Involuntary Expression (2017)

17'00 (higher order ambisonics version)
15'00 (stereo and 8-channel versions)

Involuntary Expression 6th-order 3D ambisonics, premiered on the 11th September 2017 at the Ultima Festival, Marmorsalen, Sentralen, Oslo.

Other multichannel formats and stereo for sound diffusion are also available.

Can the spatial and dynamic behaviour of sound evoke the sensation of a living entity? Can we feel the music through the sound's behaviour in space?.

To explore this idea I first captured micro-movements from three motion sources - crowds attempting to collectively stand still, a cellist and a drummer - using a high-speed and high spatial-resolution 3D motion-capture camera system. Rather than record the sounds that these people made, I was instead interested in their physical movement that makes no sound in itself. Many of the motion recordings captured 'involuntary' micro-movements of which we are often unaware. I then used the data from these recordings to create and control sound, and magnify gesture to fill the expanse of space.

The work was commissioned with support from the Norwegian Cultural Council. Special thanks to The Department of Musicology, University of Oslo, for the spatial recordings of the 'Norwegian Championship of Standstill'.

More about the motion sources:

Micro-movements are the body's small movements that we ourselves may feel, but for a viewer are undetectable. These movements are present in all we do, and can feel significant even though invisible. Likewise, when we watch a musician, we see the larger movements and how they connect to the sound we hear, yet the micro-movements, vital in the control of the sound, are known only to the musician herself.

In the acousmatic aesthetic there is nothing to see. In Involuntary Expression the music of the invisible is made audible in the acousmatic context. Rather than tracking larger movements of a crowd through a building, I instead used data recorded from the involuntary movements of a group of people attempting to stand still. The data was from the Norwegian Championships in Standstill - a research project lead by Alexander Refsum Jensenius at The Department of Musicology, University of Oslo. The competition, repeated each year, tests to see what effect music and social context had on peoples' ability to stand still. In these recordings, 100 people at a time stand together in a room. On the top of each participant's head is a marker tracked by the camera system. The winner is the person who moves least of all over a period of 10-minutes.

In contrast, the other sources were from a cellist and a drummer playing simple articulations on their instruments. Rather than one marker on the head, each performer was covered with many markers, tracked by the camera system, and together defining a 3D image of the moving body.

The work was commissioned by Notam, with support from the Norwegian Cultural Council.

Special thanks to The Department of Musicology, University of Oslo, for data from the Norwegian Championship of Standstill, and for access to the high-speed motion capture camera system used in this project.