A 16-channel sound installation created for Edgemar, Santa Monica, CA. Plays daily from 8am-11pm.

The installation is connected to the tides at the nearby Santa Monica Pier, which are marked by dramatic episodes swirling through the live acoustical space. High tide brings in a few new pieces of 'sonic driftwood', and low tide washes away a few sounds, so that over time the materials are replenished like so much coastline flotsam and jetsam. The driftwood consists of sounds recorded around the site, with the addition of instrumental materials provided by Jesse Catron, Paul Livingstone, Pauline Oliveros, Jeremy Drake, Philip Gelb and Vinny Golia.

Full Description

Our primary consideration in the design of LISTEN EDGEMAR was to find ways to gently transform the space of the subterranean garage, 'activating' a relatively blank canvas. The concept is to shade the acoustical perception of the space for the typical visitor, rather than to create an elaborate counterpoint of melody which becomes tedious to the listener, a typical result of public music. Long-term structures are created with short sonic objects which appear gradually, and wash in and out -- taking their cues from the ebb and flow of tides at the nearby Santa Monica Municipal Pier. The computer is loaded with tidetable predictions which indicate the high and low waters; these local maximum and minimum water marks activate the environment with energy.

The tides are marked by episodes lasting one to five minutes, containing a mix of the sound components defining the LISTEN EDGEMAR vocabulary (birds, airplanes, buses, ocean waves, accordion, cello, shakuhachi, contrabass flute, contrabass saxophone, and so on). Each sound component is assigned a spatialization pattern from a large repertoire, so that they are all heard as being in flight. A strong spatial counterpoint is built up from the coincidence of these patterns interacting across 8,000 square feet of space. To emphasize this dynamic use of the space, the tidetables are posted at Edgemar, so interested visitors can arrive in time to hear the high water solos.

Each high water brings with it a number of pieces of driftwood which are left behind in the space, joining the gradually changing cluster of sounds. Each object is assigned an interval at which it repeats, from a few seconds up to several days, and a spatial trajectory on which it travels, mirroring the ground-level architecture. An object persists until finally a low water washes it away. The result is constantly oscillating textures, likely to stay similar over a short period of listening, but with an unanticipated counterpoint following from the large interval distribution. The pieces are drawn from more than 40 hours of source material -- from the courtyard at Edgemar, the garage and the street, and in the studio, Pauline Oliveros (accordion), Philip Gelb (shakuhachi), Vinny Golia (multiple flutes and single reeds), Jeremy Drake (prepared guitar), Jessica Catron (cello) and Paul Livingstone (Indian string instruments).

Supplementing the highly spatialized and dynamic tidal episodes several times a day and the quiet backdrop of the ticking driftwood, LISTEN EDGEMAR contains a 'fountain' component, a row of speakers 32 feet long, mirroring the water feature in the courtyard above. It contains a series of instrumental trills and water sounds in gentle continuous oscillation.

A separate trio of speakers defines the space where people wait for the elevator, or as they come into the garage from above and cross the space. Pressing the elevator button causes the pure sine tones that resynthesize the pump noise (our garage harmony!) to be replaced by instrumental recordings of the same notes, with an elaborate, three-cornered panning algorithm. This dies away after a few minutes, a mere ripple in the texture. The tones being played are derived from the pump machinery driving the fountain above.

Finally, the installation is capable of responding to events in its surrounding environment. The computer periodically samples the live environment at different times of day, adding materials to its library of potential sounds. These episodes will appear at a future high water mark, perhaps the next day or perhaps in the next year.

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