Spatial Sound


Fraction, Iannis Xenakis

Fraction a.k.a. Eric Raynaud is an experimental music producer whose work focuses on creating intense immersive experiences, involving spatial sound in interaction with other media. He works as a sound sculptor, experimenting with rhythmic deconstruction, timbral chaos, apparent disorder and processing synthetic and acoustical sources to create coherent sound organization in dimensional perspective. During his residency at the Spatial Sound Institute, he worked on a new spatial adaptation of Iannis Xenakis monumental piece 'Persepolis'.

Persepolis (1971) is a complex and impressive work, because of its length and torn and eroded sound material. The piece is a 55-minute long continuous torrent of sound that aims to rinse the mind and ears of the listener. Xenakis himself explained the necessity to maintain 110db sound pressure throughout the piece - something that by today would simply be prohibited by law.

Xenakis’s original setting of Persepolis was created for the castle of Darius in the city of Shiraz in Iran. The listeners were invited to wander through six rooms of the castle, where in each room they would experience the same piece played by an installation of eight to sixteen speakers. The composition consists of ten sections that recombine identical patterns each time differently distributed over eight tracks. So that wherever or however one moves, one recollects that same space over and over again, but every time from a different perspective. A sounding labyrinth where one is to lose conscious perception of time and space.

Persepolis is deeply spatial. Xenakis is known for intentionally composing in a way that the superposition of timbres and frequencies of sound balances out the continuum of space - the sounds literally 'fill' the room. But he also inserted subtle nuances that appear to be more local and address the listener's individual position in the space. ‘The sound material is so rich and deep that creating a spatial mix with it is in itself not such a problem’ says Raynaud. During his residency he set himself to research how to take benefit from a 4D design to extract the spatial essence of Xenakis’ composition. And how to create something new and personal from this as an artist, while also respecting the original composition.

Raynaud: ‘My own analysis of the work led me to synthesize two directions for the adaptation to 4DSOUND. The first is an attempt to respect Xenakis' approach for filling the space. At the same time I feel that this occupation should lead to an stronger emphasis of the details in the original work, while maintaining the energy of the piece. Taken separately, each of the 8 tracks playing simultaneously are full of details from a very specific spectral point of view. From there, my second direction was to use this spectral richness of the piece as the axis of spatialization, and not only spatial positioning of sound sources. The 4DSOUND system really allows to build a landscape of layers which intermingle in depth and height, and that you can walk through. This felt like a real discovery and something I really enjoyed while working here, compared to other experience I have with mostly sphere based spatialization models.’

Part of Raynaud's residency has been devoted to develop a live performance tool in Max that allows to created frequency based spatialization in real-time. The patch was further extended with custom modules for spatial granulation, ring-modulation and spectral diffusion. A custom Lemur template merges the control of the patch with the control of the 4DSOUND system. Raynaud's approach has then been to rehearse each section live and then record them piece after piece.  

Raynaud: ‘Aesthetically, the piece is very organic. It feels like an ocean of sound, rolling and struggling, a perpetual wave that you are stuck within, forever. It's definitely brainwashing. I took a direction in adapting the work that I hope will translate that feeling in very personal way.’

Photo : Ana Amorós López