‘But we see clouds like furious ink

Thick liquid sinks and whips the wind

Pitch shifted rumble screams from a swollen grin

There's a big storm rolling in’

Let Them Eat Chaos (Kate Tempest, 2016)


Digital Unrealities, Study I investigates sonic means to create an environment which relates to reality but nevertheless creates a unique experience with an unreal feeling. It is a sound composition that results from a research project exploring the idea of space as the main mediator of a sonic experience. The perception of sound occurs through the perception of its propagation in space and, consequently, a sense of reality is provided by the perception of space; a physical experience. Following this idea, reverberation is a core vehicle for perceiving these sounds in space. Thus, reverb tools became the main strategy for this composition. Due to this fact, the composition was developed around a loudspeaker arrangement that would not follow a regular distribution.

Fig. 0.1 – Speakers visualization

Instead, it challenged a standard Euclidean space in order to have the reflections of the sound from the walls, the room resonance and other local features play a considerable role in the composition. The project was developed by four individuals with specific interests within the theme. The ideas emerged mostly from theoretical discussions, as a means of putting the concepts in question into practice. Despite the fact that each member crafted a different part of the composition, there is a circular attitude: every attempt was inherently influenced by the tools involved in the process of creation and by the discussions that resulted from it. Those individual yet mutually influential parts were, in a way, sequential:

  1. to explore the understandability of a sound according to its linear spatialization;
  2. to create the sound material using reverb artifacts;
  3. to approach spatialization through ambisonic strategies;
  4. to process sound sources through convolution reverb and cross-synthesis towards abstraction.

After this, each part was rendered as eight discrete channel stems. The whole composition is a collage of these stems, with transitions blending and cross-fading. There are also a few moments of mutual interleaving, which nevertheless remain fairly subtle.

In general, each block was aligned according to a trajectory that departed from relatable sounds towards abstract and unrelatable material, which was also the theoretical development of the research. In the following exposition, each member will share the process of making this piece; the different tools, strategies and techniques that were used to explore the possibility of creating an unreal sonic experience. 

Once each part was joint, the material should be structured as a whole rather than segments aligned. On the one hand, some material was sounding too alike because it was all based on the same ideas. On the other hand, it was necessary to work on the transitions and smooth the differences between each part. For that purpose, the group exchanged materials and used samples from one another. As the development of the composition is intended to happen progressively, one of the segments occurs twice, in different versions: one is more introductory and eventless; the second explores is deeper in its own mechanism, supports the transition between the segments and provides a sense of theme to the whole experience. In the end, the composition evolves as the concepts; its development in time is analogous to the development of the research.

Sara Pinheiro, Jiří Rouš, Matěj Šenkyřík, Petr Zábrodský