Room Symphonies (2020). For virtual ensembles and feedback tones.

Building on the feedback concepts I developed in ‘Close Harmonies‘, Room Symphonies are soundscapes generated in real-time by a feedback system that mixes the sound of pure feedback tones with the rich sound world of acoustic instruments. Feedback between speakers and microphones triggers samples of instrumental sounds through a pitch and loudness tracking system. These samples, in turn, have an impact on the feedback and force the system to interrupt or search for new feedback frequencies, creating an orchestrated feedback loop with continuously changing rhythms, sound colors and harmonic combinations. The installation is sensitive to the physical presence of the listener, changes in the position of the microphone and sounds in the room.

Each Room Symphony is built on a fixed set of feedback rules and a specific ensemble of instrumental sounds producing a more or less musically coherent, but also highly improvisational behavior that remains largely unpredictable on a small time scale. Despite the non-human nature of the musical events and interactions, a sense of agency is created through the interaction with room acoustics and the ‘aura’ of instrumental sounds that bear the stamp of human effort. It is, however, not my aim to generate music that in some way could be compared with the music produced by an ensemble of live improvising musicians, but rather to create an autopoetic environment that generates soundscapes that are neither random, nor fixed and as such invite active listening and discovery. Future versions may include the possibility to interact with a live musician.

Below are some excerpts from recordings of test-runs with distinct instrumental sets and interaction rules. The idea is that combinations of these could be used to create ‘feedback symphonies’ with a continuous alternation of characters. The excerpts below are raw materials with no editing and some glitches caused by real-time calculation processes pushing my laptop to the limits. In fact, in order to realise the idea of more varied ‘Symphonies’, a higher-order complexity is needed that stretches well beyond the computational possibilities I had at my disposal when recording these first tests. The used samples are part of the ‘Ircam Solo Instruments’ sound library. Low frequencies, please listen with headphones.

Test Run – drones & long notes in close harmonies (mixed ensemble): flutes, violin, viola, clarinet, French horn, cello
Test Run – brass sounds
Test Run – plucked sounds and extended techniques: double bass, cello, harp, guitar