Using a hand-held device with speaker, the audience in this installation interactively explores a virtual sonic sculpture constructed from speech recordings, arranged in a three‐ dimensional lattice structure.

Random Access Lattice is a sonic sculpture exploring the relationship between sound and motion, especially with respect to the idea of audio recording. Like any writing process, audio recording is dependent on the concept of motion, the principle linking time and space. In the recording process, the volatile temporal phenomenon of sound is transposed into a persistent spatial structure. Playback reverses this transposition by tracing the spatial structure, exerting a particular motion in order to recreate the temporal phenomenon of sound.

With his seminal 1963 work Random Access Music, Nam June Paik exposed the implications of the sound tracing motion in an installation to the gallery audience. He glued recorded magnetic tape on the gallery wall, creating an interactive visual and sonic artwork that the audience explored by means of a hand-held tape head. Moving the head over the tape (re)produced the (recorded) music. Speed and direction of the movement determined the kind and degree of transformation of the recorded material. The slower the lower and the faster the higher the material sounded. Through their bodily motion, Paik granted the audience random (as opposed to sequential) access to his music.

In Random Access Lattice the link between speed and pitch is suspended by using a sound granulation technique allowing the audience to play an audio recording at different speeds without changing its pitch. Apart from applying this technique, Random Access Lattice differs significantly from Paik's work in two other respects. Firstly, the sound is stored along each of the Cartesian axes of a three-dimensional lattice structure filling a cube (see image). Whereas Paik's work extends the one-dimensional structure of the tape recording to a two-dimensional assemblage – a field of sound allowing for random access, Random Access Lattice offers a densely packed crystalline structure that can be explored through unconstrained body motion in space. It does not restrict the movement to a surface. This is achieved by using an optical tracking system, which determines the position of a hand-held virtual sound head. Secondly, the sound head and the loudspeaker are made one and the same object. They form a hand-held tracked sensor/actuator which, when moved, reproduces the sound at the virtual location where it is stored in the lattice. Storage and reproduction location coincide, which underlines the spatial structure of the sound container realized with Random Access Lattice.

The space the audience explores is so densely packed with sound, that only the most controlled motion will allow for a meaningful navigation through the maze of multilingual voice recordings. By thus constraining the bodily movement, the focus is put on the relationship between motion and sound. The recordings used – human voices, also produced by bodily motion, but of a different kind and on another time scale – carry the potential of inducing an intense bodily resonance in the audience.


Gerhard Eckel, PhD, *1962 in Vienna, Composer and Sound Artist, since 2005 Professor of Computer Music and Multimedia at the Institute of Electronic Music and Acoustics, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz. Studies in musicology and electronic music composition in Vienna. 1989‐1996 artistic researcher at IRCAM, Pompidou Centre, Paris; 1996‐2005 research scientist at Fraunhofer Institute for Media Communication, Bonn; composer in residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 1995 and 2000; current artistic research projects: Embodied Generative Music, The Choreography of Sound.


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