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Brian Tuohy

Submitted to the School of Creative Arts In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Sonic Arts

September 14th 2012 Sonic Arts Research Centre Queens University Belfast



This paper presents the creative discourse and artistic motivation behind a binaural soundscape composition entitled Hypnagogia. The paper will discuss precedents and common practice in the field of soundscape composition, and the reasoning behind the artistic decisions made during the composition process. This composition places the listener in the center of a soundscape that would normally be regarded as mundane. Through the use of binaural recordings and artificial spatialisation, we experience the environment as though we were present adapting and becoming familiar with the sounds, and allowing the sonic imagery to develop and transform throughout the course of the piece. As we become more familiar with the environment, our focus begins to shift and we slowly experience the transition from a realistic, banal environment to a complex and abstract sonic world. The location is a small domestic room. We are sat relatively stilly at a desk beside an open window. Interactions with the environment are sparse. The sounds we hear surround us; primarily originating from the street outside the room, with little sound emanating from within the direct vicinity of our person. The sounds are not spectacular; they are banal, commonly over-looked as background noise or not noticed at all. The piece acts as a window to the experience of residing within the environment. It is a sample of an open-ended storyboard. The sounds of the room are primarily mechanical and electronic: laptop fans, hard-drives, passing cars etc. The intention of the piece is to very slowly introduce the listener to the environment and allow the sounds to transform without event or celebration. The implied experience is one that crosses the states of consciousness associated with wakefulness and sleep. This transition passes through the state known as hynpagogia, which teeters on the threshold of consciousness (Maury 1848).


The purpose of the soundwalk is to rediscover and reactivate our sense of hearing (Westerkamp 1974). Much of the process behind soundwalking and soundscape work is adapting to the environment and getting to know the space due to our isolation within it. The sounds of the space become a part of our consciousness. Westerkamp suggested that it is not always possible to notice what sonic elements are important in an environment until it has been recorded and examined (Westerkamp 2002). In this sense, we are encouraged to remove the sounds from their original context and attempt to assess them objectively and without experiential bias. The recording process allows us to remove these initial hearing barriers of familiarity and preferential focus, as microphones do not contain the same bias as our ears; they reveal the environment in a much truer sense. Westerkamp (1999) also mentions that we can easily adopt a state of aural unawaredness as we navigate through familiar sonic surroundings. This suggests that we can desensitize our ears by shutting out sounds that we find unimportant and overlooking sounds that may seem mundane. However, she also suggests that capturing the sounds of the space could represent a simplification of the sonic environment, as many of the sounds will contain minute but intricate differences with each occurrence. Were we to remember these environments solely through what she refers to as playback (one constantly available recorded representation of the environment), we may lose some of the fidelity, character, and unpredictability that adds texture and contours to the otherwise neglected background sounds (Wright 2011). It was for this reason that dozens of hours of material were recorded, in order to help inform the narrative of this piece. From such a large sample of material, it is possible to objectively assess what are the most common, striking or subtle sounds in the environment. The act of listening is given new significance when the sound is taken from its initial context and analysed with regard to recurring patterns and dominant frequencies. By consciously reassessing the sounds of the environment, it is possible to unearth what is often ignored. For example, the huge amount of traffic that passes the window, even for a

relatively quiet, residential street. Also noted upon examination was the level of movement from upstairs, indicated by the audible creaking from the ceiling. When we contrast the sound captured by a microphone with what our ears hear naturally, we may become aware of an imbalance that exists in our auditory environment. Of particular note in assessing the recordings used for this piece is the presence of a large amount of very low frequency sounds, beyond those that are a result of machine noise and hum. Much of this low frequency content goes unnoticed when experiencing the environment naturally. It is important to note that the figure-ground relationship that exists in vision also applies to the ear (Schafer 1969). This relates to what Schafer calls schizophonia, whereby we reconsider the relevance of a sound that is often regarded as insignificant, when we choose to use it as compositional material. By listening to these sounds over and over again, we deepen our understanding and perception of their sonic characteristics and how they fit into the context of the environmental experience. Concentrating on the sounds that are normally overlooked as mundane affords a shift in perspective and brings the banality into the foreground a key approach taken in composing this piece. The variations in the sounds around us are endless, but as artists we can only take a small sample of the environment and attempt to use this to imply meaning. This brings us to question the attention that we are paying to our environment, particularly in situations where we are surrounded by technology that may be constantly producing sound that we totally overlook. In relation to this, Schafers table of sound dominance notes that natural sound occupies only 6% of the modern urban soundscape, human sounds contribute 26% and tools and technology cause 68% of the sonic content in our environment (Schafer 1977). This suggests that there may be a significant level of sound in our own environment that could be attributed to everyday items such as laptops and hard-drives, and that much of the modern cacophony of sound can be overlooked or classified as background noise (Razdan 2005).

