Posts Tagged ‘field recordngs’

Soundspiral outsideHere it is at last – the Soundspiral video!

It’s been about 18 months since I was asked to perform in the Soundspiral. I chose ‘Ada’ partly because it was a major new (at the time) piece I was very proud of, and partly because it was always meant to be quite an immersive piece that I thought would be appropriate for the Soundspiral. Since that time I have performed half of it in 7.1 and the whole thing twice in stereo in Second Life.

The Soundspiral version is more than all of those in several ways. Of course it’s in 52 speaker surround sound, but in the meantime I’ve been tweaking the parts and samples to make them better and convey the subject matter more clearly. I hope.

Of course, I didn’t generate the full 52 channels from my laptop into the spiral speakers, that would be insane … and impractical. For a start the rig doesn’t actually have 52 inputs but mainly it’s not meant to be addressed that way. The software system that drives the spiral (written by the hugely clever Daz Disley) can drive the speakers in spaces rather than individually. This gives the sound a great coherence and ensures that when things move, they don’t just disappear from one speaker (or set of speakers) but they move smoothly and naturally. It’s immensely impressive and gives the spiral a very clear and listenable sound.

From 2dgoggles, ‘The Client’ by Sydney Padua.

I ended up giving Daz 14 channels that were effectively 7 stereo sets. Dividing the spiral into 4 quadrants lengthwise and top and bottom sets. The last stereo set was for the live violin playing which I originally thought would move with me, but in the event that turned out to be unnecessary. Most of the played back samples were positioned using this system – one send for each stereo pair. There was very little movement of sounds involved, i wanted to create a space, rather than go ‘Hey, we can spin things round, isn’t that great!’ that some surround systems seem so keen on. The spacial idea was inspired by the Sydney Padua cartoons where Ada is lost in the internal workings of the Analytical Engine (see above) and this is depicted in the last 3 minutes of part 1.

A central pillar of the piece is a piece of text where Ada effectively predicts the ability of computers to compose music (soon followed by some automatically generated music – played while I change violins!).

The performance was part of the first Sonophilia festival in Lincoln and I am pleased to report that it drew a good crowd and several people came up to me afterwards to say how much they enjoyed it. I was pleased with my performance, and below is a video of the event for your enjoyment.


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In August I said I was going to start work on a new album based on field recordings. and I’ve finally finished it! I have been working on and off on this project since that blog post but, to be honest, it’s been mostly “off”. I did a lot of the field recordings in the summer and, if you download the album, you will see that all of the photos in the programme booklet were also taken in the summer months while I was recording. But all of the instrument recording has been done in Autumn and, mostly, Winter.

Speaking of programme notes, I have tried to make these as entertaining as possible. As the people I work with know to their cost I really just have two writing styles, annoyingly pompous and irritatingly frivolous. You can read the latter in the programme booklet for this album.

I settled on making this an all-acoustic album. Despite styling myself as mainly an electric player I have collection of acoustic violins that I love to play and it was fun to get them all out and record things on them. The one I used most is the Bridge octave violin but the soprano also takes quite a major role too. The normal violins are very much texture fill-ins. This was not really a deliberate policy, but instruments and pitches at the extreme ends of the range tend to be of more interest to me 🙂

It’s a slight risk for me doing an all acoustic album, it relies on skills that are not my best. One reason I play mainly electric is that I can hide my non-conservatory-trained violin technique in a wash of delays and distortions; with an acoustic album there is nowhere to hide. I have used no pedalboard or studio effects on the instruments other a little EQ, compression and reverb. There is also very little editting of the performance, even though most of the pieces are multitracked I have not cut and spliced up small pieces, a lot of the playing is from one or two long takes to try and preserve some sort of spontaneous feel. In particular “In The Garage” is a single take I did in my garage one morning while the noises were happening all around me.

It’s partly because of these things that I wanted to make the album in this way: it’s a challenge. All of the albums I have done have posed a challenge to me in one way or another – RPM2012 being the most challenging so far. Without a challenge the music easily gets boring and predictable and that’s the one thing I don’t want it to be.

So here, after 4 months, is Outside, I hope you like it. You can download it, pay what you want or for free, or just stream it.

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