Residency 2020: Multichannel Workshop

The workshop, taken by Dave from the South Kiosk Gallery and Barney, took place in two parts. The first was about background and technical information about working with sound in general and multichannel working in particular, including technical matters. The second part was a practical group activity to conceive of and bring about a short acoustic work using multichannel techniques.

Multichannel Software

Cakewalk is free

Reaper is free but after the trial period a pop up reminds you to pay for a licence but it continues to be free. The licence is $60 for non-commercial use and $225 for commercial use. Reaper routing is simpler than Ableton.

Ableton Live 10 not free. 3 licences: Basic £69, Standard £319, Suite £539. This is the most powerful software, especially for live mixing. If not, Pure Data live can be used but it is less intuitive.

Fruitiloops is not free- full feature £700, basic £150 The full feature has fruitloop plugins.


Setting up your own system.

There are different ways of doing multichannel work

Not all speakers in a system have to be of the same type. Passive speakers are not self-powered. Their advantage is that you do not have to have a power supply for each and you do not have to protect power cables when working outdoors. Active speakers, on the other hand, can be jacked into an audio interface directly without the need for amplifiers. Canopy speakers are contained in boxes sealed from the environment. Speakers can look different and they don’t have to be in black boxes. They can form part of an aesthetic to suit specific aims and needs. Tweeters carry high frequencies and are the smallest part of a speaker system.

It can be difficult to find a space that is suitable for a given sound work. Sometimes it is better to work with the space and create work specifically for it. It is important to experiment in the space which requires more time than importing a finished work – this has to be allowed for. Most galleries are not acoustically treated so it can be difficult to create multichannel work and sounds can end up in a mess.

Cable management is important. It can be done informally or aesthetially tidy. Beware that, daisy chain connecting can be messey, lossey and introduce noise.

Audio Interfaces
Are for audio to digital conversion. The interface connects to the amplifier. It allows you to put microphones into the computer , record and output to speakers.

Object-Based Mixing
Is where one speaker is dedicated to one sound or channel. This way of working is cleaner, easier to balance sounds and individuals can be moved around to improve the acoustic response.

8 channel amp is very versatile [but can be expensive]

Ambi sonics
This is a method of working with sound, recording, and outputting domes of sound where the sound is 360 degress rather than just horizontal.

A single licence can be used with multiple logins on any computers which makes it ideal for group buying.

Windows vs Mac
Windows is less integrated with lots going on behind using third-party software. Mac is much easier as you can do everything on the one system.

Vibration in air but it can travel through liquids faster [2.5 times]. Hearing frequency is between 20 – 20000Hz

There is infra (low) and ultra (high) sound. Insects use both ultra and infrasound.

Stories about sound.

Tandy Haunting
British It engineer and lecturer. He felt somebody was standing behind. When he turned to see, they had gone. This was infrasound. When he returned to the lab the next day, He saw there was a fencing saw vibrating in the lab at around 20Hz due to a fan nearby. This created the sensation of something invisible in the area. This points to the physicality of sound.  Need very large monitors. Infrasound can cause optical hallucinations, feel as though you are touched. Feel sad, that is pressure on the chest. Depressed and heart. This has ethical implications when using sound in a public context.

Alternative Well-being

Alvar Aalto
Paimio Sanatorium. He created a sink at a specific angle so the sound of water hitting the basin was minimised making it was almost unhearable. He created window blinds that block sound from outside and do not move against each other or collect dust.

Brian Eno and John Hopkins – Wavepaths
Using multichannel lights and sounds replicated brain waves demonstrating how sound can be created to influence people.

Sensory depravation, sorounded in silence is also something used in aerial Relaxation Pods.

Nelo Akamatsu – Chijikinkutso
Using geomagnetism to create sounds by hitting magnets against cups – changing magnetic fields [the hum of a transformer?].

There is a responsibility when using sound because it can affect people psychologically.  Sound processing disorder, not talked much about.

