Reflection after debut

Today my five speaker piece was played to the rest of the class with every other class member. Mine ended up sounding completely different to how it sounded during its production!

Firstly I had exported it incorrectly because I hadn’t ‘solo’ed each speaker. This meant that unfortunately each of my five speakers sounded the same. I believe the reason why my piece sounded different through the speakers was because I hadn’t properly applied EQ and compression to each my master faders.

However I was pleased with the metallic sounding result despite not achieving the ‘the ricocheting effect’ I wanted.

The others were very impressive, I would hope to include more texture, rhythm and mashing of sounds in my future work.


‘Surrounded by Space’ Production

After all my research, I decided I wanted it to feel like someone was sitting on the edge of one of the rings of Saturn. This idea was inspired by finding actual NASA audio recordings of planets. The sounded like wind advancing through different sized tunnels and I have made this the core idea behind my project. I have tried to give each sound ‘movement’ as if the person is sitting watching the environment go by.

In the end, I decided to remove the instrumental element of my five speaker piece because I wanted to focus more on representation. Although I was inspired by the sound used in films I wanted it feel more like an installation and be a representation of space. I found that I could easily mold my recordings from the reverberation chamber into metallic resonances in ProTools and this gave my piece more depth.

My final piece used:

  • atmospheric sound from the reverberation chamber
  • atmospheric sound from the anechoic chamber
  • vocals – my voice humming
  • my fingers flicking a ladder inside the reverberation chamber
  • the sound of dragging the ladder

I used the audio editing tools in the ‘audiosuite’ on most these recordings except for the sound of the anechoic chamber.

I recorded myself humming very quickly before I left the chamber (I can’t sing at all!) but I ended up using this sample many times. For example I need a high frequency sound continuously playing throughout and I found I could generate this by taking a small sample, reversing the sound, increasing the pitch and putting it on loop.  I also put my my voice through ‘sci-fi’ modulation in the audio-suite producing a sound I thought represented an object moving with momentum past the listener.

This time round I have tried to use the five speakers as surround sound and to generate a ‘ricocheting effect’. This gives sound the three dimensions needed to create a sense of a world around the listener.

Man sitting on the rings of Saturn

Illustration by Kim Arrowsmith

Study of space related music

As discussed below, many people have explored what the musical sound of space might sound like in films such as 2001 A Space Odyssey with music by Johan Strauss actually becoming a motif. In the article ‘The imagined sounds of space’ by James Wierzbicki he starts by discussing Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg whose orchestral piece String Quartet No. 2 is considered the beginning of musical modernism:

Schoenberg experimented a lot with the arrangements of notes inventing the twelve-tone technique that meant the composer had to include the twelve notes in the chromatic scale in a ‘series’.


This made a composition far more mathematical and structural lending itself to the technological/ digital sounding space tones heard particularly in space films from the 1960/70s such as ‘Forbidden Planet’.


Anechoic and Reverberation Chambers

This week I visited the anechoic chamber at the University of Auckland. The chamber was recommended because I needed to recreate an ’empty’ sound devoid of natures noise. I needed to get rid of the sound of flora and fauna such as birds, rustling trees and humming insects as well as the inner city din of cars and machines. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Engineering an anechoic chamber is:

‘A room having all surfaces covered with sound-absorbing material, often in the form of wedges pointing into the room. The aim is to simulate free-field acoustic conditions.’

Here are a few pictures of the experience:

20151014_14172320151014_14052120151014_140613 (1)20151014_14055120151014_141135 20151014_14055820151014_14020020151014_140638

The anechoic chamber was an eerie, anxiety inducing experience with the absolute muteness leaving me with an overwhelming sense of self-awareness. I took several 3 minutes samples with the zoom in different parts of the room and I left so I wouldn’t tarnish the sound of ‘nothing’. Acoustically they were all similar, sounding like static. While I was there, Dr George Dodd (Senior lecturer of Architecture) suggested I use the reverberation chamber because he thought the reverberation might produce more ‘space’ like sounds. The reverberation chamber is the exact opposite of the anechoic chamber with the surfaces designed to reflect as many reverberations as possible.


I used several objects already in the chamber to make varied foley/atmospheric sounds like blocks of wood, metal poles, a ladder and cable cords. I will combine both sounds from each chamber,

I think in the end the trip helped me to decide what the overall five speaker ensemble will be like, it will be a representation of the real experience of space combined with soft instrumental undertones to guide the listener through a narrative. I think it needs to bear some relation to the human experience in order for people to listen.

The Shadow of the Dome of Pleasure

Today we visited ARTSPACE gallery along K Road and saw the The Shadow of the Dome of Pleasure exhibition. I’m going to focus on Ryan Trecartin’s ‘Items Fall’ because it was the most intriguing. For this piece the patron sits on a couch and watches a film with two speakers. Narratively speaking, I felt like Trecartin was trying to capture a side of American university culture as the characters seem to be at a Frat/ Sorority party. As described by the curator Henry Davidson,

The works in this exhibition are sexually loaded, hysterical and existentially anguished, producing, en masse and in harmony with their setting, an immersive and exhausting world.
The images and dialogue are raw, uncensored and earnest depictions of youth at university quite unashamedly being themselves. Sonically, Trecartin uses repetition a lot and modifies the diegetic sound so the actors at times have metallic sounding voices. In this particular piece, the individual speakers elicit high volume sound that I would describe as largely diegetic but there is an eeriness that I think was generated by audio editing the atmospheric sound.  You do really feel as if you are immersed in an ‘exhausting world’ because the themes seen in the images and sound are backed up by relentless editing.

Five speakers

I would like to research good polyphonic sound pieces created by other artists. In particular I am looking for installations that assigns a personality to each speaker as this is what I’d like to do for my final piece.

The video below replaces the members of a choir with a speaker. This way you sit amongst the music and not in front of it.

Slightly more abstract, the video below is an exhibit by David Schafer called ‘What should a museum sound like?’. This piece more along the lines of what I’d like to create. Perhaps mine could be called ‘What should space sound like?’. I think Schafer is trying to question our current sonic experience of museums as quiet places of observation and discovery. The sound we really hear in a museum is air conditioning and quiet voices. Representations of the sound of space in films is usually overwhelmed by how people would feel in space rather than what they actually hear. There seems to be low levels of diegetic sound but high levels of non-diegetic sound.

Space sounds

Using five speakers, this semester I would like to create a surround sound soundscape inspired by space. We are required to use five speakers and this will lend itself perfectly to representing the ubiquity of space. The speakers themselves will be used individually and have a more sculptural function.

I will need to research what space actually sounds like and what I need to record to make this sound.

I have been inspired by films such as ‘Gravity’, ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Space Odessey’. Here are examples of the sound they used during their space scenes:


Strong instrumental component representing the emotion of each character (despair, anxiety, fear) rather than the sound of space.


In Gravity again there was an overwhelming instrumental element designed to signal tension, a traditional tool to pull a linear narrative along and to engage the viewer emotionally if they weren’t already with the image.

I noticed they used a high frequency electronic sound. Im not sure how to recreate this.

Space Odessey 2001

To accompany the images of space there is Strauss’s iconic instrumental composition. Other than this there is a sound of ‘silence’ or emptiness. It is an atmospheric unlike earths because there are no sounds of nature such as insects or birds or trees rustling.

In this particular scene, I can hear the sound of air being released from a vent or perhaps to the astronaut?

Here is a NASA audio recording of each planets natural sound. It sounds like a wind going through several different sized tunnels or containers.