Commission Music

Commission Music
Bespoke Noise!!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Oy, I'm knackered

Tired and going native in my speech habits, but not, so far, my drinking habits. A normal night on the town here can quite often involve vomit from over-indulgence. This just doesn't sound fun to me. So my tiredness is from appropriately puritanical sources. I've been working at something called a "test setup."

We took a hundred or so speakers and arranged them as if we were giving a concert, but there was no concert. Instead, we were testing things. We've got a cool Berlin guy to build us a box with 64 motorized, touch-sensitive faders. He flew in with the prototype and there was discussion of firmware. The plan is purchase three of these.

Then we tested Ambisonics which is a method of positioning sounds in space with an oddly cult-like following of users. People who like it really really like it. It sounded weird on our system. One outside observer informed us that we were sending in the wrong sort of sounds for it to work. The easy comment is that a panning system that only works with a few types of sounds is not the most useful, but that comment is unfair. A speaker array like ours turns into a sort of architecture and not all sounds work in all spaces. Gospel music is great, but sounds bad in cathedrals. It needs a room with a short decay time. Similarly, plain chant in an acoustically dead church is going to fall very flat.

Obviously, people compose for the kinds of spaces and instruments that they have. Modern concert halls are very dry and sound really good with the sort of stochastic-like short pulses of 20th century music. So it shouldn't be surprising that our rig is going to have a body of work that sounds good with it and not as good with different controlling software.

We normally use something that's pronounced as "V-bap", but I don't know what the acronym stands for. It's equal power pan spread across three speakers to localize a sound in space and it seems to require quite a lot less math. Basically: you know that you can make a sound seem to move back and forth by twisting the balance knob on your stereo. Well, add a third speaker above and a second knob and you can make it go up and down too.

For my part, I carried things around and otherwise did grunt work, which can be a good way to learn about a system without having to ask too many questions or go to a lecture. I tried to play my phone phreaking piece, but I couldn't get it to work on the computer attached to all the speakers, alas.

One of my favorite students in the program flew in from Spain to work on the test setup, so it was good to talk to him. Apparently he used to have an internet addiction and now he talks about strategies to stop using the net aside from getting email and how much better his life is net-free. I remain unconvinced. Besides, I can quit any time.

Still the internet has kind of begun to bore me. The social network sites are dull and give me little for my time. The news is still valuable. But blogs . . . so many of them are narcissistic and dull. Maybe I should stop.

1 comment:

sonicstew said...

as much as your last thought echoes the title of this blog, i hope you don't stop because you are one of the only actually entertaining (well-written) blogs