Noise Abatement Society

Sound describes the uncanny

Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Sound researcher, talks about sonic spaces where politics are worked out.

The Bloop
In 1997, the bloop was heard in Pacific stations over 5000km apart. This captured the imagination. Theories emerged about monsters, prehistoric creatures etc. The sound was not Man-made. It turns out that it was an icequake.

Mass Strandings
[Sound has a psychological effect] can make people feel sick, scared. Whale mass suicides due to the sound of ships. The metal of the ships acts as speakers.

Acoustic Defence

e.g. Psychotherapy -Music played outside noisy night clubs used different forms of sound using multichannel sounds to change people’s aggressive behaviour as well as music to deter young people from congregating in public areas such as shopping malls.

Acoustic defences using parabolic shells used to listen for enemy aircraft at the start of WWII.

Palaeolithic Caves were chosen for their acoustics, reverb, like churches. It has been suggested. The caves are deep and echo so when an intruder enters they can be heard: a form of alarm.

The Ear

Is a sonic instrument

Ear canal hears 60% and the cranial bone about 40% which is how cochlear implants work [and swimming headphones].

Organ of Corti – Fransces Crow and David Prior using Photonic Crystal array.

We are not always aware of how sound is affecting us, and we are continually processing a great deal of information which affects us physically.

There is a parallel between speaker and microphone, they are the same in fact and are analagous to how the ear works.

The main part of the brain affected by sound is the Limbic system comprising the hyptohalamus, Thalamus, Amygdala and Hippocampus.

Thalamus: processes sense except smell and divides it out,

Amydala: emotional responses

Hypocampus: memory, interacts with amygdala,

Hypothalamus: controls flight or fight.
(concern for sound outside the visual perimeter where its source cannot be identified.

Music Boosts Brain Activity

Linda Maguire (music and dementia patients)
Music can evoke emotional responses that provokes memory and intellectual activity.

Workshop Brief

2 minute sound work for an 8 channel (8 speakers) sound system

Think about creating space and distance

Workshop work

Readings of text in contradictory ways and playing these simultaneously.

The purpose of this collaboration, was to explore the process using words

The group comprised: Pav, Betty, KK and myself.


The collaboration started with the process and not the content. The use of words as acoustic elements were chosen to confer meaning to this process. We were not sure of the purpose at the start which gradually emerged during the making. In the context of this process, the audience is invited to physically participate in a choreography of their own making. In the end, there is perhaps no clarity in the narrative which might reflect on the nature of communication itself.

The ideal acoustic vision for the work is to have a confusing muddle in the middle of the room. As you approach different areas of the room you begin to distinguish the individual voices and perceive the contradictory words that are being spoken.

The text is contradictory, and the variance is further underlined by the spectrum of voices and intonations pronouncing the words.

The voices allude to the manifold nature of meaning and inference.

The recordings were made in situ, and environmental intrusions can be heard as a disruption layering a contingent element over the linear narrative, such as the siren may suggest an altered context than might otherwise be inferred.

The words were chosen as representations of antithetical ideas which become evident as one approaches each individual pair of speakers precipitating out of the chaotic but ordered noise.

The tracks were left with their background noise to indicate the lack of clarity inherent in verbal communication.

Smile Sun Courage love Full Safe Certainty Early Pride Hero Life Silent Friend Construction Single Beautiful Thought Fire Growth Black Interesting True Neat purefrown Rain fear Hate Empty Dangerous Uncertainty Late Humilty Villain Death Noisy Enemy Destruction Multiple Ugly emotion Water Decay White Boring False Diluted tainted
Two lists of work recorded by each one

Sample Recording
The sample below is a part of the recordings made for multichannel live play. An eight channel mixed down into one stereo track cannot demonstrate the balancing and panning of each channel.

Precisely Inexact
The words are exact but the meaning is inprecise.

Response from others

The audience’s response waned towards the end and one has to find a way of maintaining interest.