Being primarily part of the Sound team, my job was focused within the generation and integration of sound and music into the project. From the start we had a good theoretical idea behind the project; to raise some form of awareness into the ways in which modern digital tools influence the way individuals socialize and operate. However, while our main idea did not shift much from the initial development stages, we were not clear on what the physical interface would be. A lot of the early weeks were spent discussing and brainstorming ideas into what this could be and how it would look and sound. We made initial ideas of artwork and soundscapes, this is an example of the ideas I had:
We initially thought of an online test based on the Myers Briggs personality test. The person would take the test and an audiovisual outcome would appear based on their choices made. The questions we would ask were based on the test and therefore the underlying direction was there. However, how we would maneuver and dictate what the person was exposed to was still in question. Potentially we would show them something that has nothing to do with their relative choices, which could make them question their own expected outcomes since most people do have a preconceived notion of what their personality is. Nevertheless, we had an initial plan to work from. The audiovisual content would be based on the personality descriptions found on the website.
With this as a base idea, I designed an assortment of composition/ soundscapes that would sonically represent those personality descriptions. Most of my inspirations came from analyzing and understanding the characteristics of each personality description and trying to create fitting compositions/soundscapes. There were 4 overarching groups of personality types; Analysts, Diplomats, Sentients, and Explorers:
Most of these compositions were made using my instruments and a collection of software programs such as Max/Msp. All sequenced and mixed into Ableton live.
After submission 1, our project quickly shifted from being an online test into taking more of an exposition form. As the weeks went by we started to develop a more clear and concise direction as to where this project would go. As the visual team began to show more of what the final interfaces would be, this created a good anchor point into how the sonic narrative had to follow that. The plan turned into a series of screens or computers each showcasing a video or an interactive module, which was to showcase some of the modern behaviors, acted online as a consequence of these digital tool’s biases. All of the sound people designed their interpretations of what they thought would fit sonically to the narrative and together as a group we decided which we were going to use. Here are some examples of my compositions to video feedback:
Unlike the personality test, I did not have any strong point of reference as to what the audio material had to sound like. This was left a much more subjective exercise which is why some of my designs were used in the final exhibition and some were left out because they did not serve the visual component as well as the ones we ended up using.
In order to tie in the whole experience it was a good idea to create a drone continuously playing in the background while people were interacting with the screens:
The role of this is to create a strong sonic carpet in which the other soundscapes and sounds can sit on. It has to still fit within the general aesthetic of the experience but not distract from what is happening on the screens, therefore, there is supposed to be a minimal little movement and shouldn’t be too rich harmonically to not interfere with the tones and rhythms of the main sounds.
The most challenging aspect of the exhibition was getting all the individual components to link up and work with each other. We had 6 computers, which had to be connected to the 6 screens and for each to be connected to the main mixer and to level them appropriately while the drone is playing from my audio interface in the background. Claudio and I procured the front and back speakers. Due to the fact that some of the sounds coming from the screens were not all at exactly the same level, my self and Adam had to continuously adjust the volumes of each in real time in order to keep a consistent sound level to give a more balanced sonic landscape for the experience. Another issue was to isolate the experience from its surrounding activity. As we were sharing the space with 3 other exhibitions, there was a lot of sound and light bleeding in from the outside. We did have wooden walls and black curtains to create separation from the outside, however since we were located in the middle of the space there still was constant background noise, which could distract from the experience itself.
Personal reflection post exhibition:
Based on the interviews we did, it seems one of the common issue people faced with our exhibition was the fact that it was hard to initially grasp what our underlying message was. This is an integral aspect of our feedback because if individuals do not understand our main message then it subtracts the experience to just a collection of fun audiovisual content without a strong ‘backbone’. It seemed evident to us what we were targeting towards; raising awareness as to how digital platforms affect and shift interactions and how as a consequence, our personalities are shaped by it. Because we were in the shoes of the ones designing the experience and not the one experiencing it, we were somewhat ignorant of how the exhibition would come across to a newcomer. What can sometimes be clear and evident to us might not be the case for someone coming in with a completely fresh mindset. In the future, it would be wiser to experiment with people who are not part of the team prior to the exhibition to see if it makes sense to them, as this is the mindset the majority of people experiencing our exhibition would have. This is potentially a byproduct of leaving too much to subjective interpretation and not having a strong enough initial impression. I think if we would have explained prior to the people going into the experience what our mission statement was, they would have been able to make a more cohesive sense of the whole experience. On the other hand, maybe the audiovisual content happening on the screens could have had more strength in displaying that message, which also contributed to some of the confusion.