A free, four-day event exploring environmental and mental health topics through the use of sound, touch, taste and vision held at London’s Wellcome Collection, the Land Body Ecologies Festival included Boalno, which used immersive audio as a sensory vehicle to transport visitors to the Boalnotjåhkkå mountain to experience Sámi people corral some 3,000 reindeer – an event that occurs each year.

The festival, included art installations, workshops, talks, films, and performances, focused on the connections between mental health and our ecosystem. The Land Body Ecologies (LBE) research group is led by multi-disciplinary arts studio Invisible Flock and other partners, who were recipients of the Wellcome Trust’s Hub Award.

Invisible Flock team member Victoria Pratt at the corral during the podcast recording‘The focus of all of our work looks specifically at the natural wild and the environment – the ways in which we interact with it and the ways we perceive it or maybe don’t perceive it,’ explains Invisible Flock Technical Director, Ben Eaton. ‘We are interested in how artists can raise awareness, but also how they can move beyond that stage and become active participants and generators in finding solutions, or contributing advanced research when it comes to climate considerations.’

The exhibit was staged in the Reading Room of the Wellcome Collection and involved 16 L-Acoustics X8 coaxial speakers configured in a 360° array on a horizontal plane.

Eaton and Invisible Flock Creative Director Victoria Pratt captured the sound of the reindeer corral over a two-day period using a combination of Ambisonic and parabolic microphones, recording to a Sound Devices MixPre 6, and then spatially manipulating the audio files using L-Acoustics’ L-ISA Studio software suite. The final runtime of the exhibit was condensed to approximately 20 minutes to provide visitors with a breathtakingly accurate sonic rendering of the annual herding event.

DeltaLive provided a range of equipment and sound installation services during the festival, including for Boalno. Stephen Hughes, Account Director at DeltaLive, explains the interface and processor set-up: ‘We had a Mac Mini running Reaper with the Boalno session and an RME MADIface AVB card, going into an L-ISA Processor. We only needed 16 outputs for the session, so the L-Acoustics LA7.16i amplified controller was perfect.’

The Sámi, an indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia and Russia, have been herding the reindeer every year for centuries – well before the onset of modern technologies and the climate crisis. ‘The reindeer have been following the same migration routes for generations, so the Sámi know where they are going,’ Eaton explains. ‘They have this intertwined relationship with the reindeer and find them in the midst of their migration journeys and bring them together into the corral.’ The herding, which takes approximately two weeks, is carried out by several multi-generational families within the community, according to Eaton.

‘Our last major project, Sleeping Tree, took place in the forest so it was very reverb-y,’ Eaton says. ‘We used the FX Engine in L-ISA Studio for that, and this really helped gel the sounds together.’

In May, Invisible Flock presented The Sleeping Tree (Pohon Tidur) exhibition as part of the Brighton Festival, a long-form, sound experience designed to connect audiences with a distant and fragile ecosystem, derived from environmental data and more than 5,000 hours of data collected over the course of a three-month mapping process in the Indonesian forest. The Sleeping Tree was also the first project on which Eaton used L-ISA Studio to map his recorded soundscape: ‘It wasn’t until we really started playing with the FX engine in L-ISA Studio that that show really felt like it gelled, and the sounds were able to coexist in a nice way,’ he says.

On Boalno, Eaton used very little reverb, since the recording space was vast. ‘The airiness of the ambisonics really helped give you a sense of space,’ he says, and used L-ISA 3.0’s LFO controls to animate the signal of the parabolic microphone within the soundscape.

Invisible Flock team members Ben Eaton, Victoria Pratt and Jenni Laiti‘For Baolno we used a lot of LFOs because we had a lot of rotating objects,’ he continues. ‘We used LFOs at different speeds, overlapping them and phasing them in and out. That’s how we could really generated this trance-like, strange sound that kept moving. Ultimately, the motion became a defining feature of this project.’

Eaton says that he also achieved workflow efficiencies while using L-ISA Studio: ‘I really enjoy all of the newly added effects in L-ISA 3.0. These are a real time saver, which I valued on this project.’

On the final evening of The Sleeping Tree, Invisible Flock collaborated with musician Nabihah Iqbal to create a 55-minute live performance featuring guitars, vocals and modular synths against a sonic backdrop of apes and monkeys, juxtaposed against the sound of humans and aircraft. Eaton and his team also built the live performances using L-ISA Studio and other tools. ‘All of our live elements were brought into L-ISA Studio and combined with our field recordings,’ says Eaton. ‘We were using all of these sources at once, but manipulating them in real time using L-ISA. Being able to do that was really exciting and we appreciate how versatile L-ISA Studio is.’

While projects such as Boalno and The Sleeping Tree require enormous effort, including extended travel and many hours of recording and mixing, Eaton says he remains very attached to the work and finds the exhibits rewarding: ‘Each of these presentations are very moving and it’s enlightening see how different audiences respond. The last one always hits home when that final reverb trail echoes out.’

More: www.l-acoustics.com

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