MAX MSP / CONTACT MICROPHONES / PROJECTION
WHAT IS IT?
The inception of Spectre, an interactive audiovisual instillation, was born from the ideas generated toward the end of my undergraduate degree, particularly the Monolith project of my final year. Watching how people would interact with my previous projects, in particular how they would develop an understanding and awareness of how their actions impacted a given outcome, was the key focus here. I wanted to explore these interactions and moments of self discovery, whilst also concealing any direct links between input and output. The audience were to ultimately discover their personal impression upon the piece, but to unearth absolute relationships would be troublesome at best.
Whilst the chosen space would eventually evolve the project forward in its own right, the initial concept was quite simple. A given space would be fitted with a means to record audio, the captured audio from this space is then manipulated and used as a means of output and control. The primary idea being that as an audience walks the space, their footsteps, whispers, even the rustling of their clothing, all of these tiny sounds are taken and contorted into something unrecognisable and thrown back at them at irregular intervals. I wanted to capture a sense of unease, to distract and discombobulate the audience, but leave enough just breadcrumbs to provoke frenzied curiosity.
The software was written in Max MSP and was split into three sections. Though the methodology behind each process was alike, they all had a unique role to play in the eventual soundscape created. Recording was a constant procedure, but audio was only selected to be processed once it passed a certain amplitude threshold. These modest chunks of audio, often single footsteps or coughs, were then processed using varying granular synthesis operations I had built into the software. These could perform feats such as distending minuscule snippets of audio into an interminable discord or taking the hushed whispers of conversation and franticly scattering the fragments seized into the space.
The audio below demonstrates the individual operations and the unification of all three. Guitar is used as the input signal on all tracks, with an attempt to make the operations easier to comprehend.
Visual elements were planned for the instillation but did not truly come into their own until the space was selected. With a desire to use a space which could aesthetically mirror my concept, we found a short tunnel which was used as a walkway between two streets on the Historic Dockyard in Chatham. The space was narrow, cramped and for most attendees, markedly claustrophobic, serving as an ideal counterpoint to the feelings of unease I was looking to instil . To further these emotions, the tunnel was engulfed in fog, with these hazy bodies of smoke draped with abstract video projections, adding an indeterminable nature to where the tunnel would begin and end. All video used was in turn linked to sound output, with visuals intensifying as the noise in the tunnel became more and more cacophonous.
Feedback throughout and following the event was overwhelming, providing the reactions I had hoped to witness, along with reinforcing unresolved suggestions I had put forward during the early conception of the project. The most gratifying of these propositions to be proved true, was the notion of creating a reactive based feedback between the instillation and the audience. The investigative relationship between the two would allow the noise to gather momentum and build to deafening crescendos, as the participants scurried around the space tapping, then talking, stomping, shouting, with each party firing back at one another, daring the other to be louder. Not entirely finished, this is a piece that I am determined to showcase again, ideally in more than one single space. The tunnel allowed the piece a cavernous echo and the freedom to use an unusually effective quadrophonic set up, scattering sounds in a convincing three-dimensional manner, however the thought of how the piece would unfold in a different location is enthralling, ensuring this will eventually see the light of day again.