Schafer claims that behind every piece of music lurks another piece of music (Schafer 1969). To exemplify this, he refers to the extra-musical sounds that occur during any musical performance the sounds that are not specifically part of the performance itself. These sounds are the shuffling of peoples chairs, the coughing, the breathing of the musicians etc. Soundscape composition allows us to accentuate these types of subtle sounds to give a new perspective on the environment. Westerkamp (1989) talks about observing the tiny, intimate sounds of the environment, and those, in this piece, are the creaks of the floorboards and the clicks of the hard drive. These are just as much a part of this particular sonic environment as the barnacles that are washed over by the water in Westerkamps piece Kits beach (Westerkamp 1989). Schafer suggests that a key element in the field recording process is the placement of microphones within the space (Schafer 1977). These techniques are what allow the artist to play the environment as if it was an instrument, and highlight certain aspects of the sound. This was not strictly applicable in this piece due to the placement of microphones in the artists ears, and the commitment to situating them in one static location within the space. This allows for a passive listening experience and, importantly, a relatively constant perspective in terms of binaural spatialisation. Similarly, Westerkamp regards soundwalking as a way of exploring the sonic possibilities of the environment (Westerkamp 1974). This piece takes a much more passive and static approach in terms of movement through the space. The sounds surround us and we simply sit and listen, examine the sonic content and explore what happens within the auditory space. As a passive observer, the artist, here, does not seek out these sounds or extraneously create them. The actions follow a logical storyboard and do not adhere to any manifesto of sonic exploration, which attempts to physically experiment with the environment through repetitive excitation. The environment is already alive; we need not excite it beyond the occasional poke. Essentially, in this sense, the soundwalk becomes a soundwait.

Murray Schafer defined noise as being any unwanted sound, noting that it does not necessarily need to be loud (Alberganti 2010). This is particularly relevant to the setting for this piece as the sound and noise that is being examined would generally be regarded as neither loud, nor unwanted. It is the opinion of the author that for a sound to be unwanted, it should be relatively noticeable. However, as we become more accustomed to a particular sound, we begin to notice it less and it starts to become overlooked. This can be particularly true for constant sounds such as drones, which offer little deviation or irregularity. Sounds like this, such as a laptop fan or a distant fire alarm can easily become the unnoticeable backdrop to our environment, and hence can scarcely be regarded as noise until we stop to notice them. In this sense, our own states of aural distraction are what leave us open to such an uncritical approach to the sounds in our environments. We may not notice passing traffic as such a strong element in the soundscape until we listen to it on a recording of the overall environment. We try to escape noises by going inside houses Schafer (in Alberganti 2010). From examining the recordings made throughout the course of this project, it has become clear that we cannot totally escape noises by residing indoors; we take the noise with us, but we often choose to ignore it, whether it is consciously or subconsciously. When we are not actively listening, we tend to overlook the sounds that dont seem directly important to us. Sometimes, though, we can only hear the dripping tap, the knocking of the pipes or the incessant harddrive. This piece alludes to the escapology offered through altered states of consciousness such as hypnagogia, whereby we find release from such sounds either through focusing our attention elsewhere, or through using these very sounds as the source for imaginary journeys. Schafer (1969), by referring to noise as any undesired sound signal, also leads us to question whether or not the hard-drive sound is actually noise if I passively ignore it and conduct my business as usual? This suggests that noise should be considered in relative terms. During a concert, John Cage threw open the doors of a theatre and allowed the

sound from the street to flow through the performance space (Fetterman 1996). The traffic outside is no longer seen as noise because it is considered to be part of the piece. This same consideration is given to static, laptop fans, clicking hard-drives, traffic and creaky floors in this piece. These sounds are invited in as part of the piece and they become the material for an experience of shifting perspective. Similarly, Westerkamp suggests that soundscape composition often means bringing the noise into the concert hall (Westerkamp 2010).


