An exploration of art through music and dance, the recent Marfa Sounding, saw international sound artist Tarek Atoui field two of his custom ‘instruments’ – concepts that are designed to expand the boundaries of how we perceive sonic experiences. The event took place the minimalist art enclave of Marfa, Texas, where Atoui’s Zero Point Nine (0.9) and Sound Boxes also made use of Meyer Sound equipment and technologies.

Marfa SoundingZero Point Nine was conceived by Atoui – who is based in Paris but travels worldwide with his instruments, presenting interactive workshops and free-form improvisational concerts at museums and arts festivals – as an instrument for extending the perception of sound below the threshold of hearing. The complete instrument comprises nine Meyer Sound 500-HP subwoofers divided into three component instruments, each forming a symmetrical ‘Y’ shape. When the discrete inputs are controlled using hand gestures picked up by infrared sensors, the subwoofers respond with a rotating speaker effect that can be sensed corporeally, as well as heard.

During development of Zero Point Nine, Atoui consulted with Meyer Sound Director of Emerging Technologies, Perrin Meyer: ‘When I first conceived of the idea I envisioned more of cubical shape,’ he recalls. ‘Perrin and his team took the original idea and expanded it. It was their idea to form the three legs inside an equilateral triangle, giving it an added spatial characteristic I had never before experienced.’

Tarek Atoui

According to Atoui, one goal of Zero Point Nine was to open the experience to persons with extreme hearing impairments: ‘You can sense the vibrations in room resonances,’ he says, ‘and you can feel the vibrations in your feet as you stand atop the instrument while playing it. I call it a subsonic theremin. You can use gestures with your fingers and palms to create unique subsonic sound patterns with a subtle but compelling psychoacoustic effect.’

The other instrument featured at the Marfa event was Sound Boxes, that allows a musician to create a unique sonic palette by triggering sound samples recorded by Atoui at harbours around the world. These sounds can be convolved with live sounds created by accompanying musicians, and at the Marfa performances the combined output was reproduced by Meyer Sound UPJ-1P loudspeakers.

Atoui’s close relationship with Meyer Sound dates back to a 2015 project called Within at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). Through BAMPFA, curator Apsara DiQuninzio Atoui was introduced to U.C. Berkeley art professor Greg Niemeyer (who coined the Zero Point Nine designation) and co-collaborators Perrin Meyer and Jeffrey Lubow, a researcher at UC Berkeley’s Center for New Music and Audio Technologies.

‘The way I work I am rarely performing on stage,’ he explains. ‘Rather, I am working with sound in various spaces, whether in galleries or museum halls or outdoor settings. There is rarely a set loudspeaker configuration, so working with Meyer Sound gives me the flexibility to move them freely as needed for the situation. Of course the quality is always excellent. The flatness of response is just amazing.’

More: www.meyersound.com

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