In the Rear: Artistic Concept and Different Spatialisation Methods


Session Title:

  • Media and Contemporary Practices of Sound Art

Presentation Title:

  • In the Rear: Artistic Concept and Different Spatialisation Methods




  • Composed simultaneously in ambisonic (live) and multichannel (fixed) versions, Lidia Zielinska‘s composition In the Rear (2010) is an acousmatic piece. The integrated system of different spatialisation methods was made by Rafal Zapala.

    In the piece, piano keyboard becomes the interface between the inside of the instrument and accumulated experience of the listener’s life. The acoustic world inside the piano looks different to what we experience at a concert: it resembles the experience of a child sitting under the piano. The acoustic world outside the instrument is not only its real sound at concert, i.e. in specific acoustic spaces of different resonance, but also – or perhaps, above all – its sound in our long-term memory, in the tradition of piano literature, in various cultural codes and emotional reactions remembered.

    The composition deals with sounds generated inside the instrument, at the back of the keyboard, so to speak: sounds of the instrument’s mechanics inaudible outside, as well as specific resonance inside the sound box. Symbolically, it also refers to what the instrument has experienced under numerous pianists’ fingers. The inside of the piano gets resized to the volume of a large concert hall, with all acoustic properties of the piano’s interior being preserved and intensified. Listeners experience resized sounds, as if they found themselves inside the instrument. Due to the scale shift, the aesthetic experience is accompanied by a more distinct physiological experience (increased changes of acoustic pressure). One also hears idioms of great historical piano literature reverberate; this, in turn, is the support structure on which musical memory of each individual listener rests. I also took the liberty of carrying out an experiment concerning our mental base. The piece originated in 2010, i.e. in F. Chopin’s Year, and had its ambisonic première performance at the “Warsaw Autumn” International Festival of Contemporary Music. Listeners expected references to Chopin, and – even though there were none – heard citations from Chopin’s works, instead of Brahms’, Rachmaninoff’s and Gershwin’s musical gestures quoted.

    From the point of view of a composer witnessing performance of her composition, particularly important were observations of how different kinds of spatialisation influence perception of time and the piece’s dramatic quality. In particular, it is the middle episode of the piece, in which spatial dimension plays a very important role, whose stereo reduced version should require significantly shorter time proportions than the original ambisonic version.

    In order to carry out the concept of sound space in full, a system of virtual devices had to be created. Their varied functions are generally subordinate to the ability to combine a number of spatialisation methods within one composition. Ambisonics proved to be the key feature: both in terms of coding the piano’s inner space to B-Format, and in terms of opportunity for the composer to compose-design “artificial” trajectories of sound object movements in three dimensions. Space is complete with “traditional” multi-channel projection of sounds ascribed to a particular place around the audience, with a possibility to adjust projection to any configuration of loudspeakers.

    Rafal Zapala’s system incorporates modules and technologies elaborated by a number of research centres: Holo-Edit software module (GMEM Marseille), set of ambisonic objects for Max/MSP environment (ICST Zurich University of Arts), Jamoma Modules for Max/MSP.

    Our paper shall present the method of integrating modules into one system, as well as conclusions drawn from our experiences during live sound projections at different halls and with different speaker configurations. Artistic reasons behind distributing particular sound layers by means of different spatialisation methods shall also be discussed.

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