Continuing my adventures into ‘everything that is sound immersive cool’ and headphone-theatre, here’s my thoughts on something new in terms of at-home entertainment, which also includes a little ‘paranormal’ flavour.
In his book Theater of the Mind: Imagination, Aesthetics, and American Radio Drama, Verma suggests that we should use the term “audioposition” rather than “vantage point” to describe the experience of listening to the radio. “Listeners do not just ‘have’ a point of audition; they are ‘positioned’ by audio composition and components of dialogue” (2012, 35). This is particularly true of podcasts – especially ones involving dramatic presentations – where listeners may use headphones. Huwiler (2016) proposes an additional influence on the medium of audio, in terms of sound positioning:
The (stereophonic) positioning of the signals is a sign system in its own right in stereophonic and binaural radio pieces. Here, too, the positioning of the signals can be used in a much more varied way than just to indicate the positions of people or objects in a realistic setting as either on the right or on the left of a scene (Huwiler, 2016, 102).
This positioning can be done through the movement of soundwaves in the editing process and can be seen in examples such as productions by The Owl Field, described as a “3D audio drama” (Abma, 2016) and Complicity Theatre/Simon McBurney’s The Encounter (Lewis, 2018, 101).
Darkfield/Realscape productions are the same groups that did two on-site headphone theatre pieces I’ve caught in the past: Seance and Flight. They were at a few of the Perth Fringe Festivals, and they have another called Coma that hasn’t come to Perth yet. My hopes are still high that theatre will again start travelling around again soon. They use the positioning of sound to great effect, particularly focusing on horror and thriller tales.
Like many arts groups, Darkfield/Realscape have adapted to the times. Due to COVID-19, they’ve moved their sonic storytelling onto an iphone app – with Double!
DOUBLE is the first presentation to be broadcast on DARKFIELD RADIO. It is a troubling exercise in familiarity for two people sitting opposite each other on either side of a kitchen table, replicated in hundreds of rooms all across Australia over 20 minutes. DOUBLE explores the Capgras delusion, a terrifying condition in which the sufferer is convinced that a loved one has been replaced by an exact replica with malign intentions.
There is only one rule: everyone has to be who they say they are.
Under certain circumstances even the most unshakable and reliable truths can unravel,
and untangling all the loose ends and rolling everything back onto the spool
is sometimes too much to bear.
So maybe we should exchange our ordinary illusions for other, wilder ones….
As the neuroscientist Anil Seth once said:
“Reality is just an hallucination that we can all agree on.”
Double employs 3D binaural audio, like The Encounter. Instead of a theatre – it’s through an app on the phone. The app sends you to the event when you’ve paid for the access code – each one is time sensitive, so it’s kind of like a theatre booking. On the screen in front of me on the app, it says:
“Double is for two people. You both need to join the event from individual phones, You will both need headphones”.
However, I was still able to take part as a ‘soloist’ and it was a fascinating immersive experience, with an intriguing tale of being trapped with someone who has taken a similar audio journey to you… a ‘double’ who is less enthusiastic than yourself about the opportunity. Creepy!
Overall, this was not only a fun little distraction from the usual stay-home-and-watch-telly while waiting for something new to arrive in the cinemas, and I’ll continue recommending it to students and to anyone who wants to be inspired where art can take you in 2020. Soon it may be award-winning entertainment: Double is the first audio-only work to play the Venice International Film Festival, in the “VR Expanded” program that typically features virtual and augmented reality works.
Double can be playing in your kitchen until September 30. Darkfield.com.au