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John Robert Ferguson » ionventsinter
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John Robert Ferguson

 

ionventsinter

Having completed my PhD ‘New Relations for the Live Musician?’, new projects are now being developed, including the possible re-emergence of ionventsinter in an updated MKII form, take a nostalgic look at the 2005 version below:

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ionventsinter (an anagram of ‘interventions’) is the name of an instrument I originally assembled, installed, and premiered in September 2005 for my final MMus concert, i creeps dan remind due ten (an anagram of ‘precise and undetermined’). Featuring nearly fifty channels of live audio and twelve loudspeakers in an immersive surround sound environment, ionventsinter was constituted from three major components: wind chimes, laptop and dancing coins. I chose to deploy three sets of wind chimes; each tube of each set was individually amplified and distributed amongst multiple loudspeakers. This meant that the audience could appear to listen from a virtual standpoint, potentially, as if from the centre of all three sets of wind chimes simultaneously.

Microphones would not have afforded enough separation to facilitate this illusion; they would have amplified more than one individual chime. Piezo contacts, however, worked well enough, and although high frequencies were slightly diminished, this was a reasonable compromise given the isolation, and therefore spatial, possibilities. One piezo contact on each tube allowed fifteen sources to be distributed around the eight available channels of speaker output. A separate desk fan individually animated each set of wind chimes, with each fan being remotely activated from a central performance area. Often, when a mains electricity signal is turned off or on in the vicinity of a loudspeaker system, the system responds with a nasty 50 Hz mains induced thump.  This I overcame by modifying multi-core cable wiring for an old stage-lighting controller, which was designed to activate four channels of illumination, either independently or within a simple sequential pattern (a linear fader allows the speed at which the sequence runs to be manipulated). This also inspired me to highlight whichever fan / wind chime set was being activated, by wiring a coloured spotlight into each channel. The head of each fan was set to automatically oscillate, which contributed toward a degree of uncertainty and inertia within the system; fans could be pointing away from the chimes, meaning the ‘whirring’ of the blades coming up to speed might be the only immediately audible result of flicking a switch. The chimes were sounded when moving air caused individual tubes to be struck, but which tube and with what force, was largely based on chance. At the mixing desk, each individual tube of each set of chimes had its own fader controlling volume level. I chose to not always amplify the chimes; the acoustic sound in the room was an ideal starting point, and exploring the dialectics of dynamics was a focus of this work. The piece also used two upturned loudspeakers filled with coins, through which I manipulated low frequency Shepard tones. The vibrations of the speakers made the coins literally ‘dance’ producing a beautifully complex, high frequency music as they ‘fought’ each other. Using stereo close microphone techniques, the coins were introduced into the amplified sonic spectrum and manipulated with spatialisation and equalisation controls. Simon Emmerson, in his introduction to ‘Living Electronic Music’, extends previous definitions of ‘electroacoustic music - a music heard through loudspeakers or sound made with the help of electronic means’ to include: ‘amplified acoustic music where the amplification changes, in essence, the experience of the sound and is integral to the performance’. The amplification of ionventsinter I consider an electroacoustic modification, wherein manipulating an outwardly expanded acousmatic presentation, the wind chimes are perceived to surround the audience. The resultant sound world was a rich fluctuating texture with bigger gestures jumping out and being perceived as physical movement within the space. Significant control of acousmatic gestural characteristics remained available via mixing desk manipulation, so it was possible to second-guess and shape the performance. However, the sounds themselves had, to an extent, an indeterminate relationship to their causal impulses. This was evident in the revolving desk fans, their physical activation (unpredictability of moving air / lighting controller in ‘sequence’ mode) and the signal routing that facilitated perceived movement in space. So performing was a challenge; in engaging with this, my role as a performer involved setting processes in motion and establishing trajectories, then filtering, restraining, or otherwise intervening.