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Re booting things as a result of lockdown

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

For those of you that don't know, I have taken a year out of my usual community music work because of lockdown. All my music work stopped and I decided to change direction and do a Masters in creative music production at the University of Hertfordshire. I am in t

The final major project phase of the course and the over the next three months I will be putting together an immersive audio visual installation with a binaural soundtrack played into wireless headphones. Think silent disco without the disco.

Binaural recording is a way of recording sound using two microphones “arranged intentionally to create a three dimensional stereo sound that gives the listener the sensation of actually being in the room.” Baust, J. (2015) Binaural recording, put simply is replicating how the brain process sound in stereo coming in through two ears either side of our heads. Our brains determine the origin of the sound, by assessing the differences as it reaches each ear.

I will be making a film and soundtrack which will be projected into

a small theatre space. My aim is to move away from traditional screens and project onto objects that are not screens but act as screens. Since March 2020 there has been a lot more screen time for everyone.

I have been inspired by theatre projects that I have worked on in the past and among these are Magic Adventure an immersive show for very young children and Songline for Doggerland which was a community theatre production in which the use of projections transformed the inside of a church where it was performed.

I am relieved to say that I have come up with more concrete ideas for this project. The film will be a collection of images of the sounds being made with abstract images making use of shadow and stills. It will be interspersed with memorable sound experiences from my childhood and a narrative in the form of a series of telephone conversations between two friends. One, whose position is that music is not important to them and they wouldn’t care if they ever heard another musical note ever again. The other who believes that being human and music are intrinsically linked.

The theme of the project is based on seminal sounds that influenced me from childhood. I also want to explore the music and sounds of the everyday and use a statement made to me by a family member that music was not important to her “I wouldn’t care I ever heard another musical note ever again.” She also said that she could not identify regional accents, which has always made me wonder if these two things are linked, and if it may be due to a neurological processing difference such as amusia.

There are a number of ideas that I would like to include, these include:

  • Recreating the experience of lying underneath a grand piano as it is being played.

  • Recording birdsong and slowing it down, getting a group of singers to recreate the sound and record it with a binaural head.

  • Recreating the experience of being in the middle of a circle of singers singing an ancient Georgian healing song

  • Experimenting with underwater filming and audio recording.

  • Short original tracks re mixed binaurally acting as vignettes of story and musical interludes.

  • Recreating the sound of June, the operatic news agent. (June used to rehearse with my parents in 1982 and had a surprisingly robust operatic soprano voice!)

Of course this is not all set in stone and ideas and practicalities can change so I'm sure it will be a moveable feast.

This week I have met with the new director of Norwich Puppet Theatre and I am waiting for confirmation that I have secured the theatre for a four day residency to experiment and build the installation. This will be July the 19th -22nd. On the third or 4th day I will invite guests to see the film.

Having compiled a project schedule it is quite clear that I have made a huge amount of work for myself!

I have been researching materials to project on and currently I am experimenting with garden weed suppressant. It works well in a blacked out space.

I would like to also look at the possibility of projecting onto an enormous cloth that is being blown by a fan. I’ve seen this done before and it looks brilliant.

I have been projecting film footage using a make shift screen of weed suppressant and placing objects in-front of the screen, that act as a screen such as “Jane” the binaural head and a bell shaped standard lamp shade. Jane is highly reflective so it does not come across well in the video footage but it looks great in the room. The lamp is a cream colour and I wonder if were made of the same fabric as the screen it would be more successful as a screen.

Here are three tiny examples of todays experiments. Wear headphones to fully capture the binaural sounds.

The screen is just simply hung over a book case in my studio and there was light coming in through a gap in the curtains, but despite being in a small space, it still has proved that this extremely cheap material will do the job. I will now be able to use it to adapt other objects.

During the filming of the singers I plan to use projections as we are singing and to have someone else to operate the camera. This will save a lot of time both filming and editing.

This week I have had some very good fortune. I have been generously loaned loaned equipment from Laboratory Media Education A long throw projector, a Radio transmitter and seven sets of wireless headphones. this is a hugely helpful as the cost of the equipment would have been prohibitive. After researching into blue tooth headphones my feeling is that radio frequencies may be less problematic. (I hope so anyway). With the tech and the venue almost sorted, I have the important things in place. Just got to make the film and soundtrack! Easy!! Gulp

I am exploring the idea of projecting on the ceiling and making a comfortable space for an audience to lie down and look up. Or perhaps they can be seated with mirrors to enable ceiling gazing. My idea originally was for the audience to be able to move around the installation but this may affect the projections with people casting shadows as they move. This may be less likely to happen if the projector is pointed towards the ceiling and out of the way.

More filming and planning this week.

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