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Sonic Acts 2010 Wrap-Up

John Kannenberg is a first year MFA candidate in the School of Art and Design.

The Game of Life Foundation's Wave Field Synthesis system, a 192-speaker surround sound system.

The last half of the Sonic Acts 2010 conference was just as jam-packed as the first. The third day focused primarily on field recording and music, beginning with one of the figureheads of contemporary R. Murray Schaeffer-influenced recording practice, Barry Truax, lecturing about his own work composing music with environmental sounds. I was particularly interested in his discussions of convolution and its application to the manipulation of the acoustic space of field recordings.

A presentation by Hildegard Westerkamp followed, discussing her long-standing interest in leading soundwalks. Some technical difficulties (see the above video), while unfortunate, actually enhanced the drama of her presentation, an interesting blend of lecture, listening exercises and recitations of quotes about the practice of soundwalks, spoken by people sitting amongst the audience and challenging those present to shift their listening attention to different acoustic spaces.

The interview with Annea Lockwood that followed focused on her return to the sonic spaces of rivers with her new project, A Sound Map of the Danube. Existing as both a stereo album recording and a 2.5 hour long 5.1 surround sound installation, Lockwood's new piece sees her exploring the sonic landscape surrounding the Danube River, her intention being to transport the listener to a specific place through sound. Lockwood initially made her reputation as a composer with a similar piece, A Sound Map of the Hudson River, another piece exploring the sonic mapping of a particular place.

Steven Connor reading "Secession"

The day ended with a panel entitled The Hot Space in Music, revisiting the artists who presented at STEIM a couple of days before but with one notable exception: the panel began with Steven Connor reading his essay Secession, a piece about sound, space, and his own struggles with the auditory affliction tinnitus. One of the highlights of the entire conference for me, his talk was incredibly inspiring in its heartfelt analysis of sound's relationship with space and how a phenomenon like tinnitus can make us question our notions of space.

The final day's presentations consisted of the keynote speech Representation of Space in the Brain by Michael J. Morgan was just as insightful about the way the mind perceives space as it was about how the current trend of 3-D movie technology will ultimately fail just like its predecessors. And the final panel I attended, Spatial Perception featured three very exciting sound installation artists: HC Gilje, Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag and Jakob Kirkegaard, who discussed their various uses of video and sound in space.

The concerts and film screenings the last two days were equally impressive. Jakob Kirkegaard's Sabulation (see above video) was shown amidst surround pieces by Barry truax, Hildegard Westerkamp and Annea Lockwood.

The Game of Life Foundation held a series of recitals of music composed for their Wave Field Synthesis system, a surround sound system consisting of 192 speakers and eight subwoofers.

The grand finale of the entire conference took place at the Artis Planetarium in the Amsterdam Zoo, where a series of sound performances were accompanied by laser lights (in sets by TeZ and Francisco Lopez) and video, as in the piece pictured above by Paul Prudence, whose video covered the entire planetarium dome and had the audience gasping. A fitting end to a conference about sound art: art that made its audience make sound in response.