The work La Tabula Rasa is a commission for the Tangible Sound conference run by the center for art and media ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, and fits into the topic of the tangibility of sounds and music. The work was premiered in the Klangdom Sound Theatre of the same institution, provided of 47 (43 + 4) loudspeakers in hemispherical disposition.

Given the context, numerous strategies have been chosen to address the notion of tangibility, theme of the conference.

 

What is tangibility? And how can it be interpreted?

In the modern musical debate tangibility is often approached as a perceptual than physical quality, with works aimed to the understanding of the musical qualities that allow a possible retrieval of the object's size, shape or volume producing the sound in origin, and goes under the name of sonification.

A more complex approach called data sonification is the study of possible interrelations between sound and meaning, in order to provide information through the auditory system about the surrounding environment in support to or in place of visual interaction.

A different approach in matter of tangibility is the application DSP technologies to non-musical instruments. Aim of this approach is the improvement of physical interaction with objects and tools, and, often in art, the provoking of new situations in experiencing everyday objects.

Moreover, the topic of tangibility can be found in some aesthetic discussions in art, where the notion is approached in relation to clarity and definition.

Example of this approah is Osip Emilevic Mandel'stam, a russian poet of the first half of the twentieth century whose work is opposing the symbolist fashion, against the haziness of the poetic discourse in favor to the concreteness and clarity of the poetic image.

The work La Tabula Rasa begins along with this clarity of expression. First of all, the use of the voice is chosen to express concepts, and so the intention of the work to define meaning. Nevertheless, the reference to the source is clear: a person is speaking up.

The theme, and therefore the main schema of the work, is inspired to La Fabbrica Illuminata by the Italian composer Luigi Nono: a bunch of unison cries speaking of workers condition, used to emphasize the main voice, and so to give concreteness to the speech, in a contemporary perspective where technology is quickly growing up.

The spatialization in La Tabula Rasa is handled carefully: tangibility means no ambiguity in the source producing the sound. Within this sight, the proper extrinsic reverberation of the room is chosen in place of any artificial reverberation, and the sounds are projected as dry as possible over the listening space, to make clear the direction of sounds and transform loudspeakers into a choir of 43 performers. Moreover, as any source hardly produces different sounds at once, an accurate spatialization of the sounds was investigated in order to avoid multiple sounds to be simultaneously projected by the same loudspeaker.