I have just returned from a very inspirational 10 days at Timelab, Ghent, Belgium. I was invited to take part in Summercamp Electrified, an intensive residency with a group of really interesting artists from all over the world. It was a stimulating week, creating alongside others in a short timeframe. The brief was to ‘reclaim public space’. Have a look at the other artists work here.
After some research into the history of Ghent, I was drawn to the fact that the city grew from the meeting of two rivers and the waterways of Ghent have always played a significant part in the cities identity, tourism and trade routes.
I armed myself with hydrophones and set out to uncover the hidden underwater sounds of the city. I was surprised at how quiet the canals were – until a boat was in the vague vicinity, when it became interesting to hear the different sounds the motor made when listened to through the water. I also had a listen to the (numerous) fountains, the drains and the rain (of which there was an abundance!). I worked quite a lot with the sounds, enhancing some qualities and pulling out frequencies to create a more musical montage.
The main new development was a new interface via which these sounds could be triggered. Before the camp, I had a clear idea about this interface and worked with MaxMSP expert, Matthew Olden, to create a patch that used drawing (on a graphics tablet) to reveal the recorded sounds mapped in 2D space.
The resulting work consisted of a minimal map of Ghent showing the waterways and roads, presented on an upturned monitor with a graphics tablet. As you drew over the map, an image of water was revealed and sounds were gradually faded up, in quadraphonic sound depending on how much of it had been ‘uncovered’. (There was also an option to erase areas too). Each sound was placed on the map corresponding to the place it was recorded. It gave the viewer the opportunity to reveal the underwater sounds of Ghent, and to also shape / compose their own surround soundscape.
We aim to develop this interface further and explore more physical interactions, instead of a graphics tablet…. here is a screengrab movie of the interface in action…. The differences in the sounds are quite subtle and might be better listened to on headphones. This is not the full quadrophonic experience, just a taster.