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Sound Design

David Shulman

Dave is a musician, artist and researcher. Having graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 2005 with a degree in Jazz Performance, he continues working as an improvising saxophonist, clarinettist and educator whilst nurturing his passion for other modes of creative expression and artistic research.

His current research and making practise explores the use of found and sourced materials to create DIY sound making, capturing and listening devices that pickup electromagnetic energy for spatialised listening experiences. Combining embodied listening with a walking and psychogeography practise, the work explores intuitions and speculations linking consciousness with matter and ‘magnetoreception'. 

Through the unconventional use of current technologies and modes of digital storytelling such as 360 video for communicating this work, he is able to combine his varied interests in composition, music and sound production, visual representation and geometry.

Dave's research and critical making practise that has unfolded during his time at the RCA draws together 3 interdependent and deeply entwined modes of generativity:

DIY Electromagnetic listening and sound capturing devices

Intuitive electro-acoustic sound walks

Experimental digital documentation and storytelling

These intertwined modes of making/researching/documenting have given rise to an additional critical thinking/writing component which reflexively informs and is informed by the practise of 'making'.

To borrow (whilst tweaking slightly) from Tim Ingold, this process could be summarised by the term 'Critical thinking through critical making'.

Utilising an approach to generating artefacts, tools, soundscapes and audiovisual experiences that relies heavily on improvisatory and auto-ethnographical methods has fostered a critical re-evaluation of the mechanisation inherent in techno-scientific modes of thinking and doing ubiquitous to design and making practices and the broader cultural and societal world view.

One question from this frenzied activity that arose was:

If technology were treated as an extension of nature as opposed to separate from it, what would it begin to look like?

Through redeploying and combining existing tools, objects, both found and sourced into reformulated technological assemblages, in part as an exploration of agency both as an art school 'outsider' with the peculiar skillset of trained musical improvisor and neurodiverse 'space cadet' Dave began to imagine how a being from 'another planet' or more than human entities might intuitively interact with tools and technologies where the original prescribed or intended usage was of little importance.


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360 Video 'Impossible' soundscape installation - Please use headphones and a Mac or PC — This 'virtual installation' works with the limitations of the 4 channel 1st order ambisonics platform available on YouTube. To generate an immersive soundscape 3 separate 360 film clips were stitched together adding the spatial audio mixed separately and mapped to the approximate location of the speakers. If using a mobile device please copy and paste this web address into your browser: https://youtu.be/6xbQnGlrNGg
Multichannel scope inversions - Please use headphones — Working with multichannel scope objects in Max MSP this process video experiments with psychoacoustic properties of spatial sound. The sound is accurately mapped to the left sphere, whereas in the right sphere it is inverted.

Developing the audience experience of my research led to experimenting with the use of digital and analogue oscilloscopes and an exploration of communicating the material agency of sound and electrical energy both sonically and visually.

Using 360 video became an obvious way to encapsulate and document my work in a generative and engaging way.

Through the auto ethnographical representation of the maker in the studio, the haptic experience of the binaural hat can be experienced via the imagination if not literally.

If using a mobile device please go to this link to experience the 360 video.

Stereo glove — Converts textural variations from gestural hand movements through electromagnetic fields with 2 induction coils.
3 Channel sonic compass — Captures energy through rotations as the the 3 inductors pass through electromagnetic energy fields creating a 3 channel binaural experience.
Quadrophonic sonic compass — Uses two pares of stereo electromagnetic sensors with a 4 channel recorder.
VR inspired Ambisonic sensor with 360 Camera attachment
Binaural Hat and Sonic Compass demonstration — This video made originally for the Ircam workshops in Paris last March demonstrates the 3 channel headset which enables sound to be experienced as haptic vibrations across the skull. It uses MDF with surface transducers which make the material vibrate and produce sound.

Improvisation, 'Adhocism' and working with the affordances of materials and the synchronistic resonances or unexpected synergies found when they are assembled together in unusual ways form the basis of this critical making approach.

The challenges of reducing the broad scope of my research and making into a communicable brief led me to explore the multiple ways in which it could be framed. Each frame as a narrative or 'paradigm' which inevitably would emphasise a different part of the project and privilege certain kinds of information over others. Above left is an improvised assemblage of three of these virtual paradigms.

This exercise is a reflection of my interest in non-deterministic creative practises and preserving a degree of fluidity in the creative output and discourse surrounding my work.