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Please Listen to the binaural excerpt on closed ear headphones for spatial effect

20 minute ambisonic Composition by: Sarah Duffy 

For multi channel speaker arrays and binaural


For two weeks in July 2023, I was artist-in-residence at the ICST composition studio at Zurich University of The Arts. Using the Ambisonic spatial sound technology developed at ICST, I created a new composition that transports the listener through a series of imaginary rooms and environments, making strong use of the medium’s ability to conjure up invisible, yet vivid three-dimensional scenes. A series of increasingly distorted Deepfake versions of my voice - created using AI voice technology, Lyrebird - manoeuvre through these intangible spaces, continuously repeating ‘The Harvard Sentences’ a mysterious group of phrases that were developed in a secret psycho-acoustic laboratory at Harvard in the 1940s to test military communications. They have since become a standard for acoustic testing, as well as the source of several supernatural-based urban legends that have circulated around the internet.

The acoustic quality and enigmatic history of these sentences were my starting point for exploring the disembodiment of the voice in an immersive sound environment, driving me to develop a highly experimental approach to working with spatial sound. In the future, I plan to use this composition as the basis of an immersive audiovisual installation, bringing ambisonic sound into gallery spaces where the work can run continuously on a loop. For an AiR showcase at ZHdk in November 2023, the sound composition was shown as a stand-alone installation on an impressive audio-display with over 28 loudspeakers, which conveyed the spatial aspects of this piece with exceptional clarity. This iteration of the work demonstrated the world-building capabilities of ambisonics - leading the audience on a journey through a series of spectral, otherworldly spaces populated by bodiless voices.

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