Surface considers the changing nature of form versus content when dealing with small sonic elements dispersed in 3D surround space and reflects upon the concept of ‘environment’ in electroacoustic music (not to be confused with environmental sound in electroacoustic music). A ‘plausible sonic environment’ is one where elements and interactions are created in an object-oriented manner.
A sonic environment: latent forces obscured by a calm exterior wrestle beneath the surface and reflect the darkness within.
In Surface, objects of different classes were constructed and developed using associated resistive methods (small became large, high became low, fast became slow). The concepts of object oriented programming languages lend themselves well to composition in broadest terms (inheritance, encapsulation, polymorphism and recursion) and the concept of environment has long been used and debated in electroacoustic literature. It seemed appropriate to investigate these two ideas within the ‘soundworld’ of Surface.
As technology further enhances compositional practice, particularly in the spatial dimension, I wished to investigate how best to compose sounds within the 7.1 surround sound domain. My plausible sonic environments aimed to be immersive (filling the spectral and physical space), with sounds being given spatial behavioural characteristics so as to indicate collaborative group activity (ideas loosely informed by Denis Smalley’s extensive work on space; see Space-form and the acousmatic image in Organised Sound (2007), 12: 35-58).
My theory then (if it can be so called) was that the perception of a plausible environment can lead to a timeless impression — something which might remain after the work has finished. Better still; we can re-imagine the environment in our own time. There are no themes or sections — only brief pauses — and very little ‘imposed’ form; more a sense of immersion into (on this occasion) a dark and foreboding ‘world’ of sound. Nevertheless, I tried to give this environment a ‘natural’ feel. One could imagine standing knee deep in a lagoon as the mist clears in the early morning. Elements are obscured: they may be clouded by mist, or under water. They may approach by stealth. But the observer is not stationary all of the time and there are moments when the listener moves — changing the perspective of the whole environment.
Surface was realized in 2007 at the composer’s studio and premiered on November 8, 2008 during the Soundings… festival in Reid Concert Hall (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK). This 5.1 surround sound version was realized in August 2010 at the composer’s studio.
November 8, 2008, Soundings… 2008: Uma!, Reid Concert Hall — Edinburgh College of Art — The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh (Scotland, UK)