Rebody : Consideration Texture

The input data shaping the sonic texture accompanying the dynamic drawing in Rebody are the coordinates of the lines making up the visual figure. In this sense the sound is informed only indirectly by the motion-capture data of Valentina Moar performing Bodyscapes. This data is first transposed into a drawing (cf. consideration figure), followed by a temporal and spatial analysis of the lines and the (invisible) points delimiting them. The results of this analysis, i.e. the instantaneous and averaged speeds of each of the points, the relative positions of the points in the bounding box of the figure, and the events of lines appearing and disappearing all inform the sonic texture. Before describing the details of this second transposition, the notion of sonic texture used in this context is introduced.

A sonic texture is an aggregate of sonic elements woven into an endless stream of sound. The elements of which a sonic texture is composed may be any kind of sustained or percussive sounds. On a global level a sonic texture is static and predictable. Its overall quality does not develop or evolve. It is formless. This is achieved by repetition and variation of the elements and their arrangement on its local levels. The local dynamics are composed so as to afford the attention of the listener and to sustain the texture on the global level. A sonic texture maintains its (global) identity through continuous (local) change. The archetype of the sonic texture is synthetic white noise, a pseudorandom process which appears locally unpredictable (although it is deterministic) and globally forseeable, as its behaviour (or algorithm and parametrisation) does not change.

The overall formlessness of a sonic texture is a prerequisite for listeners to experience it at their own pace. Listening means dwelling in the space opened up by the texture, offered through its particular formulation and staging. Dwelling requires temporal autonomy, the possibility to revisit a place or to change the listening perspective as many times as desired. While dwelling possibly involves bodily movement or locomotion – e.g. if the texture is inscribed into a physical space as installation or exposed as a sculpture – it certainly involves movement of thought, as a part of the aesthetic experience. In experiencing a texture the listeners perform aesthetic experiments in order to grasp its behaviour, exploring its local dynamics while relying on its overall stasis. These experiments will typically concern certain axes or regions of the multidimensional space configured by the texture in an attempt to deconstruct and reconstruct the complex experience. The listeners (implicitly) form embodied hypotheses and test them by engaging with the texture – which could be understood as a general model of perception.

The local structure of a sonic texture has to afford a multitude of possible readings, aiming at the utopia of an infinite depth of experience. The longer a listener will want to engage with a texture, the better. This quality is achieved through provoking perceptual ambiguity combined with a negotiation of redundancy (order) and entropy (disorder, difference) in the arrangement of the texture elements. The various local levels, their respective degree of locality, and their potentially hierarchical organisation (possibly maintaining their temporal independence), form the basis for an integrated formulation addressing the different spatial dimensions of a sonic texture. These include acoustic, musical, perceptual, conceptual, and social aspects. Formulating a sonic texture is an extensive, interactive, and iterative process of in-situ experience and reformulation. In order to cope with the complexity of a texture’s interaction with its environment, this process can only take place at the very site the audience will encounter and engage with the texture – a practice called in-situ composition.

In Rebody this site is the situation of watching a video displayed on a screen while listening to the stereo sound via loudspeakers or headphones. Although we will find much variation in this situation (video projected in a cinema as opposed to watching it on a laptop screen with headphones), it is the most standardised and culturally established listening dispositive at our disposal. The composition of the Rebody sonic texture took place with a laptop screen and using the built-in speakers and headphones alternately.

A particularity of the Rebody texture is its temporal alignment with the dynamic drawing, contradicting the requirement of temporal autonomy introduced above. For each of the 12 clips a specific solution to this problem has been developed through a unique parametrisation of the general texture model, which incrementally evolved during an intense eight-week composition process. The structure of this general model is to create a sonic element for each of the (up to 12) points making up the drawing during each frame lasting for 80 ms (i.e. at a frame rate of 12.5 Hz). This results in an overall density of 150 sonic elements per second, corresponding to the number of possible coordinate changes. The resulting rattle is a sonic reference to the sound of the cinematograph and establishes the overall static feature of the texture.