City becomes ‘one gigantic instrument’ in Manchester university music project

By Sean-Paul Doran

Manchester became ‘one gigantic instrument’ this week in a University of Manchester initiative aiming to give concert-goers an exciting new sound experience.

A group of university researchers, led by Dr Ricardo Climent, conducted a walking tour to capture the sounds of the city as part of the LocativeAudio festival.

The tour  featured commentaries and compositions triggered using GPS and 3G technology at specific locations on specially configured smart phones in Manchester and Blacksburg, Virginia via the Internet.

A live ensemble at the University’s John Thaw Studio Theatre – where the concert is taking place – interacts with ‘soundwalk’ tours.

Dr Climent, who is also a music composer and sonic artist, believes that sound is a key way to understand our environment and it can be used to discover the meaning of different places.

He said: “Our sense of hearing provides us with a powerful way to experience the city and influence our decision making.

“One of the issues that composers must tackle is that visual culture has become dominant in the way we experience the world.”

The ‘soundwalk’ tour and the John Shaw Studio Theatre ensemble were relayed back to the University’s Martin Harris Centre where the audience was able to interact with a virtual world using the University’s large surround sound system MANTIS.

The LocativeAudio festival, a partnership between NOVARS Research Centre and noTours, is sponsored by the University’s [email protected] network.

Researchers from archaeology and architecture provided texts to inform the sound walks with a focus on the history of Whitworth Park, where some of the sound tour takes place.

Dr Climent says changes in technology over the last 30 years have shaped his thinking and methods when composing music and the way he interacts with others as an artist.

“This project is also about taking music out of the traditional concert hall to the city and returning it to think about new ways of engaging with art,” he said.

“The potential is enormous: we hope it might inspire city designers to think about sound more seriously.”

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