Sacred Noise and Profanation


An interactive audiovisual installation by
Bill Vorn & LP Demers
Montréal (Québec) Canada
© 1993



SACRED NOISE & PROFANATION invites the viewer to experience an unusual space and modify the nature of the surrounding soundscape by its sole movement. It is an exploration of different interaction modes without using conventional visual interfaces (i.e. screen-based interfaces).

Two different types of sensors are used. Hanging from the ceiling, infrared sensors detect the presence (or absence) of viewers in a narrow vertical field located just beneath. These sensors transmit a binary value to the computer. Halfway between ground and ceiling are disposed 8 telemetric ultrasound sensors. These sensors detect the relative position of the viewers in a narrow horizontal field and send continuous values (in a 128-step range) to the processing unit. To each sensing device is associated a distinct sound source which is modified in real time by the surrounding activity.

Following certain rules and conditions, information is managed by the control software (Max) and allows interaction between the system and the viewers on specific limited but well-defined parameters; events triggering, sound samples selection, dynamic intensity, pitch change, rythm variation.
Eight "pieces" of about 3 minutes each propose an exploration of different interaction through various soundscapes. The complete cycle is then approximatively 25 minutes long, but each cycle is different from the others as the viewers movement is never the same and always changing.

The soundtrack is composed of simple structures of loops and repetitive patterns in order to make the viewer's action on the system much more understandable. These soundbites are generated in real time by the computer thru sixteen speakers distributed all over the space. The lighting system allows the viewer to "visualize" the sensing fields as well as contributing to the overall ambiance.

SACRED NOISE: "Any prodigious sound or noise which is exempt from social proscription. Originally, such natural phenomena as thunder, volcanic eruptions, storms, and so on, were regarded as sacred noise, as they were believed to represent divine combats or divine displeasure with man. By analogy, the expression may be extended to social noises which, during certain periods of history, have escaped the attention of noise abatement legislators, e.g. church bells, industrial noise, moozak, amplified pop music, etc."
Truax, B., Murray Schafer, R.,
Handbook for Acoustic Ecology no. 5 (p. 108)






• Espace ACREQ
(Montreal, Canada)
From June 9 to 11, 1993


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