Westerkamp outlines the important aspects of soundscape composition as being about communicating meaning about place, time, environment and listening perception (Westerkamp 1999). These were among the main considerations when attempting to outline the structure of the composition. The piece is essentially structured in one movement, which follows a progression of sonic experience over the course of an entire night. The beginning of the piece starts with an image of realism. We are slowly introduced to the sounds of the environment and a scene is gradually built, which consists of the sounds of passing traffic, the laptop fan, creaks from the floorboards upstairs, people outside the window and other mundane sounds. These sounds are presented in a manner that is intended to seem natural, making use of binaural recordings and subtle spatialisation. The realism of the beginning of the piece is specifically intended to draw the listener in, and establish a level of familiarity with the environment. The introduction of individual sonic elements is approached in a subtle manner, with no spectacular events or particularly engaging sounds to distract from anything other than existence within this particular environment. We are introduced to elements of self-motion with the sounds of typing, but the focus quickly moves on and we are left with a simple awareness that we are experiencing a mundane environment.

The volume is slow to increase, and it takes up to the 1:40 point before we reach the full level of background sound. An established anchor in the piece is the sound of the laptop fan, but there is also a certain amount of intentional electronic noise introduced below the rest of the tracks to add to the overall sterile, electronic feel. Subtle repetitions within the piece imply monotony and speak about the lack of sonic variation within the environment. This is exemplified with the clicking of the hard drive. Three versions of the same track are set slightly out of sync to create a repetitive but almost unnoticeable beat that sits below the piece. The clicks become a constant backdrop, until they disappear, as subtly as they were introduced. As time progresses, the sound starts to become more abstract. This is a process of transformation that has been in effect from the very beginning of the piece but only becomes significantly noticeable at around 6:00. This transformation is a result of long crossfades between seven different versions of the background scene each a further abstraction on the original sound. By using this method, it is possible to attain a much more seamless implementation of processing to imply a natural disintegration in the sound, without the use of automation on multiple parameters. By this stage, there is less focus on the outside world and more on the internal processing of the sounds. To this end, we can begin to relate to the experience of the environment, rather than simply the representation of the sounds. This brings us through the stages of realism, to a hyper-real version of the environment and eventually to an entirely imaginary landscape. The piece works towards a state that teeters on the threshold of consciousness. This is where the sound becomes most interesting and erratic, as we, ourselves, become less aware of the state to which we are privy. The increased high frequency content becomes slightly hypnotic towards the hypnagogic section, and, fueled by a trance-like state, initiated by the lighting of the match, we are brought to a sonic landscape that seems to have lost much of the evidence of the previous environment. 7

The dream state mixes binaural recordings of two different locations the beach and the park. The mix brings in elements of both environments, including childrens voices, passing pedestrians, breaking waves and the calls of seagulls. A pair of oscillators is also used to create the effect of binaural beats in an attempt to relax the listener. This is achieved with oppositely panned oscillators at 200Hz and 204.5Hz, to create an artifact of 4.5Hz a frequency within the Theta range of brainwave activity, which is associated with meditative states (Atwater 1997). Conceptually, the dream state offers respite from the otherwise banal and draining world, described by its sonic characteristics. This abstract dream environment is created with by the introduction of more obvious reverberation and the slowing pace of the environment the sound becomes more relaxed, musical and tonal. Alternately, the inclusion of unprocessed real-world sounds towards the end of the dream state helps introduce the fact that we are waking up and the world outside exists exactly as we left it. The dream state does not last for long. This is intentional as it represents a fleeting respite. In terms of the message of the piece, we must be brought out from dream state again, and not left suspended. This section doesn't continue to go anywhere and develop because it is intended to represent a brief, finite period. Once the dream state has dissipated, there is no single action to signify the terminus of the piece it is open-ended. We simply become removed from the environment again. The piece is intended to be contemplative and attempts to simulate an experience of an environment, not recreate an exact environment itself. This experience is presented through a window, not a stage. In this sense, we are just presented with a sample of the environment and what it is like to experience the abstract imagined spaces, but, in theory, the piece should continue ad infinitum as a perennial landscape.

