Humidity is an aural event existing somewhere in between music and architecture.  It is architectural in the sense that it is not to be experienced temporally, but spatially.  In the usual experience of a musical work, the listener sits in one place and the music passes linearly, it has a beginning, an ending, and some form of narrative in between.  This installation is not to be passively experienced, but inhabited, explored, observed from multiple angles and perspectives.  The composition’s change in time is only a secondary characteristic; its manifestations in space are the primary concerns.  Notice how some sounds move while other remain static.  This is created by a combination of traditional speaker technology, and a new technology called modulated ultrasound emitters.  The emitters create highly directional audio; if a traditional loudspeaker is a light bulb, the emitter is a laser.  Like a laser, it remains coherent even after reflection.  This creates nodes of sound throughout the space where the audio beams intersect.

In its musical facet, Humidity is an algorithmic composition consisting of tonal material combined with human vocalizations.  The content of the composition is pre-determined, but the execution, that is the combination, spatialization and timing of the aural events, is determined randomly by a computer algorithm.  At this step, the creator’s agency is abandoned in the hope of stepping beyond unconscious compositional biases and ‘discovering’ new possibilities.  The final step of this process is the re-assembly of the material by the listener into their own framework of understanding.  The piece overall is an exploration of how humans assemble meaning and internal cohesion out of a scattered field of familiar and alien sign.  I refer you to The Open Work by Umberto Eco for a fascinating exploration of this topic.

Thanks to the University Musical Society for their generous support of this project which is the final presentation for my Masters of Media Arts.  Also thanks to the University of Michigan School of Music Theatre and Dance Department of Performing Arts Technology for guidance and equipment.  Finally, thanks to Pushkin Press for permission to use excerpts from Petru Popescu’s The Encounter/Amazon Beaming in the installation.

Link to my thesis: