Idea 3: Sound Helmet

‘If we can make virtual reality, why not to make a virtual sound environment?’
This suggestion is from my friend. It suddenly comes out to me that I can make a ‘fake’ sound surround sound – with a helmet.
Why Helmet
As mentioned in my last blog, surround speakers is a effective way to build an ideal sound playback environment because the real sound comes from every direction in our real life, if we can simulate a similar environment, the playback could be very close to real situation. Comparing with Dolby Atmos system, which simulate this environment by placing speakers as much as possible, helmet is more simple and efficient – it is in shape of circle, and smaller. More than this, a helmet could even be made as a sphere.
Technical Support
Another reason I finally chose this idea is it is more workable comparing with the former 2 ideas – the resonance technique has been mature enough to be applied. The resonance speaker has now been ready to daily life. With it I can turn the helmet to a speaker possibly.
A resonance speaker is as known as vibration speaker, or exciter. It can vibrate the surface attached to it on a syntony frequency, which would turn the surface to a speaker. This is to say, I can turn the whole helmet into big speaker with exciter.
The playback environment is very important for this project because it will decide how this project would be like. The helmet is small, and the exciter is now made in module. Combination of this two advantages would make the ideal playback environment possible.
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Idea 3: Sound Helmet

Idea 2: Project Umbrella

A french guy named J.N. zippers invented camera in 1826, while the recording tech was invented 31 years later by a french scientist Leon Scott. Actually, much more hard work has been invested on sound than vision – composition of display screen is doubled every year, but 2-tone stereo speaker has been used for 63 years[ EMI tried stereo LP for the first time in 1953 ]. It is a challengeable choice to make a sound project. But it is also very important for this project to build a super hearing environment. Fortunately, many people have tried before me.

One of the solutions is Dolby Atmos, which attends to build a perfect sound playback system by using a circle of speakers. According to them, this system could:
Frees sound to move all around you: Rather than being constrained to channels, sounds exist as individual entities that are precisely placed and moved in three-dimensional space.
Adds an overhead dimension: A new sensation of height immerses you in the action, creating a full audio atmosphere and realistically depicting objects moving overhead.
Produces breathtaking sound quality: Dolby Atmos renders everything from dialogue to quiet scenes to whirlwind action with astonishing clarity, richness, detail, and depth.
Creates a powerfully moving entertainment experience: It all comes together in sound that excites your senses and inspires your emotions to deliver the full impact of entertainment.

This is a very direct way to rebuild sound closing to reality.It is obviously impossible to just place a number of speakers for my project, but this can be a reference for me – by setting speakers as a circle, the user in the centre will be able to get an ideal sound playback experience.
Inspired by the structure of umbrella, I realised that I can get use of umbrella to build an similar array of speakers.
(img)
The problem is, however, controlling audio with more than 2 tones is very challengeable, not to mention recording relevant sound for them. As mentioned above, stereo standard[ 2-tone audio ] has been used for 63 years, all the hardware and software is designed for 2 tones. I considered to use 8 microphone to record directly to each speakers, but making them work in real-time is almost impossible for portable controller [ such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino ]. Although there is some artists did so as I searched, but those who use multiple speakers is only for experimental/concept sound, instead of specific sound.

Similar Project ‘Anywhere’ from Russian Artist Vtol
Moreover, umbrella is a tool that has been set to a specific meaning for people, which might mislead my users to use it as a sound installation.
Idea 2: Project Umbrella

Idea 1: Individual Soundscape Based on Time

By this moment, the purpose of my final major project has been developed to: based on individual, collecting sound in continuous timed always sticking to the space changed with the individual. Then process and group the sound, to make it full of information and motion for representing the status of this people during this period of time. Meanwhile, interaction design in this project, is to group and interact this sound, making it to express more.

Here is an reference project that made by Axel Bluhme from Royal College of Art.
XOXX Composer – A Music Box For The Digital Era
XOXX Composer is a sound sample instrument using magnets to create digital music in a playful and visual way.

According to Axel,

‘ XOXX wants to simplify the language of rhythm by exposing how hidden digital functions like; sampling, looping and sequencing relate to mechanical functions and physical interaction.

It is a plug and play hardware and desktop app that have been designed to let anyone create music from all kinds of genres, from raw industrial techno to groovy 80’s disco to dusty hip hop beats, by simply snapping magnets in place.

There are eight rotating discs meaning eight sound samples can be played dynamically with one another at the same time. Each disc is quantised into 16 steps for the possibility to create complex rhythmical patterns. Below each disc there is a physical interface for pitch tuning and volume output.

