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Emptyset on sounding space

The boundary-pushing techno / sound design duo Emptyset will transform London's cavernous industrial space Ambika P3 into an immersive sound installation for one night only – and here's how they're going to do it

For one night only, on 13 December, experimental music production duo Emptyset known for their intense, industrial electronic sounds will convert London's vast Ambika P3 space into a huge architectural 'signal processor'. In attempt to create an original, site-specific composition, the duo will translate the physical space's sonic responses to sine waves and white noise through the use of amplified microphones - a method devised during the production of their album, Medium [Subtext], recorded in an old mansion.

Part of the ongoing Architecture Foundation installation series, Sounding Space, the event continues to explore the ways which architecture can both sculpt, and be captured by sound. Filling the P3 building's 14,000 square foot, triple height concrete space - (a former construction hall where components of Britain's motorways and the Channel Tunnel were tested) - Emptyset will be creating a unique sonic portrait, imprinted with the particular architectural characteristics of the structure.

Here we spoke to Paul Purgas of the Bristol-based duo about the working process behind their methods of manipulating sound and what to expect from the experience to come...

Dazed Digital: Have you worked with physical spaces before in your work? How do you expect this space to react to your sound?
Emptyset: The installation continues on from our work with Medium, a project recorded live in Woodchester Mansion in Gloucestershire, and revisits aspects of that work as a site specific installation. Ultimately much of how the space reacts to the sound will be discovered during the development period in which there are several days to work on site prior to the opening and experiment with the sonic properties of the room, this period will shape much of the final results.

DD: What have been the experimental processes been like to get the results you want sonically?
Emptyset: The installation uses microphone arrays and feedback in conjunction with a palette of sine waves and white noise as a means of translating the space into sound. Equally it will be shaped by the natural reverb time and the resonant frequencies of the room as the sound is tuned to the space.

DD: What has been your most memorable or interesting space to play in terms of how your music worked with the surroundings so far?
Emptyset: Within Woodchester Mansion during the creation of Medium was our most memorable example of working in this way. It was a process of actively responding to the acoustic properties of the space that extended beyond our experiences working within a live performance context, and it was instrumental in developing this project for the Architecture Foundation. Pushing sounds into the building was a dense and overwhelming sonic experience hearing signals reverberate throughout the structure. Alongside this creating standing waves in the space formed a level of immersion within the production process that was present within the mansion but not translatable to the final recording.

DD: What's appealing about working with architectural structures in your music? Do you see this more as an artform?
Emptyset: Working and responding to physical spaces was a logical transition from our studio process, and enabled us to to find another method of affecting and sculpting sound outside of the environment of analogue hardware. Alongside this it created a site specific aspect of our work that enabled us to integrate a contextual and narrative dimension to the material. Historically the relationship between sound and architecture has been part of a lineage of work linked as much to art practice as it has been to the development of music, so this approach can be considered as referencing both of these fields.

DD: What do you want the audience to leave the installation experience with?
Emptyset: The intention is to construct an immersive sonic experience that presents itself as an exploration of the interaction between sound and space, whilst equally creating a piece of work that functions as a self contained installation that can exist coherently outside the realm of our recorded material.

Sounding Space: Emptyset - Thurs 13 December 2012 6-9pm; Ambika P3, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS