How Does Space Shape Sound?

Matthew Edwards

Answers to the question can take many forms, from the technical through to the poetic and the phenomenological. Terms like sound and space are seemingly quite simple, in their everyday usage, yet when we begin to look past their conventional definitions, things start to get complicated. We find it difficult to talk about one without the other, and questions arise as to the workings of, and potentials in, that relationship. Certainly, in a strictly physical sense, sound and space cannot be separated; sound, as mechanical vibration, needs room to unfold, and matter to modulate. This means that an acoustic experience is, by its very definition, a spatial one as well. And yet, there is always more to it. Saturday’s first panel was asked to think through the many ways that space and sound are contingent upon one another, and how artists have both learned from, and learned to manipulate, that dynamic. We asked Jesse Stewart what sonic perspectives he derives from his physical surroundings when choosing locations for his recording? We learned from Gordon Monahan how to transform an abandoned brick factory into a massive musical instrument. And we probed just what Barry Blesser means when he tells us “spaces speaks” and asks: “are you listening?”

MATTHEW EDWARDS is a young Contract Instructor, Musician, and Architectural Designer from Ottawa who is interested in the crossing(s) of music and architecture. His Master’s thesis, titled S.o.A.L SEARCHING: An Explorative Composition of Architecture, Audition, & Acology in I I I Movements was an inquiry into the role that sound plays within our experience of space, mainly from phenomenological and poetic perspectives. He believes that how spaces sound is one of the most important and most neglected areas of architectural design today, outside of specializations such as the concert hall, but hopes that can change. Currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Architecture at McGill University in Montréal, Edwards hopes to further the research he began in his Master’s studies through a more thorough and empirical examination of how the sonic dimension of architectural space affects the psyche.

The heart of the conference involves four separate discussions on the relationship of sound and space to be led by four artists/researchers; bringing together creative thinkers from Montréal, Toronto, New York City, San Francisco, and of course right here in Ottawa. Planned as dynamic free flow conversations, we are excited about what ideas will unfold from these exchanges! Building up to the major discussion panels is a keynote address from Dr. Barry Blesser, a digital audio pioneer and co-author of the fascinating interdisciplinary exploration – Spaces Speak: Are you listening? On Friday, a daytime symposium with the Carleton School of Architecture will explore specific ideas about the built environment and the sonic experience, while at night a collaboration with Pecha Kucha Ottawa brings together artists, designer and researchers for a rapid fire exploration of the role of sound in the urban fabric.

Terms like sound and space are seemingly quite simple, in their everyday usage, yet when we begin to look past their conventional definitions, things start to get complicated. We find it difficult to talk about one without the other, and questions arise as to the workings of, and potentials in, that relationship. Certainly, in a strictly physical sense, sound and space cannot be separated; sound, as mechanical vibration, needs room to unfold, and matter to modulate.

Answers to the question can take many forms, from the technical through to the poetic and the phenomenological

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