III-VI" exists in two versions - one version as a sound installation,
one version as a concert work. Each Microclimate attempts to capture my experience from unique locations in Western Norway during 20th-27th April 2007.
A 3-D sound-space is created using 3rd-order ambisonics spatialisation
projected over 16 loudspeakers.|
The concert version combines spatialisation performance with pre-programmed spatial information.
Composition beginning in sound recording
These works were composed prior to my owning a Soundfield microphone. Instead I applied a recording technique using multiple microphones of different types, placed at varying distances to the sounds that I was interested in capturing. In some ways the complete environment of each location is placed under a sound-microscope.
I carried out a systematic recording approach in each location. This involved:
- Staying in the area for a time to survey and understand its characteristics.
- Make a series of static close, mid and distance recordings from many angles and locations.
- Focus on a few specific locations and use the microphones to actively search out sound characteristics.
Sound transformation - a tend towards hyper-reality:
I was mainly alone during the fieldwork which meant that I could stay as long as I wished in any single location and focus on sound, its change in time and space, and what we could call 'the counterpoint of the environment'.Much of the composing work involved editing, montage and smaller spectral enhancement.
Microclimates III-VI is spatialised over a three-dimensional 16-loudspeaker array: eight loudspeakers in a central ring, four lower and four higher. The spatial information is encoded in 3rd-order ambisonics format - which unlike normal surround-panning can achieve a realistic 3-D sound-field over a relatively large listening area.
Microclimate III: Glacial Loop
On my first attempt to record sound at Briksdalsbreen glacier the wind was so strong that it forced rain horizontally into my face and body. For brief milliseconds I could open my eyes to glimpse a blue, ice monolith through the turmoil. On my second attempt some days later, the scene was completely different. Although grey and drizzling, there was not a breath of wind. An enormous icy wall of blue twists and gashes suspended vertically an unknown distance away across a glacial melt lake. After rowing out toward the ice I ceremony descended two hydrophones into the water. My guide rowed so close to the face of the glacier that as my microphones recorded its electrical sparking, sucking, squeaking, whistling, burning and clicking sounds, I could at the same time run my hands over the smooth curves of its close-up form. Slowly and gracefully the boat glided away from the face and returned to the opposite shore.
Microclimate IV: Wet Face|
Wet Face is composed from the sound of marsh birds, dripping water, squelching mud, tearing moss and rotten tree-wood in the Sandane area. By recording with close microphones and hydrophones, sounds that for our normal ears are a gentle pitter-patter are transformed into a bombardment. The rhythmic performance of incessant dripping had begun when I arrived. Its millisecond timing was 'computer' perfect. I expect it will be the same year after year. Maybe the rhythm will change as the rock is eroded.
Microclimate V: Water Fall|
For Water Fall I threw two hydrophones off a bridge into the white rapids of Holvik Fossen (Gloppen), while four more microphones capture the air-born soundscape. Turbulence and eddies dragged the hydrophones through local current systems, tossed them suddenly into the air or further down stream, smacked them into opposite eddies or plunged them into imploding air cavities. After a while I learnt a little about the waterfall's system and attempted to anticipate where the microphones would end up and what type of sound they would capture.
Microclimate VI: Remote gale|
The timing of my trip meant that an excursion to Utvaer would not enable entrance into the main attraction of the lighthouse, nor to overnight on the island. Instead the idea was to overnight at Hardbakke - a westerly point of the mainland - and daytrip by boat to the island. When I arrived at the accommodation a full storm brewed in the distance. Later that evening I received an SMS from an old sailor friend reading "full storm, 40 knots south westerly. This is no weather for sailing in the open ocean. Stay on land". The next morning a call came from the captain saying he needed more time to get hold of a "bigger boat"... The driving rain and wind had clearly not deterred him, so I used this extra time to waterproof my equipment. Out at sea my stomach continually leapt into my mouth. At Utaer the wind and rain drove horizontally. Even with a thick weather shield over my microphones I needed to find windbreaks. The wind sung around every rock, every corner, through every gap. It was so strong you could even hear the airborne wind sound on hydrophones in the sea. The island was scattered with small houses. At one end rose the lighthouse. Open porches offered some rest from the raw weather. The lighthouse's locked door hid a tower of still air. The wind knocked me over and one stereo microphone became entangled in a thorny bush. I let the wind buffet both bush and microphone as one, recording continuously.