Aeolis: A Virtual Instrument Producing Pitched Tones With Soundscape Timbres
Soundscapes and amebient sounds are the fundamental building blocks of soundscape composition. Aeolis is a software instrument which uses soundscapes to produce pitched tones. The instrument is driven with a real-time or a prerecorded input signal of a broadband soundscape, such as the sound of breaking waves or highway traffic. The instrument processes the input signal and generates tones that have a perceived pitch while retaining the identifiable raw texture, timbre and dynamics of the input sound. In simple terms, given input sounds of waves breaking on a beach – Aeolis becomes a synthesizer of sorts which sounds like the same breaking waves, with a perceived pitched.
The inspiration for this project was found in everyday soundscapes and environments, such as passing cars, breaking beach waves and rustling leaves. The project’s purpose is to create a convincing anthropomorphic sensation in which the environment itself (beach, forest, highway) is perceived to be ‘coming alive’ and producing music.
The sensation is ideally created in a live Aeolis concert taking place at a vivid outdoor environment, such as beach, a roadside, or a nature reserve. The soundscape – the totality of sounds existing in the scene – is captured by a microphone and used as the instrument’s input. The instrument is operated by MIDI to generate pitched tones like a standard synthesizer. Tone generation is achieved by way of subtractive synthesis, amplifying the harmonic series corresponding to the desired notes and attenuating all other frequencies. This results in tones that preserve the real-time sonic cues and characteristics of the soundscape. For instance, an exceptionally loud and reverberating breaking wave will produce an exceptionally loud and reverberating pitched tone, with only minimal latency. The tones are projected via loudspeakers, or live-streamed to the audience’s headphones.
As the audience is present at the audience, it gets to experience all aspects of the environment such as the visuals, the weather and even the smells. Aeolis compliments this experience with music, drawing attention to the sonic component of the environment.
It is envisioned that Aeolis would be used to celebrate the existence of natural soundscapes and to promote the overall significance of soundscapes: the importance of soundscape preservation, the exacerbating problems of noise pollution and the use of soundscapes as an indicator of natural environment health.