The Sonic Commons; an embrace or retreat?

Nigel Helyer

In discussing Immersive sound environments we find ourselves at the mercy of a phalanx of aqueous metaphors, saturated in an inescapable lexicon engulfing our senses, saturating our frames in the fluid medium of sound. So be it; let us be carried away on the flood to be inundated in the ocean of sound.

This text is concerned with concepts of spatiality, of location and the interactions of sounding bodies that articulate and activate the soundscape; how we as auditors experience the sonic domain and how we as authors compose and construct compelling, immersive audioscapes.

We will consider strategies and methodologies for the design and composition of sonic narratives in non-linear environments; for example the design of immersive soundscapes, within installations that employ multiple parallel soundtexts; and in particular new compositional methods for building terrain-based mobile location sensitive audio experiences.

This presentation will examine the construction of sound narratives, together with the mechanisms for engaging with and experiencing, spatially distributed audioworks. I shall use my own creative and research projects that exhibit various forms of Immersion to tease out these issues, using four basic approaches that are categorised as follows:

1. Three-dimensional speaker arrays with dynamic spatial audio.
2. Environmental and public soundart projects.
3. Interactive multi-channel projects.
4. Location sensitive terrain-based spatial audio research.

These four categories of soundart projects each deal with issues of immersion and with the construction of narrative and modes of interaction in a variety of ways. Each work category describing different strategies for composition and content development for immersive environments and identifies varying auditor experiences, highlighting concepts of Linearity and Non-linearity and changing perceptions of locale and

The works also allude to the changes in concepts of sonic immersion particularly in reference to Public Space by indicating how the technologies of audio transmission and reproduction have increasingly enabled and encouraged forms of privatized and selective hearing effecting a withdrawal from the Sonic Commons.

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