The Soundwall consists of a vertical wall of 77 speakers for creating a wholly unique sonic experience that challenges not only how we hear music, but also how we make it.
Musical and visual compositions can be created in multiple ways. The first involves multiple 2D images, the coloured patterns of which are translated into spatial sound using our Synaesthetic programme. With this method, abstract visual textures are the language for ‘musical’ composition, which means the visual artist will be responding as much to the visual as to the aural.
The second way involves compositions made specifically for the unique spatial configuration of the Soundwall system (which in turn can be translated into moving images). During this process, the composer can consider what new expressions in musical form are possible when the ‘orchestra’ is oriented vertically – how, when freed from the confines of the traditional placement of instruments, the ability to choose instrument placement can alter one’s sense of musical pattern and form.
A third method of interaction is to move the sound around space live. We’ve developed a multi-touch system where users can ‘grab’ up to 10 sound tracks, instruments or phases with their fingers and move the sounds around in front of them. Indeed, they can even throw the sound around and hear it ‘bounce’ off the virtual walls of the space. In this way, we’ve added a new layer to a live musical performance, which we call ‘Sound Choreography’.
A fourth form of interaction involves deconstructing complex sounds – such as the human voice, a live cello, violin, etc – into their fundamental sine-wave components. These individual components can then be ‘spatialized’ across the wall: thus, from a distance, people hear their voice intact – as if it’s coming from a single point in space. But as they approach the wall, they hear the fundamental components of their own voice spatialized in front of them – at which point they no longer recognise their voice at all, but instead hear spatial rhythm.
The Soundwall was exhibited publicly for the first time at The Brain Unravelledexhibition at the Slade Research Centre in London 2009. Most recently, the Soundwall was used for the Lab of Misfits and Miranda string octetperformance at the Science Museum Lates event in July 2011. It is now on permanent display in our lab.
The Soundwall is also a prototype of a more ambitious project called vEnsemble (currently in development), which aims to subvert our normative experience of music by literally ‘verticalising’ the orchestra and orchestra hall.
The software programme outputs sound on up to 77 separate tracks, played on the Soundwall system. One can specify the spatial location of any instrument (violin, piano, voice, etc.), as well as its synaesthetic relationship to light in space and tone (e.g., red = C#, etc.).
The input to the programme can be imported images, quicktime/AVI movies and/or video on-line via a fire-wire camera. This system is then used to construct sound and music in 2-D to explore the science, design and art of perception.
The two pieces of music presented here were created by Larry Goves and Beau Lotto, respectively. Whereas Beau Lotto’s piece is an arrangement of an existing piece of music but distributed across 77 channels in space, Larry Goves’ created an original composition for cello and piano. The visuals projected opposite the soundwall representing the temporal and spatial patterns of sound were created by Beau Lotto.
About Larry Goves’ piece: “This piece takes the quite traditional world of the cello and piano into the less familiar world of a wall of 77 speakers. More conventional musical melodic shapes and harmonies are skewed as the music expands across the sound wall so the results are poised somewhere between the known and the alien. At different points in the piece the speakers are treated as a way of moving two instruments around, as imaginary individual performers in their own right and as sonic pixels on a sound 'screen'. (Larry Goves)”
Original Patcher by Joachim Fritsch, July 2011 - firstname.lastname@example.org
You can download a thesis on the Soundwall by Joachim Fritsh here