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Note on sound installations for ems14

This year’s EMS conference focuses on »Electroacoustic Music Beyond Concert Performance«, a field of research and artistic practice that seems to ask for an accompanying music program not bound to the established concert setting. We therefore decided to present two permanent sound installations by Bernhard Leitner, located in the Technical University Berlin main building (Ton-Raum, 1984 and HörSaal, 2010), and to put out a call for sound installations to be presented at University of Arts, Einsteinufer, Room 112. The latter installations are intended to run continuously for five hours on one day during the conference. No performers (musicians, dancers), no visual or sculptural elements including furniture, projection or special light setup will be employed. Up to 12 speakers and up to one subwoofer are provided and may be used. The speakers are to be placed on their designated stands or on the floor.

The EMS14 Organizing Committee chose three pieces from some forty proposals for realization. We are excited to present three pieces that cover a wide variety of approaches in terms of aesthetic and technique and hope to help in establishing an artistic addition to the conference’s scholarly discourse.

The installations are funded by the Electronic Music Studio of Technical University Berlin and produced in collaboration with the University of Arts, Sound Studies program. We would like to thank the artists, the EMS committee, our colleague David Ackerman for the production’s technical supervision, and Manfred Fox for looking after the Ton-Raum.

Volker Straebel and Andreas Pysiewicz
Technical University Berlin
Electronic Music Studio, Audio Communication Group



Tuesday 10 June | 5 - 10pm
EIN 112 (first floor)

circle_of_fifths | Hans W. Koch

At the core of the installation lies the concept of the traditional circle of fifths: a theoretical “thought-space” in circular shape, which describes the tonal and functional relations of music in standard western 12 tone equal temperament.The installation translates this theoretical space into a real space via a circle of 12 loudspeakers, each projecting one pitch class only and ordered according to the circle of fifths. a special digital filtering algorithm is used to separate musical or sonic material into these 12 pitch classes across several octaves (8 - 9). while the 12 resulting tracks contain each one pitch class only, their ensemble still can recreate enough timbral information to allow the identification of individual instruments.
In the resulting sound field, melodies jump between loudspeakers, harmonies are fanned out, centers of tonal gravity aggregate in sections of the circle.
Of equal importance is the position of the listener within the circle: in the centre all loudspeakers are perceived with approximately the same loudness and the result could be described as a sonification of functional relations within the projected musical material. Being very close to one loudspeaker, one pitch class only is audible across several octaves. navigating between those two extremes results in a shift in the perceived loudness-relations of the individual pitch classes, which “disturbs” the sonic image and alters the perception of the music.
in its recent form, the installation combines known musical material (because of their chromatic subject, the canons from bachs “musical offering” lend themselves particularily well for such analytical treatment) with sonic material stemming from field recordings or the live feed of an open microphone in the surroundings of the location. The process of “tonal rasterisation” of real-world continous sounds articulates the circle_of_fifths in an alltogether different way, shifting the focus of perception from “primary” features of the source material to its inherent, but hidden tonal relations and movements. The resulting sonic image could be compared to stripe photography.
Even if the traditional circle of fifths lies at the roots of the work, it is possible to think about a transposition to different tunings with more ore less pitch classes or alltogether different forms of functional relations. What really matters here is the concept of directly deriving a spatialisation from inherent properties of the musical material.
The first installment of the work was presented in 2006 at the voorkamer artist’s initiative in lier/belgium.


Wednesday 11 June | 5 - 10pm
EIN 112 (first floor)

OTO emissions | Thomas Ankersmit

This 8-channel sound installation is exploring the rarely experienced phenomenon of “otoacoustic emissions”. These are a kind of “phantom sounds” that are actually produced by the listeners’ ears themselves, in response to certain stimulussounds that I create.
Discovered by physicist Thomas Gold in 1948, otoacoustic emissions (or “ear-tones” as American composer Maryanne Amacher used to call them) are sounds which are generated from within the inner ear, in response to certain stimulus-tones. Otoacoustic emissions are “ghost sounds” in other words: sounds that are not present in the signal that comes out of the loudspeakers, but that are actively created by the ears of the listeners themselves, like sonic hallucinations.
Specifically, ear-tones are generated by the simultaneous presentation of two sinusoidal tones at a small interval, which then trigger the generation of a third tone inside the cochlea, the spiral-shaped cavity deep inside the human ear. The stimulus sounds coming from the loudspeakers and the ear-tones can also form two distinctly separate musical streams; two voices, one “outside” and one “inside” of the listener.
In combination with “normal” sound originating outside of the listener’s ears this creates very interesting possibilities for sound localisation; for a sound that is sometimes outside and sometimes inside of the listener, or appearing to come from far away while at other times literally coming from inside the listener’s head.

In this piece I will focus on these three unique characteristics of ear-tones:
– Composing sound-forms that take place and move between the inside and the outside of the listener’s heads
– Creating perceptual contrasts between the unique sensation of ear-tones on the one hand, and “conventional” sound on the other hand; including the possibility of moving these elements around the performance space using an octophonic speaker setup
– Creating sound-fields in space that the listeners can move around in, where each
individual will have a different sonic perspective and a highly subjective experience

The work will be acoustically site-specific, and I will be tuning certain frequencies to the dimensions and acoustic behaviour of the room.


