A HEARING PERSPECTIVE.
Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger
We are learning to make sense of the sound environment we live in by listening, hearing, exploring, and attempting to understand it as a language. We collect, filter, and expand resonances found in nature and cities to make the hidden voices hearable.
When we make large scale sound installations in public spaces, our starting point is the basic environmental soundscape of the site. Architecture, history, acoustics, and social dynamics of a given space are taken into account. Often there is a large discrepancy between the visual and sonic aesthetic. A carefully planned visual aesthetic of serenity, focus, and power can easily exist within the sonic chaos of cars, helicopters, muzak, and emergency sirens.
These sounds are often shut out of our mental picture of a space as noise. By listening to and studying these noises, they become useful sound sources. Closer observation of these sounds often reveals a hidden music of interesting details, useful tones, and harmonics, even a potential melodic interest.
We have developed a set of compositional tools to sculpt and transform our sonic environment. These special resonators, digital filters, speakers, matrix mixers, etc. allow us to work on-site with a our own kind of real-time music concert. We can extract the harmonic material from city noise, filter it, shape it and play it back in the moment to transform the feelings, atmosphere, and sound design of that environment. We are able to extract the melodies and make the hidden voices hearable.
We do not import exotic sounds to the site. Instead we construct, deconstruct and amplify selected resonances found on that location. We use these existing sounds as our basic material and manipulate their overtone content in real-time to reveal their inherent harmonic structure. The compositionally chosen overtones of the collecting resonators are distilled and altered with digital resonance filters to produce a rich harmonious chord which transforms the perception of the space enhancing its aesthetic value in profound and unexpected ways.
Enlarging the selected musical resonances that are found at the site to a scale observable by the public requires a series of aesthetic and compositional choices. What is the usage pattern of the space and how can we create a perceptual shift that would enhance this in a harmonious way? Where, within the architecture, is the acoustical focal point? Which visual aspects of the site create a useful framework for listening? When visitors enter the site, what will they hear first? Do they pass slowly into a more harmonious and musically tuned version of the space as they move toward its architectural focus, for instance? What type of speakers must be created to couple with the space in an aesthetic way? Which of our tuning tools is most appropriate and what type of interactivity would enhance the visitors appreciation? These are the compositional decisions we face when we make a tuning installation