In the discipline of architecture, the V shape between two arches is called a “spandrel”; negative space, but part of the design nonetheless. A site-specific sonic event somewhere between performance and installation, Mike Hallenbeck's Sound Spandrel foregrounds the marginal and the parenthetical to integrate music as part of a location's incidental soundscape.

Exploring the intersection of sound, space, and human behavior, the performance responds to the acoustic character of an environment and becomes raw material for the creation of new audio structures within the space. Anything from the tonalities of heating and cooling systems to the buzz of light bulbs to the percussive patterns of footsteps and door slams inspire improvisations by live performers and remixes blended back into the soundscape.

This video documents the debut of the Sound Spandrel at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St Paul, produced as part of Northern Spark's 2011 Nuit Blanche festival.

Commissioned performers (Beseppy, Charles Gillett, Mike Hallenbeck, John Kannenberg, Joe Nagel, and Davu Seru) took positions far away from each other throughout the Science Museum's cavernous lobby. Instrumentation included guitar, saxophone, zither, cymbals, bells, mbira, and amplified drawing.

Hallenbeck mic'd many of these performances and fed the signals to a remixing station at the information desk. There he treated the signals and played back the remix over speakers, adding processed recordings of the original space. The volume remained low enough that incidental sounds (footsteps, voices, etc) were still audible. Hence, the performance became part of the location's overall sonic footprint.

The effect often was not always of something "happening", but of an immersive sonic environment to be engaged at will. The audience's experience differed based on vantage point, encouraging movement through the space to engage actively. Thus a wide variety of acoustic experiences could be had as the audience chose its own trajectory.

Cinematography by Ben McGinley: benmcginley.com

Video editing and post audio by Mike Hallenbeck: juniorbirdman.com/sound

Many thanks to Steve Dietz, Andrea Steudel and the rest of Northern Spark for supporting this event.

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