IMMERSION: Composer Comments
All the composers on the Immersion DVD were invited by Starkland
to submit further technical comments about the recording they created
for this project. Here is what they wrote:
01 Pamela Z Live/Work
"My idea for this surround sound work for Starkland was to create a kind of aural map of my surroundings. I stood in the middle of my studio and turning slowly clockwise, cataloged objects in my field of vision. Standing in that same spot, I then made a recording of myself reading the list (using the sound of the room rather than my isolation booth.) In ProTools, I mapped these text regions to match the placement of the objects in the room by organizing them in tracks representing the front, right, back, and left walls as four stereo fields. I then combined these tracks with additional vocal samples which I also recorded in the space. All sound sources in the piece are my own voice."
02 Bruce Odland Tank
"For the live trumpet recording used in Tank, I suspended four mics at intervals around the tank and recorded to two DAT players. Later the trumpet sound was reassembled and edited in a ProTools session, slipped together spatially, and surrounded with a circle of monophonic drums. The drums, from the Field Museum collections, were played by Chicago area musicians (including Leddie Garcia of Poi Dog Pondering), recorded through hand-built mic preamps, direct to digital audio tape. I then played the drum samples on a Drum Kat and recorded them as sequences. The sequences and harddisk recordings were then assembled in ProTools and mixed to a 6-channel virtual mix before transfer to ADAT."
03 Maggi Payne White Turbulence 2000
"The original source tracks for White Turbulence 2000 were edited, equalized, phase vocoded, time-stretched/compressed, etc., then sampled via optical link. I graphed the spatial paths and pitch content (where applicable) for each of the sections, played them on the sampler while recording into a MIDI sequencer program, made adjustments in the sequencer, then re-recorded back to my digital audio workstation. After further refinements, I then put it all together in the final Edit Decision List, fine tuning the exact placement/timing of the sections in relationship to one another. Ideally listeners will be positioned in the center of four matched speakers for this piece. The photomicrographic slides shown during the DVD playback are images of crystallization of various chemical solutions which I photographed using polarized light."
04 Carl Stone Luong Hai Ky Mi Gia
"The stereo outputs of my Macintosh computer, running Max/MSP software from Cycling 74, were digitized and then transferred to a ProTools Mix24 editing system (hosted on a Macintosh 350 MHz G3 with 198 MB RAM), where they were mixed and spatialized using a Panasonic DA-7 mixer. Final multi-channel output was to ADAT."
05 Phil Kline The Housatonic at Henry Street
"By nature all of my works are surround sound pieces which when recorded have been reduced to stereo. But as they are also virtual creations, there is no need to present a 'true' soundstage, so an audio image can be composed as part of the 'fiction' of the piece, much as a director and designer create the geography of an opera or film set. For Starkland’s project, I began by recording the sounds of Henry Street (near the corner of Rutgers) which were then combined with material from midi instruments and dubbed onto cassettes, played back on multiple boomboxes in the street, and rerecorded from a number of perspectives. The boomboxes were not all recorded at once, but divided into small choirs and recorded separately using two mics in an M-S (Mid-Side) configuration. Then all of the elements – pure street sounds, pure midi straight from the computer, and various combinations of the two played on boomboxes – were mixed and configured to evoke the fantasy of a walk along Henry Street, with a slight breeze blowing from the east and the cosmic tide rolling in."
06 Ellen Fullman Margaret Tuned the Radio in Between Two Stations
"The installation of the Long String Instrument (LSI) used for this Starkland recording has about 100 strings, suspended at waist height for 96 feet. The strings terminate into acoustic wooden box resonators. The instrument is played by rubbing the strings with rosin-coated fingertips, while walking. Duration of pitch sustain is determined by distance traveled. The performer occupies a pathway between two banks of strings. A C-clamp on each wire is used for tuning, changing the string length much like a capo on a guitar. The instrument is tuned in just intonation, a natural tuning system. The three octave range is centered on middle C. The strings of the bass octave extend the instrument’s full length. The middle and high octaves are suspended from double-sided resonators mounted in the center of the room; strings extending to either wall. The physical scale of the installation and the way that the overtones interact with the space turn the room itself into a giant musical instrument.
"Scott Colburn designed the surround mix. His intention was to create a mix that utilizes movement, creates phantom images, has a front and back side; but is also interesting regardless of the listener’s position in the room.
