'Spectral Space'

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


This site-specific multichannel sound installation utilises various aspects of microtonal tuning, configured with reference to principles of auditory psychology and the acoustic effects of speaker placement in the courtyard of the Contemporary Music Centre, Dublin, to allow listeners to explore musical structures based on slowly-evolving drones and glissandi in an embodied fashion. This allows listeners to explore some of the piece's frequency space through their own movements whilst the piece gradually evolves and forms new configurations at a slower pace around them. The audible structure is based on three main aspects: (1) the beating and interference effects of tones presented with very small frequency separations between them, leading to some component partials being heard as separate entities due to aspects of auditory scene analysis(2) the presentation of long-duration tones, which encourages the auditory perception system to search for novelty within this stasis, (3) the movement of the listener around a courtyard, which not only transforms the relative volume levels of the different drone elements (due to proximity to different speakers) but also transforms their frequency content as the direction-dependant filtering effects of the listener's ear become apparent. Listeners can thus choose to explore the piece's frequency space by large-scale body movements (affecting relative balance of material from different speakers) or by subtle head movements (which changes the relative strengths of component partials based on the outer ear's direction-dependant filtering).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 7 Jul 2009
Event'InterPlay II', Culture Night 2009, Dublin - Contemporary Music Centre, Fishamble Street, Dublin 8
Duration: 7 Jul 2009 → …

Bibliographical note

Materials for 'Spectral Space' were rendered in Csound 5 using additive synthesis techniques and were played back as eight channels of audio over ten different speakers. A four-speaker array based on full-range speakers was used to present the 'background' of the piece (rendered as two channels presented in pairs), with six concealed smaller speakers (installed by Brian Solon) providing elements of foreground detail through the provision of drones which interact with the materials presented on the main four-speaker array. Playback was via a combination of MOTU 896 and MOTU Traveller Firewire-based audio interfaces connected using Aggregate Device on Mac OS 10.4 running on a Powerbook G4 1.67 GHz. Additional lighting design elements by Jonathan Nangle.
Reference text: Bregman, Albert S. 'Auditory Scene Analysis: The Perceptual Organization of Sound'. (Cambridge, Mass.: Bradford Books, MIT Press, 1990).

Bregman, Albert S. "Auditory scene analysis: Hearing in complex environments". In S. McAdams & E. Bigand (Eds.), 'Thinking in sound'. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993)

Gann, Kyle. "The Outer Edge of Consonance: Snapshots from the Evolution of La Monte Young's Tuning Installations" in 'Sound and Light: La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela', Bucknell Review Volume XL Number 1. (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1996).

Gann, Kyle, 'The Tingle of p * m^n-1 (installations by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela)', Village Voice, October 4, 1994 (Vol. XXXIX No. 40, p. 84).

Gann, Kyle. 'American Music in the Twentieth Century' (New York: Schirmer, 1997).

Niblock, Phil. 'Five More String Quartets' (1993) from 'Music by Phil Niblock', XI 111CD, Experimental Intermedia Records, 1993.

Young, La Monte, 'The Base 9:7:4 Symmetry in Prime Time When Centered above and below The Lowest Term Primes in The Range 288 to 224 with The Addition of 279 and 261 in Which The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped above and Including 288 Consists of The Powers of 2 Multiplied by The Primes within The Ranges of 144 to 128, 72 to 64 and 36 to 32 Which Are Symmetrical to Those Primes in Lowest Terms in The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped below and Including 224 within The Ranges 126 to 112, 63 to 56 and 31.5 to 28 with The Addition of 119', MELA Foundation Dream House installation, 275 Church Street, 1993.
Outputmediatype: Multichannel site-specific sound installation


  • Installation
  • drone
  • microtonal
  • site-specific
  • auditory scene analysis


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