Audio: Cultivator

by Beauchamp Art


Using the soundtrack created for the ‘Cultivating’ videos (especially ‘IV – Defragmentation’). This multi-layer drone track was created by reprocessing organic sounds digitally, then combing them with a minimalist drone musical movement.

Despite the ‘Cultivator’ films being especially aesthetic exercises, a soundscape is an indispensible tool to be used in order to draw the audience in; “the sense of an immersion in noise is guaranteed by the ease through which so much can be perceived within it.” [Kahn, 1999: 31], and therefore to have the video silent would be to underplay the potential of the piece. Moreover, the process of creating this conglomeration of noise mirrors the over-processing and fragmenting of the footage it accompanied, so that the audio and video elements hand stand parallel independently, or weave together fluidly.
The original source material was a recurring of a conversation; or rather, a collection of conversations clustered together around one table, along with the ambient sounds of a functioning social space (in which featured the figure the film centered around).

This was then loaded into Logic, and duplicated multiple times, each version stretch to a different length; doubling, quadrupling, and so forth; with each one being flexed variably. Some stretching the sound polyphonically, creating a drawn out sound, others reversed and expanded, forming a staccato sound, detracted from the original speech. Some variations where slowed down drastically, becoming an inaudible drone, which was then filtered and shifted to be audible again. Various levels of distortion, clipping and bit reduction was then applied, along side varying amounts of reverb; on the individual sounds and collectively, to form one singular soundscape. This was the first part of the piece.

A second drone was then derived from the same soundscape, but distorted even more, to produce a whirring, static sound. These were then combined in a second sound editing program, and passed through a modulator that oscillated the sound through a pulse-wave filter, making the sound flick on and off rapidly, echoing the choppiness of the video. This was duplicated, and sped up twofold, to create a more syncopated polyphonic soundscape, again mirroring the multi layered fragmentation of the video, becoming more distorted each time; making the sound bit audible as the video had made the sub-pixel visible, slightly desynchronised giving an uneasy audibility.

This was accompanied by a minimal musical chord movement and a basic pulsing rhythm that was synchronized to the fragmentation of the drone. It was a relatively straightforward section of chords, intended to work with the resonant sounds of the other drones.

These various parts were then all combined together, further reverberation and distortion was added to specific sections, and the musical element was reversed and compressed to sound like a thin wisp of overdriven audio, in addition to the subtle sound of a radios shifting out of tune. Furthermore, some overall echo to give the impression of the sound emanating from the same spacial environment, giving it a well-rounded atmosphere, holding together the various competing components. Some of the less distorted variations where also included in this mix, though at a lower volume, fading in an out staggered increments; all coming together but not forming a defined form, complete in its schizophrenic sonic form, straight-jacketed together to become a stand-alone form that shows the evidence of its splintering and offset uncanniness.
Numerous sounds are combined together to produce noise: ‘a sound of too short duration or too complex in structure to be analysed or understood by the ear.’” [Miller, 1934: 22] This soundscape could be seen as an imperfect unification of fragmented elements, stemming from a single linear source; a conversation rendered indiscernible, almost resulting in the redundancy of the source material, unrecognizable as human speech; words without meaning, a discourse destroyed, becoming a melancholic conglomeration of murmurs, buzzing and rumbling forming a banal hazy drone.

One could argue for the musicality of the drone; adopting a Cagian attitude, in that “all sounds could be music, and no one need to make music for music to exist” [Ibid: 163]. However, the intention of the sound was to create atmosphere through manipulating ambient sounds of conversation into a nightmarishly artificial; electronic composition, which was then combined with a synthesized musical component; juxtaposing the music of commonplace sound and the more explicitly harmonious digitally-created element. Much as the video set the physicality of the figure against the subjectivity of the magnified sub-pixel, the soundscape adopts these traits in order to support the visual elements; equally fragmented; torn between the aesthetically/audibly pleasing, and unwatchable/unlistenable. The magnified image cell likens the pulsing noise, using the principal of a microscope as “the visual counterpart in the field of amplification and small sounds.” [Ibid: 229]. Uncertainty as a product of subjective, digital mediation renders the objective obscured, one has had the lenses taken from one’s spectacles, and the blur becomes ubiquitous.

Kahn, D. (1999) Noise Water Meat: History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Miller, Dayton Clarence. (1934) The Science of Musical Sounds. in Kahn, D. (1999) Noise Water Meat: History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge: MIT Press. [96]