Frozen Spring
for video and speaker array

"Frozen Spring" is an audiovisual installation that is part of a series of experiments that I call "Reverberated Averages". It was presented at the 2018 MAT End of Year show ("InVisible Machine") at UC Santa Barbara.

The basic idea of a "Reverberated Average" is to take a recording of a piece of music and average out its spectrum at all moments in time, resulting in a shimmering, but otherwise static, sonic texture. In "Frozen Spring", the source was a recording (Seiji Ozawa, Chicago Symphony) of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Since I was given the opportunity to work with a lateral array of 32 speakers (and since the recording is coincidentally 32 minutes long), I decided in this case to average each minute of the recording separately and to distribute these averages sequentially from left to right across the array, with each speaker taking a minute of the work. This way, we can hear the entire work at once, with the beginning of the work spatialized to the left and the end of the work spatialized to the right. The dimension of time has been converted into a spatial dimension.

To this audio, I added a colorized spectrogram projected in front of the listener. I also decided that it was more interesting to make the installation dynamic: instead of having the entire work sounding at once, I made spatiotemporal (gaussian) waves flow back and forth across the space, "reverberating" different moments within the Stravinsky and “illuminating” the corresponding parts of the spectrogram. These waves vary in width, speed, and duration, and also target different ranges of frequency, filtering the sound accordingly. Take a look/listen to the result (it's dark, so turn up the brightness on your screen):

For audio only, click here.

In case you're interested in how the original Stravinsky sounds at different moments in the spectrogram, I offer you the following interactive clickable/touchable diagram:

One major motivation for this work was to consider the relationship between art that acts through the dimension of time and art that does not (at least not directly). As a composer, I have often thought about how listeners at a concert are trapped in a particular flow of time, and about my responsibility to keep that flow engaging. By contrast, in an art museum, one's navigation of time is more flexible and personal; one can choose to leave or to linger.

“Frozen Spring” translates a piece of concert music into a form in which the listener can curate their own experience of time. In so doing, part of the hope is that it causes reflection on the role of time in the original work.