XOXX is MIDI compatible and allows a wide variety of electronic musical instruments, computers and related devices to connect and communicate with it. Use XOXX with your favourite DAW or connect it to the dedicated XOXX desktop app. The app comes with an extensive sample library and it is easy to assign sounds to the discs. Here you can also monitor pitch tuning and volume output form your XOXX hardware.

In the XOXX booklet there are 30 templates with suggested sound samples to create all kinds of different kinds of rhythms and grooves, from raw industrial techno to groovy 80’s disco and dusty hip hop beats. There are also empty slot templates to fill in with your own creations. ‘

In this project, the temple, value and timbre are totally given as sample to users. In another hand, by rotating the roller, the users can easily control the rhythm – it is in some way ‘partly create’. Moreover, with the magnets, the users could also change the other key elements. That is even more attractive for them.

It is an example that create a sample module to allow users create and change music without any professional knowledge.

And there is another reference project that made by PAN studio.
  • Alpha Beaters (PAN Studio)


    In this project, audience could collect the sound around them by themselves, controlling the rhythm through an iPad as the interface, to create their own music. The purpose of this project, according to the author, is to help people to explore the sonic potential of the environment around them.

    Analyse
    This is a very mature and complete plan. It makes the collected sound full of interaction. By collecting in this project, it means collecting different timbre of sound. If looking from a perspective of audience, we will find that the pitch in this project is static, which was come from environment. In the other hand, the rhythm was come from the creation of audience. On this condition, the audience gave the sound ‘pulsing rhythm’, and the ‘layering melody’ was given by different material.

    The presenting way is even more reasonable because the tribe of this project is child and the purpose is to exploring the relationship between sound and environment.

I will take the similar way with Alpha Beaters: Take iPad as interface, to encourage my audience to recall their soundstory. The difference is that I will choose more typical, bright and distinct environment sound. And I will also reorganise and build the sound group/collection based on the result I discussed in chapter 2 of my thesis.
After researching, I did my first prototype.
It is an installation with mic and speaker. Users are actually playing a collection game with it. There are 7 lights on this installation that represent 7 notes from do to si. As we known, each note has a exact sound frequency. This is the only thing that decides note.
By detecting the sound via mic, the specific light will turn on if there is any recorded sound conform the specific frequency. When users have collected all the 7 notes. The installation would be ready for play – a melody that everyone does know. But apart from the melody and rhythm, the timbre is from the sound that recorded before by users.
This idea was eventually abandoned because thinking of the past there have been a lot of experiment artists did such a kind of projects such as John Cage. What`s more, I should have think more about how to apply interaction into my project.
Idea 1: Individual Soundscape Based on Time

What Makes Up the Environment Around Us?


What makes up the environment around us?

Everyone has a unique memory for each specific place. They could be from the train passing by our homes, dog shouting from neighbours or baby crying from little brother. More or less, we feel a place through sound, so we do to memory it. Comparing with vision, although, sound is more likely to be ignored, it is still typical feature in our surroundings. The human realised it in early 1970s when R . Murray Schafer founded a group named ‘The World Soundscape Project’. Afterward, a new word ‘soundscape’ was created and studied as a subject. Acoustic ecology and sonic sociology were later established as well based on soundscape to discuss and research the interactivity between live beings and sound. Fundamentally, there are more than one element that decides our impression about soundscape, just like the three elements – timbre, value and pitch – in general sound. I am thinking of the possibility of tracking the soundscape of individual in daily life as my project, which will try to find a way to approach and collect everyone`s soundscape through a interactive installation [or mobile app], building them into a unique ‘song’. By making such a kind of song, the purpose of this project, is to build a sound memory palace to storage, remind and share our soundscape, finding a multiple way to feel environment.

Soundscape

‘Soundscape’ is a word that made up of ‘sound’ and ‘scape’, just like its meaning. In early 1970s, a Canadian composer named R. Murray Schafer founded a group ‘The World Soundscape Project’ aimed to describe noise contamination in the very beginning. However, after analysing sound, Schafer and his group found that sometimes the sound from environment could be positive, such as nature sound and culture sound. He started to named this kind of sound with ‘the music of environment’ (1973) and published the book ‘The Vancouver Soundscape’. Two years later, Schafer established a research towards five villages in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France and the Soviet Union, and wrote a very important book in soundscape named ‘Five Village’(1977). He stated that soundscape could include more than natural sound and artifactual sound, which is memory. According to Southworth(1969), we usually recognise and feel a city mainly through vision. However, Schafer argued that if we could also feel and memory a place through sound, including memory sound, culture sound and society sound, we would get a more impressive and multiple feeling about environment.

Acoustic Ecology

The development of acoustic ecology is strongly relative with Murray Schafer and The World Soundscape Project. More and more researchers and artists around world have paid attention on it since this group was established in Vancouver. Shortly after, it became an international group. Sonic sociology and radio art caused the public attention on soundscape. Actually, soundscape has greatly developed in different fields.

