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Max Cooper and the 4th Dimension

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Max Cooper and the 4th Dimension

“I just love that feeling of music when it sort of wraps around you,” Max declares; a reasoning as to why he’s been so involved in numerous projects that connect our conventional understandings of dimensional properties - tying together the physical world we understand with the one we hear. His innate ability to provide the sound to certain environments has been used for the launch of the new Japanese sports stadium, by Magnetic to produce a podcast based on the sounds within the British Museum and now by Dutch group, 4D Sound – to perform in a new sound rig that will change the way we interact with music forever.

His music has always taking on a multi-dimensional approach, and on August 31st Max will play the inaugural launch of the world’s first 4D rig at a currently undisclosed location in Amsterdam. DJB caught up with Max before his set at Berlin’s Krake Festival to find out more about this new, groundbreaking project.

What is 4D?
It’s a 3-dimensional rig and the sound can be placed anywhere within the rig but it also moves in time, around the space – and that’s the 4th dimension in this 3- dimensional field.

And how does it work?
Basically there is a 3-dimensional array of speakers, so the speakers are contained within metal poles, there are 16 poles, each one is 4 metres high, in a 4x4 grid with the speakers inside the poles.

How are the speakers positioned in the venue?
The venue entails you standing amongst the grid of speakers. So wherever you stand, speakers of all different heights, depths and widths surround you. The speakers are non-directional; where normal speakers are concave and they direct the sound towards you, punching in the same direction, these speakers are convex and the sound comes out in all directions. They have special software with complex algorithms and calculations to define how the speakers should be driven in order to make a sound ‘sound’ like it’s coming from any position.

"You get sounds
coming from nowhere

You can get very convincing, localized sound placement, you can also have sounds that sound like they’re coming from outside the rig as well. It doesn’t feel like it’s coming form the speaker, it feels like it’s localized in space. It’s strange; the way it’s set up is very unusual. You get sounds coming from nowhere essentially.

The interface would use is essentially a standard Ableton Live set where I have all the clips with different noises, effects and stuff. And then there’s an add-on to that, which is the whole spatial programming of things. So you can take any one sound from a piece of music and then the first thing you do is place it within the space, so you’d set the x, y and z co-ordinates to define where it sits, then after that you can define it’s movement and it can follow any path within the space. You can also expand and contract it or have exploding and imploding sounds or have it coming like a blot of lightning out of the sky; there are loads of different spatial effects you can use.

"Everyone will hear
something different
dependent on how they
move through
the space..."

It’s an additional layer of musicality and way of working, you have to think about how you want people to interact with each sound and what it should do in a spatial manner. When I write music normally, it’s not actually true that the spatial stuff doesn’t come into it because I spend a lot of time doing psychoacoustic stuff when I write music, so even with stereo speakers you have direction, left and right, but then you also have stereo widening, and reverbs which gives things spaciousness as well. Psychoacoustics is about that sort of picture, that 3-dimensional, experiential picture that your brain builds up based on these cues you pick up from the music.

The other thing is, that you have to take into account people can actually walk around the space and interact with the track, as you have certain different sounds coming from different parts of the room or even different pieces of music playing in different parts of the room. Everyone will hear something different dependent on how they move through the space.

     - Max Cooper 'Gravity Well'

Do you perform from the centre?
No I perform from the side. I’ll be using Lemur for iPad. The good thing is that I’ll be able to walk into the space as well, walk around and tweak things (if everything goes to plan.)

The other thing is that I don’t know is whether it works more of an artistic endeavor rather than a club endeavor. But, it is loud and there’s a good sub so there’s potential to do a bit of dancey stuff. This first test will define how we progress with it and what kind of shows we try and plan.

"A lot of people don’t
realize how powerful your
hearing really is in
defining your awareness
of your environment...."

Where did the concept come from?
It was these guys from Amsterdam, called the 4D Sound Group.

They’re all super clever guys, engineers, mathematicians, artists and they built the system as part of their studies and got funding to continue and turn into something more commercial. They approached me through a friend and I went to check it out and it was amazing. They’re just in the stage of having artists coming in and using the system and building up a roster of people. I just have to try and invent my own kind of show with it.

Are you writing new compositions to be specifically used with the system?
I’m mainly using old tracks but doing them in a new way because my tracks are generally full of complexity anyway and a lot of the time if I take all that complexity and then add a whole spatial layer on top then it’s too much.

There’s definitely an element of making new stuff, because the spatial aspect is so powerful that a part from a track can come out totally different to how it would have done in the original. It’s all a bit of a juggling game as to how to get the balance right. You don’t want to over complicate things – but you want to get the most out of it.