Pervasive Media Studios Residency: research/beginnings

We are developing a piece called SWARM, a soundwalk in a variety of European Cities where audiences play our portable Noise Machines that respond to light and sample the environment. The work will appear in 2018 at Rome Media Art Festival, SPECTRA Aberdeen and Article Biennale, Norway, as part of ENLIGHT: European Light Expression Network with Curated Place and Fondazione Mondo Digitale.

At PM Studio we are exploring

  • audience interaction and experience
  • devising sound walks in cities and production considerations
  • conceptual framework for the work
  • technological development and fabrication (this element is supported by Fondazione mondo digitale and Eagle Labs)

Research Beginnings and Conceptual Framework

To begin our PM Studio residency we started thinking about the conceptual framework and our motivations to create this work through a series of questions. What is it we want to explore about sound in cities, the use of public space, and working with communities/audiences …. is there a message?  Through studio discussions we started to identify some key thematic areas we need to research to inform our methodology and approach. Here is our growing reading list…

  • Background Noise: Brandon le Belle
  • Max Neuhaus: Tuning Space
  • Bernhard Leitner: PULSE
  • SOCCOS: Tales of Sonic Displacement
  • The Politics of Public Space: Routledge
  • Delierium and Resistance: Gregory Sholette
  • The Production of Space: Henri lefebvre

Thematic Research Areas

  • Urbanism, gentrification and community displacement

How do decisions made in town planning affect the urban environment through the medium of sound? With gentrification and the pricing out of communities from previously working class or artistic areas, what does this mean for artists wanting to make work in the city and the displaced communities? This is a hot topic in our home town of Manchester right now, with property developers taking over old mill spaces formally housing artist studios, new DIY spaces popping up and new models of artist/lease holders being negotiated as artists are pushed further out of the city centre.

  • Site specific architecture and sound design/composition

We are considering the distinct elements within a city that will form part of this unique composition including buildings and materials, people and their spatial placement/ways they navigate space and the Noise Machines themselves as both samplers of the environment and sound generators to place sound within the built environment.  How will the materials of particular buildings influence the sound of the composition, will glassy business districts/public squares sound bright and bouncy compared to old towns and mixed use areas?

  •  Psycho geography and the Flaneur

Location choice and the routes in which we navigate the city are of paramount importance to the piece. Each city will have its own site specific locations that we need to select and lead our sound walk participants to. The choice may be dependent on typical places you would find in a city such as a public square, a transit zone or an area of municipal buildings. Crucially we are looking at areas that may have experienced changes in architecture through gentrification and a location choice that will create an interesting composition in response to the built environment. We will choose and find these through walking, listening and suggestions.

  •  Actions, happenings and the idea of spectacle

Looking at what it means to create art in a city. How we can disrupt the everyday? How will the audience/participants feel being part of this spectacle, will their experience turn from a participant into an active performer. What could the reactions of the general public be, will they want to get involved, what do we need to tell them? Looking at cities as spaces of actions, protests, gatherings and who owns these public spaces and what citizens are allowed to do in them?

What does the medium of sound tell us about the above, and how can it be a tool to interrogate these thematic areas?


Technological beginnings and Eagle Labs Media City Testing

We have been thinking about the site specific dialogue of people, architecture and sound and how our machines can explore this.

Initially we had conceived the Noise Machines as sound generators; sending different waveforms out into the public space and experiencing the reverberations of these sounds. We also wanted to consider listening and incorporating the sounds that are found in those spaces so that citizens can experience a sonic dialogue with their cities, we are working on a sampler aspect to our machines so that you can record or sample the environment then playback, loop and manipulate with light. Conceptually this allows the participants to reframe and shape the sound environment of an urban space.

We visited Eagle Labs at Media city in Salford to meet James Medd and learn about the different options for fabricating the units, looking at a range of processes, machines and materials for 3D printing and laser cutting. We were introduced to the 3D printing equipment and materials thinking about production time, environmental concerns and breakability.  We placed a couple of rudimentary noise machines around media city to test for volume levels and distance of sound.

Next steps:

  • Towards a methodology of working with sound and cities: choosing locations in Bristol, recruiting a user group and beginning tests
  • Circuit development: testing with multiple oscillators, waveforms and sampler
  • Design: think about the design of the units

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