The final stanza of the T.S. Eliot poem "The love song of J Alfred Prufrock" reads: "We have lingered in the chambers of the seas By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown Till human voices wake us, and we drown." (Eliot 1920) Concerning this, Ezra Pound described the ending as a portrait of failure that it would be false art for the poem to end on a note of triumph (Dwivedi 2002). This echoes the mood of the ending of this piece; it is a harsh realisation that we cannot escape the reality of life. We are awakened by the sounds of the outside world and we must once again face into the monotony with which we first became acquainted.


There is an obvious progression in time throughout the period of this piece. The progression is indicated by the inclusion of minor differences in sounds, as they fade between one state and another. Sounds dissipate and concentration begins to focus on individual elements of the soundscape. There are, also, constant sounds, which anchor the piece and seem to move at a different pace to many of the other events that surround the listener, but this just outlines the strength of their presence in the environment. The constant whirring of a fan means that it does not need to keep coming in at different points to represent time passing, it can just rest in the mix as a continuous constituent of the environment. Soundscape recordings are excerpts of moments in time (Wright 2011). This piece attempts to stitch together many moments in a sequence, which simulates an experience of sound over a long period of time.

Time, in this piece, however, is not intended to be exactly linear; it is intended to be mediated by experience. Monotony, isolation and boredom appear to drag on and last for a long time, while the period of respite is noticeably shorter by comparison. Luc Ferraris composition Presques rien no. 1 examines the passing of time and the presence of the listener over a twenty-four hour period, and presents a representation of the entire day in a twenty-one minute piece (Ferrari 1970). In many ways, this piece emulates a similar experience by capturing the sounds of a certain space over several weeks, through many different recording sessions, which cover the entire period of night. This allows for an edited picture of the environment one that takes many elements that might not normally occur in succession and plays them off each other. This amalgamation creates an interplay that gives a perspective on altered reality. This reality is intended as a representation of the experience of the environment, rather than a representation of the environment itself, in so far as it reflects the sounds that remain in the memory of the listener, or at least in the subconscious. The pace of motion through the environment says a lot about the effect the location has on a listener. In this case, the piece generally moves very slowly, as if it is being held back by the monotony of the surroundings. Allowing the sounds to have space on the temporal plane and interject sporadically rather than layer everything at once means the individual sonic attributes are highlighted and clearer in the consciousness of the listener. While the amalgam of sounds still amounts to delivering the same overall experience, giving them space to breath helps to tell a clearer story about the environment.


Silence itself can be used as a compositional element in a soundscape piece such as this. Silence, in this sense, is not used to refer to complete lack of sound, but lack of significant sonic events and reduction of the piece to the base level of background sound that has been established. By reverting to this level of sound, there is space opened up in the temporal frame of the piece in order to draw the listener in and add significance to the material that is next introduced. This is particularly effective in cases where the next sound comes from a different location in space, highlighting the spatial properties of the environment. Such


an example is seen at 2:32, when the sound of a cup is introduced, bringing the focus to the space just in front of the listener and removing the emphasis on external sounds. In the past it was understood that each human being had an inalienable right to stillness. It was a precious article in an unwritten code of human rights (Schafer 1969). This stillness, perhaps, can scarcely be attained in an environment that is surrounded by other people. The room, is this sense, far from being regarded as a cell, could be seen as a refuge, of sorts, which establishes barriers between the loud urban landscape and the solitude of ones own space. John Cage noted: There is no such thing as silence. Something is always happening that makes a sound (Cage 1961). This project attempts to harness these quiet, mundane sounds that may otherwise be masked as silence and extract from them a hidden musicality. The question arises as to whether the silence in this piece is the sound of fans and hard drives? Is there such a thing as electronic silence a base level of noise from digital equipment, which we are willing to overlook for the sake of conducting our business as usual? Should we reassess our expectations with regard to the noise-floor in a room such as this?


Brian Eno noted that, in framing an urban landscape, as soon as you let the sky into the picture, the city is not so overwhelming (in Ward, Cardazzo 1989). In this regard, the inclusion of a significant amount of sound from outside the room is what gives the piece hope and the sense of moving forward. Much of the life that is injected into the piece comes from experiencing the sounds that do not take place in the room but simply enter through the window.


