phreatic obfuscations

“The morning’s baldness dissected the straight line of horizon. He raised his head and saw the arc of the bitter flight as petrels sheered out of the Atlantic on the tilt of the crystalline plane; and the waters streamed off it down to an infinity where Choughs ran red-legged and inchoate in their golden, golden cage. He swerved his gaze: landwards! And the sea hauled him back: come rest in my bosom, come suck and gnaw with me at the stubborn land. Then all will be sea and all will be sea and all will be at sea; and all will have returned, free as dolphins who, so many aeons ago, faced the same choice and chose. Can we say we chose right?”

(from ANTICLINE – GPS-triggered located smartphone work for Westdown Quarry)

Sometimes I think ‘hey, you’re supposed to be a poet – so what’s with all this digi-stuff???’

screenshot1

Currently laying out GPS-triggered walk-poem ANTICLINE thru’ Westdown Quarry (goes live 15 Aug). This involves:

  • writing the poem-text
  • recording the poem-text (main voice: me; other voices: synthesized)
  • editing the recordings (in Audacity or Ableton Live)
  • processing the recordings in Ableton Live (above screenshot left of screen)
  • converting the recordings to mp3s (takes up less space in app)
  • composing the final mp3 soundfiles into the landscape (ie configuring the experience-design taking topographical considerations and features into account, as well as how long it should take an average walker to walk across a sound-region. In this case the mediascape is linear, which means it must ‘make sense’ both ways – there, and back)
  • testing the simulation in-house
  • testing on-site
  • lots of swearing

The actual process is fascinating and can get obsessive: instead of composing onto a scoresheet, or even by feel, you’re composing into a real landscape: you’re overlaying a virtual soundworld onto a real place which can only be heard in that place – nowhere else on earth. You have to decide whether there are scattered soundpools which have to be ‘hunted’, or whether it’s a continuous experience (in this case it’s continuous); you have (as above) to consider how long an average person will take to walk through the soundpool; that they may not walk thru’ it at all, but simply stop and listen until it finishes (how does this affect the experience?); whether to loop the tracks – which leads to one kind of experience; or simply play them once only; are they to be programmed enter/play/keep playing on departure, or enter/play/fade out (or stop) on departure/start again at same place  on re-entry/start at beginning again on re-entry? What sounds do you want to place on which topographical features? What sounds are there there already? Do soundpools overlap, and if so, what does it sound like?

RALPH HOYTE 29 July 2015

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