Listening To The Air
Ron Kuivila, solo live electronics, 2018
While we conceive of sound in terms of pitch, it can be equally well understood in terms of distance. Sounds ranging from 20 to 20,000 cycles per second have wavelengths ranging from 50 feet down to about one half of an inch. Meteorites hitting the earth’s atmosphere can produce wavelengths of a half mile that can travel halfway across the globe. Short wavelengths, on the other hand, are quickly dissipated by the energy it takes to squeeze together and pull apart air molecules. Listening to the Air seeks to expose the shaping influence of air currents on these short sounds in networks of intermodulation and feedback that produce long sounds as a kind of audible shadow.
This solo for live electronics utilizes the particularly directional character of ultrasound to create an open air synthesizer where small household objects focus, scatter, and interconnect different streams of sound. The piece takes the form of a series episodes of varied duration. Each is based on a distinct feedback network with its own equalization, distortion and dynamics processing. Spatialization, tuning, and articulation of the feedback netwrork is done entirely through the manipulation of small objects and the performer's physical presence. As the title suggests, some episodes focus on air currents themselves as a source of modulation while others focus more directly on the motions of the performer or the interaction of multiple streams of sound.