The striated soundscape

The installation 'Revoicing the striated soundscape' creates a sonic space in which air-conditioners speak, chant and sing to passers-by.

Does our city have a voice? If it does, then a hidden (though ubiquitous) voice of the city is the voice of our laneways.

Perhaps once peaceful spaces, many laneways are now filled with the turgid drones of air-conditioners that cease to be respites from everyday city sounds. Equally this endless exhalation exists for our comfortable indoor existence. This installation attempts to reach inside these sounds, discover their qualities and transform them into new listening experiences.

The installation comprises eight soundscape compositions running on a 90 minute loop. The composition uses recordings of air-conditioners and other familiar laneway sounds, including the movement of rubbish bins and the opening and closing of doors, which back onto laneways. The ubiquitous air-conditioners in Melbourne’s laneways create a homogenous soundscape, where inhabitants are subjected to a one-way listening experience: an unchanging monologue of turgid drones.

In this installation, voices emerge from the drones creating a sense of dialogue between the ’voice of the city’and the inhabitants of the city.

The term, striated soundscape, is sourced from Deleuze and Guattari, who used striations as a visual metaphor to describe sedentary urban space. Spectral visualisations of air-conditioning sounds show parallel lines existing in the soundscape, thus the term: striated soundscape. Smooth space is reimparted by re-composing these striations in image-to-sound software allowing a new voice to emerge.

The installation uses the software program WasP, an interactive performance environment for multichannel spatial soundscape composition, developed by Jeffrey Hannam (software design and programming) and Lawrence Harvey (concept design) at SIAL Sound Studios, RMIT University.

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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nations on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.