Signal Space

[please listen with headphones for sub-bass content and binaural mix (meaning that you should perceive some sounds as being located inside your skull)]

Signal Space is an electroacoustic piece that I composed for the 2023 Bowed Electrons Festival & Symposium. The piece functions as a composition study where I apply the concept of 'data as design material' in music composition. This concept comes from soma-design methodology, where the design process is guided by bodily practices and grounded in a designer's lived experience. In addition to being a complete work on its own, this piece informs the design process for an interactive music system that I am designing.

In this piece, I use data recordings of the electrical activity in my own nervous system produced by my muscle contractions (electromyographic) and heartbeat (electrocardiographic). The composition comprises two sections: In the first section, I use this bioelectric data as sound material. In the second, the data functions as control signals applied to pre-recorded samples of viola audio.

The piece begins with a raw sonified electromyographic signal. We hear the signal as it is with very little filtering. Gradually, a swishing sound reveals itself. This is the same raw signal, but it has been analysed and separated into different frequency bands. We can now understand the raw signal as a rich combination of many bioelectric impulses (known in neuroscience as action-potentials), shooting through multiple muscle fibers all at once. We then hear the most prominent frequencies within each ‘swish’ as a collection of clicks and pops.

These signals then introduce glitches in short loops of viola samples through continuous controll of the loop start and end points (in the audio sample tracks). These glitches occasionally create new synthesized pitches. Towards the end of the piece, my heartbeat grounds the music in contrast to the chaos of the glitching loops. Finally, only my heartbeat remains.

By delving into data as design material I hope to deepen understandings of the underlying bodily processes inside our bodies as living beings. By doing so through music, we can gain nuanced, tacit understandings that may difficult to articulate with language or quantitative methods.