Cidade Museu – the making…

A project like Cidade Museu (Museum City) lives of a process of research that involves artists, producers, local knowledge and a concern for articulating relationships between sound and space. This text unfolds some of the processes involved in the performance. For a general description of the project see this post.

Five spaces in the city of Viseu were chosen to serve as a basis for an exploration of resonance: a mansion home to the national road services (Casa Pais), an old slaughterhouse, the old Orfeão (music hall), a house with its grounds in Rua Silva Gaio and the building of the local wine federation. These spaces served as sites for audio recordings of improvised action and photographs, and at the same time provided a structure for the work which is effectively a journey through each site, ending in the site of performance itself – Viseu’s cathedral.

site-specific recordings
Each space is explored through short improvisations which take into account the acoustics and sonic ambience of each site. The recordings feature the cello (Ricardo Jacinto), the saxophone (Franziska Schroeder) and the claves (Pedro Rebelo) and attempt at capturing a sense of scale and spatial topology.


Facade from the Junta building (Casa dos Pais)


Recording at the vinícula building (wine federation)


Recording at the matadouro site (slaughterhouse)


Recording at Orfeão (music hall)

impulse responses
Each site’s acoustic fingeprint was captured by recording an impulse response (in this case using the burst of a balloon). The way in which the burst of noise generated by the ballon decays provides us with information on the reverberation time as well as spectral characteristics (e.g. prominent resonant requencies) of each space.

Each space explored in the performance has its own rhythm derived from each impulse response, transposed down 48 semitones. The result is a short sequence of durations mirroing the acoustic reflections of each space. These rhythms are played in the performance by the bass drums activated by electroacoustic transducers.

The instrumental recordings made in each site serve as a basis for the articulation of resonance. This is achieved through iterative convolutions between the recordings and the impulse response of the respective site. The iterative convolution process (akin to the phenomenon used by Alvin Lucier in “I’m sitting in a room”) produces six versions of the instrumental material which are mixed gradually through each section of the piece. Each space has a continum between clearly articulated instrumental gestures in the context of an ambience featuring incidental sounds (e.g. dog barking in “casa”), and an abstract sequence of tones reflecting the natural spectra of each site.

photography and projection
Visual elements from each space were explored by photpgrapher André Cepeda for projection on the walls of the performace space. The images articulate both architectural features and a texture of decay that characterises these transitional spaces. The images are used in performance in the form of a video with primarily slow cross-dissolves between photographs with occasional sharp synchronised moments with sonic events in the electronics.


André Cepeda photographing the matadouro (slaughtershouse) site.

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