SpACE-Net: Swash (2007)

Swash was originally a sound installation for a visitor attraction but since its original presentation, the underwater recordings on which it was based have been reinterpreted in a number of different contexts. When the spACE-Net research group approached us to re-install the original installation for a conference in York, we suggested instead, creating an eight-channel improvised version of the piece.

Swash was a permanent, twenty-four channel sound installation, based entirely on under-water recordings, created for the Living Coasts visitor attraction in Torquay in June 2003. By placing twenty-two independently controlled speakers at regular intervals throughout the space, we were able to create an environment in which a number of different spatial behavioural models could be explored. The premise of the original installation was based around these movement models so that the spatial dimension of the piece became its primary focus. The fact that all the sounds used were derived from recordings of water was, in the first instance, a secondary theme.

The first reinterpretation of the piece was conceived as an eight-channel, acousmatic fixed media work. This piece was not merely an eight-channel reduction of the original installation but an entirely new composition based on the same materials in which focus was shifted from the movement models explored in the installation, to the gestural potential latent but not fully exploited in the original materials. Unlike the original installation, the concert version has a very definite teleology. This version of the piece was premiered at the Martin Harris Centre, Manchester in June 2006 as part of the Sonic Arts Network EXPO. Where the 'fixed' concert version concentrated on movement in the sounds, both spatial and dynamic, we were always aware of another latent quality to these sounds; namely, the dense, static, immersive textures, which unfold sometimes almost imperceptibly slowly. Responding then, to James Tenney's notion that: "You don't expect a river all of a sudden to change its speed, to make itself more interesting"[1], in the improvised version all sense of 'development' as such is eschewed and instead replaced by a slowly evolving sound environment much closer in form to the sonic contexts in which the original recordings were made.

  • [1] Lucier, Alvin (ed.) Gronemeyer and Oehlschlagel, 1995, Reflections: Interviews Scores Writings 1965-1994, Musiktexte 003, Germany