The Barely Project

Natasha Barrett

Programme Notes

The Barely Project

The Barely Project develops a paradigm within which highly detailed sensory information is explored at the point of the ‘experienced threshold.’ The ‘experienced threshold’ is the point at which we begin to cognitise or attempt to find meaning rather than merely perceive. For example, in terms of our auditory sense the ‘experienced threshold’ is directly connected to the volume and content of the pre-existing sound environment. In an anechoic room, the experienced threshold is that of the threshold of hearing. At a busy train station the experienced threshold is the sound to which we consciously listen as information-gatherers, rather than as passive receivers with no intention to listen or interpret meaning. In a similar way we experience an attention threshold when it comes to visual and spatial experience. In visually overloaded environments we tend to automatically filter out the visual noise or information that is regarded irrelevant for our daily activities. All of our senses may be addressed under The Barely Project paradigm.

The complexity of our everyday stimuli sometimes tends to a state of noise in terms of cognitive and sociological experience. To take in all that is presented to us may result in information overload or even a state of information entropy. On a conceptual level Barely presents an alternative way of organising high levels of information, enticing the individual into deep attention and concentration by offering selective details at a level that is only just perceptible. To date The Barely Project consists of four parts, three of which are on the disc Bouteilles de Klein.

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  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Composer(s): Natasha Barrett
  • Year of composition: 2006-08

Works in this Cycle

Barely: part-1

Premiere

  • October 9, 2007, Ultima 2007: Concert, Kanonhallen, Oslo (Norway)

Barely: part-1

Barely: part-1 was originally a 70-minute spatial sound and visual immersive installation resulting from a collaboration between Natasha Barrett and architect and designer Birger Sevaldson along with the group Ocean North.

The work was designed as a site-specific installation for Kanonhallen in Oslo (Norway). The Germans requisitioned Kanonhallen during WWII for use as an artillery factory. The space is 50 meters long, 13.5 meters wide and 8 meters high. The walls and floor are concrete. High glass windows allow the changing light to penetrate the room throughout the day. Barely: part-1 was installed in October 2007, which in Oslo is a month of rapid daylight change. The room acoustics are complex: In addition to a reverberation duration of over three seconds, various flutter echoes and comb filter effects are found at different points of the room.

Visual materials for the installation consist of 20 clear, colourless one-mm thick, one-meter wide and four-meter long polycarbonate foils hang from a 9 by 8-meter ceiling grid. The foils were painted with a line pattern in ultraviolet reflective paint. This pattern was designed in detail through computer simulations to both enhance and skew the spatial topology. Naturally occurring sounds from in- and outside the space were recorded and classified in terms of intrinsic (spectral and temporal, or ‘inside’ the sound) and extrinsic (referential, or referring ‘outside’ the sound) content. These materials included everyday sounds such as the activity of a janitor and two onsite workers, sounds from the neighbouring building site, a kindergarten, a motorbike courier and a distant propeller plane. Outdoor sources were recorded both outside and inside Kanonhallen so as to be filtered through the unusual room acoustic. The blend of indoor and outdoor sounds dissolved the sense of boundary. In addition, close-microphone recordings, which exclude room acoustics, were used to rearticulate detail when micro-scale variations in temporal and spectral information were lost. Editing and transformation served two main functions. To explore extrinsic information by creating a continuum from a sound suggesting a direct causal basis or concrete reference, to a sound of remote causal basis or abstract reference. Sounds of concrete reference were used to create a network of indicative relationships suggestive mainly of human activity in ordinary environments. And to explore intrinsic information by drawing attention to, and isolating, small details and fluctuations in sound identity, spectrum and morphology. (Even more information about the work can be found in the composer’s website.)

The listening level of Barely: part-1 should be adjusted such that the sound is just audible.

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The audio of Barely: part-1 was realized in 2006-07 at the composer’s studio and the installation was premiered on October 9, 2007 during the Ulitma Festival at Kanonhallen in Oslo (Norway). The installation was made possible by support from the Norsk kulturråd (Arts Council Norway), Notam (Norwegian network for Technology, Acoustics and Music), Fond for Utovender Kunstnere, and the Ultima Festival. On Bouteilles de Klein Barely: part-1 has been remixed and reduced to 39 minutes in 2008 at the composer’s studio and is intended to create a background sound environment. The work was researched and composed during a stipend from the Norsk kulturråd (Arts Council Norway), 2006-08.

Barely: part-2

Premiere

  • November 7, 2008, Concert, ROM for kunst og arkitektur, Oslo (Norway)

Gentle Sediment (Barely: part-3)

Gentle Sediment (Barely: part-3) is an acousmatic concert work designed such that details in terms of volume, frequency, space, sound identity and structural relationships over all time scales may be performed to function at the experienced threshold under different concert situations. For some listeners the work offers a minimalistic and meditative experience. For others its low volume and shimmer of details may evoke the opposite experience of active listening and heightened awareness, enticing the listener into a state of attention, concentration and a sensual experience.

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Gentle Sediment (Barely: part-3) was realized in 2008 at the composer’s studio and premiered by Natasha Barrett on the 4 June 2008 during the 38th Synthèse festival in Bourges (France). The work was researched and composed during a stipend from the Norsk kulturråd (Arts Council Norway), 2006-08.


Premiere

  • June 4, 2008, Synthèse 2008: Électroac 4, Palais Jacques-Cœur, Bourges (Cher, France)

Rhizaria (Barely: part-4)

In Rhizaria (Barely: part-4) the idea of ‘experienced thresholds’ are explored with extreme close microphones and live electronics capturing nuances of the cello’s quieter sound world and performance details in a way a listener never hears. In this work the electronic layers are created directly from the cellist’s performance. The idea is to ensure a unity of electronic sound and gesture over micro- and macro-time.

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Rhizaria (Barely: part-4) was realized in 2007-08 at the composer’s studio and premiered by Tanja Orning and Natasha Barrett on the 7 December 2008 during the Kick-Off Festival presented by Electric Audio Unit at Det Åpne Teater in Oslo (Norway). The work was researched and composed during a stipend from the Norsk kulturråd (Arts Council Norway), 2006-08.


Premiere

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