Thursday 12 June | 5 - 10pm
EIN 112 (first floor)

REFLEXION: Site-Specific Sound Installation For Six Glass Windows Luc Döbereiner

Sound is always spatial, but in its status as a temporal phenomenon it is also an overcoming of space. Sound carries the properties of the space in which it sounds and the resonating object from which it emanates, yet it also overcomes the spatial extensional objectivity in which it is created, by becoming an event. Sound is thus not merely movement (spatial displacement), but by moving back and forth (oscillating) it emerges as an ephemeral temporal event bearing the traces of the space that it overcomes/sublates. As the philosopher G.W.F. Hegel already remarked, sound is located precisely at the gap between spatial objectivity and temporal subjectivity. The sound installation
Reflexion proceeds from the assumption that a sound event sustains itself by reflexion, i.e. by referring to itself, by echoing and resonating with(in) itself. A sound event is thus the point of emergence of interiority out of mere spatial exteriority; it is the creation of an identity through vibration, oscillation as a movement of self-referral. Sonorous reflexion (feedback) creates an inside and an outside by encountering itself as other. The site-specific sound installation Reflexion is based on a very specific sonorous spatiality, that of solid objects, i.e. it explores solid objects as sonorous spaces. Using exciters (loudspeakers for structure borne sound) and contact microphones, sonic feedback is created within the six glass windows of the room in the Einsteinufer. Sound is thus created out of nothing, by self-reflexion, however instead of using air as the medium of sound, glass, that translucent and reflective solid material, which marks inside and outside, is used as an oscillating membrane in order to create a sonorous interiority, a musical-gestural and timbrical identity. The solid body thus becomes the primary space and sound medium. The six windows, which are creating sound via feedback,
are connected to each other through a computer system developed in the audio programming language SuperCollider. The system partly transforms the input signals again before feeding them back into the glass membranes using a variety of digital feedback processes, such as nonlinear equations as well as delays and filters in order to create a long term memory and control-level feedback leading to complex and interdependent behavior. Sound is thus multiply reflected, in a physical body, in a digital feedback system, and through the air mediated space of the room itself.


Friday 13 June | 7 - 8:30pm
TU main building (staircase)

TON-RAUM TU Berlin (1984) [Sound Space] | Bernhard Leitner

The TON-RAUM TU BERLIN was completed in the spring of 1984 and is the award-winning project in an international art-on-architecture competition.
The cubic, static metal architecture, in which walls and ceiling are equipped with 34 broadband and 18 high-frequency loudspeakers, is the supporting construction for dynamic, sound-sculptural spaces. The perforated metal surfaces are a kind of acoustic-transparent skin. On the one hand, the insulating material layered behind it greatly reduces the reverberation period. On the other hand, the sounds are projected into the space from loudspeakers that are arranged on all sides in places indeterminate for the eye. The architecture becomes the instrument for composing immaterial time-spaces. Here sound is the sculptural, form shaping material. Sound is the building material for spatial configurations such as serpentine interweaving, soft walls, rhythm space, kneaded space, tingling space, tensions, time-vaults and arches, breathing space, twitching space, billowing space, water cube, wafted space.
At specific times of the day sound spaces are retrieved from the stored memory menu, infusing an ever new presence into his architecture. The TON-RAUM is installed in the staircase of the main building of the Berlin Technical University.



Friday 13 June | 7 - 8:30pm
TU main building, WellenFeld H 104 (ground floor)

HörSaal. Eine Wellenfeld-Installation (2010) [A Wave Field Installation] Bernhard Leitner / Florian Goltz, audio programming

HörSaal (in German – a lecture hall, auditorium, a hearing hall) is a site-specific soundspace installation. The medium is the audio playback system with 832 channels installed in the lecture room H104 in the TU (Technische Universität) Berlin. The composition of dynamic and static sond spaces makes use of this technology (Wave Field Synthesis).
In contrast to a concert-type usage of the space with strictly arranged rows of seats (for a lecture), HörSaal is conceived as a freely accessible sound-space composition.
In the dynamic parts (sound material: aerially agitated, echoed rustling and soughing) sounds are moved between ten abstract sites. These sound-locations are programmed and mapped out not only within the visible space, but – in the acoustic and virtual dimension – outside it as well. This movement is overlaid by a movement with a different progression between the abstract locations. Both of these are yet again overlaid with a third and fourth level of varying movement structures in the space. The complex space texture suggests a drifting, aleatory wind-blown space, whereas it is an exact, controlled composition of form.
In the static hearing space (sound material: speech) the listener wanders through various places in the hall, which are indicated visually by the installation of staves, 2 m high and painted red. Out of a diffuse noise pervading the total space and assembled out of twelve different speech channels we step into precisely defined sound sites, extremely individual hearing spaces, where we experience the sound-world of words spoken by the physicists Planck, Schrödinger, Einstein, Meitner, Hahn, Pauli and Heisenberg.