Home - Surround Sound Performance


“Home” was an experiment with the scenographic use of sound to construct and deconstruct a sense of ‘home’. The piece used surround sound, placed real sounds (made by performers), smells, and wind. I directed and orchestrated, while operating the recorded sounds (and the toaster!). The audience were made to wear ‘3D’ glasses (effectively cardboard blindfolds with the conceit of allowing them to ‘see’ in 3D). I wrote a short paper accompanying the piece:

My first consideration was to experiment with a realistic scenographic construction of a geographical place. I used surround sound to place the audience in the centre of a three dimensional aural landscape. In order to focus on the scenographical nature of the use of sound, I decided to avoid any visual distraction and work only with the other senses available. Ackerman states that

“[S]ounds have to be located in space – identified by type, intensity and other features. There is a geographical quality to listening.”

By locating both recorded and real sounds around the audience and outside the studio, my use of sound became a spatially constructed scenographic design.

According to Di Benedetto, “The success of playing with sounds comes from the creation of a shared atmosphere. As our brains become used to the patterns of meaning-making through soundscape, then variation can be used to challenge our assumptions about what should come next.” The set up of a sensory recreation of the North Wales coast allows me to start introducing counterpoints – the ‘realistic’ geographical sounds are subverted by the real sounds of the people making them. The anonymous cellist next door attempting the Welsh national anthem starts swearing in Polish, Grotowski replaces Tom Jones on the radio, and when they choir finishes they reveal a wide variety of native languages.

I was particularly influenced by Baudrillard in developing the layering of ‘real’ placed sounds and reproduced (but originally ‘real’) placed sounds. For example, the end of the piece reveals that that the cup of tea being made in the soundscape exists and Tom is drinking it. I created various binary pairs of these layers of ‘realness’, as well as within the pair of exterior and interior home.

“Sound, unlike other stimuli, is as effective when mechanically reproduced because the vibrations stimulate the brain in the same way, whether mimetic or actual.”

By setting up the virtuoisity of sound-(re)construction and its ability to stimulate an audience on a visceral level, I allowed for it to be unwritten through its own medium. I am attempting to deconstruct the ‘realism’ of the audience’s suspended disbelief, in which the ‘real’ sounds of performers disrupt a more coherent offered sonic reality of the pre-recorded soundscape.

As well as parodying a stereotypically Welsh idyll, the undercutting of elements and the dialogue with the ‘real’ here and now of multicultural performers parallels the irony of Welsh patriotism. This refers specifically to my home town, in which the increasingly large Polish community is often mistaken by the ‘real’ locals as speaking Welsh. I want to disrupt the individual construct of an idealised Ithaca, as well as in a larger sense challenging the patriotic construct of ‘home’ in a multicultural society.

“[The real] is no longer really the real because no imaginary envelops it anymore. It is a hyperreal, produced from a radiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere.”

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