Digital Art Week’s Soundscape Contest

banner_soundscape.jpgSoundScapes by Rachael Watts 10/7/07 :: An article on the 2007 Soundscape Contest for the Zurich Digital Arts Week (DAW).

The word SoundScape conjures notions of sounds that range from the passive wallpaper variety to that of something engaging, interactive and assertive. Here SoundScape could be seen as according to Brian Eno, ‘music for everyday living’ or, sounds for potential or future living. For the Zurich Digital Art Weeks (DAW), 2007 a SoundScape programme was developed. The works selected, according to the DAW website, display an ability to ‘evoke the presence of things or beings in space to the extent that each work ‘immerses the listener into a real or imaginary sonic environment’. Immersion and engagement are key characteristics of all works to be presented.

We become easily affected by sound. It permeates the body through the ear, which is essentially a hole in the head, a fact Kahn and Whitehead remind us in their text “Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio, and the Avant-Garde”. It is how we choose to consume and compute this phenomena in conjunction with specific production techniques that dictate how immersive sound can be. It is important to understand how individually, we come to listen and interact with the sounds and what perspective and associations we bring to the sounds that determine our opinion of the quality and ingenuity.

The immersion effect is not only made possible by the tonal content of the works, but by how the sound mass is projected technically into the space. This year a Stereolith loudspeaker coupled to a Rowen amplifier system was used. By using the Stereolith loudspeaker, which consists only of a single cabinet mounted with three speakers, there is no one best listening point and still locative sound effects and the immersion effect are apparent.

For this years SoundScape programme there were three distinct categories: Real Worlds,Virtual Worlds and Mixed Worlds.

Real Worlds includes the work of: Jon Aveyard (USA), Ed Davenport (GBR), Shinichiro Toyoda (JAP), Werner Cee (DEU), Eldad Tsabary (CAN), Neil Kaczor (GBR). Here sounds from the ‘real’ or natural world are used and in some cases extended by electronic means in order to provide the listener with an enhanced acoustic resonance from the everyday world.

Virtual Worlds includes the works ofPeter Kutin (AUT), Daniel Blinkhorn (AUS), Volker Hennes (DEU), Rebekkah Palov (USA), Nicolas Wiese (DEU), Hugo Paquete (PRT), and Thomas Bailey (USA) that utilise artificially generated sounds alone that according to the programme brief, aim ‘to create an immersive environment that assumes to evoke a natural one’.

Mixed Worlds includes a combination of the characteristics in the first and second categories and includes the artists: Jason Bolte (USA), Nichola Scrutton (GBR), Christian Banasik (DEU), Massimo Biasioni (ITA), Ailis Ni Riain (GBR), Jeremy Slater (USA), and Sébastien Béranger (FRA). In this category, the listener may not be able to distinguish the natural from the artificial sounds; thus blurring the boundaries between the natural and the virtual. These pieces therefore challenge pre-conceived notions of how sounds can exist in relation to one another. Here, technology and nature intersect raising the larger questions regarding the role machines play in helping humans become either more or less human through advances in technology. It is clear that we have long bypassed the early 1900’s avant-garde noise experiments of the futurist Luigi Russolo’s ‘intonarumori’ (noise instruments), invented to either emulate sounds from nature or create new sounds altogether. We have found ourselves entering a new realm of possibilities.

With these entries in the SoundScape Programme, noises and sounds collide moving in different directions and at different speeds. They are sounds from the spectrum of the everyday world to the purely electronic. This investigation enables new ways to percieve and interact with the auditory.

The three judges who awarded the overall winner are as follows: Bruno Spoerri, Helen Thorington and Bernhardt Batschelet. This panel selected Werner Cee’s work Berlin Indoors (10’15) as the winner. This work was in the Real Worlds category, a category that was able to convey and connect to a sense of place awakening distant and associated memories by drawing from the immediate surrounding environment. This work is so extremely atmospheric with its urban noises of bins, bottles and a clocktower in Berlin, that one would imagine it is as night time with its eery dark synths. These synths elaborate on the pre-existing everyday sounds and subsequently burst the listener’s eardrums with a vortex of artificial abstract contorted noises, then once again return us to the everyday with sirens, trains, footsteps and distant voices.

An interesting piece. Jon Aveyard’s Depth Perception (11’22) is also worth mentioning along with Shinichiro Toyoda’s RailLine (9’51) with it’s ability to arouse the sub-conscious through the gradual build up of total sound.

The Virtual Worlds section offered a selection of sometimes very violent, cold, mechanical and sudden sounds in total contrast to the works in the previous category. Daniel Blinkhorn’s Descent with Modification (9’56)was highly commended for its softer more harmonious sounds that worked in opposition to it’s threatening and harsher permutations that offer an immersive and strange environment for the listener. Hugo Paquete’s Space Dynamics (10’01) was highly engaging also with its episodic swarms of mechanical locusts that one could imagine circling in and out of the distance creating a distinct sense of depth and activity.

And finally, Mixed Worlds entrant Jason Bolte’s piece Change in Summation (8’30) was also commended. This fantastically complex piece creates a perfect balance between the virtual and the real taking the listener on a journey through an unforseen zoo of sounds from singing birds and chords of an organ to a Doctor Who and Star Wars-esque portal. A very exciting and polished piece.
The unearthly fascinations, intense excitement, rewarding endurance and possible pure irritation of the ears in DAW’s SoundScape Programme 2007 will be sure to impress.

SoundScape was presented on Saturday 14th of July, You can listen to all of the work here.

Please see link for further details .

Jul 24, 2007
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