This echoes the sentiment expressed by Oscar Wilde, in relation to our interpretation of a negative situation: We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars (Wilde 1893). Eric Leonardson suggests that field recording is an art of chance (Wright 2010a). In this sense, the field is the room, but the aural experience encapsulates the perception of sounds from outside the listening environment, mediated by an obvious filter in the form of the window and walls. The element of chance comes from the entirely uncontrollable sounds coming from upstairs and the filter-dependant sound from outside. In this piece, it is largely the open window that introduces the element of chance. Much of what takes place in the room is predictable, or at least controllable. We can turn the laptop off, or choose not to light the candle. The room represents a space where we have general control, whereas the outside world is what introduces the unpredictability. It is the borders between these worlds that mediate much of what we hear. Were we to open the window more, there would be less filtering of the sound and a more direct connection with what was happening outside. In terms of residing within the space, the window represents our mixing desk the only way we can control what external sounds a person in the room might hear. An interesting point, in this context, is that one of the borders of this space is directly enacted upon by another person, i.e. the ceiling is walked upon. This is a source over which we have no control within the real world (in terms of filtering or muting) and this lack of control is significant in keeping with the ethos of openly embracing any sonic content that might surround this particular location. This significance is highlighted within the piece by constantly reintroducing the sound of the creaking floorboards. Francisco Lopez refers to the approach of using field recordings to create separate worlds instead of mere representations of reality or documentation (Wright 2010b). In this sense, this piece looks at the altered experience as a means of transporting the listener to an entirely different sonic landscape. In terms of soundwalking, this piece takes a journey through experience and consciousness rather than space. The journey documents the passing of time and the changing of 12

perceptions, as focus and concentration shifts from the empty, banal sounds of the room to the abstract textures of a hypnagogic state of semi-sleep. A similar juxtaposition of vastly different sonic environments is exemplified in the radio essay La Rencontre by Jean-Luc Nancy (Nancy, Luc et al. 2012). In a piece such as this, the transition between environments is more explicit, as it takes place largely as a result of implied physical movement, which can be gauged and logically interpreted. In my piece, the transition takes place due to a shift in consciousness and it is not as easy to ascribe this to the action of moving through a physical environment. In terms of creating a transforming landscape, La Rencontre provides significant influence by way of layering environments with complex textures. An important step in this piece is the transition between different scenes or environments and it is achieved seamlessly with the use of milestone sounds, which signify the point of change. In my piece, sounds of the sea help to introduce an entirely different sonic landscape. By using sounds that seem out of place in the previous environment, it is possible to drag the listeners thought process in another direction. The dream state of this piece takes a similar approach to sound design as a section of Westerkamps Beneath the Forest Floor at approximately 12:30, where there is a layering of natural water sounds and musical chiming overtones, which create an engaging atmosphere of extended reality and imagined surroundings (Westerkamp 1991).


In building the scene, several versions or interpretations of the environment were used and pieced together to help create a hyper-real image that is constructed from individual elements. This backdrop creates a layer of realism, upon which we can paint a picture of extended reality and imagined experience. When this backdrop is removed, we are aware of the existence of a different space a different level of consciousness. This is the


sleeping state. We can no longer hear the room and the hard drives and the mechanical failure. We learn a significant amount about the environmental state of the surroundings by listening to the characteristics of the sounds. The simplicity of association is exemplified with the use of a recording of a passing car driving through a puddle. The simple fact that the puddle is audible makes us instantly aware of the weather outside. This provides us with crucial information about the environment, and verifies the state implied by the wind and rain heard earlier in the piece. Such recordings can be used to underpin emotional states associated with pathetic fallacy and hence shift the experience in a certain direction. The direction, here, suggests an isolated individual sat by the window, listening to the sounds outside, prevented from leaving (should the thought arise) as a result of the weather. Stationary sounds do not exist as much in nature as they do in the mechanical, designed world (Razdan 2005). Consistent, unwavering drones are not common among the idiosyncratic world of natural sound and this is highlighted in the piece with the use of phasing to transform the sound of a repetitive fire alarm into something with more motion and character. This is a process of spectral filtering and applying stereo phasing to the particular frequency range in which the alarm noise resides.


Spatialisation, as with all processing, does not need to be used excessively in order to be effective. It could be suggested that some of the most effective processing is that which is not noticed and subtly fits seamlessly into a piece without distracting from the narrative or experience. For this reason, this piece makes little use of artificial movement of sounds in space. Instead, sounds which are spatialised digitally are primarily placed at a fixed point in space where they will reside undisturbed. This allows the sounds to become a part of the environment and develop naturally as they would in real space, without finding the need for exaggerated gestures or animated movement.


