Breaking the sound barrier: Explorations in experimental sound, art, soundscape research and interactive systems




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


This study proposes a synthesis between the three core inter-disciplines of sound art, interactive systems and soundscape research as the basis for the creation of a series of unique interactive sound installations and related projects. These works, created and presented by Interactive Agents, the author’s production company, explore aspects of the sonic environment, either in urban or natural locations or in the electro-magnetic domain. The notions of interactivity explored throughout this thesis are of a specialist nature, and the three main installation projects each utilise custom-built solutions, which eschew widespread computer technologies for discrete electronics, ensuring the seamless integration of artistic intention and interactive realisation. The sublimation of certain technological elements is explored as means of encouraging an audience to approach a work on its own terms unencumbered by everyday technological experience. The concept of an audience member is itself re-cast as an InterActor, at once a listener, viewer and performer and it is with reference to this term that the audience’s experience and impact on a work is conceived, deployed and evaluated. The sound material of each of the projects range from sonic reflections of the Stockholm soundscape elicited from its inhabitants to sonifications of electro-magnetic phenomena related to the operations of the Earth, the Sun and the wider universe. In certain cases the examples incorporated into the works were created by leading research scientists and thus this study not only repositions the outcomes of scientific research as artistic material, but also suggests that, in so doing, something of the classical unity between the arts and the sciences is regained. The thesis is presented in seven chapters, with the descriptions of the practical works preceded by an introductory chapter that explores related theoretical and contextual issues. The thesis culminates with a consideration of the development and reception of an exhibition where the sonic and interactive strategies discussed were presented.





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