I hadn't heard of The Midway gallery before my friend, Amanda, suggested I check out She Bends, an art exhibit featuring women making neon art.
The minute I saw circus freak murals on the outside of the building I knew I was home.
Inside? Thirty-two female "benders." I loved Danielle James' witty series, "Signs of the times: A single lady's life in neon." If you've ever dabbled in online dating, you can relate.
I also enjoyed Dana Caputo's play on the usual GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS signs one might see around an airport.
Anika Chasuk's message is clear.
Love this dynamic shape by Linda Bracey.
"With spatial audio, you need to trust your ears in a different way." - Christopher Willits
After seeing all that glorious neon, I returned to The Midway the following week for something totally different–a workshop in spatial audio.
I got curious about spatial sound after attending VRLA 2017. Virtual Reality is all about striving for “presence” and spatial sound helps sell the feeling that you are actually in a particular environment. Spatial audio also helps focus attention in a 360 environment. Since viewers aren't looking ahead at a screen like in a movie theater, sound cues let a person know, "Hey, look over here!"
I'm glad I was wearing good socks, because we were asked to take our shoes off outside the the workshop space and it all felt very yoga class. Someone helped me find my way beyond a wall of curtain. The interior was dark. Participants sat low on bean bags, laptops perched precariously. We were encircled by thirty-two speakers glowing with soft neon light. Sounds of tropical bird song. I was in the front row, of course, because I arrived late. Our teacher, Christopher Willits, stood up front, towering over us like preacher. Preaching the gospel of Envelop for Live. Envelop for Live (E4L) is an open source audio production framework for spatial audio composition designed to work within Ableton Live 10 and Max for Live.
Here is some of what I learned in that dark listening womb:
- The audience participates differently when they are "inside" the music. We're starting to get away from the idea that music needs to come at the audience from a flat plane.
- Space and sound are already connected through architecture.
- Because Surround sound is pinpointed sound coming out of a speaker it’s not easily scalable. If the speaker configuration changes, the map changes too. Spatial audio uses coordinates and is “speaker agnostic.”
- Spatial audio can amplify the emotional possibilities of music. It can be powerful at lower decibel volumes.
Christopher mentioned that if you are a beginner it’s nice to start out experimenting with sounds instead of music so that you don’t get hung up on whether something sounds "good." I played around and it was kind of neat to have to think about elevation when sending audio to different places in the room. He got into the physics of hearing, the parts of the ear and how sound travels. In my notes I have: The transduction of electricity into our consciousness. He also said that, "There is beautiful subjectivity to mixing sound." Even though I like the idea of "the right way," especially when I'm learning, subjectivity makes learning about audio mixing all that more interesting.
Some other mentions during class:
- The documentary - The Art of Listening
- I asked for an audio reading recommendation so I could understand phrases like, "Cut out low frequency so it doesn’t get boomy" and Christopher recommended Modern Recording Techniques.
- There are all kinds of events in the Envelop space: Spatial Sound Meditation, Restorative Yoga with Hot Stones + Essential Oils and LISTEN evenings where music is played (i.e. The Dark Side of the Moon upmixed to 32 channels).
Get a trial license of Ableton Live 10 Suite here.