On Saturday I delivered the Soundspiral commission “Spiralsounds”- a piece specifically for the inflatable 52 speaker system at Sonophilia festival, Lincoln. I had blogged about this here, previously. This has been a work in progress since 2012/2013 when it was first suggested by Daz Disley and the compositions as well as the diffusion software had evolved independently over the year, culminating in the final work which had significantly evolved from the original structural layout that I had started in early 2013. From the start I both Daz and I wanted this to be a live electroacoustic piece as we both felt there were already a number of fixed media pieces already so he commissioned two large scale pieces to be performed live, one from me, one from Chrissie Caulfield, whose Ada piece can be seen here.
Several movements of Spiralsounds I had released as independent pieces over the time- the first composed piece for this format “Trainsounds” has been performed several times, including Music/Process 2013, Coil Spring, had been performed in 7:1 Surround at SAF, Grimsby, Lincoln 12-25 had been released in stereo format on Soundcloud, and Armley Spinning machine music also released on Soundcloud. These pieces now made up part 1, with an introduction and Trainsounds acting as a bridge to part 2. Since these pieces had grown into lives of their own either on soundcloud or in previous performances I could now re-intergrate them into the whole. I did this by “lego composition”- I term I coined for sharing elements of compositions with each other to prevent the composite work either sounding like a medley with both or either pieces being truncated. Coil spring and Lincoln 12-25 are both spectral pieces using similar techniques on the coil spring percussion instrument and Lincoln cathedral bells, respectively and I had intended those to be one piece from the beginning, so they went together without any problems, Armley spinning Machine music melded successfully with Trainsounds. I added an introduction and Trainsounds then formed the bridge to part 2.
Meanwhile over the year Daz had evolved the diffusion technology software into something very sophisticated; originally I had intended a static diffusion with my 8 channels from soundcard dividing the 48 speakers into 6 segments (which I still do) but now his diffusion software could rotate the 8 channels (still in 6 segments) though 360 degrees in either direction, with the 8 channels positioned anywhere!! We tested this on 19th Sept and it worked so well that I was forced to reconsider a new, more direct aspect of part 2. Also since starting this project I had acquired some new technology in the form of two analogue synths and a step sequencer (see previous posts on here)
Part 2- then took on a slightly new approach- Part 2 was always going to consider the spiral aspect of the speakers and the tunnel in which they are cited. In both part 1 and part 2 I had used a convolution reverb taken from the centre of the Greenwich foot tunnel– a long, thin footway under the river Thames connecting Greenwich with the Isle of Dogs, in the middle some very interesting reverberated sounds can be heard- and this forms the sound environment that underpins both parts 1&2. So with this in mind the spiral aspect I expressed with subtle canonic melodies arranged as inversions and retrogrades, slowly played and faded in over a 2 crotchet beat repeating form on the step sequencer, which I then gradually add further notes to in real time, and then form an ascending whole tone scale. The canonic forms then give way to a multitude of Shepard tones, played with discreet notes with me playing live samples in whole tones over the top, which all keep ascending and getting faster until a blur is reached. Whilst this is going on the diffusion itself spins faster and faster (which is so subtle as to not generate nauseating effects often experienced on other systems, notably Stockhausens “Cosmic Pulses at RAH in the 2008 Proms) It stops at the point it can go no faster. This is the spiral aspect I wanted to express- a circular movement that only appears to go upward. I had heard the London Sinfonietta do G,F Haas’ In Vein at HCMF the previous year, which gave me part of the stimulus to express a spiral in some form (apart from the nature of the diffusion environment)
Here is a video of the spiralsounds premiere
Pictures from Lincoln Echo here: