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Speaker Designs

It was initially thought that each of the two speaker designers/artists would make 12 speakers for 12 channels. This number was based on the fact that Wrap’s newly acquired digital mixer had 24 analog outputs, and that this seemed to be a reasonable number.

As the individual design strategies of Pigott and Sletteland began to crystallise, it became clear to the curator/directors that they wanted to group some of Slettelands designs into clusters with shared channels, to free up two channels for the implementation of complementary ideas of their own. Here they also acknowledge that Speaker Park might morph to suit future situations, in which case these two particular channels, referred to as “joker” channels, could provide a way of re-adjusting the installation, without undermining the design contributions of Pigott and Sletteland.

It was clear to the directors that Pigott’s designs had a clear front, and therefor directionality much like traditional speakers, which is not a prerequisite in the Speaker Park context. This prompted discussions in Bergen (including with Sletteland) about acoustic directionality and designs with no fixed front. Sletteland dealt consciously with these issues in many of his designs, in spite of the fact that they all used speaker cones which have an intrinsic directionality. In order to present as broad a spectrum of speaker directionality (and “omnidirectionality”) as possible, it was decided that one of the “joker” channels would be used by a large sheet of brown paper. This idea was originally implemented by Pigott during an initial workshop, and developed as a team effort between Sletteland, Preston and Thorseth.

The second “joker” channel was used to power a resonant pyramid shape, fitted with a powerful transducer, in an effort to create an omnidirectional bass speaker. The idea here was that the speaker cabinet became a four-sided speaker driver, in contrast to traditional speaker cabinets which are designed to enable speaker drivers to focus sonic energy in one direction. It was hoped that a pyramid shape would prevent any particular frequency from resinating above others, much in the way speaker cabinets are traditionally acoustically neutral or “dead” to enable a full range of sonic frequencies to be transmitted at a similar level. In order for all audible frequencies to fit/resonate inside the pyramid, it would have to have a base of about 17 x 17 meters (current design = 1x1m which is the wavelength of about 340 Hz).

To continue on a scientific note, Slettelands speaker designs focus on accessible materials that are relatively affordable or recycled. However these designs are not standardised in the way that Pigott’s designs are. This consciously poses challenges to the idea that Speaker Park can be easily replicated in venues where this is preferable to shipping the original installation. Sletteland feels that there should be scope for future hosts of Speaker Park to experiment with and adapt his designs in order for them to participate in and engage with the project as fully as possible. He intends to co-author a manual with HDU in which appropriate guidelines will be provided to makers of future Speaker Park installations, in order to enable them to design speakers with similar enough acoustic properties to be capable of re-producing compositions mixed on a sibling installation.

Not only do Sletteland’s designs pose this potential acoustic challenge to future hosts, but Pigott’s designs are also sensitive, and can change their acoustic properties due to small changes in the placement of the transducer, the way it is fastened, and the amount of glue used in construction. For these and other reasons, it is conceivable that Speaker Park will have to be tuned by a specialist, using EQ filters and volume adjustments. Some minor volume adjustments were made already when the installation moved from Wrap to Oseana.

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