Audio [in] Perfection @ Dubway Studios

Altering the Narrative of a Public Space
dubway studio logoThe public space I have chosen to be the subject of this thesis “altering space” is the yellow suite at Dubway Studio. I have been looking at the spaces and environments around me in a different light since first developing the challenge; breaking down the narratives of the hallways and elevators, the subway cars and sidewalks.  However; in considering an interesting public space to examine and alter, I found my thoughts returning over and over again to this particular location.  I visit this place often, and it is an important public space, although the general public seldom sees it.
Dubway is located on the second floor of 135 West 26th Street, New York New York, Dubway Studio is full service audio recording studio.  In their own words Dubway’s…

audio_in_perfection_Picture-1High ceilings, sleek architectural design, and contemporary original art on display give an airy, open feel to the facilities. It is a bright and engaging place to work. Easily accessible, the studio is located in Chelsea, New York’s multimedia center, and has been newly renovated to reflect Dubway’s continued expansion into audio for visual media

Dubway actually houses four separate studios of varying sizes and complexities to accommodate a variety of client and engineers needs.  These studios are identified and mapped by color; there is the red suite, the blue suite, the green suite, and the yellow suite.  In all of studios the space is divided in to two or more areas.  Additionally, every studio has a double paned glass wall, window or door between the control room and the live room.

The control room is where the engineers, producers, musicians and others record, observe, critique and adjust what’s going on in the live room.  It’s the knobs, switches and hard drives of the recording and broadcast industry.  In most of the control rooms speaker inhabit a significant amount of space in the control room and there is usually 3 or more monitors.

“These rooms are made for business and many hours of it.  They are made to document anything and everything going on in the live room.  The live rooms are all about the sound, whether it’s a single voice whispering the lines of a poems or a full band with accompanying piano.  The rooms where designed and built by“master studio builder Chris Bowman of CHBO, Inc. along with architect John Storyk.”

They are acoustically balanced and designed for optimal clarity in recoding.

I decided to focus on one studio within Dubway, the yellow suite.  It is not surprising that the yellow suite has fascinated me for some time now.  The tremendous control console is nothing if not impressive and the width and angle of the nearly floor to ceiling clear glass wall that separates the control room from the live room create an intriguing interface for not only the recorder, but for the performer and observers as well.  The use of antique theater seats for observers in the control room adds a sense of history and richness to the experience of the space.  Dubway describes the room on their website as …

“Dubway’s largest room, the Yellow Room, is one of NY’s most attractive & functional recording environments. Designed by legendary studio architect John Storyk, the Yellow Room boasts a large, highly ambient recording area with natural light & hardwood floors, and a beautiful Yamaha C5 grand piano. The large analog console & extensive outboard processing allows for tracking of large ensembles, as well as a variety of approaches to mixing.”

The all encompassing narrative of the yellow suite at Dubway Studio is this:  It is a place where the public can go to record and capture sonic information, sound in all it’s forms, with the help of professionals trained in audio engineering and sound design.

audio_in_perfection_qrd-2d12The goal of my project will be to alter the narrative within the space of the yellow rooms themselves.  By physically changing the acoustic space of the live room with the addition of an unknown element I hope to alter the auditory narrative of control room.  I want to expand on the narrative, leaving room for the original narrative of clearly recording sound, but changing it to alter the ability to visually communicate between the control room and the live room and creating a space in which sound can not be recorded without unwanted noise interfering with the fidelity of the original sound.  My goal is to change the narrative in the described way by introducing a sculptural element to the live room.

In choosing the yellow suite at Dubway Studios as my public space I decided to focus on sound as narrative, possibly for the first time.

I began with the concept of changing the acoustics of the space, the main narrative.  I did research on how this is already being accomplished in different ways in the yellow suite.

A variety of baffles are used, from wall traps to ceiling block.

audio_in_perfection_bc00180I did some sketches of how I might be able to create other forms of baffles. Which led to designs that might add sounds to the recordings. Using the sculpture as a form of ambient instrument. The use of beaded curtains was one which might have been interesting.  But untimely I felt it was over stated.  I felt the installation needed to be subtle in it’s effects on the acoustics because of the ability of the equipment to record even the slightest of changes.  Maybe even a baffle tower.

