Audio Piece: The List

Earlier in the year I received a commission to produce some experimental audio work on the theme of ‘dreams’ for the ‘Dark Matters’ event at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. For this commission I collaborated with poet James Wilkes who has previously been a poet in residence at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and run the ‘Vox Lab’ project. 

The resulting pieces we produced present a list detailing a week’s worth of dreams – pulling an odd array of incoherent imagery, places and situations into the formalised structure of a list. The list was compiled and narrated by James and then worked into three soundscape movements, each of which were responsive to elements of the list content.

Dreams naturally offer a rich source of imagery to work from, they’re patchy, incoherent and often overflowing with symbolism, so I really like the idea of pulling all this messy imagery into a structured, arbitrary list. In a sense, The List is an attempt to bring order to some of the madness that breaks loose within our nocturnal imaginations. The conscious brain seeking for order from the chaotic ramblings of the unconscious mind.

The  pieces were presented in the form of an In The Dark listening event held at the museum and which pulled together a collection of audio works exploring the human mind, dreams and brain disorders. After curating an In The Dark event for ‘The Voice’  (an event produced by James at the Wellcome Collection) it was great to work with James directly on the production of this commission. It was also fantastic to be given the opportunity to bring creative audio work within the confines of a Science Museum and introduce In The Dark to an audience outside of London!

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Making a racket on the Soundwall

So today I was very excited because I got the chance to play around with Lotto Lab’s Soundwall – a mammouth interactive speaker array, currently housed at the Science Museum in London.

The Soundwall awaits...

The wall features a total of 77 speakers and is controlled via the use of a handy touch screen interface. The interface allows the user to essentially bounce sound from three mono tracks (or up to 8 analogue inputs) across the wall in realtime, much to the delight, or perhaps annoyance of everyone in hearing distance.

The simple touch screen interface includes volume faders for each of the three tracks, which are subsequently represented by one of three coloured balls. These coloured balls essentially represent where the sound is localised on the speaker wall; so as the user moves the balls across the screen the sound on the wall pans accordingly. This allows the user to throw sound across the wall in all directions, just imagine a ball of sound bouncing about inside your head and you’re almost there… It’s certainly very cool to play with.

The touchscreen composing desk. Image: David Robertson.

So I tried out a collection of ‘racket’ themed samples which I have prepared for use during next weeks Science Museum Lates:

… and here’s a clip of me standing infront of the wall as David Robertson throws the sound all over the place, you can hear an interview with David in the next episode of Tomorrow’s Tentacles:

Although the wall’s functionality is pretty limited at the moment, it will be interesting to see how its use is expanded. It could certainly do with a few more features, perhaps expanding on the user interface to include a selection of tracks or the addition of effects which could be controlled via the touch screen. Its use as a performance tool is certainly very attractive and I’d love to experiment with it further! – Watch this space.