The sound in the installation will be a very important part of it and is being created by sound artist and composer, Nye Parry. In order to explore the kind of sound that will be in the installation and discuss issues relating to sound I decided to interview Nye. Here is our Q&A;
MB: How do you make the sound of a forest?
NP: In our project the task is more about producing the effects of a natural environment in the spectator (or listener) than trying to simulate the precise sound a forest makes. What is it about this kind of natural soundscape that we find relaxing or stimulating or restorative? For me that has a lot to do with space and spatial perception. Our ears are highly attuned to the perception of space. Every sound we hear carries with it information about where we are, where the source is and what the that spatial relationship consists of. When I hear someone talking in the next room I not only perceive that it is a person talking and possibly (but not necessarily) what they are saying, I can also tell something about the spatial characteristics of the room they are in, the room I am in, whether the door is open or closed, where that room is situated etc. The sounds of the forest are incredibly diffuse, there is a surprising amount of reverberation due to the large number of surfaces the sound reflects around but it is also possible to perceive sound over a great distance. These are some of the ideas I am trying to work with.
MB: If you are not trying to sound exactly like a forest, what kind of sounds are you working with?
NP: Despite my previous statement, at the moment I am actually working quite hard to imitate forest sounds particularly the way the wind moves through the trees, the approach and retreat of the rustling sounds that result. That said, I am using foley techniques more than field recordings. By using many small loudspeakers I can break down the effect into constituent parts – little rustles spread across a wide area for example, rather than reproducing the complete sound in one location. I am not rejecting any approach at this stage from synthesizing sound using noise generators and filters to recording paper chains and twigs. FI have also drawn on sounds from a piece I wrote in the nineties called Spring (from the Seasons – https://soundcloud.com/nyesonic/spring). This uses digital sound design techniques, particularly convolution, to produce a variety of almost naturalistic but still obviously digital sounds. In a way it has elements of the digital forest about it and I was interested in the way you recognise the sounds to be like something but don’t believe it to actually be that thing in the same way as in a painting you see both the surface of the canvas, the brushstrokes and also the object depicted. Roger Scruton refers to this as ‘double intentionality’ (Scruton, 1997, pp. 86-7)
MB: You mention using many speakers to create the effect of movement. What kind of technologies are you employing?
NP: Much of my work deals with space and the way music can be perceived as a navigable landscape rather than as a narrative arc. One way I have explored this in previous work is by breaking down sounds into individual partials and distributing them across anything up to 60 separate small speakers. In many ways I differ from a lot of composers who work in multi-channel formats in that I am fascinated by point sources rather than the movement or panning of sounds. When we hear the wind in the forest we are of course not hearing the wind itself, which makes no sound, but rather the effect the wind has on a large number of relatively stationary objects (the trees and their leaves). So I have decided to use lots (probably 32, maybe more Update: the final piece used a 55 speaker system) of small speakers again above the heads of the gallery visitors. I will use some multi-channel amplifiers built by Jamie Campbell (http://www.glisferox.co.uk/) that I first used in an installation called The Exploded Sound (http://www.nyeparry.com/exploded/). These will be controlled by a computer which will be adjusting levels and filtering sounds on the fly to create the movement effects I am after. They may also respond to some of the projections. I use Max/MSP for programming which gives my great flexibility to make changes right up to the last minute in the exhibition space. I love the process of installation, the way a piece really only comes together as a symbiosis of the space and what you bring to it and I always make a lot of decisions during the install.
MB Thanks Nye for taking the time to answer these questions
NP: My pleasure – I am really looking forward to installing this piece!!!