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Presentation of Electroacoustic Works on Multi-Speaker Systems

5 Questions to Richard Zvonar

In my work multi-speaker presentation is more a "preferred" element than an essential one. I simply can't count on having access to multiple  channels, so many pieces are plain stereo.

2. Are there circumstances in which you prefer stereo or multi-channel mediums?

The choice of stereo vs. multi-channel can be a practical one, dependent on the circumstances in which a piece will be distributed and presented, or an aesthetic one, dependent on the sonic nature of the piece and the interrelationship of its parts. I can't think of any piece where I've "preferred" that it be played in simple stereo, but in many cases that's the only playback option. It's also  "safer" in many cases to limit the playback options so you have some assurance that the piece will always sound the  same.

3. What factors are important with regards to speaker placement and configurations?

On the presentation end of the process, the architecture of the venue and the size and disposition of the audience are both critical. The specific complement of equipment is similarly critical, and the circumstances of technical setup (how much time, how much staff, etc.) are undeniable practical factors. These are obviously mundane "practical" considerations, but in the  U.S. this is often what you have to deal with.

On the composition side, spatial design can be as elaborate and symbolically significant as you like. I personally  take a pragmatic course. If I'm creating a piece for a particular circumstance I will typically be given a set of constraints, such as speaker type and configuration, and these will partly guide my compositional  choices. I may also choose to consider making more than one version of a piece, for different technical setups.

4. Do you have ideas about specific types of sounds and their placement in space?

I haven't worked extensively in this area, mostly for lack of access to  elaborate performance systems; however I do think of sound location in a theatrical sense. I have created soundscapes that are representational, in which certain sounds need to be high, or low, or must emanate from some physical object or region of the stage. I've also used space to articulate components of a compound sound.  In such cases the absolute locations may be less important than the relative locations.

5. To what extent do you view diffusion as performance?

In my work the performative aspect of diffusion is really dependent on each particular piece, and the spatial design of each piece depends a great deal on the circumstances of the venue for which that piece is composed. A lot of my work is  built around the live processing of sounds, and in such situations spatial diffusion may be only one of many ongoing processes.

Richard Zvonar, PhD

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