It seems quite often when we shot life or scene with camera. If we regard photography as landscape, we could call environmental sound as soundscape. Acoustic ecology, based on soundscape, is a subject that explore interactivity between live beings and environment/society. When we feel the sound surrounding us proactively, the sound would connect to us.

In most of sound panels and conference, acoustic ecology has become a transboundary topic, which has applied by sound aesthetics, neuroscience and narrative design. More than just preventing noise contamination, people have started to consider relationship between soundscape and local live beings.

Pioneer of Environment Sound Art

John Cage, one of the pioneer in experimental musician, has raised a lot of concept for experimental music. In his work ‘ 0’0” ’, Cage commented, as cited by Kostelanetz (1988), ‘music  is nothing but the continuation of one’s daily work, whatever it is, providing it’s not selfish, but is the fulfillment of an obligation to other people, done with contact microphones, without any notion of concert or theater or the public, but simply continuing one’s daily work, now coming out through loudspeakers.’ This is to say, there are two key elements in experimental music: a sequence of movement/work; amplified[ come out through loudspeakers ]. Knocking the table, applauding or even shouting can be part of a sequence of movement, if you amplify them with a certain method, it can be music.

Thus we can know that everything could be musical instrument and everyone is potential musician. The variety of music depends on the moment we play it. The point is, therefore, order is simple but imagination is limitless. According to John Cage, Intermedium is even more meaningful than music itself, because intermedium decides timbre.

Some Relative Projects

– soundscape from places
http://www.shanghaisoundsguide.com/soundscapes/

Sander Sneek < Soundscape VR >
http://www.creativeunitycoder.com

Steve Symons < Aura > – detect the stuff that forms around you with sound
http://stevesymons.net/taxonomy/term/6

What Makes Up the Environment Around Us?

Sound is More than Sonic

Sound is much more than sonic itself. We knew that because everyone has such kind of experience. After doing some research, I listed what I found as below, trying to find more specific content behind sound.
  1. The affect on sound caused by musical instrument.

For example, there will be different style if same music playing with different instrument

[ Example ]

Composition: BGM from < Pacific Rim >

Original version:
https://soundcloud.com/watertowermusic/pacrimpreview#t=0:23

Music box version:
https://soundcloud.com/bastien-lenoir/pacific-rim-music-box

Chinese traditional instrument version:
https://soundcloud.com/impossiblechuck/pacific-rim-crimson-typhoon-1

  1.  Sound is visible

According to Neil Harbisson, ‘There is relative colour for most of sound. He mapped sound with colours’.

        For example, the speech given by Hitler(left) and Martin Luther King looks totally different. The colour of the latter looks more smoothy.
        

Images Generated by Speech of Adolf Hilter and Martin Later King

 
  1.        Musical instrument is the key element that determine the [experimental] music art.
[ John Cage ]: Comparing with other music genre, timbre is more important to (experimental)music.
This is to say, sound quality might be quite relative with emotion.

Artists are trying to play sound with different way that quite different from classic music style.

[ Example1 ]  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkaUsBwe0fo&feature=youtu.be
[ Example2 ]  http://malupeeters.org/filter/performance/sound-boards-2014-interactive-sound-installation-for-SCHWEITZER-and

It is even possibly to say that expressionism is a kind of art that put the expression to the key element instead of content.
Painting: [ Wassily Kandinsky ] – Abstract Painting
Drama: [ August Strindberg ]
Music: [ Arnold Schoenberg ] – Twelve-tone technique

Artists of expressionism think art should not be described or symbolise anything, instead, it should express directly the feeling we have, the experience and spirit at that moment.

Based on Strindberg, Alban Berg developed atonality music, which is less musical. And Anton Webern developed serial music based on atonality music. From this point, the sound can be made to music completely with a serial of independent sound.

  1. Make sound using the feeling of audience, and environment of that moment.

The sound has three key elements: value, pitch and quality. The propose of this project is to map the feeling and environment with these three elements.

[ Example1 ] V&A Project from Miyu and Eva
Control the quality and pitch of sound, based on colour.

[ Example2 ] http://www.earslap.com/page/otomata.html
Control the value(beat) of sound, based on pitch that created by audience.

Sound is More than Sonic

Where is Music Come from And Where will It Go?

It is hard to trace back the birth of music. Historian think music may be born from ordered sequence of sound and beats from nature. Ancient people then imitated these kind of sound. Actually, even now we can find some of music trying to imitate these kinds of sound. The earliest music we know, which can be found in stone inscriptions, is located Ur ancient town in Mesopotamia from more than 4000 years ago.


early 14th-century English manuscript (British Museum)

In fact, we can not confirm the exact form and status of music until the invention of recording technique. However, it is possible to presume the procedure from sound to music for us according to musical scores, separate vocal and instrumental parts on cave, stone inscriptions, bamboo slip and parchment.

