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Wind Space Architecture and 64-Channel Sound


Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium, Session 5: Systems and Techniques
Saturday 9 August, 13:00–15:00. Church of St.Andrew-by-the-Lake, Toronto Islands
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In 2003, Steve Heimbecker began the construction of the Turbulence Sound Matrix [TSM], a 64-channel sound generation and diffusion system that uses the data produced by his award-winning Wind Array Cascade Machine [WACM] (2003). Inspired by the flowing ocean-like wave patterns of the wind seen cascading across prairie fields of tall grass or grain, WACM is a 64-channel sensor network that captures, streams and records the wave patterns of the wind from a remote horizontal plane.

The Turbulence Sound Matrix is a powerful 3200 watt RMS, 64-channel sound diffusion system. The TSM uses eight custom, slightly concaved, free standing aluminum speaker columns on wheels that stand 11 feet tall, 36 inches wide, and 42 inches deep. Each speaker column carries vertically, eight discrete channels of sound through eight speaker cabinets containing 6.5 inch, 4 ohm, high power, full frequency coaxial speakers. Each of the eight speaker columns are powered at their base by a single multi-channel power amplifier.

The digital hardware of the TSM is a Mac G5 (2.3 dual) computer, using the Moto PCI 24 i/o audio system with a total of 72 i/o. Custom software created within the Max/MSP platform integrates the recorded data of the WACM in the form of 8x8 pixel video files. Video file format allows the wind to be edited using standard video editors. The entire digital control matrix is also created within the Max/MSP platform. This custom software includes programmable diffusion / assignment matrixes, real time wind speed and dynamics control,space for up to 16 tracks of prepared 16 bit / 44.1 khz audio files with real time delay pattern control, EQ, and on the fly loop selection. In addition, other sound sources, such as a second multi-channel DAW, or a live audio mixing console can also be inserted into the TSM through eight analog audio inputs, which are also subject to an independent layer of wind pattern diffusion. The primary concept of using wind data for sound diffusion is to map wind patterns as cascading amplitude modulations which change the sound pressure levels at each speaker at a rate of 20 times per second. This means that any sound input into the TSM system will be diffused through the TSM by the silent influence of the flowing wind, applying Heimbecker’s concept of “wind space architecture.”


Originally trained in fine arts, Montréal-based Intermedia audio artist / musician Steve Heimbecker has been creating multi-channel sound compositions and installations on systems of his own design for over two decades. His first octaphonic concert work was created in 1992. His first DVD 5.1 was produced in Montréal in the spring of 2002 and later published as a series with three other of his 5.1 productions in 2005. Born on the Canadian prairies in Saskatchewan, Heimbecker has retained a strong sense of the open prairie landscape in his work, which has inspired his sound space diffusion concepts, techniques, and designs. His award-winning work has been presented in Canada, and Europe, plus the USA, and Peru. His most recent production, the Turbulence Sound Matrix, a 64-channel, 3200 watt sound system together with the composition Signe, recently premiered to high praise, at the Elektra (9) Festival (Montréal).

Paper originally presented at the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium 2008, August 2008.

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