Report of my binaural Omniwave experiment on China’s globalization for the STEIM Project Blog.
Report of my binaural Omniwave experiment on China’s globalization for the STEIM Project Blog.
the ‘virtual’ speaker, the Omniwave, explained by the inventor, Leo de Klerk (photo Cilia Erens)
Public Pilot ‘Time Lapse China’
November 1-4 in STEIM + during the Museum Night of STEIM and De Appel Arts Centre.
I had to learn to walk again.
I had this feeling, when at the end of June I started work with the audiofiles which are going to form the basis of Time Lapse China. As if I were jumping, stepping from one discipline into another.
The sound to which I was listening I knew already. They are recordings which I made in 1986 (on cassettes) and in 2015 (digital) in China. In both cases I was using a special technique, called binaural recording, which gives a 3D sound sensation provided that one is listening with earphones.
In May this year I asked Leo de Klerk, inventor of the OMNIWAVE, a revolutionary loudspeakersystem, if it was possible he would grant the usage of these speakers.
He was keen with interest. Because of his ‘inauble’ loudspeakersystem it became possible to walk around in STEIM Studio 3 in a soundfield as if I was crossing the street in China, an effect that I only know from my own recordings when I am wearing earphones. Magical.
How exciting, new and different working with all sort of loudspeakers is has become clear to me in my STEIM period. The knowledge and experience that I have gained in the 30 years I made soundworks for earphones has seemingly become obsolete.
Now I am investigating in a studio how I can create a reality. I place audio files not after one another, but next or opposite to one another. I am constructing an environment, which does not excist yet: soundfile for soundfile and speaker for speaker.
Besides the OMNIWAVE system I use mini speakers with ‘local ‘ reach, so that I can create a dialogue between the spacial sound field and isles of contrasting or additional sound.
New for me.
I work with a sound chart which holds 24 tracks, of which I use multiple tracks at any one time, and play with mono stereo omni, with volumes and sound colours.
The choices I can and eventually have to make out of a hundred hours of sound are endless. There are no laws for it. So it is just tossing with speakers (except the Omnis). Per the chosen audio file checking out the variety of speakers, and then listening to how everything sounds, alone or together. Listening to what is happening, what it evokes. A giga search.
In a log I am keeping up with what I have done on one day, what worked and did not work. Which combinations of sounds and speakers I still want to try. And I have defined sound themes which are going to help with the definite selection and order.
There are advisors which support me. Sound designer Evelien van der Molen is teaching me more about my digital audio workstatio as well as how to create space in between the sound layers.
Robert Bosch Audio is giving particularly sound technical advise and is constructing the needed devices.
Collegue Justin Bennett comments more from the side of sonology.
Dramaturge Robert Steijn came with an important question: what are you trying to achieve, a documentary or an esthetic experience?
sketch by Robert Steijn (photo Cilia Erens)
I am deliberating on that. And on the final presentationform. Has it a beginning and an end? Is it going to be a loop, or is it going to take hours and has the listener just have to see how long he/ she wants to stay in the studio?
In the meanwhile I have finished my first phase in the STEIM Studio and am working in my pop up ‘homestudio’, temporarely without the Omni’s. I have positioned myself in the centre of my living room and have organised around me a set up of fifteen (mini) speakers, lying on side tables or on top of a cupboard. On this way I investigate which sound is doing what in this colourful collection of sound sources.
Concluding my residency
From October 20 I will be back in STEIM Studio 3.
A public Pilot will conclude my residency (November 1-4 from 14:00 – 18:00). Hope to meet you there.
During THE STEIM ‘Open Days’ and during the Amsterdam Museum Night my studio will be open as well. Please check out the openings hours of the STEIM programs. And don’t forget to check out the current directions to STEIM because of road works all over the place!
With the support of the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts
Studio STEIM: Starting from point zero
200 cubic meters of soundspace and 15 loudspeakers are available, from minimonospeakers to Omniwaves (see link to Iphone movie).
A first reaction of an ex sound walker: ‘… headphones bring me to China and loudspeakers are bringing China to where I am right now…’
But how will I go on with that?
to be continued
From soundwalk to exhibition/ from headphone experience to a sound universe
A research project by Cilia Erens
supported by AFK, the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts.
After some 30 years of pioneering the concept of the soundwalk for a headphone wearing audience I want to take a next step in my development as a sound artist.
