Particle Breeze - Jan Ove Hennig

Using particle systems to dynamically position sounds in space using the Spat library

Presented by:  Jan Ove Hennig

The Spat suite is a powerful tool for allocating sound in space based on complex rule sets. Once a sound source has been defined and positioned, it can be used as an emitter of real-time generated waveforms, or audio buffers containing pre-recorded material. Finding a methodology that allows the listener to intuitively understand the logic behind a rule set while making the process manageable for a composer or performer isn’t easy.

The goal of this project was to investigate concepts that rely on physics-based rules in computing the position of individual sound sources. Out of several studies, using particle systems as the underlying principle behind the movement of sound generated the most promising results. This lead to „Particle Breeze“, an immersive sound installation that was originally commissioned by Genelec Japan. The objective was to create unique experiences rendered in real time for customers visiting their purpose-built Atmos showroom in Tokyo. The individual notes of the composition behave according to a particle system, and traverse the room based on concepts of attraction and friction. All aspects of the particle system are computed using the Jitter toolkit that comes with Max/MSP. The purpose of this installation was to explore a concept for immersive sound that is not based on a stereo recording which is then spatialized, or a recording that retains the spatial quality of its room. Instead, the position of each note is as crucial as are the designated pitch and amplitude components.

I've since developed this concept further and adapted it to the 24-speaker configuration of the SoundLab facility of the City University in Hong Kong, where sounds were generated live by a Modular Synthesizer and then spatialized as particles by the Max/MSP patch. This project has shown me that it’s possible to manipulate the position of individual notes in space in way that’s meaningful for both the performer and the listener alike.

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