Every building or space possesses unique and idiomatic visual characteristics. However, it also has acoustical and sonic properties which are often overlooked and go unnoticed, even though they contain a particularly dynamic potential for revealing hidden spatio-temporal qualities of any given space.
Modes_VDA exploits such auditory properties – or resonance in particular – as means of acoustic exploration and site-specific sonification. The piece is based upon the usage of natural resonance modes existing in every chamber at different frequency ranges, which are reinforced with the help of the live instruments and sinusoidal waves. Such reinforcing of the resonant room frequencies opens a previously hidden dimension for sensory and acoustic exploration – the occurrence of the “standing waves” creates a stable spatio-temporal architecture that can be explored and investigated by the visitor, enabling him to find his own perspective of listening and spatial perception. The visitor is hence invited to observe beyond the usual “listening” act and to instead dwell on the acoustically excited, naturally resonant chamber’s soundscape.
Such sonic system is created by using the resonant frequencies of the building (or the so-called “room modes”). These particular frequencies function in a slightly unusual manner – they are amplified by the room itself, with the walls acting as natural amplification systems – a process occurring due to the simple physical qualities of the dimensions: sound travels in air at approximately 343 m/s, meaning that every single length has a particular wavelength corresponding to a particular pitch frequency. Such phenomena can be easily observed when playing an instrument in a relatively small room – particular pitches will suddenly sound louder and more resonant – a quality that distinguishes acoustically well-built halls from the lesser ones and also causes headache for most of the sound engineers across the globe.
However, when exploited purposefully, such resonant frequencies allow the space to act as one enormous “speaker”, thus bringing out the natural sonic characteristics of the space. Such an approach to the sonification of the space itself not only ensures that the true harmonic spectrum of the space is amplified and made audible, but also results in a constantly interchanging and evolving hypnotic soundscape.
The piece was conceived as a part of a larger method-pieces cycle based on the acoustic exploration of spaces and their natural resonant frequencies. Modes_VDA was written using the frequencies of the main hall of Vilnius Art Academy (VDA) building, with the idea of turning the building into one natural amplification system itself. The musical form of the piece was created using a complex pitch&tuning system based on the fundamental frequencies, their overtone series (up to the 16th partial) and their ratios, which were all established during a research and testing phase. Then a score was conceived, which uses the fundamental resonant frequencies and their harmonic spectrum as the main pitch and length material source.
The music functions in the following way: the nine-piece ensemble is divided into two groups – the “harmonic” and “attacking” instruments. The harmonic group is structurally “scanning” through the main fundamental frequencies and their harmonic spectrum up to the 16th partial, whereas the three attacking instruments (el.guitar, piano and trumpet) are outlining particular rhythmical structures within the intense sonic texture.