This is my first blog about a for me brand new research in the next couple of months. Instead of devising headphone experiences in the public domain (location specific) I am now going to explore ways to exhibit my sound material on loudspeakers in neutral interchangeable locations. This is where individual visitors can choose their own way through a sound universe evoked by precisely positioned speakers.
Can it be done?
The AFK has given me a Development Budget to try and find out.
Time Lapse China (1986-2015)
In 2015, thanks to successful crowdfunding at the Platform voor de Kunst, I was able to go back to China. I found myself listening to and making binaural recordings in the same cities I had recorded 29 years ago, at a time when the sounds of the West were only just beginning to penetrate Chinese society.
When I landed in Shanghai in 2015 I felt as if in just one moment I had travelled through time. It was an impressive experience which, two years on, I’m still trying to get to grips with.
How to express this Time Lapse in sound? That is what I want to investigate but in a different way from my first effort in 1987 when I used my binaural cassette-recordings to create ‘China Daily’, my first ‘soundwalk’. As a result hundreds of sound walkers ‘walked the walk’ in a number of Dutch cities. Eye and ear were separated and Dutch street scenes mingled with a 3D Chinese world of sound in what was, in fact, a form of augmented reality.
This time I want to explore an exhibition concept.
STEIM, studio for Electronic-Instrumental Music, (one of the few studios without a fixed speaker arrangement) has invited me to take part in their artist-in-residence programme. Leo de Klerk, Bloomline Studio, is lending his revolutionary ‘unaudible speakers’.
In the studio I will be towing speakers back and forth, from the most conventional speaker systems to unconventional ones. Collegue Justin Bennett and Robert Bosch Geluid will supply me with advise.
For me a new era opens up: I will be listening out
for the best match between speakers and ambient binaural sound,
for ways of creating a dialogue between sounds evoked by precisely positioned speakers.
for ways of sounding out Time Lapse China.
Will it become filmic without film; an installation may be? Am I going to process my recordings? Will it travel? It’s all there waiting to be found out. I’m looking forward to it and will keep you posted in my blogs.
I will be finishing the sound research with a four-day public pilot, for which I will invite you to nearer the date. I am currently looking for an exhibition space in Amsterdam, and of course all suggestions are welcome.
To be continued.
Especially for ‘City Life’ the monthly talkshow of journalist Tracy Metz in The Balie Amsterdam I wrote this column for her website about listening to the city and the secrets it yields to you.
The sounds of Amsterdam The Netherlands 2016, Chengdu China 1986 and 2016 will reveal the sound of globalization.
For earbuds only!!
Film Academy Amsterdam, sound lesson (2010) | Photo: Bob Bronshoff | Concept and sound: Cilia Erens
Every year since 2003 first-year students at the Dutch Film Academy listen to the Mr. Visser Square next door, as part of my lecture ‘Audible Space’. For ten minutes they sit there, blindfolded, in their folding chairs. When the ten minutes are up they take off their blindfolds and return to the classroom. They count the number of audible spaces they pass through on the way, both outside and inside, spaces that can only be counted once they are heard.
Standing in a silent huddle we listen to the lift ascending in the lift shaft, the sounds of our coats touching, suppressed laughter, the creaking floor boards beneath our feet, a collective silence. Once inside the classroom in an explosion of chatter, students tell of their initial fears that motor cycles might drive over their toes, about the rattle of rickety bikes and ticking traffic lights, about how hitherto hidden aspects of life are revealing themselves by means of sound. For most of the 1000 students who have gone through the folding-chair-and-blindfold experience those ten minutes have been a true ‘ear opener’.
My background is in city planning and I like to listen to cities.
I listen to the human city when I listen to the small-scale sounds of the Nieuwmarkt area, to the musical city when I cycle across the Weesperplein amid the car tyres rumbling over the tram tracks. I have started to call these sound patterns Random Rythms’. These urban noises sometimes make me fall silent. They are always there but go unnoticed by many.
In China too I came across aspects of ‘hidden city’. For my sound research project ‘Time Lapse China 1986-2015, I went back to the places I recorded during my first visit some 29 years earlier.
I used a special, three-dimensional recording technique to capture the sounds of these Chinese cities which have experienced massive and exponential growth in record time.
Again I found myself standing on a curb in Chengdu, a city with a population of 100,000 in 1986, now a megalopolis and home to millions.
I returned to the same main street, close to Central Square, with its towering statue of Mao. I could hear the immense white noise of the city produced by low-frequency combustion motors in the massive flow of traffic, the uniform sound of globalisation.
