SCOTT TOOBY

Use headphones or good speakers for the best listening experience.

The Sonic Mirror is a software instrument that can transform the sounds of its surroundings into musical soundscapes.  Its design is open-ended, and it can be used for generative music and sound creation, interactive sound installation design, and acoustic experimentation.

 

In this configuration, the Sonic Mirror creates an immersive and meditative listening experience through a recursive process (i.e., the resulting audio recording of one cycle of the process becomes the input of the next) that uses sound to reveal the resonant frequencies of the performance space.

 

By interfacing with a room's sound system (i.e., microphones and PA speakers), the Sonic Mirror repeatedly records, processes, plays back, and re-records an initial sound. This process repeats indefinitely, and with each iteration the resonant frequencies of the total system (the acoustic space and audio system) are increasingly revealed.

 

The acoustic space acts as a natural filter such that with each iteration of the process, the frequencies of the audio output which overlap with the resonant frequencies of the space are accentuated, while frequencies that do not overlap are attenuated.

 

In many respects, the specific recursive audio process of this installation is a digital implementation of the original analog version explored in the pioneering piece, I Am Sitting in a Room (1969), by American composer Alvin Lucier (b. 1931).  Lucier's piece was inspired by a speaker testing method invented by engineer Amar Bose, who employed a recursive audio recording and playback process to detect unwanted peaks in the performance of speaker systems he designed (D. Kahn, Earth Sound Earth Signal, 104).

 

In broader terms, the Sonic Mirror instrument system represents a means of using common audio and computing technology to reveal the immanent acoustic properties of the places we inhabit, and invites a re-ignition of human sensitivity towards the temporal and physical nature of our shared world soundscape.

 

To date, the Sonic Mirror has been implemented as a collection of hardware instruments, room-scale sound installations, and used for interdisciplinary art-science research.

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©2017 Scott Tooby