"I made the recordings direct-to-disk using ProTools and a pair of Brüel & Kjær microphones. The mics were placed close (from 1 to 3 feet) to the resonators. The mid and high range resonators, one on either side of the performer, are played by the left and right hands. These were miked separately. Each track was then individually played back and miked to record the natural reverb of the 1500 sq. ft. concrete space.
"The mix is constructed in three layers. The bass strings were placed in the center channel with the ambience track placed in the phantom center of the surround pair. The next layer is the middle octave strings. The dry stereo pair of the mid strings were placed beyond the front stereo speakers with the ambience slightly beyond the surround pair of speakers. This creates a phantom stereo image between the front and surround speakers, emphasizing the non-directionality of the listening environment.
"The third layer is the only layer that moves. The sound source is a technique called 'twine.' A piece of fishnet repair twine, tied around an LSI string, is rubbed between the fingers. This has a fluttering, percussive, mandolin-like quality. A scale was divided between the two resonators, left to right, in chromatic order. Each resonator was miked separately, producing a 'call and response' between the left and right channels. The dry sound starts in the surround pair of speakers and the ambience starts in the front pair of speakers. The ambience of the right channel surround is placed in the left front speaker and the left channel surround ambience is placed in the right front speaker. Over the course of the piece, the dry signal starts in the surround pair, moves to the front then returns to the surround pair; as the ambience starts in the front, moves to the surround pair, then returns to the front."
07 Lukas Ligeti Propeller Island
"When thinking about a piece for a multiple-speaker environment, an idea that immediately came to my mind was to use long sounds, and to have them travel gradually around the surround system. But I soon abandoned this to do quite the opposite: in Propeller Island, I use almost exclusively short, percussive sounds, which enable me to depict polymetric relationships in ways that a concert environment or a stereo image would not allow.
"I composed Propeller Island using my Akai S-3000 sampler and Cubase sequencing software running on a very old PowerBook. My sound material consists primarily of samples of instruments of three musicians that I have been lucky to work with: the Trinidadian, Miami-based steel pan musician Michael Kernahan (I also use some samples I made of him building pans, hammering them into tune), and the two balafonists Aly Keïta (from Côte d’Ivoire, but building instruments in the Bobo tradition from southern Mali and Burkina Faso) and Kaba Kouyaté, who hails from Guinea and plays music of the Malinke. The two balafons, which sound very different, are contrasted in opposite channels at several points during the piece. These sounds, especially the pans, are detuned in the sampler. Other sampled sounds include those from my Roland drum computer and my Nord synthesizer.
"Melodies using these sampled sounds are often interlocked, creating different resultant melodies in various frequency bands. The front center channel serves as a 'timekeeping' channel using various bell patterns, and notes falling between those of the patterns encircle the listener in different timbres and directions. This way, in addition to speed of 'beats per minute' or of timbral change, speed of movement within space also becomes a factor that can cause polymetrics when combined with other musical lines moving around at other speeds. This forms a kind of 'harmony of distribution of meter in space,' and I hope that it is possible to listen to Propeller Island many times, each time from a different musical vantage point, to discover fresh aspects of spatial meter with every new listen. The key to this is the concept of a relative beat: depending on your musical point of view, the meter can be felt differently. This sensation, important in certain types of Central and East African music (I’m very strongly influenced by traditional musics from all over the world, but especially from Africa, a continent to which I’ve developed strong ties in recent years), can be felt when within a multi-loudspeaker environment in a way that is almost dizzyingly complex, yet remains clear because of the separation of the sound sources."
08 Paul Dresher Steel
“I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at first regarding just how interesting developing a piece for surround sound would be given my own musical interests. However, it didn't take many experiments to quickly reveal both the sensuous nature of the medium and the possibility of organizing the compositional material (particularly rhythmic counterpoint) in ways that exist only in such a spatial form.
"Steel was produced by recording onto DAT both numerous individual sounds produced by various playing techniques on the Quadrachord as well as focused improvisations exploring the range of individual playing techniques on the instrument. This material was then handled in two distinct ways.
