Shawn Pinchbeck

Sonic Spaces (the kinetics of sound)


Sonic Spaces - (the kinetics of sound) is a computer interactive audio installation. It translates the motion of individuals moving within an active space into a quadraphonic algorithmically controlled soundscape through the use of video camera, computer software, and loudspeakers.

Sonic Spaces is intended to be installed into a public space such as a mall, foyer, lobby, art gallery, or other low to middle traffic volume public location. Physically, it consists of a seven metre long by seven metre wide room or area with four loudspeakers positioned in each of the corners of the active space. Directly above the centre of the room are a video camera and three spotlights coloured red, blue and yellow. The camera points straight down to the centre of the room. The spotlights also point down creating three separate coloured areas equidistant from each other surrounding the centre of the room. The associated computer and audio hardware is hidden in a locked room adjacent to the installation. The video camera frames an "active region" of approximately five metres by five metres in the centre of the space that includes the areas lit by the spotlights. As individuals move through this area the motion detection and sound generating software transforms the physical gestures into sonic gestures.

Sonic Spaces allows participants a wide range of sonic and performance possibilities so that the experience varies greatly from person to person and from time to time. The simple use of one’s motion as a computer interface allows the installation to be accessible by everyone if they feel the inclination to play and explore. With this work, I want the interactive experience to be rewarding, but not obvious. A one to one "action = reaction" type of experience becomes quickly boring. I want the relationship to the user to be much more complex revealing itself over time enticing individuals to explore further and to become fully engaged in the artwork. The closest analogy would be that Sonic Spaces is a kind of musical instrument that is played by changing one's spatial position in a room and the characteristics of that motion over time. Several parameters such as duration in a location, velocity of motion, and direction control or influence decisions the software is making about the overall structure and quality of the installation’s sound. Additionally, the software is designed to respond to the presence of more than one person within the space fostering simple collaborations between users. The raw materials for the algorithmic acousmatic composition generated are from pre-recorded sounds digitized on the computer’s hard drive, such as pre-processed computer generated sounds, radio noise, and environmental sounds collected from many natural and urban locations. This library of sound materials are then dynamically processed, resynthesized, mixed and manipulated, to create the resulting quadraphonic soundscape.

In some ways, Sonic Spaces is a microcosm of the physical world. We walk down the street and move from place to place with an ever-changing sonic landscape accompanying us. Sonic Spaces is about listening to the environment around you. It attempts to sensitize individuals to this aspect of our daily life. My hope is to bring a sense of creativity and awareness to the motions of people going about their everyday activities when they happen upon this work installed in a public location. Perhaps these individuals will slowdown for a moment to become aware of their bodies and the changing soundspace surrounding them before they continue on with the tasks of their day.

Materials & Equipment

What I can readily provide:

What I can not provide (at this moment):

Estimated installation time:

Daily Maintenance:

Venue requirements: Length and Width = 5m X 5m

Ceiling height = 3m or more

No natural light


Overhead rigging: - 4 speakers in corners of space (can also be on stands)

Other Requirements:

Electrical power necessary to handle 2 computers (500W), 3 spotlights 500W each, and 2 amplifiers or 4 powered speakers (600W).

Sound proofing from extraneous noise from other exhibits

Security should be present due to the amount of tech used


Video Documentation

The Works Art & Design Festival,

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, June + July, 2003

Hardware Setup

Listening Man

Girl and Mom


Running Man

Two People


Dancing Man