Music has been described as the space between the notes Debussy (in Koomey 2003). Along this same vein, much of the experience of an immersive environment, here, comes from the space between the faders we avoid distracting panning of sounds, and instead establish a relatively static environment, which can compliment the localization cues provided by the binaural recordings. This is achieved with the use of several stereo and mono tracks, moderately spatialised but not automated. Though a simple technique, the capturing of an impulse response from the room offers significant advantages in creating the illusion of space. This is noted, in particular, in relation to sounds of the outside world that were recorded in stereo, such as the wind and thunder sounds. In order to exemplify the fact that these sounds are being experienced from an indoor perspective, applying a certain amount of reverberation convolved with the impulse response of the room helps to give the impression of a natural space. We have expectations and connotations that can help us locate a sound. For example, the creaks of the floor upstairs are less clear, often muffled and of lower volume than the creaks below us this helps us to localize them as being upstairs and not below us. In an urban landscape, low frequency sounds can often saturate the recorded scene, particularly with regard to distant sources. The close sources in this piece are represented with higher frequencies, such as the clicking of the hard drive and flickering of the candle. The high frequency sounds of the candle clicking were isolated with spectral filtering and spatialised separately to enhance the trance-like feeling and to further disconnect this state from that which preceded.


In relation to soundscape composition, Barry Truax noted that the intent is to reveal a deeper level of signification inherent within the sound and to invoke the listener's semantic associations without obliterating the sound's recognizability (Truax 2012).


While this is not the approach taken by all artists, with notable exceptions such as Francisco Lopez choosing a style that errs on the side of creating a more acousmatic experience, it was important to this piece that the sounds be rooted in an element of reality and association, as this is what allows the development of the piece through to the implication of altered consciousness. By using such banal sounds, the piece becomes defined by the implicit presence of processing techniques and methods of manipulation. We are drawn in by the natural sounds, but it is their gradual development and disintegration that provides the real texture and experience within the piece. An important message that is also communicated through processing is the overall musical aesthetic of the piece. A particular direction that was mentioned as influential at the beginning of the project was the microsound/glitch music of German artist Alva Noto. A prominent feature of much of Alva Notos work is the use of glitchy electronic and mechanical sounds such as static and clicking. This type of sound was particularly dominant in the transitional period of the piece, where the sound of the match begins to repeat and transform, while the background sound of the laptop fan disintegrates and aliases. Much of this was achieved with spectral filtering and applying bit crushing and distortion to small, specific frequency bands.


An initial intention with this piece was to include a significant amount of speech. This was to represent the internal monologue of the recordist, and would document the dendritic nature of their thought processes while they experienced the sounds of the environment. The speech would take the form of a stream-of-consciousness monologue, filtered to give the impression of being internalized.


The issue with this approach to describing the environment is that it instantly attributes authorship or personality to the piece and associates it with the artist or person speaking rather than the environment and how we experience it. Brian Eno suggests that a voice in a piece of music always becomes the focal point and that in leaving the voice out, it removes the personality and invites the listener into the piece (Ward, Cardazzo 1989). In this sense, the piece can be seen as much more focused on the experience than the witness. While the piece is intended to be personal and reflective of the character, this is approached implicitly, without the necessity for the character to directly engage with the environment or verbally communicate reflections on the experience. By not including voice, we end up with a faceless, androgynous experience that lends itself to a greater degree of inclusion among listeners. In Ayahuasceros, Francisco Lopez creates a sonic environment, which attempts to recreate the experience of hallucinating while under the influence of the psychotropic substance ayahuasca (Lopez 2012). Philosopher Jeremy Narby explains the visions experienced throughout the piece, as he documents his experience with the hallucinogen. The piece is anchored by constant references back to the chants of the shaman and these reappear throughout as a reminder of the sonic environment. The explanation of the experience, while informative, does ascribe identity to the narrator and makes the piece much more about their personal experience than would be suitable for my piece.


Westerkamp, with Kits Beach, refers to the use of an accurate sound level in presenting the soundscape a level that is low enough to represent the real world (Westerkamp 1989). In this sense, this piece begins by attempting to replicate the real sonic environment but loses the stringent grasp on the level as the piece progresses into a more abstracted sonic space.