"All sound material was input into a Macintosh G3 computer running Digital Performer and Peak, using a Mark of the Unicorn 2408 as the digital I/O. Individual notes or events were edited in Peak (EQ, gain adjustments, looping, etc.) and then downloaded into both Akai S1000 and Kurtzweil K2000 samplers, where programs were created duplicating some of the actual playing techniques. Improvisations were edited and chopped up into individual phrases.
"The composition was assembled in Digital Performer, using both MIDI tracks triggering the samplers and digital audio playback of the reassembled improvisations in Digital Performer. All these sources (eight outputs from Digital Performer and four outputs each from the Akai and Kurtzweil samplers) were mixed through a Yamaha 03D, using its surround sound mixing capabilities.
"Except for the looping of some repeated rhythmic events in the samplers and very slight reverb and EQ on the overall mix, there is NO signal processing used in the generation or mixing of the final recording.”
09 Pauline Oliveros Sayonara Sirenade 20/21
Neil Fried writes:" I used Samplitude editing software to extract sounds from the old 1966 piece, to create new tracks from these sounds, and then to determine placement and movement. Starkland’s project was a fantastic entrance into the world of Surround Sound. As an engineer, I'm now spoiled and will want to continue in this medium. I hope that Starkland’s DVD will excite listeners as much as it has us, and that it will help expand electronic music's acceptance as a world music form."
10 Paul Dolden Twilight's Dance
"For Starkland’s surround sound project, I have organized my materials based on three stereo images: Front, Left Side, and Right Side. Each of these images often have their own tempo or velocity of music. In addition, each stereo image has its own instrumentation or orchestration. This should create the effect of being in the middle of a virtual orchestra of unusual timbres and rhythmic relationships."
11 Merzbow 2000
2000 is entirely composed and performed by Masami Akita, with Peak software and various plug-ins. It was recorded on a Macintosh Powerbook G3 at Akita’s bedroom studio (Takinogawa, Tokyo) on March 5, 2000, and then remastered to ADAT at Yellowknife Studio (Itabashi) on March 10, 2000.
12 Ingram Marshall Sighs and Murmurs: A SeaSong
"My approach to 'surround sound' in the year 2000 is not so different from my work in 'quadraphonic' in the ’70s and ’80s. Virtually all my tape pieces from that era were created either using Ampex four-track half-inch tape recorders (in the electronic music studios at Cal Arts) or quarter-inch TEAC four-track machines (in my own studio in San Francisco). These pieces are documented on the CD IKON (New World Records). My real-time 'performed' electronic pieces such as Fragility Cycles and Gradual Requiem used two four-track tape recorders in tandem to create feedback systems which were almost always heard in a 'surround' speaker environment.
"So the creation of this piece for Starkland using Surround Sound as its natural environment was like re-inhabiting a sonic landscape I used to call home. I tried to move the sounds around the space, but at the same time keeping a clear front and rear ambiance, rather like a stereo image with a mirror reflection behind. The recorded sounds of surf, voices, acoustic piano, and synthesized timbres were recorded digitally and then manipulated in Sound Designer, Digital Performer, and Sample Cell."
13 Meredith Monk Eclipse Variations
"Since my abiding interest continues to be the human voice and what it can do, my approach to surround sound was very simple and straightforward. Nevertheless, the sculptural, acoustic sensation of being in the middle of singers, bathed in the energy of four voices, could only have been fulfilled by the surround sound format. I had the privilege of working with the brilliant engineer, Scott Lehrer of Passport Recording, who knows my music very well. To create a space with the singers surrounding the listener, we chose to use a four-speaker set-up, omitting the center speaker which seemed to take away from rather than support the music.
"Scott recorded the four main vocal tracks and the instruments live (everyone at once) in 24-bit digital audio using Protools. We overdubbed the two additional vocal tracks on the second variation which formed a barely audible outer ring of sound around the main circle. Initially, Scott worked with a concept of diagonal reverb. Then mastering engineer Bob Ludwig added equal amounts of state-of-the-art surround reverb (using TC Electronic’s System 6000) to all four tracks. We chose to do this because there was no one lead voice; we wanted instead to create an immense but transparent space saturated with sound.
"In many of my pieces, I have worked with making a space ring or resound by placing singers in a 'surround sound' spatial relationship to the audience. Now I really appreciate that there is a playback medium which allows that visceral, rich perceptual experience to happen at home."