mixing spaces

There is something strangely un-pin-down-able about what it means (to me at least) to work with physical space in a compositional sense. The first piece I created was borne of a recital hall. The sound materials met IKO (and its reflectors, shown in the video below) in the space. I worked on a synthesis of the two, and at a point reclined ironically on a formal chair, satisfied. I thought it sounded great.

Then I transposed the piece (physically and sonically) to a different space – IEM’s CUBE. It sounded pretty bad. Which was partly a feature of the fact that the guys from Sonible, IEM’s Franz Zotter and Daniel Rudrich, and my visiting friend Axel Drioli were sat in rapt attention, listening.

There’s a whole slew of writing that needs to be inserted here about the range of listening quality and experience which different kinds of attention potentiate. I cannot be sidetracked into that field right now. Though I’m tempted.

So, I set to work to make things right, albeit after the horse had bolted (there’s a German equivalent of this saying – “den Brunnen erst zudecken, wenn das Kind ertrunken” which rather brutally translates as “cover the well after the child has drowned”).

I adjusted the piece for the CUBE, which I imagined would mean a site-specific mix. It kind of does. But it’s also in excess of mixing. When space is involved, and when you listen to that space, it’s a very different process to a regular mix. Levels were fundamentally changed, beyond any usual parameters. The arrangement was changed. The trajectories of the sound materials were changed. Everything had to be reconsidered for this space. And this space isn’t wildly different. Acoustically, yes, but not as big a leap as it would be if moving to a space with very disimilar proportions, size or reverberation. The IKO requires a level of commitment which fascinates me. It felt like an almost entirely re-worked piece. I am eager to try it in a third space and listen to what it asks for.

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