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.
My contribution to The Great Dutch Art Calendar of Trichis Publishers for 2018 is a photograph and an observation during my sound research into the globalization of urban China 1986 – 2015. Titled – ‘Time Lapse China’. In a max of 60 words I talk about traces of humanization of urban sound in China:
“When I landed in Shanghai again in 2015 the massive ringing bike bells of 1986 had disappeared and I found myself standing under viaducts listening to the heavy thumping and droning of the evening rush hour on 10 lanes highways.
Just as fascinating were the whizzings and whooshings of the electric mopeds, scooters and cars. Human sounds were audible again. In my street I heard children shoe’s trippling from far.
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
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.
A Go Lunch Lecture and workshop for students of the Royal Academy The Hague, the Royal Conservatoire and Art Science, participating in IST LAB: SOUNDSCAPE: Moving the Masses, China 1986-2015.
Results can be seen and listened to between January the 20th and 21 during an Expo in the KABK Gallery.
This IST LAB is an initiative of principle teachers Gert Dumbar en Merel van ‘t Hullenaar of the Graphic Design department with guest lecturers Justin Bennett, Paul Devens and Cilia Erens
Sound- and Listenwalk during the international conference ‘The Role and Positioning of Sounds and Sounding Arts in Public Urban Environments’ on the occasion of the new Chair ‘Auditive Culture’ at Leiden University held by professor Marcel Cobussen.
“Moving the Masses” is a soundwalk through the historic city center of Leiden, in which I insert Chinese city noise from different periods in time. The soundwalk is thus an eye-ear encounter in which coincidence plays its own role. Sounds and sights of Leiden are confronted with the sonic culture of masses in (pre-)globalized urban China. “Time Lapse China 1986 – 2015” is the result of my listening research in urban China on Chinese globalization. In 2015 I went back to the cities where I had made binaural recordings during my first visit 29 years earlier. The changing tone of mass control in this rapidly commercializing nation has become one of the sound themes of my research.
Half way the headsets go down. Ear and eye are sync again in Leiden’s cityscape.
From September 4 I gave 3 lectures in 5 days under the heading ’Sound is Space’ at Gallery Het Langhuis Zwolle, ArtEZ and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy.
Creating one minute of 3D sound relating to an image (an icon of the archangel Michael) was a first for me, a tentative step on a newly discovered road. The creative process and my discoveries as I travelled on this road formed the subject of my lecture ‘Sound images’ which took place during the opening of the group exhibition ‘Strategies for fighting Evil’ at Gallery het Langhuis in Zwolle.
At ArtEZ my lecture was about the common ground between experiencing, inhabiting, listening and recording sound spaces in 3D and the central position taken up by phenomenologist Merleau Ponty within the new ArtEZ Master programme Corporeal.
All in all, it turned out to be an exciting and inspiring week.
On May 30: Interview (in Dutch) by Tracy Metz during her monthly Talkshow ‘Stadsleven’ (Citylife) featuring the theme ‘Hidden City’.
My talk is about the sonic aspects of China’s immense globalization. Start Interview: 1h15m10
‘Sound is Sight’ is my audiovisual blog that I wrote for the website of ‘Stadsleven’ (for english go to page 2). Take your earphone and listen here to the streetlife of Amsterdam 2016, Chengdu China 1986 and 2015.
Sound is Sight:
audiovisual blog by Cilia Erens for Tracy Metz’ monthly Talkshow ‘Stadsleven’
in The Balie Amsterdam
a real ‘ear opener’
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 perceived. 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.
Globalisation in China caught in sound
In China too I came across aspects of ‘the 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. This time I used a special, three-dimensional recording technique to capture the sounds of these Chinese cities which have experienced massive and exponential growth in a very short time.
Again I found myself standing on a curb in Chengdu, a city with a population of 100,000 in 1986, now a metropole 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 is the complete upper layer of bike bells all ringing at the same time, 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 being transported back in time.
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 motor cycles and scooters which, no matter their age, had to be adapted by law, only became evident in the silent side-streets of the city. There I could hear tyres traversing asphalt, conversations between a driver and his pillion passenger, 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.
© Cilia Erens 2016
How do I approach the sound environment that is all around me?
I was invited to be an ‘inspirational speaker’ at the ‘From sound to timbre’ Symposium organised by the RIVM/Expertise centre on Sound on 26-05-16. My talk and workshop is called ‘Everyday sound spaces’ and it’s about the sonic aspects of urbanity in The Netherlands and in China, about scale, large and small.