Scenes from the Plastisphere - Rama Gottfried

Presented during the IRCAM Forum Workshop 2023 In Paris.

One of the key realisations I had during my musical research residency at Ircam in 2012, was the importance of multi-modal information in the process of spatial perception; both in terms of visual presence as well as the inherent forms and textures perceivable in a purely psychoacoustic timbre space.
In the piece Fluoresce developed during this time, a single cellist performs in a surrounding virtual space of speakers in HOA and WFS. The in the midst of swarms of invisible spatial textures, the presence of the performer created a powerful visual focal point in space which drew the audience’s attention. I found that focusing on the performer as a concrete visual form, also creates a sense of solidification in sonic space, which warps and telescopes our perception of the spatial auditory scene.

At the same time, while developing approaches for working with complex movements of groups of points to create interesting spatial textures and flows, I was confronted with the cognitive relationship between auditory and visual spatial perception: when seeing a texture of points has a strong influence on our ability to hear the details of the scene. And further, the sound itself contains important psychoacoustic cues of form in auditory space, height, depth, density, created purely from formations of timbre and contrapuntal texture.

In the years following this time, I continued reflecting on these principles of spatial composition, and developed a series of scenographic/music-theater/live cinema works which explore the connection between visual and auditory spatial forms. Drawing on insights from object theater, field recording, and Foley sound practices, the pieces are constructed as a series of tableaus in different types of spaces and environments. In the work Scenes from the Plastisphere, a dramaturgy of spatial scales leads the audience from frontal, cinematic compressed spaces and microscopic scale images, developing towards a transformation of the stage scenography — where the screen becomes a floating kind of cloud puppet, three-dimensional projection form, and at the final climax a disco ball bursts open our experience of the space, coupled with a shift of auditory perspective into a large, completely-surrounding reverberant space.