Paper presentation at DRHA 2019 Sep 10th, Waterman’s London.
Only Expansion: Composing Temporal Structures For Augmented Audio Experiences In The Anthropocene
This paper will present the practice based research outcomes of the augmented audio artwork ‘Only Expansion’, focusing on the temporal composition of experiences in physical environments. It offers an account of how augmented reality experiences in public space (and other uncontrolled environments) can offer new critical approaches to contemporary ecological thinking. The artwork under examination uses custom mobile technology to create an urban audio walk that both remixes the immediate sound environment of the audience and combines it with field recordings from remote locations. In the experience participants wear headphones that also contain binaural microphones, the signal from these microphones is fed through DSP software in bespoke handheld devices before being fed back to the headphones. In this way the voices of passing pedestrians might become a resonant choir, or a bus engine may form a rhythmic counterpoint. The field recordings from are sourced from a series of international locations all undergoing major environmental shifts, so the sound of the wind in the city where the audience experiences the piece may become merged with wind recordings from the Tunisian Sahara. Through the combination of field recordings with processed and raw microphone signals, an interface is created between the listeners presence, the immediate space and remote locations. The work offers a site responsive rather than site specific experience, and the absence of cardinal guidance forces the audience to navigate the urban space through direct physical and sensory engagement. Drawing on over a decade of the author’s international practice in the creation of locative audio walks, the paper considers new compositional structures for works using augmented audio technologies, focusing on the layering of different temporalities within urban environments. The effect that is produced when the audiences’ lived experience of walking through the work are layered with the timescales represented within the field recordings speaks to Timothy Morton’s proposition that we are currently living with the uncanny sense of existing on two timescales simultaneously (2013). Our everyday human actions feeding into processes that extend far beyond are lifetimes. This experience is considered within the context of Anja Kanngieser’s proposal that “sound can help to differentiate the sweeping universality—and hence the seeming unchangeability—that the Anthropocene poses” and that “sound renders apparent that the world is not for humans. The world is rather with humans.” (2015). By physically situating the audience within the layered temporality of the work, and as an active contributor to the soundscape, this inquiry offers new approaches to augmented audio as a way of inhabiting, communicating and knowing an entangled world. It begins not with distant stories being collected and delivered, but at the site of the audience experience, and expands outwards from there through the transversality of sound.