Nothingness

Nothingness is an installation which comprises of a physical visual sculpture (shown above) and a stereo sound piece composed from processed sound recordings of playing the visual sculpture combined with electronically synthesised sounds.

The sculpture is placed in the centre of a darkened room with a small light accentuating it while the sound piece is played on a loop through stereo speakers facing away from the corners of the room. The audience are invited to walk around the space and travel around the sculpture to gain a 360 degree perspective of the piece. While they are traveling around the visual piece, their perception of the sonic piece will be also be changing and adjusting to their movement, meaning as their visual aspects slightly change, so will the auditory. After they have examined the sculpture, the audience can stay in the space to continue the sonic experience ideally until all of the piece is heard. 

The sculpture was played by brushing and grinding various combs and brushes on the hardened bubble wrap which is set into the surface of the sculpture. These sounds were recorded via a condenser microphone and manipulated in real time using Ableton Live and a variety of Max For Live patches. The live recording was spliced into short phrases and blended with electronically synthesised sine waves made in Max 6. The sines are treated in the same way as non-pitched object sounds from the sculpture and no musical relevance is given to the frequency. The choice of frequency was decided by which best delivered the distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs). The piece’s compositional focus is on the gestural and rhythmic elements in each of the sections and the mix of timbre and texture between the processed sculpture recordings and the electronic sine waves.

In order to trigger otoacoustic emissions, the piece uses two pairs of sustained sine wave frequencies at the ratio of 1.2. The highest of each pair is panned completely to the left and the lower panned completely to the right. The DPOAEs this technique creates present the effect of change when a listener moves their head, but the frequencies or note of the emission is not so apparent. However, at the middle section of the piece, there is fast changing rhythmic material, in which, for every pair of frequencies, there is the ratio of 1.2. Each pair offers a slightly different emission so, by changing so fast, they become much more obvious to the experienced or non-experienced listener alike. It is the act of changing the emission which equals the most obvious and intense experience.