From traffic rises: Site specificity and the compositional process

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Australasian Computer Music Association


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)




Francis, M. (2016). From traffic rises: Site specificity and the compositional process. In Sonic Environments: ACMC2016. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Australasian Computer Music Association (pp. 43-50). Brisbane, Australia: Australasian Computer Music Association. Available here


Architectural spaces can offer unique musical material for the compositional process. When unorthodox performance spaces become part of musical works and their performances, approaching these spaces offers rich soundscape and spatial possibilities, yet there are particular acoustic challenges for the composer in context-based composition of this kind. This paper examines one way to integrate the real world sound characteristics of an architectural space into the compositional process, and discusses how different levels of site-specificity may be engaged in this process. A pedestrian bridge was chosen for its soundscape and physical characteristics as well as challenges which required creating a pre-compositional testing and work shopping methodology. These experimental processes inspired an original composition titled From Traffic Rises, featuring eight acoustic musicians, four speakers and an electronic soundscape. This research also draws inspiration from literature in theatre and choreography that interrogates the way works can be linked to their particular site. In particular, Dr Fiona Wilkie’s scale of site-specificity for theatre provides a useful tool to gauge the level of site interaction. These creative influences are synthesised to form an alternative compositional process which begins, and is informed, by the context of a physical space as a musical starting point. From Traffic Rises demonstrates that the acoustic, physical design and spatial features of a real world physical space can become an integral part of a new work, providing an important contribution to the possibilities of acoustic music.

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