Photo by Joel Chadabe
We are constantly decoding the world around us through our highly developed multi-sensory system.
Particularly through the use of sound in our daily life, our brain constantly decodes information about where sound objects are located, what they are, their state, and how far away they are. After thousands of years of evolution, hearing has created deep connections with our neural system. Hearing connects with our primary animal instincts, for example the feeling of danger - "Is the lion behind me?" - or the parental instinct - "Is my baby crying?" - or defense of our territory, and even mating.
But sound also addresses other parts of our brain such as the feeling of relaxation and, as some say, sound accesses the 'soul' more than any of the other senses in our body, as illustrated by the extended use of music across cultures. Interestingly, sound is really a 3D sense, as it does not necessarily require movement of the head and we can hear and listen in 360 degrees. Our hearing ability is so accurate that an enormous amount of data is received by the brain and has to be filtered depending on our state of attention, sense of danger, and current priorities.
Spatialization, for an artist, by reconstructing a soundscape in 3D in a virtual reality reproduction environment, is playing with instinctive and subjective factors in hearing. And because of our hearing sensitivity and complexity, composing sound in 3D offers infinite variations in depth of field and source localizations which amount to a wide range of resources for sound art creation.
At Arup Acoustics, we have developed a sound laboratory, the Arup SoundLab, that we use for simulating accurately the behavior of sound inside buildings. We use it to optimize room shapes for concert halls and museums for architectural projects. Because the function of the SoundLab is to accurately recreate acoustics by incorporating the latest acoustic research development in 3D sound, our Lab has become very appealing to sound artists for creating 3D sound art, and over the years we have developed a lot of activity in the field of sound art spatialization. My daily work as an acoustician is to compose acoustics in 3D through architecture. We think that we can also apply that to sound art creation.
The sound for this installation is being reproduced by 12 loudspeakers located on the floor, stands and ceiling. 3D sound is recreated using ambisonic technology (2nd order). The spatialization was created in the Arup SoundLab by using mono sounds arranged by different composers to which we assigned positions, movements, distance and reverberation in a virtual 3D space. Composing the sound in 3D helped to separate and identify the different animal species and to create dialogue and interactions. The spatialization was designed to stimulate different states of alert, relaxation, and dreams, to create a symphony of natural sounds to express the musicality of nature.
Alban Bassuet is currently Executive Director at the Tippet Rise Art Center in Stillwater County, Montana.
Prior to his present position, and at the time he wrote this, he was an Acoustician at ArupAcoustics in New York.