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UMBRAE

UMBRAE (2023, Ambisonic soundscape) by Ewa Trębacz

Umbrae, Ambisonic soundscape, Ewa Trębacz (2023)

ARS ELECTRONICA 2023. Festival for Art, Technology & Society.
PREMIERE:  September 9, 2023
ARS ELECTRONICA - SONIC SATURDAY
Medium Sonorum Concert
Anton Bruckner Private University, Sonic Lab
Linz, Austria


Umbrae ("Shadows") was sparked by a glitch of personal memory, seeded by a 1920 poem by the Polish poet Bolesław Leśmian titled “Odjazd” (“Departure”).

I’ve played a perilous game of moving a magnifying glass through my personal latent soundspace. I found it filled with glitches of corroded memories, inaccessible to another human being. A half-forgotten poem escaping translation from the language of my childhood; a disembodied scrap of a musical phrase erroneously preserved by my violinist muscle memory. The poem itself evokes feelings of grief associated with leaving something precious behind, irreparable loss, and the realization of the inevitable final departure. The fragmented memories of the poem, which I memorized in my early teenage years, returned to me in shattered pieces, attached to other fragmented memories in paradoxical configurations - yet the feeling evoked by the poem not only remained, but seemed amplified. Structurally, the composition is based on processes breaking, semi-musical phrases being interrupted halfway through their development, as if human memory suddenly fails, and the listener’s attention is distracted in response to a new, unexpected stimulus. 

Should one never abandon anything forever? - asks the poet. 
Is this loss? - a random response generated by AI seemed to be a mockery at first, yet the question felt strikingly real.


The piece was realized in 3rd order Ambisonics with the use of the Ambisonic Toolkit (ATK) software package and mixed at the University of Washington Department of Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS) sound studios. 

The fragmented scraps of various recording sessions were brought together in unexpected and paradoxical ways. Each of these recordings brought memories of a specific moment in time and space, a timestamp of an experience, unique and non-replicable. The fragmentation and re-association of the sound material was achieved  through mainly through a decomposition and asynchronous processing of various parts of the Ambisonic image. By applying small variations to the way various parts of the soundfield were processed, it was possible to achieve a “shattered glass” effect - dense yet fragmented textures, chaotically distributed in the space.


I admit It borders on a travesty to machine-translate any poem. Unfortunately I could not find any English translation. 

"Departure" - B.Leśmian - Google translate...

"Odjazd" - B.Leśmian (the original in Polish)

People Involved: 
Research Type: 
Status of Research or Work: 
Completed/published
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