Perception - a Sonic Art & Media Concert Utilizing Distributed Performance Systems

November 21, 2011

Perception - a Sonic Art & Media Concert Utilizing Distributed Performance Systems

Perception Overview

The work can be divided into three thematic sections, a Triptych of sorts: granularity, recognition/categorization, and reflection.

Granularity deals with the perceptual discontinuity between events or moments in time and the flow of those events over time. Visually, we have an analog of seeing wheels that appear to go backwards when they rotate at a specific speed. Memory is also problematic in that it is a freezing of time, and a fairly unstable one at that. Aurally, this section makes use of polyrhythms and a signal processing technique called granular synthesis where sounds can be broken down into extremely small grains, manipulated and then reconstructed in a stream to create a new continuous sound. The audience will be able to interact in three ways over the course of this section. The first serves to introduce them to the interaction by letting them trigger a sound by simply tapping on their device screen. The second gives them the ability to make rhythmic sequences which are incorporated into a section about the relativity of time with visuals derived from the story of Einstein traveling past a clock tower in a train and theorizing that if he was traveling at the speed of light, the clock would look as if it were standing still as he passed it. A third allows them to draw gestural images on their screens and the gestures are auralized - rising gestures map into rising pitch, swift movements become more intense sounds, etc. The images created here are stored and used in a later perceptual section as Rorschach tests.

Categorization plays off of the imperfect perception of sonic and visual events. Aural instability will be emphasized with transformations between the meanings of recognizable sounds. Water will transform into leaves rustling and then into fire. Speech will transform into babbling brooks and door slams into book slams. The meaning of these sound objects will become dependent on their context - playing off of the fragility of perception. Plato’s Cave is a focal point here. In his vision, prisoners are chained in a cave with their backs to a fire for their entire existence. Their only knowledge of their surroundings comes from what they hear behind them and the shadows cast on the walls in front of them. His concept is that there are forms/ideas/truths that are behind the veiled effects that we see and that the philosopher’s job is to tease them out. Shadowy visual projections will provide a foil to the sonic transformations.

The final section of reflection will deal with mirror images and symmetry, and metaphorically about self-awareness by using Rorschach tests sent to each person’s mobile device. Audience members will have the opportunity to send comments about how they see each shadowy form. These images and responses are mixed and projected along with images pulled from the web that pertain to these responses. Eventually the web imagery takes over and audience members can suggest their thoughts about the imagery, leading the piece in entirely different directions.

The Laptop Orchestra of Louisiana will perform the sonic compositions that tie each of the sections together and underlie the entire evening. The audience will get to provide substantial contributions to the sonic events, melodies, rhythms, and imagery that makes up the performance.