The shape of some of the commercial hanging baffles was inspiring. They brought to mind a piece I did in 1990.  I found a few of the original sketches from that project.  It was a floor to ceiling sheet of tar-paper with all of the Psalms from the Bible hand stiched to both sides.  Each page from the bible was overlaped  and stitched from the top only.  The fluttering loose pages created a interesting rustling sound.  I considered a similar approach with sheet music and voice over scripts, but decided to keep researching ….

More research and sketches, including a sheer black fabric concept inspired by Christo (Dubway completed the audio for a documentary on Christo.)

audio_in_perfection_black-lines-at-cieling-curtains

The final construction will be make from flagging tape …

audio_in_perfection_tape

Getting closer to the look I want. I created a few Mock ups of the final piece; to see how it might hang and how it will occupy the space.

 

I made a few with the installation as more of a curtain like the original concept but began to explore the idea of a cube or column of ribbons that the user could enter.

The final construction began in my living room and was a laborious process of measure/cut/combine/repeat. To speed things up I created a production station for cutting the rolls into 30 10‐foot strips. There are a total of 45 rolls of flagging tape, 30 white and 15 black. The black ribbons of tape will create the center of the baffle. They will not really been seen too much from the outside. By connecting one end of the ribbons as I go, I kept things organized, but they began to pile up quickly.

One of the aspects of this process that I had not considered was the amount of off-gasing the plastics would require. I got pretty sick the first day of construction, even though I quickly realized what was happening and vented the space.

I then took the operation on location and got the help of Christopher Abell and Louis Lucci to install, document and test the piece.

We got a lot of interesting stills of the final installation as well before we got to work on the actual recording.

The Finished  Installation

For the audio section of the work I chose three sample sounds to record both inside and outside of the piece. First we four recordings of Chris playing the guitar. One with Chris playing into a mike setup outside the installation and then with him playing into a mike setup inside the installation. Not only can you hear the difference in the recording, I took video if the sound waves created to so that you can see the difference in the recordings. They have been edited together into one track, the first half of the track is the mike outside the baffle, the second part of the track is with the mike inside the baffle.


We then repeated this process recording Chris reading a poem by John Ashbery called This Room.

The room I entered was a dream of this room.
Surely all those feet on the sofa were mine.
The oval portrait
of a dog was me at an early age.
Something shimmers, something is hushed up.
We had macaroni for lunch every day
except Sunday, when a small quail was induced
to be served to us. Why do I tell you these things?
You are not even here.

audio_in_perfection_dub_vert

audio_in_perfection_kalimbaAnd final we recorded Chris playing the Kalimba, or African Thumb Piano, an instrument my mother gave me when I was very little. It’s made of a coconut cut in half and topped with a piece of wood with a hole cut in. Thin metal strips are attached across the front and are be “plucked” to play a tune.

The paper and documentation for this project was compiled and presented in the form of sheet music. Just for fun.

Objectives

  • temporally alter the acoustics of a acoustically optimized space.
  • use a large sculptural installations to achieve this change to the soundscape, to the narrative.
  • record sample audio both before the sculpture is installed and after.

Artifacts

  • Sculpture.  one 32″x32″ flexible wire mesh screen with over 700 10′ strips of 1″ white flagging tape.
  • Audio Recordings: Instrumental (possibly piano) Christopher reading “The Room” by John Asbury.  Identical recordings both before and after the installation.
  • Stills and video of the creation and installation process as well as both audio performances
  • Sound wave images mapping the space both before and after the sculpture (the visual record of the auditory evidence of a physical encounter)
  • Documentation booklet in designed as sheet music.

There are may stories happen in Dubway.  At any one time in the yellow suite the story of a singer, a songwriter, a producer, an engineer can all be unfolding.  I want to create another story in that space, but changing the ability of the space to tell the stories it always tells.