalisation.

The metal sheets combined with the reverberant acoustics can be quite strong. This is something I generally like, I am not a person that advocates the quietness type of sound installation, at least not in any circumstance. However, spending many hours inside the space during the recording sessions, I noticed a certain fatigue with the relatively small dynamic range of the sound space. At times you could get outright stressed. Some visitors even stated that they felt intimidated, a feeling that naturally would be stronger for persons that are not normally exposed to these sounds.

This may not appear to a visitor that perhaps spends ten or fifteen minutes inside the ship. However, another effect of this constellation is that the spatiality of the parcels is not honoured as much as needed. The beauty of the layout lies in the fact that remote and close sounds entangle. When the close space does not breathe sufficiently, it does not allow the remote sounds to play their role.

So halfway through the exhibition I sat down and created a new version of the sound composition, based on a simple idea. A dynamic filter will attenuate frequency bands of the individual channels. To avoid glissandi that expose the filter as such, a pair of filters is used between which an algorithm consecutively blends. Only the parameters (frequency, bandwidth and attenuation) of the currently inaudible filter are updated, using a Brownian motion. Over time, we have filter trajectories that move independently for each channel.

The effect of this simple addition is enormous. The character of the whole space changes. It changes musical drama for spatial articulation and awareness. The massiveness is gone, the dynamic enhanced (I increased the peak volume slightly to compensate for the overall more silent nature). One feels more compelled to dwell in the rooms, to move forward and backward in space and to stay for a longer period with the videos.




Not only is the spatiality reflected in the sound now, but also the natural sounds from the ship, most prominently the gurgling of the water hitting the walls, is permitted to participate in the sound scape. This way, a balance is achieved with the visual sense that also transparently includes the environmental play, such as the light reflections of the water on the ceiling of the first room.