Performance-controlled Sound Diffusion Presented at the conference Music and Gesture, University of East Anglia, August 2003

The concept of an orchestra of loudspeakers has been seen as an approach to performing music that is on a fixed medium. Many of the theories that have evolved on sound diffusion have been dependent on a specific type of repertoire and often for ‘solo’ acousmatic compositions. In this context, the interface adopted for sound diffusion has been the mixing desk and the ‘fader’ has become the diffuser’s instrument. A distinct difference in aesthetics and performance practice exists between acousmatic music and live electronics. In acousmatic music there is a focus on textural nuance and timbral detail and the ‘composition’, where a preconceived musical structure is fixed on a medium; whilst in live electronics, gesture, a diversity of instrumental interfaces and spontaneity tend to shape the musical aesthetic.

This paper explores some of the creative possibilities of sound diffusion in an improvisatory ensemble, and the development of a new musical approach that combines the two clearly definable aesthetics of acousmatic music and live electronics. Issues such as gesture, ‘spatial dynamics’ - the theory of consonance and dissonance based on moving sound - and, performance-controlled sound diffusion - simultaneous sound diffusion and performance involving live electronics from a sound stage - are carefully considered. This paper also looks at how an improviser may respond and react to physically moving sound and how sounds on a fixed medium may be re-interpreted through their spatialisation in a group improvisation. Many of the ideas covered in this paper came about through working with the ensemble kREEPA whilst resident at STEIM, Amsterdam in 2002.

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