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Kelly Chen (F, 35)
Los Angeles, US
Immortal since Mar 29, 2007
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Loud Mouth | Kelly Chen
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    Guidelines for sound in space: looping
    Project: Design Media Arts at UCLA
    Activities and and all other things in life fall into repeating cycles. We are governed by external rhythms in nature, such as the rise and setting of the sun, giving us our sense of time as well as influencing our behaviors during the transition from day into night (think of our "biological clocks".) Sound in nature, too, follows a pattern based on time, in which we start hearing the chirping of birds from outside our windows at a certain hour, or the increasing chaos of traffic on busy street intersections towards midday — but these natural occurrences are all things we generally ignore with our ears.

    "Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating." - John Cage, 1937


    As written by Bill Fontana in his essay, "Sound As Virtual Image":

    "As a visually oriented culture our essential responses to the everyday world are semantic. Everyday sounds are regarded as not having semantic significance (noise). Noise pollution (with the exception of sounds that are dangerously loud (close proximity to a jet aircraft or heavy machinery) can be explained as a semantic problem. Because sounds must be semanticized in order to be meaningful, our main aural concerns as a culture have been language and music.

    [...]The world of everyday sound is full of semantic ambiguity. Most people approach this experience without recognizing patterns in everyday sound. Noise is the resulting interpretation given to the normal experience of unsemanticized sounds. The semantic ambiguity of sound will change when society develops a capacity to perceive patterns or qualities that are recognizable as part of a context of meaning, such as the sound vocabularies of contemporary music and acoustic art.

    The problem of noise has developed historically from an accumulation of bad designs caused by a lack of thinking about the acoustical by products of everything that happens in the human environment. Noise pollution is a circular problem: people don't pay attention to the sounds they hear and live with everyday and therefore it is not a part of the design of anything to consider the acoustical consequences. This problem is a self-perpetuating cultural blind(deaf) spot on the collective consciousness."


    And so, to bring meaning to the environment, we first have to implement an auditory language that the public will willingly listen to and understand. If music and speech are considered meaningful and are heard consciously, then that is the area I will be dealing with.

    Since life follows a cycle, it is only proper that the designed sound created is also perceived as a kind of loop. Natural sounds are not infinite loops — they have beginnings and endings, for they are triggered by physical events, and will end once the events have passed by. The same will apply once we move to space (it's assumed that we will have plentiful amounts of oxygen within the colonies for sound to actually pass through); but one thing to keep in mind is the fact that our freedom in space will be much more restricted. Unlike Earth where one can simply relocate elsewhere to get away from the noise, restricted spaces in the colonies put many at unease because of the potential claustrophobia. Therefore, "looping" sound serves to work as a meditative device to help bring peace of mind. It has been used at various sound healing centers to put people back in harmony with their bodies, and is also a preferred technique employed by many sound artists and musicians in their respective work to create the sensation of immersion.


    WHAT KIND OF "LOOPING" SOUND?

    NOT something that endlessly drones on (because that will also make the listener go mad), but rather, repeated soft rhythms and melodies. The following samples are electronic, ambient, and minimalist music that utilize looped rhythms changing subtly over time. They give off the impression of boundless depth, life, and movement. I will strive to revise my pieces to resonate in the same vein as them:

    Kid 606 - "Sometimes"


    Ezekiel Honig - "A Lake of Suggestions Part 1"


    Morgan Packard - "White On White"


    Radiohead - "Treefingers"


    Cornelius - "Wataridori" (this one falls under the lines of more traditional songwriting structure — beginning, climax, ending — but the repeated rhythms and dynamic buildup/collapses draw the listener into its animated, soaring atmosphere)




    WHERE IS SOUND IMPLEMENTED, AND FOR WHAT?

    "Space colonization is, at its core, a real estate business. The value of real estate is determined by many things, including 'the view.' " - excerpt from Orbital Space Colonies by Al Globus


    We've discussed it in class — the fact that the migration to space colonies will most likely first serve as a tourist attraction. Speculation from other online sources point to the first orbiting colonies as being hotels.

    As such, one of the major attractions to visiting and living in space will definitely be the great view. Imagine this image of Earth as one of many views a person can see from the walls/windows of the orbiting colonies. But over time, when residency in space opens the opportunity to become a permanent installment, as mentioned before there's going to be that issue of space restriction — of being held in captivity. What significance this view once had will now only remind people where the boundaries of freedom end.

    It's the same situation one encounters as when standing at the edge of a shore staring out into the ocean. We cannot cross it by our own means, so we're desperately stuck to the land; but the natural, looping, rhythmic sounds of the crashing waves work to soothe and clear our minds. We become immersed in the sounds and the landscape before us. To transcend that similar feeling of barrier in space, use the beach example and project back site-specific ambient soundscapes. These will be strictly installed only along the periphery of the colonies where there are views to the outer realm. They will mask out unwanted sound hailing from other activities occurring away from the periphery, so as to create a total enclosed audio "space." The illusory sonic perception of depth and nature, as exemplified in the music samples above, is the key element serving to aid the listener in overcoming the sense of containment.

    Yup, I'm changing my concept again, folks.

    Sun, May 20, 2007  Permanent link
    Categories: sound
    Sent to project: Design Media Arts at UCLA
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