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    A new version of Catabolizer was presented at On the Choreography of Sound.

    Program notes

    In its original version commissioned by the Borealis Festival 2010 in Bergen/Norway, Catabolizer was a 16-channel sound installation processing the music performed during the festival at the Rom 8 gallery space, where it was installed permanently. After each concert, Catabolizer was fed a recording of the event. This started a 'digestion process' which continued until the next concert. The loudspeaker setting at Rom 8 related in detail to the acoustics of the gallery space, particularly taking into account the stronger first-order reflections. The version installed at the Studiobühne at MUMUTH uses the sound material of the spatial sound environment Among as 'nourishment'. The loudspeaker setting has been adapted to the quite different architectural and acoustic situation particular to this room.


    The following four images give some impression of the way the installation could be experienced. It was located in the Studiobühne, which is a rehearsal stage located on the top floor of MUMUTH. This floor can be reached from the foyer via a spectacular staircase (see more about MUMUTH here). The first photo shows the view of approaching the top floor via the staircase. At that position the sounds from the installation could be hear already. So, through moving up the stairs, one slowly entered the installation.

    Arriving to the top floor via stairs

    Once arrived on the landing and having turned around, the second photo shows the two open doors to the Studiobühne, through which the installation could be heard in a kind of 'stereo reduction' (this situation reminded me of the holes in the wall representing the loudspeakers in Moore's model of spatialization [1]).

    The doors were kept open while the installaton was on

    Inside the Studiobühne, the curtains where drawn, which made the room very dry and there was no light other than the one shining through the open doors and the some leaking through the gap between the curtain and the floor. The following two photos show inside views, which are a bit overexposed to improve readability. The experience in the room was that of a much darker situation. One could see the speakers (although the green power LED's where covered) but otherwise it was quite dim. There was enough light to walk around and the back light from the gap between curtain and floor was a bit dazzling.

    Inside view towards right doorInside view towards left doorRecording

    There is a documentation recording made with a head-related stereo microphone (KFM6) positioned in the center of the installation. The stereo signal was recorded with a Nanoface directly to a PowerBook. See the image below showing the microphone position. The recording is 1h 20min long. An mp3 version can be found here.

    Microphone positionScore
    Catabolizer is defined as a computer model (in SuperCollider) which can be adapted easily to different situations. The situation in the Studiobühne is very different from the space where it was premiered. Still, the same model was be used, but with another parametrization, concerning sound material, temporal and spatial structure.

    Download file "Catabolizer_score.pdf"

    Bergen Version

    The room Catabolizer was conceived for originally is a very reverberant gallery space. There the speakers were projecting against the walls and windows, making conscious use of the reflections. The next photo shows an overview of the setup in Bergen (the windows are invisible, their position can be inferred from the blueish daylight on the left side of the image).

    Catabolizer at Rom 8, Borealis Festival 2010The positions and orientation of the speakers were determined by means of a simplified model of the acoustics of the space, taking into account the first-order reflections (developed by David Pirrò). The locations at which the speakers were pointed, were marked with a black dot on the walls and windows. A visualization of the model can be seen in the next image, showing the final setup.

    Direct (black) and first reflection (red) paths for the 16 speakers in Rom 8

    In Bergen another strategy for the recording was followed than in Graz. An AB microphone setup was used. The positions of the microphones was determined experimentally, with the aim of creating an interesting rendering of the work rather than to convey an impression of the experience one could have had in the space. Since the room is very reverberant, the recording needed some direct signals, otherwise the room acoustics would wash away all detail. The solution found was to place the two microphones into the direct path of two speakers each, thus creating a very special listening position, impossible to gain in the real space. The contrast between the direct sound and the indirect one coming from the other speakers worked out well in order to create a relatively balanced recording. Here comes a short excerpt from the installation digesting the first concert (including some car noise from the street).

    The next photo shows the microphone positions. Omnidirectional capsules were used.

    Positions of the two microphones in the direct path of 4 loudspeakers
    Comparison of Versions
    The Graz version at the Studiobühne is quite different from the Bergen version. If the program leaflet wouldn't have been printed already when the Graz version was produced, it could have been considered a new work with another title – despite the fact that it uses the same model. The main differences between the two versions are the number of speakers (Bergen: 16; Graz: 31), their placement (Bergen: against walls/windows; Graz: towards center of the room), the number of processes (Bergen: 6 processes involving 6 speakers each, some speakers used by 2 processes, composed assignment of speakers; Graz: 31 processes involving 3 speakers each, random assignment of speakers) and the room acoustics (Bergen: reverberant; Graz: dry).

    Choreographing the Audience

    One of the interesting findings of exposing Among to the audience of On the Choreography of Sound was that the sound environment, besides allowing for the experience of sonic choreographies, also choreographed the movement of the audience in the installation. A similar aspect could be observed with the Bergen version of Catabolizer, where the choreography was intended and provoked by the speaker placement, which created a corridor in front of three walls of the room. The movement patterns of the audience can be observed in the following time-lapse video taken at the finissage (there is no sound track on the video).

    Time-laps video at the finissage of the Catabolizer in Rom 8


    [1] F. Richard Moore, A General Model for Spatial Processing of Sounds, Computer Music Journal, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Autumn, 1983), pp. 6-15.

    Download file "A General Model for Spatial Processing of Sounds.pdf"