Live Sound Design Clubtransmediale, AMaze Festival, HBC, January 2010, Berlin
The AMaze festival (Part of the Clubtransmediale Berlin in 2010) headlined the use of music, sound and acoustics in computer games. As the TAD-Team, Timo Schneider, Anne-Kathrin Pheline Binz and I, created and implemented the sound design concept for three events of the festival, as well as the sound of the breaks in between.
The three events were the festival's opening, the talkshow, and the five-hour long symposium.
The main idea was to acoustically mirror the virtual world of the games in the real world of the event. We surrounded the audience with an in-game atmosphere, to blur the boundaries between virtual and real life.
We created sounds for a live-electronic set, since we wanted to be able to spontaneously interact with whatever might occur during the events.
With our live sound design-performance we slightly conducted and commented the program. For instance we created an electronic 8-Bit bellsound to let the speakers know they should come to an end of their lecture – which the more stubborn speakers ignored.
The tricky part of this project was to interact with the situation in a way that wouldn't distract the audience too much from the actual events on the stage. Our knowledge of psychoacoustic facts about the way humans perceive sound, such as selective listening and the emotional effect of music, helped us to appropriately prepare and perform our live-sound design.
Thus the set of sounds that we created consisted of the three main elements: atmospheres, rhythmical patterns and single sounds.
Atmospheres The atmospheres were used to create a slowly changing, yet unobtrusive surround sound, that functioned on an unconscious level. The striking thing about using these kinds of sounds is the big effect you can have on the perception of the audience (and the speakers) by stopping a sound, rather than starting it. After being exposed to a specific sound for a while the audience unconsciously gets used to it slowly sweeping and sneaking into their ears. When the sound suddenly stops, they pay full attention.
Rhythm The use of rhythmical patterns fitting the actual atmosphere helped us to create little climaxes throughout the event.
Single sounds Much work went into the creation of a set of single effect-sounds. These sounds ranged from 8-Bit 'mario-like' sounds to state of the art movie sound effects. With these sounds at hand we could spontaneously react to the actions and topics on the stage. Knowledge of the speakers’ background and issues helped us to create sounds that would fit in the actual moment.
To keep up the in-game atmosphere during the breaks of the festival, we created different sonic worlds of imaginary computer games, which we played in between the main events. These sonic games ranged from old-school jump and run games to elaborate, cinematic ego-shooters and racing games.
The audience as well as the promoters of the AMaze festival reacted very positively to our work. The main finding of this project was the fact that shaping the auditory level of an event can not only make it an unusual experience but also keep an hours-long lecture-panel interesting and exciting. With knowledge of psychoacoustic factors that affect human perception, sound can be used to structurize, conduct and comment an event and even avoid moments of fatigue.