Patrick Proctor’s Sine Waves Hit Openhouse

Didn’t notice the subtle auditory shifts at Patrick Proctor’s GridMusic art show Sunday? Proctor did. “The second performance was definitely a full house and saw the piece at its most frenetic. The final performance was a lot calmer and saw a lot of the piece’s subtleties revealed,” he says. The organ-like tune that blanketed guests in a sea of calm was actually a slow mix of 100% pure sine waves. 100% definite this was the first time a tidal wave of sines hit Openhouse Gallery.

May15’s show featured an open bar and three different shows. In each exhibition, guests were monitored by Proctor’s camera, and they influenced the sine waves by just doing their thing. “Over time, ‘beat’ waves are introduced which give the piece a sense of motion and frenetic energy,” Proctor says. The scene was projected on Openhouse’s back wall, too. At one point, guests all moved to the bar at once and GridMusic went quiet. Proctor’s friends ran over to him and yelled, “The piece just crashed!” It was really that GridMusic was responding to the people who had moved out of the main space.

Get thorough with it and check out this five-question interview with Patrick Proctor to fully grasp the art project he did as part of his Tisch thesis:

1. What’d you think of the show?
The show was a lot of fun, and a great success.  Openhouse’s space really worked well for the piece, and we had a nice varied turnout over the course of the evening.  The first performance was relatively sparse, and kept the piece in its early stages.  The second performance was definitely a full house, and saw the piece at it’s most frenetic.  The final performance was a lot calmer, and saw a lot of the piece’s subtleties revealed.  For me, it was a great proof of concept that GridMusic achieves a lot of what I was shooting for when I created it.

2. What were the sounds guests heard?
The sounds were a slow mix of pure sine waves, that were influenced by the presence of individuals in the sensor space.  Over time, “beat” waves are introduced which give the piece a sense of motion and frenetic energy.  For the gallery install, we created a visualization on the wall, which gave some folks the impression that the piece would be reacting immediately to their presence.  Actually, the opposite is true.  GridMusic is a slow moving, one hour beast.  While everyone present in the space undeniably contributes to the composition, the contributions aren’t intended to be immediate or obvious in their impact.

3. What did you hear? Describe the differences and how the sound was effected
Because I’ve had months of time with the piece, I think that the subtleties were more immediately apparent to me than to the crowd.  That being said, I think the differences were apparent to anyone who spent more than 15-20 minutes with the piece.  Some of my favorite sounds of the evening were a low bass drone in the third performance, and a gentle layering of all the tones at the opening of the second performance.

Many of the differences were created through the interactions of the sine waves, and their beats.  The sonic differences of the piece rely heavily on the phase of sound waves, and the fact that each node of the grid is operating independently, so there is phase shifting on an ongoing basis.  Throughout the evening there would be moments when over a 5-10 minute period a very evident change would gradually emerge in the form of a new tone or beat.  These moments, or “reveals”, were the highlight for me.  They are extremely subtle, but they also give you a truly ambient sense of transition and change, which is a reflection of the goings on in the space.

Perhaps my favorite moment of the evening was during the performance when all present (~15 people) decided to get drinks, and GridMusic quieted down.  A friend came running over to me at the bar as silence descended on the space and said “The piece just crashed!”.  In fact, the space had just momentarily emptied, and GridMusic was reflecting that exactly as intended.  A very exciting moment for me, in terms of the ideas behind GridMusic being manifested in the real world.

4. What was the visual display?
The visual display was an active indication of the state of the grid during the performance.  While it’s not intended for the full deployment, I decided to have it in the gallery setting, so that individuals could better understand the process and function of the piece.  I added the current video feed for each node of the grid, so that individuals could have a real 1:1 understanding of how they were affecting the grid and the piece’s progress.  I think the video feedback gave some people the impression of immediacy in the piece, whereas the actual intent is far more ambient and slow growing.  The motion detection is feeding into a composition that is generative in nature, and intended to reflect one hour’s existence of a space, not the actions of an individual.  That being said, I felt that the projection was necessary in order to have engagement with the piece in closed setting, where natural crowd movement and flow are inherently lacking.

5. How were the three shows different
Given that the piece has a dependency on population, that was the most obvious modifier.  The first show only had 15-20 attendees, and saw many more ups and downs in the piece.  The second show was highly populated, and had more of a “wall of sound” vibe, as much of the spatial grid was active for a long duration.  The final show had a similar number of attendees, but things had slowed down a bit.  In that showing we saw more development of individual tones as people stayed static in portions of the space.  One of the most consistent components of all of the performances was that the crowd would slowly grow immune to the desire to actively interact with the piece, and would go back to their own business.  This usually took about 5-10 minutes, and once that happened, the piece was much more revealing to me.  GridMusic is all about natural movement in space, so once individuals adapted to it and let it work on it’s own, it created a far more ambient soundscape that truly reflected the nature of the space over the course of the evening.


Photos by Dan Scofield
Greg Spielberg | May 17 2011


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