Ricochet Tim J. Ward

I have always been intrigued by the changes of perspective that can be heard in location recordings of real world sonic environments. These changes occur whenever the recording position moves, in the same way that we hear changes in perspective when we move. For example, the recording might begin outside and then move indoors, passing from one sonic environment to another that is totally different. A more subtle perspective change within the same sonic environment occurs whenever the microphone is moved slightly further forward or backward, or is rotated slightly.

In my opinion, a location recording with slight changes in perspective appears convincingly real and detailed in a way that a static recording does not. However, I find that attempts to work musically with these changes in perspective — by mixing them together, adding new sonic elements or applying some form of processing — almost always destroy the original effect.

The source recordings for Ricochet come from location I found extremely rich in unusual and detailed changes of perspective between two totally different sonic environments — the ventilation inlet into a set of squash courts set by a busy road and shopping precinct. The huge variation and level of interest in the sounds I heard convinced me to compose a piece based on these sounds alone.

Inside the squash courts the environment was extremely reverberant and full of resonance and echoes. This corresponded to the box shaped construction of each court, full of very thick hard reflecting parallel walls, and to the fact that a high open roof space of large volume was common to all the courts in the building. The single ventilation inlet took the form of a wide and completely open metal duct that passed thorough the walls. When recording at different distances inside and outside this duct I could hear sounds passing from one sonic environment to the other. The duct itself, as well as the inside of the squash court building, acted as a filter as well as adding a pronounced resonance to all the sounds. These features changed character according to the frequent variations in the volume and direction of the air flow.

Ricochet takes its inspiration from what I heard as a unique sonic environment. I have assembled and mixed my initial recordings to create a detailed representation of this environment and its rapidly changing nature. The sound processing techniques used have been selected as similar to the natural ones I heard, in order to exaggerate the perception of these two different environments colliding and mixing. The piece opens with the squash court empty, acting only as a resonating space. Towards the end of the piece, several squash games begin inside the courts, and new sonic elements are added to complicate the environment.

  • Year of composition: 2000
  • Hardware used: Apple Mac with Audio Media III soundcard
  • Software used: ProTools (mixing) MaxMSP and Csound (sound transformations)
  • Duration of the submitted work: 12:41
  • Production: Home

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