Wednesday, July 05, 2006

whisperBox, SL Audio-Installation

And so, purely by coincidence really I stumble upon the Phoenicia Center for Contemporary Art (formally Phoenicia Gallery), somewhere in the Metaverse . I'm looking around at some rather excellent photographs on the walls by Phil Borges and on noticing that the building has lots of unoccupied space I think, you know this would make a cool place for an audio-installation I've been contemplating for some time. I decide to contact the owner, Victor Newchurch.

Rather than install a traditional sound installation, like one that might be typically found in art galleries, I would like to construct and install a work that is interactive and utilizes SL features that would not be possible or difficult to achieve in real-space.

Victor asked for a proposal, this is what I sent:


whisperBox, a 21st Century Folk Song? (Audio Installation for Second Life).

Thoughts and Inspirations:

Folk music can be loosely defined as music which is passed on (typically from friend to friend or amongst a community) by performance rather than through a musical score. A quick web search on the definition of Folk Music may also yield the following snippets:

...[Folk Music] in the original sense of the term, is music by and of the people... used and understood by broad segments of a population and especially by the lower socioeconomic classes...

...[Folk Music] belongs to, and is normally shared, evolved, preserved, and performed by the entire community (not by a special class of expert performers), and is transmitted by word of mouth...

...[Folk Music] is normally lacking an identifiable composer...and is an expression of the life of people in a community...

...[Folk Music] is music that has evolved through the process of aural transmission...with its roots in the past but its branches wherever they choose to grow...

It is my intention that 'whisperBox' will draw upon some of these definitions of Folk Music for inspiration, taking some of the points and applying them to a modern, sound-based installation in Second Life.


whipserBox will appear as a circle of seven loud speakers, arranged evenly on stands, facing inwards. It will require no more than 20 prims in total.

whisperBox will be sensitively constructed to work within its environment, alongside other visual art rooms for example. Low level audio will not be intrusive. Although not essential, this could be further enhanced by sitting the installation within its own land parcel with land preferences set to restrict audio from bleeding into the next space. Also desirable is that the media preferences for this parcel should not include an audio stream, or possibly the audio stream might point only to a URL containing a short welcome message / introduction that I could provide?

whisperBox will be active/audible only when people are near-by and could be switched on and off by the creator and the owner only.

How it will work:

Although not finalized at the moment, here is a brief indication of the workings -(probably).

The installation will make use of multiple sound emitters, linked, synchronized and working in unison.

When the installation is active it will listen for conversation from near-by avatars. If detected, it will pick out certain words and/or letters from their chat and interpret these as different pitches for short percussive sounds which will be distributed as looped patterns of notes and rests across the seven speakers. The pattern created will be directly influenced by local conversation in real time. It will be in 7/8 time, (which is a fairly irregular time-signature) so that looping will not become too obvious or repetitive.

Additionally, over time when an avatar enters the circle of speakers they will also begin to hear feint whispering sounds, (and the installation will begin to store short snippets of their conversation, comments they might be making or individual words they are saying to generate musical patterns; this will occur in the background without their noticing). If they dwell for long enough (which I hope they will), very feint, mostly transparent text will gradually appear around the speakers showing the conversation, comments or words said by previous visitors to the installation; this almost as if they can hear the subtle echo of an earlier moment in time. Many comments will come, and go.

So now just to build the thing, result -next blog...


Post a Comment

<< Home