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June 12, 2008 - June 2008 Archives

At CultureLab Newcastle [3]

So it's already Thursday in the second week. This week was much more full than I expected. But in a good way.

On Monday I presented a preview of Vreemdeling for a group of staff members, PhD students, Kazuhiro Jo who will be a research fellow at CultureLab next year and John Bowers who was visiting for a lecture in computing - and received a lot of usefull feedback.
A selection of the various thoughts:

  • I believe most of them liked the lack of artificial reverb - something quite more common in more traditional diffusion works, to exaggerate distance in the sound. I wasn't really aware of it, because (as I realized then) in my work I generally don't use artificial reverb (or any other 'regular' effect like delay, compression). That has been in fact some of the criticism I received on my live electronics work, that it is very dry and close. I like that ;)
  • What was also generally recognized is that the work is mainly playing with sound coming out of separate speakers - not so much exposing the space. This is again my preference for dry sound I guess. The day after I opened all the curtains to see how it would sound to let the space reverberate more - I didn't like it. Too fuzzy, unclear.
  • Talking about how and why moving sounds around the general idea was that I could do a bit more with diffusing 'active' sounds, sounds that suggest a lot of gesture lend themselves (and in fact are expected) to move around more in space.
  • John liked the volume level - I have been stuggeling a bit with the levels. I like them quite high, but the Genelec speakers disagreed at first. Rolling off the bass on the speaker itself didn't do much, but applying a lowpass filter in the software, before it even gets to the speakers, allowed me to boost their volume. The low frequencies were dealt with anways by the two subs.
  • On my question on alternative speaker setups we talked a bit about how that could be made a bit more interesting than the more or less traditional all around setup I have now. Jaime mentioned (and we talked about that the evening before during dinner) using different speakers, putting them in various places, under tables, in boxes. But that's not feasible for now - especially since I'd have to reprogram SuperCollider and Resound. Not enough time. But it would be interesting working on this at another time.
  • Regarding strategies of diffusing - I guess that's for one just gaining experience. I'm curious to hear James' treatment of the various groups during Friday's concert.

The days after that I've been working on details regarding the difusion strategies - trying out various gestures with the various soundlayers in the composition, moving some speakers around, repairing a breaking down joystick by re-scaling it in SuperCollider. In Nuendo (where the piece is played from) I added markers with descriptive titels as a sort of diffusion score. When performing the diffusion I'm zoomed in in Nuendo so I can visualy see some of the movements in the sound and anticipate its position in space.

Next to this there were the social gatherings of course - meeting with the staff of CultureLab and the local arts scene for dinner, having some discussions with Jaime , Sally Jane and Atau.

Last but not least I've been playing a bit with Bennett (Hogg), Paul (Bell) and John (Ferguson) as a 4tet for the concert, and quite a bit in a duo with John on guitar - we've also recorded some, and I'm very curious to hear what we put down, as it felt really good while we were doing it.

(not even mentioning dealing with emails - the first week I could pretend for a little while that STEIM and the current situation there were far away, but not this week, with all the activities next week when I'll be back)

Finally here's a video with me explaining the current setup with the diffusion system (also see Wikipedia - acousmatic music).

Some interesting links from last week:

June 6, 2008 - June 2008 Archives

At CultureLab Newcastle [2]

Friday afternoon, the end of my first week at CultureLab.

The week was very fruitful - I have a working multichannel setup, with three stereo channels that can independently be diffused using the joystick through SuperCollider 3 to the Resound system. So whatever audio I send to channels 1+2, 3+4 and 5+6 can be processed - I just tried it a bit with my live performance setup, and it works great! An interesting side-effect there is that the joystick has two functions there. A welcome restriction in diffusion-world, where I still have to find my way. The dilemma as always is about balance: between vulgar effect (sweeping sounds through the space) and subtle musical movements. Too much effect and it gets boring very quickly - too subtle and the audience (and myself too actually) wonders what the hell you're grabbing that joystick for. I have to find this balance between performance and spacebar-music. Between just playing back tracks and gestural treatment of the sound in the moment.

