“The Victorian technology of the player piano is a perfect fit for the surroundings of Beaconsfield, which was originally a Ragged School for deprived children. It will be used not in a musical way but visually as a sculptural element and sonically as a kind of tone generator to explore the remarkable acoustics of the space. Although precisely what the piece will look and sound like will only develop gradually over the residency, it will hover on the borders of sound and music, playing on the aura of the absent/redundant performer and on the personality and history of the gathered speakers.”
A high-tech, 32 channel digital sound controller throws a pianola and a vast collection of recycled hi-fi speakers (icons of technological redundancy) into dynamic relationship in John Wynne’s new sonic sculpture.
The Soundtrap research residency at Beaconsfield has enabled Wynne to explore its architectural acoustics with precision. High-level audio tools have allowed the artist to experiment with the way in which computers can be used to, in effect, draw and sculpt with moving sound. The research leads to an immersive sound installation, exhibiting for six weeks.
John Wynne’s spatial composition is informed by the everyday noises reaching the room from beyond its walls. These have become the basis for a set of synthetic sounds created within the gallery and then moved intelligently throughout the space via 32 sound channels outputting through more than 300 hi-fi speakers. The computer-generated experience is offset by the acoustic interventions of a modified player-piano, powered by a domestic vacuum cleaner and re-programmed with a new score encoded on its paper roll.
The combination of multi-channel technology, the resonance of a classic mechanical instrument, sculpture on a grand scale and Beaconsfield’s legendary acoustic, promises a rare sensory experience.
Soundtrap IV is a Beaconsfield Commission supported by the PRS Foundation and Arts and Humanities Research Council. The artist also wishes to thank his two assistants, Kimmo Modig and Antoine Bertin, the Research Department of London College of Communications, Rex Lawson of the Pianola Institute, Richmond Sound Design (Canada) and Veolia Environmental Services.
Soundtrap is Beaconsfield’s portfolio scheme for new sonic works.
Beaconsfield Commissions 2009