PX Soundscape

Title: PX Soundscape
The Medium: Audio, Fixed media
Number of channels: 5 channels / stereo mix
Duration: 3:35
Year: 2018

Program Note:

Piper Curtis is an experimental composer and producer with a BFA in electroacoustic music from Concordia University. This piece was produced as their final compostion in their first year of the program.

PX Soundscape is a piece exploring the musicality and sonic relationships of the sounds in my neighbourhood: Park Extension (PX). Recordings of varying length (a short “bang” heard every morning from the construction site on my block, a long drone from a vent in the ground up the street that I often pause to listen to while walking by at night, the scraping of sand in the park up the block) were gathered. From these I sampled and synthesized different elements to form an electroacoustic interpretation of the sonic environment in which I live. The piece is a meditation on my perspective on the soundscape of my neighbourhood.

Process Notes:

Recordings were captured of familiar and interesting sounds in my neighbourhood using a Zoom recorder (H4n and H5) and minimally processed in Logic and Amadeus Pro. The final piece was assembled in Amadeus Pro and exported as 24/48kHz mono Wav files.

The sounds used in this piece include sand in a playground, birds, traffic, the metro blue line which I ride nearly every day, Greek women talking, leaves on the ground, and my own voice. All of these sounds were recorded within a four-block radius of my apartment and represent the sonic environment in which I live, as well as my relationship to it.

On my street there is a ventilation shaft above the metro that emits a drone which I often stop to listen to. Next to it is a manhole cover with holes in the top. I experimented with creating movement by slowly rotating the recorder above the manhole cover, passing over each hole as the metro went by underground. I also experimented with the natural reverb of the ventilation shaft by “playing” the grate above it and singing into it. Some sounds were captured with this level of intention, while others were captured incidentally, like the voices of the Greek women walking by.

I was interested in preserving these sounds to create an anecdotal soundscape while also playing with some manipulation to shape the sounds as I perceive them. Sounds were re-enveloped, EQ’d to draw out certain elements, filtered to reduce wind and traffic sounds in some places, cut, copied, reversed, change of pitch and speed, and Altiverb were all used to subtly transform the sounds.

Structural Analysis:

The structure of the piece is based off of an evolving, immersive sound environment created over four channels with the fifth reserved for accent and emphasis. Anecdotal sounds are placed throughout all five channels, punctuating and accenting the sonic environment of the piece. This structure is effective in maintaining an immersive sound environment. By keeping sound in all four channels at all times, with a shifting focus between them, there is a sonic illusion of actual space in which the listener finds themselves. In the stereo mix I attempted to maintain as much of this sense of spaciality and movement as possible.

Images from Left to right, top to bottom: 1. Av d'Outremont and Av Ogilvy, Parc Extension, 2. Power lines emitting an electrical buzzing sound during a rainy evening, 3. Manhole above the metro blue line, 4. Ventilation shaft above the metro blue line in Parc Extension, 5. Back left spectrogram, 6. Back right spectrogram, 7. Centre spectrogram, 8. Front left spectrogram, 9. From right spectrogram

Piper Curtis 2020
Montreal, Quebec