Gone completely is the massive high frequency jangle of the bike bells, lost in time, tucked away in the subconscious memories of millions of Chinese over 30. That is how fast things have changed. Listening to Chengdu in 1986 now is like stepping into a time machine.
At the same time I discovered something else, another hidden aspect of urban China. The fact that many cars were electric, just like most of the mopeds and scooters, only became evident in the silent side-streets of the city. There I could hear tyres traversing asphalt, conversations between drivers and his pillion passengers, the screeching of brakes. Suddenly, street life in all its variations sounded clear, as if ‘holes’ were appearing in the traffic noise.
So what will lie hidden in the sound of urban China in the near future? A busy zooming of drones and helicopters over streets crowded with e-traffic? I can’t wait to go back and listen to the changes and record them in 3D sound.
On May 30 ‘Stadsleven’(City life) in De Balie include Bianca Stigter, Dagan Cohen, Saskia Hoogendoorn and myself.
2-2-2016 BLOG: LISTENING TO CHINA 1986 and 2015
Listening live to China’s globalization, to its fastest and most extensive urban development ever with an interval of 29 years was an overwhelming experience. Right now I have available 2 sound files of daily life in urban China from two different periods – one of my visit to Communist China in 1986, when western sound had just started to resound, and the other of cosmopolitan China citycentres in 2015.
It had been made possible by 65 donors; as a result of a successful Crowdfunding project at the Platform ‘Voordekunst’. I had been given a blank cheque to do ‘Urban Sound’ research in order to be able to let arise something new, with the element of surprise not knowing what it might be.
In those 6 weeks I went back to Shanghai, Guangzhou, Guilin, Kunming and Chengdu and made a daytrip to Shenzhen, a mostly new built millions-city.
I tried to find locations and places from 1986 and looked up the new hotspots of today. Under many fly-overs I hung out, I recreated together with the newest forms of mass tourism strolling along in China’s largest shopping malls. I travelled on High Speed trains, wandered through demolished areas, sat on a banch in a park or just followed my ears and saw where I ended up.
With my mics in my ears and/ or my earbox in my hand I listened to the environment, ready to start recording. From the moment I pushed the start button I had to decide hów I should record the uncontrollable sound environment ‘binaurally’ that is to say ‘as a space’. Every movement of my head would have an effect on my mics, on how the future listener would experience this 3d space. So what did I want to evoke? How did I want to approach the imagination of the listener with these interpretations of reality?:
Do I speed up my pace or do I walk slowly?
Am I turning around or do I stand still and hold on?
Do I stay behind a group of voices or do I pass them to walk in front of them?
How fár do I open the window in order to record the 21th century citynoise entering the room?
Do I stand near the window or more backwards in the room? Shall I direct one of my ears (mics included) towards the window or both ears?
Do I record the motorised traffic beside me, in front of me, or do I turn my head slowly while timing?
Where do I position myself in the dog meadow? Beside the commanding voice of the boss or in the neighbourhood of the snarling dog?
Do I stand at the back of the row of ordering clients in Mc Donalds or am I going to sit down in between the eaters?
Do I stay right under the announcement of a public address system or should I walk away? And how long will I move on, while making a natural fade out of the announcing voice…
Many choreographies I have made in space.
On October the 26th 2015 I landed at Schiphol after 6 weeks long having listened to and capturing China in 3D. 9 Hours later I was biking through the Amsterdam Nieuwmarkt neighbourhood to the gym. I was stunned. Dull, empty and unambiguously sounded the neighbourhood through which I am biking year after year and enjoying at times the small scale sound environment.
It took me weeks before that sentiment of dullness had been ebbed and the Nieuwmarkt sounded ‘normal’ again, and in those same weeks I started to take distance of, and to appreciate my sound recordings which on my headphones in China had sounded so threateningly insignificant.
Still until now I miss being surrounded by those Chinese voices in the streets, although I found myself in one of the noisiest nations in the world. These thoughts are still on my mind, an incongruous experience.
The research trip of Time Lapse China is over. Right now I have captured two important moments of China’s recent history in 3D sound. Thanks to my donors I have been able to listen, intensely listen to urban China anno 2015….. listening as a tool to penetrate this country. It has infuenced the way I experience an environment: ‘Listening’ as the essential source of inspiration for my work. The fantasy will be adressed by what the sound itself has to tell. I will keep you updated.
PS this is my chipband, which is the prove that I inhered my promise to my crowdfunders by way of swimming in the soundspace of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu, the world largest building.