This weekend I'll be just playing with the system - finding out its response. But also takin g a break: visiting Tynemouth for a walk along the coast and the used-stuff market there.

June 5, 2008 - June 2008 Archives

At CultureLab Newcastle [1]

I arrived here on Monday afternoon. The university in very central, and there's a good coffee place right around the corner of CultureLab. So I'm set!

After the first couple of days here is where I stand:

  • SPACE: I'm working in the concertspace - very convenient I can hear it all as it will be during the concert.

  • HARDWARE: Currently the diffusion setup consists of 8 Genelec 8050A speakers (with the bass roll off set to -6db) and two EAW subwoofers - I must say that the Genelecs can only barely deal with the soundlevels I'd like to have. On Monday we'll add 4 EAW tops - this will no doubt solve that issue. The speakers are setup as in the scheme below (where the EAW's are high up).


  • SOFTWARE: I'm using the backup Resound system meaning that I can only have 8 outputs. The Resound system consists of a server that deals with all audio - from my system I send it 6 channels of audio, and it spits out 8 channels to the Genelecs - and a client computer, that deals with the configuration of the diffusion. Both run Ubuntu (Linux) and communicate through OSC (open sound control). Since OSC is very open, everyone basically makes his own sub protocol, resulting in my case in an incompatability between STEIM's junXion and Resound. With junXion I can translate my joystick data into OSC, but only in messages in the format /junXion/controllers/1 - while Resound wants the OSC in the format /fader/1. [.. sound of wrong answer in a gameshow..] So no connection there. I decided to use SuperCollider 3.

  • CONFIGURATION: this is not the place to go into the workings of Resound in detail, but I'll try to explain the basic setup as I have it after two days of working. Resound basically is a matrix, where one can control the amount of signal from every input channel to every output channel - with the 6 inputs and 12 outputs (8 Genelecs and 4 EAWs) this makes for 72 parameters to control (excluding controllers for the main volume, the input- and output levels for all channels and other options). There are 32 faders available in the system - so smart programming is required.
    I use the Logitech joystick's X and Y axis to be able to pan the sound in the 2D plane. Now this sounds easy, but it wasn't. There are some ways to do these kinds of things in Resound, but I couldn't really figure it out. So I put some of the logic in SuperCollider and set the 32 faders in Resound to control the level of 32 matrix nodes - not using the more advanced features of Resound.

  • DIFFUSION: Basically I divided the plane in 4 quadrants, and dealt with fading in and out of audio levels in separate speakers for each of these quadrants. Then I decided I'd output 3 stereo channels to Resound, and I want to control the diffusion of these 3 channels independently. I use three buttons on the joystick to activate/deactivate the joystick X/Y controllers for the 3 channels. Furthermore I use the Slider controller on the joystick to crossfade between the lower plae (Genelecs) and the higher plane (the EAW's). Finally the hatswitch thing on the joystick increments/decrements the main volume level. Are you still with me?

This is where I stand right now. Next things to do:

  • Determine what tracks of Vreemdeling (played back from Nuendo) go to what stereo output - so fixing the three separate layers that I can control independently as mentioned above.
  • Work on the placement of speakers - John Ferguson, a Music Phd student at CultureLab mentioned some non conventional speakers setups that were used before. I'd like to experiment with that.
  • And last but certainly not least: practicing! Playing with the placement of the audio, and create the performance.

Aside from my own work I'm also talking a lot with the Phd students here. There was a seminar on Tuesday, with Chris Leary talking about his thesis subject. Then I met John Ferguson yesterday to talk about his performance setup, and today I'll have a meeting with Paul Bell. After the weekend we'll have an initial listening session for Vreemdeling with some of them, and we'll play a bit in the studio - just to see what's possible for the concert on Friday (the 13th!).