"Written in Water: Portrait of a Town"

An augmented reality portrait in sound of the historic maritime town of Gosport.

“Written in Water” is a complex immersive soundscape, constructed of 91 unique circles across nearly a square kilometre of streets, waterfront , and parks, combining speech, archive recordings and found objects into a bizarre and beautiful work of sound art suspended permanently in the air above the town.

To listen to "Written in Water", download, come to Gosport, click play.

Audio previews and more information here
Concepts of Virtual Performance: Building music in the digital studio is directly crafting sound, rather than designing written instructions for it to be recreated by others. In the digital studio we still write these instructions; they are refined and layered over multiple “rehearsals” with the machines in the virtual band, to create this thing, this performance, that is the heard work. But it isn’t a thing. And I’ll come back to that.       Read full post
19.11.2013:    #SXSC3 Creative Digifest - Dragon's Den Business Plan Competition. 1st prize winner: Ben Mawson and 3DBARE.
£7k for development of proof of concept over coming three months. An incredible opportunity to take 3DBARE closer to realisation as 3D audio development platform and for the most immersive virtual audio ever achieved.

Digital Economy UoS Strategic Research Group, Lunch-time seminar presented by Ben Mawson
‘Walk inside a piece of music via the 3D Binaural Audio Rendering Engine’
Monday 14 October 2013
12-2 pm.         Free Lunch

1st performance, tape recordings found in dusty box
String Quartet in Ten Movements, 1995-96

In my early twenties, I composed all night at a warped ancient piano, bought for £100, in a tiny, high-ceilinged South London flat.

This string quartet, and my song cycle from the same time, were my first attempts at blending distinct, alien influences into a unified hybrid language with its own vocabularies and structures.

Hybridity, plurality, synthesis, alchemy, elision, cross-currents, non-linearity, mind-maps and neural networks.

The lurching and undulating, staggering, lollopping, flirtatious, incandescent, burbling, elenchitous rotundity of all experience sensuous and cognitive - like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, so do our minutes hasten to their end/ Don't you snap at me you little tadpole, you can't even carry a mule without lettin' 'is legs hang down. Shakespeare and Clarence Williams. I felt they could have been brothers.

Primary material like scales or modes, cross-rhythms and harmonic progressions were roughed in manuscript then many 'improvised' attempts at interwoven lines, particularly passages of transition, were recorded on tape. I would then transcribe them onto paper. With floor and bed covered in sheets of sketches, I'd stand and stare at the huge fragmented map, slowly imagining an overall structure. Landmarks and the main routes plotted out, I stitched in the individual episodes between.

Movement 2 (the first heard here) was an exploration of a two octave scale with multiple possible 'tonics' or key notes, continually attempting to resolve to a single one. The shifting harmonic basis, the forking and overlap of multiple routes both drew on C16th/C17th contrapuntal writing and the fractured, exploding tonalities or polytonalities of composers throughout the twentieth century, from Schoenberg to Penderecki. A simultaneous grieving for the impossibility of recapturing the certainty with which we (too?) readily imbue historic practice and a search for escape from that perceived predictability.

Dismantling an engine powered by the energy in dreams

First released excerpt from R O O M, multi-space acousmatic composition first heard at John Hansard Gallery, December 2011.

Player-Piano Study No. 7

Dream-sequence merging memory, glimpsed fleeting sounds, with inexorable biochemical intent, deflected by exterior forces: constructed in my digital bunker.

Can we quote words in music without owning the statement?      Full article here
Acoustemologies of Space.      Stasis and perpetual motion; music as sculpture; form without expression; should artifice be perceptible?; architecture like giant listening heads; tuning of klaxons; how time distorts; sensual interaction with sound like colour and smell; unknown writing on ribbons of sound.. . .   read->

It always starts with an orderly little idea, a neatly framed musical conjecture, then, in the process of drawing it out, like spun glass, it takes on its own life, independent of the thoughts that first whispered it into existence.

Cytotoxic T Lymphocyte arrives at work, to find corridors already bursting with queues of endogenous cells, waiting to be checked. Another Monday morning at Human Immune System HQ.
April 2013     Feature article in Journal of the Landscape Institute.

"Composer Ben Mawson creates musical landscapes, what he calls 'music you can walk inside, like an invisible sculpture'…a unique and unrepeatable immersive experience - and he is eager to collaborate with landscape architects…"
      read more (opens in new window)
March-April 2013:         "Listening for Infection:
How might the human immune system sound?"

The beginning of a new collaboration, exploring how to depict the workings of the immune system in sound.

The 1st two experiments, here, using the cell's weird rules of synchronous chanting.

