Sunday, 10 January 2010

Sound and space

We have been exploring some aspects of sound in the performance space and asking some questions about what is possible and how. While some of our discussions also concern psychological or metaphorical spaces I want to focus here on sound and physical space.
First of all it is important to understand that this topic is rather complex. You can read a useful introduction here with good illustrations and sound examples. (and it would be useful to also look up his entries on reverberations, echo, and soundwaves in general if you're not familier with the concepts).
I want present my thoughts on some of the ideas raised so far:

Can we turn the lights off(closed eyes? Yes I think we can achieve this effect at least momentarily. If we switch off the lights rappidly (not a gradual fade out) it will take people a little time to adjust to low light (and we are going to have quite a lot of low lights from computers, exit signs, etc.) which means that for a short time they would be listening to the sound (almost) without seeing.

Can sound float around, shift, move? Can it flutter and fly like the leaves? Yes, BUT
One way, of course, is to actually move a sound source (a speaker but also an acoustic source the way Caroline moves around the space while singing/playing). The result would vary a bit with different types of sounds but is mostly effective. The other option is to try and project the illusion of moving sound from static speakers. This can be done successfully but is a bit more complicated, and if we want to try it we need to consider the technical requirements and limitations. First of all we need at least a 4-channel setup. this means not just 4 speakers around the performance space but also a 4-channel mixer. We won't have that for rehearsals and we may or may not have it available when we perform. Even when you do use a good setup it works well only around the centre. So in our case, the performers should hear it pretty well but the audience, standing around them not so much. finally the illusion of movement works better with some sounds then with others (for all sorts of complex reasons like the precedence effect and others).

Two performers, mouths closed, faces expressionless (Yiorgos and Olu?) Their pre-recorded 'conversation' is transmitted via speakers that have a very different acoustic to the actual space. ( the 'inside room')
. This type of disjunction between what we see and what we hear works very well in cinema but might be difficult to translate to performance. To understand why consider this: on the screen we see a character walking outdoors from afar while we hear his voice as if he is close to us in a small room. The disjunction between how the speech should sound as if it is in the scene and how it is presented to us is obvious and we accept these as inner thoughts. But if we try to do the same on stage the non-speaking charachter and the sound source (speakers) are in the same space - the stage. So this would not stand out as more disjunct than any other sound coming from the speakers during the show. If we add heavy reverb on the voices, suggesting they are very far or in a much more reverberant space than the actual one it would be noticible, or if they're having a conversation and the two voices are placed in two different acoustic environments. But I'm not sure we could effectively project an 'inner room' in the same sense.

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