Day 2 • 8am Session
Yesterday, I was was given an overview of the overarching concepts and functionality of the system. Today I was given a more detailed explanation of signal flow, specific operations and settings. The technical director of the space is a young guy who explains everything very clearly, is very helpful and willing to answer questions at any moment. Literally, any moment. My understanding of sound, Dante networking (which the system runs on), and Ableton Live are definitely a very important asset for this creation. I've just begun the transition of my DAW early this year from Logic Pro to Ableton Live, and while I have used it for a few projects, I’m obviously less well-versed in it than I would like to be. Just two days into this program and I’ve already learnt so much about Ableton and feel so much more confident using it’s functions. It’s helps that I was given a template Ableton file with the custom patch built by 4DSOUND for this system.
My project is based around sign waves of specific frequencies that have a correlation to each chakra, or energy centre, in the body. I spent the first two or so hours of my session today setting up my file and building my patch. I started by creating all the channels I would need for the base concept of my project and colour coding each audio channel, source patch and scene. I then built each scene with the fade in of each frequency and, when applicable, the fade out of the previous one. Something about Ableton that I find odd is there isn’t really a convenient way to softly fade from one scene to the next. I have found a work around where I have a small clip of the previous track with an automated fade out in each following scene. I’m interested to look into this more as this fix isn’t perfect and there must be a better way.
Yesterday I had played around with a few of my audio tracks in the space and found that a sign wave is pretty hard to locate as a sound object. While it is possible to move the sound around the room, I found it to be more omnipresent than I would have liked. I did anticipate this localized sound not acting exactly as I wanted to, so my second configuration of my sound objects today was to create planes of sound. It was quite easy to visualize and build each plain within Ableton once I had created the first couple. 4DSOUND has also developed a Lemur patch on an iPad which can manipulate the characteristics, position, and many other things through a series of touch pad sliders and buttons. It is very intuitive and a great way to work away from the computer station as you walk around the room. The only thing is that any setting you adjust for the sound object on the iPad does not save in the actual Ableton file. You have to look at what you have created on the iPad and copy over the values to the Ableton file. This work flow was a bit to get used to, but I do actually like it now. To sketch on the iPad based on what you’re hearing and visualizing on the monitor, but then you save it on the Ableton file as a separate step. This also allows you to make changes and experiment without overwriting what you had previously saved. And in a live performance setting, you can make adjustment on the fly without effecting the file.
With this very basic idea built, I had Vlad, the 4DSOUND TD, step in and make adjustments as I walked around the room and gave him notes. I changed the height of each layer from the approximation of where I thought it might go to where I felt it belonged. Interestingly, and obviously, the perceived height of each tone wasn’t always correlated to where we placed it in space. Some higher tones were spatially placed below tones lower in pitch because of their presence in the space. Initially I was trying to keep the heights in order, and I think I will take another day to blindly slide the Y access of each tone and get better focus points. At this point I was joined by the Program Director, Paul, and we talked a bit about my project, it’s origins and his previous work with sound healing frequencies. He also confirmed what I had been experiencing with the sign waves, that because they are a pure tone, it is hard for us to have spatial awareness of them as our ear finds spatial sound by referencing variations in a sound. I had mentioned that I felt that I was more aware of where the tone was located in the space if the object was in motion. Together we worked on some variations of movement and creating more spatial presence and awareness of the tone. I asked what would happen if we used the spatial delay (a modulation build especially for the 4DSOUND system in the Ableton file) and it turns out a lot! Adding the spatial delay bounces the tone around the room creating little blips and barks and voices that were very interesting and that I would like to incorporate in the final design in some way. We also looked at sending only the wet signal and the moving the source the bounce around within the delay sphere.. This was also very interesting, and something I would like explore as a layer, but the the wet on signal looses the initial tone completely and I would like to have some element of it.
Another thing Paul and I talked extensively about today was the main goal of this piece. Is it purely an expression of art, or is it meant as a healing practice? As he said, both are valid. As I was creating this concept, write grants, applications and proposals, I was kind of considering it both, and I did not really break it down to such black and white definitions. I guess what it comes down to is that I believe art can be healing. My thoughts surrounding this is that an artist presentation will draw a different audience than that of a healing practice. Audience expectations going in will be different and probably more receptive from an artistic perspective. Right now, my goal is to make an interesting spatial sound journey that incorporates healing tones, but make no claims of healing. My hope for this piece as of now is that it will attract an audience that would not be interested in sound healing or mediation and that they have some sort of positive reaction to the experience.