Oct 5 | Reflections in Stereo | FX

Read Before Class


In Class

  • Discuss direct and reflected sound and the creation of acoustic character in the built and natural environment.
  • Explore the metaphors of reflection, inhabiting spaces, “tuning” the world, etc.
  • Discuss stereo hearing (phase and intensity cues) and recording (mic techniques).
  • Take out mics and recorders and make stereo recordings with different mic techniques. Play in class and discuss the results. How is depth different in stereo and mono?
  • Learn signal-processing fundamentals in Reaper (EQ, compression/expansion, delay effects, noise reduction, pitch and time)


  • Alvin Lucier’s “I am Sitting In a Room” In I Am Sitting in a Room, several sentences of recorded speech are simultaneously played back into a room and re-recorded there many times. As the repetitive process continues, those sounds common to the original spoken statement and those implied by the structural dimensions of the room are reinforced. The others are gradually eliminated. The space acts as a filter; the speech is transformed into pure sound. All the recorded segments are spliced together in the order in which they were made and constitute the work.
  • A track from Jacob Kirkegaard’s CD “4 Rooms” recorded in abandoned interiors within the Chernobyl exclusion zone. He recorded 10 minute sections and played them back into the rooms, inspired by Lucier’s method but lacking the voice as input. The formerly busy spaces (Church, Auditorium, Swimming Pool, Gymnasium) are left to “speak for themselves,” devoid of habitation for the foreseeable future.
  • Alvin Lucier’s “Vespers”
    In Vespers (1969) performers with Sondols (sonar-dolphin), hand-held pulse wave oscillators, explore the acoustic characteristics of given indoor or outdoor spaces by monitoring the echoes of the pulse waves off the walls, floors and ceilings, as well as any objects or obstacles in range of the sound waves. Over time, the listener receives an acoustic signature of the room.

Further Research

  • Here’s a hilarious YouTube version of Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room.” Kinda misses the point but it’s entertaining nonetheless.
  • How to make your own binaural microphones. …or build lower-noise versions using my instructions.
  • David Cunningham’s The Listening Room architectural feedback installations
  • Jacob Kirkegaard’s “4 Rooms” CD captures the interiors of buildings in Chernobyl. He repeatedly recorded and played-back the ambiance of each room into itself (Like Lucier’s “I am sitting in a room” but with no input!)
  • Aaron Ximm, AKA “Quiet American” has an amazing links page that provides thorough advice on field-recording, from history to gear recommendations.
  • Regarding signal processing and compression, see the Wikipedia page on The Loudness War (the trend to compress albums in the mastering stage, solely to increase volume rather than enhance the music). A very high-profile casualty is the Metallica album “Death Magnetic” which was so compressed and distorted that people complained, especially when they discovered better-sounding tracks inside the Guitar Hero video game! Here’s a YouTube video comparing the CD and Guitar Hero versions.