sound appropriating space

Opening Sound Space / Rupert Huber

last night i was an interesting night for thinking about the use of sound to appropriate space.

it started with a series of performances for listening spaces, as part of the sound art program at ars electronica. of course i missed the first set trying to find something to eat without meat in it. which i’m still cross about – it included a perfomance of luigi nono’s la fabrica illuminata, which i only just heard about last week (thanks huw!).

but, after that i saw/experienced some brilliant works – two by arvo pärt that took place in a room where there is a water-based sound-wave visualisation work. both works, at either end of a long warehouse space, influenced the play of light onto a wall from the shimmering water. the light and water articulated the acoustic resonance of the music in terms of the space – it was perfect. for the first work i watched the performers and the space, for the second, just the space.

after that, we all went outside to listen to another work, in the ‘public’ space. it was amazing and shocking for me to see immediately that being ‘outside’ in ‘public’, all prior codes of music listening etiquette went out the window. people were walking around, drinking beer and eating, i was tweeting about it, people were talking, facing all kinds of directions and there was hardly any ‘attention’. there was no ‘performer’ as such, although the context was still within the frame of this series of sound perfomances.

i always knew that the place of the stage/frame and black box/white box was to bring people to attention, but i had never seen it contrasted and enacted so quickly. it was amazing.

next, we were in the sound space – part of the tabakfabrik that has been singled out as an amazing resonant space and within which a lot of minimal sound works have been played over the last few days – because of the amazing acoustics and reverb. rubert huber with franz hautzinger played a sound field, which i mainly experienced by lying on my back and staring up at the ceiling, letting the composition envelope me.

i noticed how people listening throughout these performances, and it was interesting to note the dynamics in this last spatial work. the traditional dynamic between performer/audience was rendered useless by the end and again, it was about the work and how it was experienced.

it started off with a stack of people facing the centre, where the instruments were. after half way (during which i had been lying down the whole time), i noticed that people who couldn’t “not-watch” had left, and the rest had found positions lying down on the floor, propped up against the wall, relaxing into their chairs and assuming positions more conducive to a non-visual attention.

right up my alley.

in fact, people were so relaxed that the last 5 minutes of a performance included a new bass-line: from a snoring member of the audience, which reverbed throughout the building. me and a couple of peeps almost wet ourselves repressing our laughter.

then, as a compliment, or adjunct to that on the way home, i was walking home through the empty streets of linz when a pair of drunks came walking down the hill, singing. i could hear them from about 500 metres away and it was such a beautiful sight – arm in arm, walking and singing some english pop song together. as we got closer, they didn’t even stop singing – we just waved at each other and they carried on belting out this tune, which carried through the whole city. i could hear them for about 500m after we passed too – i giggled my arse off the whole time.

i loved it! they were using the empty city as a perfect acoustic stage, again not for the audience/performance dynamic but for the work itself.

image thanks to rubra from flickr. i will upload my pics a bit later

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