Howzat: An Appeal for Nature (2014)
Format: Algorithmic Soundscapes

Acoustic ecology recognizes sound as a complex sounding system evolving in time and space. The way we experience sound affects our behavior and relationship to the environment we inhabit. As a complex ‘entity’, the soundscape presents the listener with significant temporal and spatial variation. Each individual soundscape reveals a unique set of temporal variations that relate both to biological and human rhythms of activities, while spatial variation mainly reflects land-uses in the landscape. The conservation of the soundscape is an integral part of urban and rural infrastructure. Monitoring and decoding sonic activities help us to understand how sound imparts and informs our existence.

As a sound artist I was invited to take part in an event called ‘Arts for Nature’ in 2014 to celebrate the ecological diversity of Atherton Wildlife and Nature Meadow, Lancashire, UK. My contribution was to perform Howzat: An Appeal for Nature (2014) a series of algorithmic sound compositions that radically transform the sound of the surrounding area. With the intention to raise awareness to the rich diversity of inhabitants, beit human or non-human, residing in this unique green belt area. The original sounds where recorded at different locations around Atherton Wildlife and Nature Meadow. The sounds of consisted of muffled conversations, barking dogs, cyclists. birds, children playing, a cricket match and the noise of low flying aircraft humming across the sky. Each sound was carefully edited in the studio into shorter fragments to reveal its materiality. The ability to listen to sound in isolation fragments frees it from contextual constraint and blurs their source-cause relationship. During the creative process reduced listening was applied to reveal perceptual qualities to alter meaning beyond the original context. A process of spectral filtering allowed me to focus on the rich harmonic and inharmonic properties of the sound material. Seeking out hidden musical properties within the sound material, such as pitched tones, resonant peaks and textures. Often the unwanted noise of digital artefacts, inherent in the recording process, gave the sound a unique character.

The performance took place on-site at Atherton Cricket Club at 15.30 on Monday 25th August 2014. Positioned on the back of a large container truck with a PA system I performed for a duration of 15’00. During the performance, I transformed various sound stems (listen below) in real time using a custom built max/MSP algorithm (Figure 1). The ability to directly shape the sound material on-site helped match the sound material with surrounding acoustic space. The algorithm process provided a way to alter the inherent structure of the music codependent to a specific environment. Therefore, questioning and extending the traditional method of electronic music of fixed media to reveal unexpected and surprising results.

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