Permutations in the Marshes


Following our investigations into lining, we decided to pursue a more detailed design of a version of the project to be sited close to the edge of the marsh, near Sarah Lucas’ Percival, just off the path to Iken. 


The proposal was intended to read as another sculptural intervention in the landscape, serving as a landmark on the path out into the marsh. The site was chosen to take advantage of the picturesque landscape setting and a certain remoteness or detachment from the rest of the campus, in order to create a sense of pilgrimage or discovery for the intended audience.

Sketch in Landscape.jpg



Developing the chamber linings


As a way of establishing the specific ‘characters’ of the individual chambers, we explored how the internal lining could offer a way to affect both their acoustic and visual personalities. In conjunction with designing the overall volume of each chamber, we speculated about how we might manually shape the reverberation time of the recorded violin parts.

We saw the alteration of the lining from one chamber to the next as the equivalent to altering the timbre in a composition.

As an extension of this, we are interested in the idea that a space might be perceived as acoustically larger than it is in reality; creating an “acoustic tardis” of sorts. We then began to work with the same themes in the visual articulation of each chamber: playing with rhythm to affect one’s perception of perspective.






We had been researching the use of pots as acoustic devices in a number of instances throughout history, dating back to accounts of their being integrated into the fabric of Greek amphitheatres. Amongst various sources, Jean-Francois Augoyard and Henry Torgue in the book, ‘Sonic Experience; A Guide to Everyday Sounds’, describe how and why they are thought to have been used:

“In the field of architecture, the use of resonators goes back to antiquity. The oldest Helmholtz-type resonators, called echeas, were used in Greek and Roman theatres. These resonators were described by Vitruve, a Roman architect in the first century BC, but there are no extant graphical representations; however, his description did stimulate the imagination of architects. These echeas, or brass vases, were tuned to the fourth, fifth and octave. Two types of vases were used simultaneously:

- The vases placed beside the stage, close to the actors, the dimensions of which could be important (170 centimetres at the Nova theatre, in Sardaigne) were used for amplification at the source

- The vases placed near the audience, produced a Haas effect - that is, a delay in the perception in the order of 1 to 30 milliseconds - that we now call artificial reverberation

Up to the end of the seventeenth century, acoustic vases were often used by architects, as demonstrated by clay pottery found in Roman churches. The shapes and dimensions varied greatly, but they were generally less than 25 centimetres tall. They have been found embedded in walls, at the base of arches, and sometimes even in the ground. More recently, this method was used in 1948 by the architect Andre Le Donne in the reconstruction of the arch of Notre-Dame du Rosaire in Le Havre. (Hundreds of ceramics were embedded in the concrete arch. Later, the church was transformed into apartments; the space located under the vault is now an attic.) The usefulness of these resonators has been revived today because their invisible and easily reproducible features make them convenient solutions in both acoustic and architectural contexts.”

(Jean-Francois Augoyard and Henry Torgue, ‘Sonic Experience; A Guide to Everyday Sounds’ trans. Andra McCartney & David Paquette, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal & Kingston, London, Ithica, 2005. pgs 104-105)





Equal Permutations


Architectural Headphones

In the very early stages of Permutations prior to our first residency with Aldeburgh Music, we went through a number of sketch iterations which informed how we moved forward in the project. The most significant of these manifested itself simply as a collection of six small chambers, each housing an individual recorded violin part. Through their orientation and proximity, the chambers both contain and project each of the six equal, interwoven contrapuntal lines. 

Initially, this was interpreted in a highly geometric form, a literal interpretation of the compositional structure of the music into a symmetrical plan. In this iteration of the project, the listener moves between 6 “hoods”. The variation in the composition is produced through the listener's movement only, within the otherwise entirely equal plan. It had been our intention that the vibrations of the music would pass directly through the material construction of the chambers, using transducers.

After interrogating this proposal, we came to feel that this proposal had a number of inadequacies. Specifically, with regards to acoustic isolation and the unsophisticated, disjointed experience of movement, the audience being expected to duck in and out of these ‘architectural headphones.’



Measuring and representing Counterpoint


This is 19th Century physicist, John Tyndall’s diagram describing the propogation of sound waves. Sound (and consequently music) - due to the invisibility of the medium - can only be described through analogy. In this case, the analogy is social in origin and describes sound’s effect rather than its physical properties in abstract.

One of the first ideas we had to translate into an alternative form of expression was that of counterpoint, which serves as the fundamental structure behind the composition of the piece.

Freya’s composition would be a recorded contrapuntal piece in 6 parts. It was important that from the very beginning we could find a way to understand and measure these parts, in order to help us understand their acoustic effect. We were interested in finding a way of responding to the physical properties of these parts in the scale of the acoustic space and development of it’s physical characteristics.

Dissecting the multiple counterpoint parts enabled us tobegin thinking about how they might be expressed physically.  We were interested in creating a spatial experience where the audience could enjoy the solo, duet, ensemble and full-counterpoint, all contingent upon their movement through the space. 

The vital ingredient in the experience of the performance is the participation of the guest or visitor, whose subjective experience and movement re-invents the piece each time; their interaction forming a fundamental part of the overall composition. Consequently, this has been a critical determining factor in the spatial organisation of the 6 parts and their hierarchy.