Surface Resonance…

Phase 1: Collecting vibration sounds, composition basis in riddim. Feb 07 – April 07

This phase developed my understanding of how vibration sounds and may be captured, challenged my approach to music-based vibration, and helped direct my focus to the making of ambient low frequency sound and vibration.

I started to enhance, emulate and set up natural processes of low frequency sound in space. Field recordings and music-based experiments with a large PA worked towards a composition that tested some boundaries around referencing riddim and music-based vibration response.


Phase 1: Overview

Summary of research

My first project was to take field recordings of music-based vibration around nightclubs.

Although the recordings contained good examples of vibration, I found that the overall sound was too obviously taken from a nightclub/music context to be of use. When listening back, the other musical elements were very predominant over the vibration.

In response to this issue, I explored ways of emulating this experience in a way that would accentuate the characteristics of musical vibration that were of most interest.

I generated content by looping a drum and bass bassline, and applied processing to try to filter and abstract the explicit musical aspects of it. I then played the processed sound within a space, through a large PA, and recorded the effect this had on the space.

I based a composition around this. The recordings were further processed, such as through time stretching and layering, to further abstract from the notable sense of rhythmic pattern still underpinning the source material. To further abstract the work, I also incorporated ambient recordings of mechanical and electrical low frequency sound.

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Testing composition - "Vibration Project"

Questions and research outcomes

I explored two of my principal research aims:

From field recordings, I had a better understanding of how vibration sounds, how it is created and relates to low frequency stimulus, and how to record it. I realised its complexity and the limitations and challenges of trying to emulate it through software.

I compared the ‘live’ experience of being in a space activated into vibration/resonance by a large PA, to recordings of this space and process. It was clear that much of the ‘live’ experience would never translate to recording and reproduction. This was mainly because the sensation and strong low frequency presence in the space required a powerful audio system with extended low frequency response. Also, the overall sound came from a summation of the many resonances and vibration responses throughout the space, which would require sophisticated recording techniques to capture, and would likely be more interesting as a live effect.

I considered this issue and that the other artists I knew of working in the field were using large PAs in performance to create vibration [for example, Randy Yau and Scott Arford, Zbigniew Karkowski].

I resolved that for my Masters project I would explore alternative methods, suited to loudspeaker reproduction, that would offer listeners a sense of the vibration in spaces without a reliance on big PA setups.

I considered that this would create a more internalised and translatable experience, in keeping with my focus on the perception of vibration. It would also enable me to focus on the range of ‘vibrations’ that could be made from materials, rather than thinking of vibration as an interaction of sound and space in a live performance. This thinking directed later research.

Using music-based recordings, I employed many techniques to blur riddim but the musical link/pattern remained. This presented an ongoing challenge and made me consider what relevant alternate approaches I could use to heavy bass generation.

The use of more ambient material developed my creative process and helped me explore the idea that vibration potential is inherent within materials, subject to low frequency stimulus.

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Research detail subpage:   1.1 - Abstraction of “riddim” – basslines moving from musical to environmental

Reference Material