Image of CTLs killing an infected cell

March 2013:         Audio Portrait of a City, Part 2 ('Home'): at Southampton Common Disarming frankness, resilience, warmth and infectious humour of the thirty-seven 10-year-olds I spent a couple of days working with on the subjects of 'music in the landscape', 'family' and 'home';     Interviews, poetry, prose, rap and song, spread around the landscape: an incredibly rich combination of the children's voices and music, blended with each other and with the place itself using noTours for Android, software for "editing a place with sounds".
March 2013:         Making Immersive Rock Art: MIRA Preparing to build immersive sound for an entirely virtual reconstruction of some of the world's most impressive and inaccessible prehistoric sites. A great honour to be included in this impressive international team. MIRA is a way of allowing visitors to experience the mystical, ancient world of the cave artists of many millennia ago. Read more
February 2013:         Cotswold Motoring Museum Remixing audio of classic car rallies, vintage motorcycle racing and early urban traffic in 5.1 for surround effects at this wonderful collection deep in the beautiful Cotswolds, at Bourton on the Water. Famously the home of children's tv favourite, the miniature anthropomorphic "Brum" and classics like the first ever Ford car, the Brough Superior motorcycle and my favourite, the "Alldays and Onions 1911 Victoria", from a firm who had made tools for the blacksmith trade. In 1888 they started making bicycles for the G.P.O. and in 1902 launched the Alldays Traveller Voiturette. By 1911 they were producing 10 cars per week. The car has wooden spoke wheels and gas lighting. Visit the museum
January 2013:         Soundscape for stage production of Bulgakov's "Heart of a Dog":     Moscow, Winter 1924. Opens in a snowstorm with the interior voice of a stray dog, kidnapped by a professor of medicine and surgically transformed into a kind of dog-man whose personal habits and political views are uncomfortably distinct from those of his creator.
30 Jan - 1 Feb,Old Operating Theatre, St Thomas St, London SE1.       Monday 25 February, LSE 'Space for Thought' Literary Festival, Old Theatre, Houghton St, London WC1
December 2012:         . . .return to the PhD thesis     Problem: depicting unpredictable 4-D music on paper. Solution: a set of cross-referenced maps; some of space, some of sound over time. The listener's experience is then a combination of elements arising from their interaction with the space and its sounds. Is it worth measuring what listeners do and analysing this? How does their response to the immersion, interactivity, social aspect, physical arrangement of the landscape explored inform the listening experience? Is this a matter for others to consider?
19 December 2012:         Opening of Audio Portrait of a City, Part 1 ('The Secret Garden'): Stories, poems and riddles on the theme of the Secret Garden by Year 4 at Highfield Primary, spread around the landscape: 30 pieces of writing over 22 circles, encompassed by an overture for digital orchestra.         8-9 December 2012: With Highfield Primary School:
Recording the children's stories, poems and riddles about the Secret Garden.
24 November 2012:         MUSIC YOU CAN WALK INSIDE: Late Autumn, a dark, wet and windy day, walking inside the landscape recorded in Spring with an 11-voice choir combined with the sounds of the place itself, augmented and modulated, poised above the landscape.
22 October 2012: "Locative and Geo-Located Audio: Editing a Place with Sounds". Following the brilliant Ed Parsons, Geospatial Technologist at Google Maps, on Annotated Landscape, giving a lecture on virtual sound for exterior and interior spaces, with and.     What is noTours?Audio introduction, 1'30"
Thanks to Guy Stephens and Nyk Loates of Accelerated Solutions Environment at Cap Gemini for being such great hosts.
Weekend of 20/21 October 2012: building audio portrait of St Paul's Churchyard
Blending a virtual choir with the bustling acoustic environs of the cathedral. Geo-located version coming shortly. Listenwith headphones to a cliphere (.wav format)
Many thanks to UnrealCityAudio, on whose entertaining and evocative historic London walking tour, "Hawkers, Harlots & Hacks" I accidentally found myself. Excerpts of their escapades are included in the virtual sound walk that resulted from these recordings.
11 October 2012: Talk and presentation on locative and geo-located music at Creative DigiFest #SXSC 2
Blending musical compositions with a landscape, using noTours for Android. @SxSC
25 August 2012:Interview on Voice103.9 FM
Audio Portrait of Southampton
A geo-located sound collage and musical composition combining performances from Southampton Youth Orchestra, Art Asia and many others with spoken word contributions from hundreds of Sotonians: a 3-D sonic snapshot of the city in 2012, using noTours for Android and creating a parallel online version.      Pre-listen, October 2012: Southampton Common & Watts Park. Get in touch for more info.
18 May 2012,  Invisible Music across the landscape Demonstration of geo-located composition - a way for the listener to enter into a musical composition like a physical space and investigate its layers unfolding over the duration of the music.
University of Southampton Creative DigiFest   
21-22 April 2012 "Dreaming at the Circular Ruins"
Suite for 12 computerised Player Pianos and Marimba performed at the South Bank Centre festival,
"Impossible Brilliance: The Music of Conlon Nancarrow"

4 March 2012, Music Nation Day, opening ofLondon 2012 Cultural Olympiad     Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton.
"Take me by the Hand"     Virtual Choir Setting of Jeffrey Wainwright's poem
Acousmatic performance, followed by locative version: listeners went outside and walked into a version of the composition spread like a physical structure in the surrounding gardens with's brilliantnoTours. An invisible sonic landscape that changes according to listener movement, where listeners move through overlapping physical zones to take differing routes through the music as it develops over time. Each listener hears a unique, unrepeatable version of the music.   Read  more
29 February 2012, "Southampton Composers Group" Concert, Turner Sims Concert Hall,
"Memory Games" for solo human and avatar pianists : Tom Green, piano.
Examining the interplay between personal and musical memory, anticipation, re-interpretation of ideas transformed during recall, how the joining fragments of memory underlies a sense of musical narrative.
Four short convolutions and a 3-D plunderphonic:
a soundtrack to solitary dislocation improvising with a Saxon shepherd Obama's speech on the capture of Bin Laden reconstructed whilst he performs, the pianist remembers music - historic and from yesterday, at the piano and on radio - his performance is partly the piece he came to play and partly composed of memories that intersperse it, Memory Games 1 (avatar pianist) "Credo", a 3-D plunderphonic from sampled medieval and modern sacred chants.
8 December 2011: R O O M   John Hansard Gallery, Southampton.
Re-examining the premise for Alvin Lucier's influential "I am sitting in a room" this piece takes the composer's (BLM's) speech and transforms it into asomatous instruments of confusion: words and vocalisations as notes, voices as virtual instruments, the auditorium as playroom, R o o m
Collaboration with conceptual artist Terry Smith: PARALLAX.

Terry Smith, Caracol, 2011.
Courtesy the artist.
Photograph: Lisa Blackmore

©Copyright Benjamin Mawson 2013