FUZZY TAPES OF STOCKHOLM SYNDROME



OVERVIEW

This interactive sound environment relays a sonic depiction of 'The Sound Sweep'; a short story written by J. G. Ballard sometime around 1960. The story is set in some Ballardian time, where music has become obsolete due to it's successor Ultrasound. Ultrasound exists in the frequencies far above those of the human hearing threshold (around 20kHz) and is produced using special Ultrasound instruments. Although the people in this fictional world cannot physically hear the music, the idea is that is has some form of affect on them... a fairly euphoric experience at times. It tingles a sixth sense than cannot yet be defined.

Ballard builds to this already interesting setting by explaining that real sound (non-ultrasonic) leaves a form of sonic residue behind, so that it can be heard/sensed hours after the sound-event occurred. Only people with the most acute hearing can perceive this sonic residue; Mangon, the mute protagonist, happens to be one of these gifted people. Despite such a talent, Mangon is a lowly Sound Sweep: someone who literally vacuums up sonic residue, creating an intangible sense of cleanliness and harmony in the surrounding area. The story follows Mangon and his beloved Madam Giaconda, a washed-up ex-singer who has deluded dreams about saving the world of music with her (not so) amazing voice.


TECHNICAL EXPLANATION

The project was built using FMOD Designer and was exhibited using FMOD sandbox (legacy).

In FMOD designer, I created 'events' which are dynamic objects. Events can move, they can fly, they can make sound, they can stop making sound - they are interactive. Imagine any object in a computer game such as a character, or a building, or a vehicle, or simply a piece of scenery. These are all events, and they all normally make some kind of sound. The great thing about events in FMOD is their non-linearity. Events may be triggered several times. They may make a different sound each time they are triggered. They may make a different sound depending on the angle you approach them from. Interaction with events may cause new sounds to be emitted.

Designing the sound for each event was a task which required much diligence, but it was a lot of fun. My general process was to knock up some cool sound in Pro Tools, then drop them into FMOD designer, where I had complete control over when each sound was triggered. Furthermore, FMOD designer allowed me to apply processing to the sound - processing that could change every time the sound was triggered. For instance, the same footstep audio sample could be processed with a different transposition and EQ value every time it was triggered - this way it would seem like there were an infinite amount of audio samples being used, when in fact there was only one.

So I built up my version of the story, placing events around a 3D space known as the Sandbox. The sonic environment becomes a non-linear account of the story, through which the user can navigate, interacting with different elements of the story.