Here in Aldeburgh, the first couple of days of setup have been arduous but fun. Thanks to herculean efforts, we’ve now got speaker trenches dug, circuitous cable runs laid, an operational weather station, an ad hoc surround-sound mixing room with iOS remote controls, a networked outhouse via festooned CAT-5, some lightboxed signage and — imminently — a beautifully-printed artists book to mark and document the installation.
To integrate Variable 4 seamlessly into the landscape, we've opted for the route of embedding the speakers into the ground with individual chambers. This has meant some heavy excavation into some very dry ground. Many thanks to Dave, Louis and Tom for some major earth shifting.
The first complete ground-embedded speaker chamber.
Dave and Louis wade through the mire of speaker cabling.
No network access is available in the Dovecote studio. Thanks to some heroics from Faster Than Sound's Tom, however, we're now the proud operators of an airborne CAT5 network.
Our composition space in the Dovecote.
Wiring up the weather station in heavy gales.
More circuitous cabling, here deploying the weather station's data cable across a reed field.
We’re departing early tomorrow morning to spend a week’s residency at Aldeburgh, to install, develop and fine-tune the piece in situ. To assemble the requisite vanload of materials and equipment without losing the remnants of our sanity, we’ve created the longest kit list known to humankind. Behold.
Much of the development of Variable 4 has taken place at Goldsmiths, University of London, split between the multiple studios of the EMS (former home to Daphne Oram and much pioneering electronic synthesis) and the GDS (new home to a cutting-edge motion capture setup with 3D audio and projections). We’ve also received logistical funding from the Goldsmiths Annual Fund, an excellent endeavour to support a diverse range of projects through alumnal donations.
We thus thought it apt to select Goldsmiths as the site of a showcase and public testbed for the installation, over the course of 6 hours yesterday. This turned out to be an invaluable dry run for the newly-enlarged score and algorithmic setup, and attracted a number of inquisitive visitors.
Beholding the prospect of an afternoon's cable-sorting. Much of our setup and multichannel mixing has been done here in the Goldsmiths Electronic Music Studios, formerly home to the likes of Daphne Oram and her radiophonic peers.
Wiring up one of the eight weatherproof speakers, under camouflage of shrubbery.
Dealing with health and safety issues. Thanks to Ollie (pictured) for his invaluable help with installation logistics.
Back in the installation HQ. Organisation nerds take note of our cunning alphabetical colour-coding technique: blue (1), brown (2), green (3), green-yellow (4), grey (5), orange (6), red (7), yellow (8).
The installation up and running.
Weather station detail: Wind vane and anemometer.
Weather station detail: Pyranometer.
To Maidstone this morning, visiting the Kent Engineering Foundry – better known as KEF – who invited us down to discuss weatherproof speakers. As a top name amongst the audiophile community, we were looking forward to auditioning their Ventura outdoor range as a candidate for next month’s installation. What we hadn’t anticipated was a comprehensive tour of their facilities, encompassing a museum of KEF’s engineering achievements since the 1960s, plus their Acoustic Laboratory, featuring anechoic chamber and all manner of analysis equipment.
Aside from their plaudits in the engineering world, we’re really pleased to be able to work with local technology: KEF’s home is just 40 miles down the road from Dungeness, in Maidstone, Kent, where they’ve been located since their inception in 1961.
In KEF's showroom, fully furnished with listening sofa (just out of shot) and a vast array of speakers.
Sadly outside the Variable 4 budget, a pair of these ultra top-end Muon units would set the discerning listener back $140k.
Their launch event also featured an interactive installation from toxi.
Ron was kind enough to show us around the KEF collection, an archive of their engineering since the 1960s. Kept in its entirety in their still-hometown of Maidstone, any London visitors to Variable 4 will pass by it on their way to Dungeness.
Perhaps most remarkable about the visit was the palpable air of reverence towards the company's heritage. Pictured here is Raymond Cooke, the founder of KEF.
The Acoustics Laboratory, where all of KEF's sonic R&D takes place. We're told that this is one of only two such speaker research labs in Europe, the other being with Bang & Olufsen in Copenhagen.
The eery innards of the anechoic chamber...
...followed by the neverending reverberations of the echo chamber.