Nested Soundscapes

If you poke one of the hexagons in the top right corner of this page, you will find my ever-evolving artist’s statement. If you read my artist’s statement, you will see that one of the questions I am exploring in my sound work is:

How do I shape the audio experience in a roomful of people talking?

Some interesting developments around this question arose when we played at Open Eye Cafe last Saturday.

The intention when playing soundscapes is to massage the sonic space and to ultimately raise the vibration of all who are present. So far, the approach has been to create soundscapes with energetic movement that evolve slowly over time. Then Susanne and I add another layer of improvisational interaction. These interactions happen in the moment and serve to reinforce, contrast or re-shape the soundscape. I remix the soundscape as we go, creating more layers of sonic interplay.

This is what we brought to Open Eye on February 7, but I came home with so much more.

There was a moderate sized crowd there and people came and went during the three hours we played. I was very focused on the soundscape and Susanne, only giving the room a cursory amount of attention. The soundscape was a strong presence in the room as people chatted, ordered food, studied, etc. We played three soundscapes, each about 40 minutes to an hour. I had my Zoom recorder, and forgot to turn it on until the last soundscape, entitled The Space Between. And am I glad I did!

When I explained to Trudie the revelation I had after listening to the recording of this performance of The Space Between, she said, “You have been talking about that for months.” Ha! So true. But somehow it all came together when I heard it. This section of the soundscape is a soundpainting of a haiku by Basho:

Even in Kyoto
Hearing the cuckoo cry
I long for Kyoto

The recording begins with a wild cuckoo cry that is extended slightly by some voices of coffee shop patrons. Listen closely and you will hear a little “ohhhhhh” as the cuckoo cry ends. People in the room interacted with the soundscape almost seamlessly. They added an element of awe at the beautiful surprise of the cuckoo cry! So you will hear that moment right at the beginning, then the soundpainting of the haiku, and finally, the sound of heavy rain water accompanying the clanking of dishes and conversations taking place. Don’t try to hear the soundscape we are playing, instead listen to the whole recording as one soundscape that unfolds before your ears.

Listening to this recording made clear to me that the fullness of a soundscape is reached when interacting with activities in a space. Each space will be different acoustically, energetically,and the sounds in the space will be varied by type and quality. A new soundscape is generated with each performance in a particular space, creating a soundscape within a soundscape, or a “nested” soundscape. So now getting a good recording of each soundscape performance has become very important. (This must be why I have 3 mini-disc and 2 Zoom recorders.) Placing multiple recording devices around the space, will give me the raw material for creating the nested soundscape. This idea has me very excited thinking about the variety of venues and the types of soundscapes they might produce. (Photo Credit: Bill Romey)

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