In early January 2012 i traveled to Gävle/Sweden to join the choreographer Anna Asplind for a few days of sonic discoveries.
Destination was the Gävle Regional Hospital.
Anna was commissioned by Länskultur Gävleborg (the Gävle municipal department for the Arts) to choreograph a Dancewalk in the regional hospital. I was there to collect sonic material to compose the music for it.
During a Dancewalk people are challenged to explore an area of their urban environment through a different point of view.
It demands the direct participation of the visitor in a performance which is based on wandering in a public space, re-evaluating its qualities through movement/sound and question the behavior in it.
The participants arrive at the area that the Dancewalk takes place, wear the provided headphones and for ~40 minutes are following an invisible path through instructions and music.
While thinking about the approach i should follow on collecting sonic material for the work, i was more and more intrigued by the idea that closed environments like a hospital are characterized by their own sound-world, in a similar way that a natural ecosystem is sonically defined by its inhabitants.
The fact that we had to work in an interior space was a novel challenge for us.
Our previous collaboration and all of Anna’s Dancewalks until that point were created for an open space (e.g. city centers / forests etc). After a lot of conversations we came to the conclusion that the Dancewalk route should exclude areas such as the Emergency Room, or rooms that patients are hospitalized.
Simply put, we were not interested in discovering only the usual areas of a hospital, but rather the unknown, the areas that are kept hidden from the public and those which are important for the function of the hospital. Deep-level basements, laundries, tool-cleaning facilities were all visited and sampled.
I was wondering, which of the sonic qualities are going to remain audible, even after numerous transformations of the audio-material i was about to record.
In this occasion, except from the human voice and actions, the machinery used throughout the building played a very important role in the final work.
From elevators and mechanical doors to bladder-testers, heart beepers and special equipment used in all the different clinics, the sonic environment of a hospital was significantly more dense and complex that i had first expected.
On my first day in Gävle we visited IDKA the local institute for the digital arts, where the manager Viktor Zeidner (aka SlimVic ) kindly provided us the field recording equipment. The recordings took place in 2 consecutive days, mainly due to the invaluable help of the hospital’s personnel.
After the material was collected i spent almost a month developing a granular instrument in SuperCollider for further manipulation and transformation of the recorded audio. Its core consisted of a 3 layer polyphonic granular sampler, where the audio could be chopped up, sequenced by midi or internal SC patterns and the numerous granular parameters could be changed on the fly by midi controllers. After a vast library of transformations was constructed, the new material was further developed into the final compositions that support the Dancewalk.
The Dancewalk is in permanent exhibition in the Gävle Regional Hospital since April 2012. If you are around the area, you can access the full audio files locally, or through Anna’s site and experience it personally. Below you can get a taste from one of the pieces composed entirely from this material.