Many of the sounds that were used in the piece were captured at very low volume, as they would form only a tiny piece of the sonic landscape that was being sampled. For instance, one may sit in a room for several hours listening to passing traffic and construction work, but the sound selected as most artistically significant may be a distant seagull or barely audible police siren. These sounds are just as important in forming the soundscape as the more prominent local sounds. Similarly, it is important, in creating a realistic soundscape, to recognize the position of sounds within the natural mix and resist the urge to increase the volume level to a point that gives the sound a dominance that it would otherwise not command. Westerkamp said that the musical instruments in a soundscape piece are the sounds that surround us in the environment, sounds which are generally familiar to the audience (Westerkamp 1974). In this sense, the instruments in this piece are passing cars and creaky floorboards but the problem in using and mixing them is that they are not regular in nature and the vast variation in volume and timbre makes them unpredictable and difficult to fit into a mix. The attempt is to create a high fidelity sonic environment, where one can hear the soft sounds as well as the loud sounds (Razdan 2005).


Context and prior experience have an interesting effect on the perception of a piece, particularly when dealing with binaural sound, which attempts to create the illusion of immersion within an environment. The authors familiarity with the sonic environment in the piece lead to an experience unlike that of most other personal compositional ventures. The process of analysing sounds within the exact location of their initial recording leads to situations where the real and recorded worlds intersect and cause stimulating confusion. With this overlap between recording and listening environment, an interesting relationship can be established between recorded and acoustic material. This is an interplay that was noticeable during the mixing stages of the piece when sounds were being examined within


the exact context and location from which they originated. This suggests that the piece would lend itself quite well to presentation in situ, whereby the illusion of indiscernible realities could be accentuated, in particular as a result of the binaural spatialisation. Much of the sonic material used in this piece is easily associated with personal experience. The sounds are not particularly site-specific, nor are they directed at a niche demographic. Seagulls and traffic are relatively universal sounds, and hence might allow most listeners to engage with the piece somewhat more deeply than may be afforded by unfamiliar sonic landscapes. Ideally, this piece should be experienced within the space in which it was recorded. Lacking this, however, it is suggested that the piece be listened to in a small personal space, which is not occupied by many people. The piece is intended as a personal experience and does not particularly lend itself to demonstration en masse. The piece should be experience with good quality over-ear headphones, but noise-cancelling models should be avoided if possible. The volume level should not be overly high approximately 65% is recommended. This is to allow the sounds of the real world to become a part of the piece and add to the realism, particularly at the beginning of the piece. If possible, it is recommended that the listener sit near an open window, so they are not entirely isolated from the sounds of the outside world. This type of sonic interplay is something that Brian Eno mentions as a goal in much of his ambient work, whereby the listener is intended to be unaware of exactly what is music and what isnt. This suggests a type of music that could include sound, which is on the record, and that which is not (Ward, Cardazzo 1989). The piece allows for a heightened listening experience and invites the sounds of the listening environment to become part of the work. By bridging the gap between both sides of the headphones, the experience of the recorded environment and sonic transformations are afforded the opportunity to interact and play off of real, live sounds. John Cage took a similar approach in his theatre pieces, where a door or window would be opened to invite the external sounds to become part of the piece (Fetterman 1996). The


consideration of this external sound as a part of the piece, instantly switches its classification from background noise to meaningful content.


This paper has presented the logic and motivation behind the artistic decisions made in creating this binaural soundscape composition. The paper attempts to justify these decisions with reference to works and teachings of prominent composers in the field. A significant amount of information is provided to describe the experience of recording and assessing the sonic environment. Several arguments are presented in favour of particular compositional approaches and aesthetics such as minimal processing, fixed spatialisation and slow transitions between layers of increasingly degraded sounds. Examples of implemented sound processing methods have been given, but the primary focus of the paper has been on the compositional aesthetics and artistic motivation. More detailed information on specific sound processing methods can be found on the submission disk. From the research conducted and the artistic results created, it is possible to conclude that the environments in which we spend much of our time can be a rich source of significant content for experimental music, if we carefully examine the soundscape and avoid simply dismissing sounds as noise or overlooking them completely. We should partake in a more active listening process and pay closer attention to the sounds that surround us. In doing so, we can train our ears to be more discerning, and hence become more adept at analysing, creating and enjoying music and the sonic elements of the environment.


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