Sounding Space: Emptyset

Thurs 13 December 2012 6-9pm

  • Ambika P3 - the venue
  • Emptyset - still from the recording of Medium, courtesy Caroline Seymour.

Emptyset, James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas's experimental electronic music project, extend Sounding Space's exploration of the resonant ways in which architecture can both shape and be captured by sound.

In a method developed through their acclaimed album Medium (Subtext, 2012) Emptyset created a unique sonic portrait of architectural space, translating and recording the space's acoustic response to the frequencies they pushed through it, to create an original composition and site-specific sound installation for one night only.

Emptyset tackled the cavernous Ambika P3 for the AF Sounding Space commission. P3's 14,000 square foot, triple height subterranean space – a former concrete construction hall where components of Britain's motorways and the Channel Tunnel were tested – was amplified by microphones and subjected to sine waves and noise, to create a unique sonic portrait of the space imprinted with the characteristic qualities of its architecture.

The production was focused around the fact that when one amplifies the basic constituents of sound into a building such as sine waves and noise, what is reflected back contains an imprint of the space and all of its nuances; just as when an acoustician plays pulses and sine wave sweeps into a space in order assess its properties, or when a bat uses echo location to navigate through an environment. In addition when feedback is applied into this system and channeled into the building via microphones and speakers one is able to coax out something of an underlying signature, something active and dynamic inherently embedded within the building, exposing a potential for the unexpected to emerge out of an environment conventionally regarded as static and inanimate.
- Emptyset

Using an array of speakers and microphones the project examined sonic translations of space whilst simultaneously exploring the dialogue between an individual structure and its invisible interactions with the ambient sound of the city. The piece documented the specifics of P3's architecture by recording and interacting with the specifics of its acoustics, and transforming the buildings’ walls into audio receivers for the sounds of the city outside. 

Emptyset is a Bristol based production project formed in 2005 by James Ginzburg, director of the Multiverse studios and network of labels and the curator and electronic artist Paul Purgas. The project explores the legacy of analogue media, integrating aspects of rhythm, signal processing and spatial recording within the framework of minimalist composition. Their work interrogates the perceptual boundaries between noise and music and the potential for both technology and architecture to embed and codify themselves within sound. Through collaborations with visual designers they have extended their work to explore the potential interactions between sound and image, reflecting upon structural film and video techniques and addressing the evolving relationship between old and new media. Emptyset are currently releasing material through the labels Subtext and Raster-Noton. They have presented live performances at Sonic Acts XIV (Amsterdam), Mutek (Montreal), Unsound (Krakow) and Berghain (Berlin). Emptyset's most recent release, Collapsed, is available through Raster-Noton now.

Ambika P3 is the University of Westminster’s space for contemporary art and architecture, presenting a public programme of solo and group exhibitions, education projects, talks and events. Dedicated to innovation, experimentation and learning the programme has been conceived as a laboratory and meeting place for practitioners, industry and academia. Recent exhibitions include Jannis Kounellis, Anthony McCall and David Hall. 

Download full press release here.


Sounding Space: Emptyset is in partnership with Ambika P3, University of Westminster


With thanks to RK Jones Sound Engineers, Vance Galloway, Joanie Lemercier, Mat Sampson, Rod Maclachlan