Shotgun Architecture

Justin Bennett

Shotgun Architecture plays with concepts of subjective measurement, translations between sound and image, and above all, the idea of the publicness of public space.

Bennett recorded the sound of a pistol shot in a number of semi-public open spaces in the Zuidas, a new business district in Amsterdam, thus collecting acoustic signatures (the impulse responses) of each space. The recordings are then used in two ways:
On the one hand they are used to create a sound composition which explores the resonances of the chosen places by repeatedly recycling or “feeding back” the sounds of the gunshots through the spaces. The resulting piece moves from a dramatic realism to an abstract composition reminiscent of the electronic music of the 1950’s.
On the other hand they are used as a kind of sonar; the stereo (and therefore 2 dimensional) sound data is analysed for spatial and spectral characteristics which are plotted against each other, resulting in a visual map of the acoustic space. These maps, drawn by a computer programme, resemble the visual spaces themselves only in terms of scale: a larger, open space results in a wider pattern of lines. Because of the complexity of the acoustic reality of an urban space, the link between the physical plan of the space and the corresponding “sonar map” is very tenuous.

But still they tell us something about the space. The experience of listening to an urban soundscape is difficult to describe, in words or in notation. These maps suggest a way to describe the open-ness or closed-ness of spaces, the density of reflections and reverberation, the presence of strong resonances or mechanical drones.

The piece was published in an edition of a 10" vinyl record with a graphic poster. Later versions have been created for specific spaces (P-40 art centre, Hamburg 2008; Kus, Heerlen 2012)

Produced by Onomatopee, Virtueel Museum Zuidas and Muziek Centrum Nederland.