Thus we know that it is quite a long time when we recognise music, control it and then appreciate it. Even through, we can still find some of the ancient music today, such as Greek music, Christian music, and a huge number of classical music which were mainly written between fifteen and eighteen century. Numerous musical instruments are still widely used around world in different kind of music, like harp and djembe.


harp and djembe

People inherit those ancient musical works, and have never stopped to initiate new instruments and music form. Experimental music, as a music type, is to define this kind of initiation of music. Musician try to use different tools, objects or even follow different music theory to make sound become music.

As Pat (2011) said, The instruments and music travel the same miles and ages through out the world. The instruments, of course are also a part of sound(p.9). Most of music are presented by the specific traditional instruments – not only in western classical music, but also in asian traditional music. For example, the relationship between lute and pentatonic in China. Therefore, apart from music itself, musical instruments have been given liveness and emotion.

However, for what consideration the musician [ or composer ] chose the musical instrument to express their music? Moreover, how can we define the instrument as musical instrument? Can we play the same music using different instrument? If so, what it sounds like?

If musical instruments is a part of music, for what consideration the musician and composer chose the music instrument to express their music?

It is true that western classical musical instruments and music form has been a popular and mainstream of music today. However, why there are still people trying to play the traditional instruments, which have always had players and audience.


Traditional Musical Instrument Still Being Played

It is hard to define ‘music’ from sound. As in some way, any music is a kind of experimental art to sound.
G. Pat(2011), Musical Instrument, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, p. 9
Where is Music Come from And Where will It Go?

Masters in Experimental Art

[ John Cage ]

Comparing with other music genre, timbre is more important to (experimental)music.

John Cage, one of the pioneer in experimental musician, has raised a lot of concept for experimental music. In his work ‘ 0’0” ’, Cage commented, as cited by Kostelanetz (1988), ‘music  is nothing but the continuation of one’s daily work, whatever it is, providing it’s not selfish, but is the fulfillment of an obligation to other people, done with contact microphones, without any notion of concert or theater or the public, but simply continuing one’s daily work, now coming out through loudspeakers.’ This is to say, there are two key elements in experimental music: a sequence of movement/work; amplified[ come out through loudspeakers ]. Knocking the table, applauding or even shouting can be part of a sequence of movement, if you amplify them with a certain method, it can be music.

Thus we can know that everything could be musical instrument and everyone is potential musician. The variety of music depends on the moment we play it. The point is, therefore, order is simple but imagination is limitless. According to John Cage, Intermedium is even more meaningful than music itself, because intermedium decides timbre.

Cage (1962) even claimed that any sound amplified by microphone is music.

John Cage’s 4’33” defies silence

[ Arnold Schoenberg & Wassily Kandinsky ]

Arnold Schoenberg is a famous music theorist, while Wassily Kandinsky is famous for his abstractism painting. Schoenberg got acquainted with Kandinsky in 1908 in his early life. They founded Blue Rider group, which was a group of artists united in rejection of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München in Munich, Germany. Inspired from each other in that time, Schoenberg started to compose atonality music, which was different than any music before that lacks a tonal center, or key, while Kandinsky made a great breakthrough in his abstractism waiting.

The atonality music, which was founded by Schoenberg, focused more on the sound itself than music theory, which was later seen as defiance to traditional music. Some theorists thought this kind of music actually has some rules, but it is based on the natural law and logic. Schoenberg developed from atonality music an important new composing method – twelve-tone technique. The basic rule in this method, is to scramble all the notes, seeing all the pitches as equality, using rhythm to control sound. This is rough form of futurism music, which was later respected and raised by John Cage in experimental music. In fact, Schoenberg was the teacher of John Cage.

On the other hand, Kandinsky, the famous painter, started painting using a very similar method with Schoenberg. This is reasonable because we might assume that the colour in painting and notes in music can be described and express in similar ways. And both works of them have a common feature which was to break the rule in art work and rebuild a form focusing on the basic elements. The style in Kandinsky`s painting was later considered as a very important form in abstractism paiting.

The interesting point is, in Kandinsky`s opinion, the colour could be heard. He often named his painting with ‘impromptu’ or ‘structure’, which was usually seen in music works.

A century later, this ability of synesthesia, was expressed by another artist – Neil Harbisson – ‘there is relative colour for most of sound.’ He mapped sound with colours.

 
Wassily Kandinsky, The First Abstraction, watercolor, Blue Rider Group, 1910
Masters in Experimental Art