Junkerry: Talks Virtual Sound in New Project, ‘Amaurosis’

Junkerry has been busy creating and evolving new sound tools in conjunction with King’s College, allowing artists to bring their composition and vision to audiences.

She tells us more about her immersive intense listening experiences. She discovers new ways to value and listen deeply to music, as she takes audiences inside the sound. We talk to Junkerry about her new project Amaurosis and how she got here.

Describe your new installation, ‘Amaurosis’ in three words

Immersive – meditative – intriguing

How is Amaurosis immersive, how will people feel afterwards?

I use spatial tools with an 8 speaker system to take the audience inside the music, sounds come from all directions and then move around. So you are floating in an aural sea. And because you are blindfolded your neurology kicks in – creating images and an environment that you believe in. There’s no sight to tell you it’s not real.

You brain waves have slowed down, almost like a meditation. The experience induces a state of peace and calmness. And once you remove your blindfold you can look at the world with fresh eyes. 

At what moment did you come up with the idea for Amaurosis?

Around two years ago, I got overwhelmed with visuals and imagery, also by the soundtrack that constantly follows us around. Those feelings triggered thoughts of allowing the audience to ‘unplug’ from their digital lives. I wanted the music to become the audiences emotional guide, and that’s difficult to achieve, but exciting! The idea of making it about the ‘art of listening’ was intriguing. We have all closed our eyes while listening to music and know how good it feels. 

You have been developing the technology for Amaurosis with Kings College London, how did the partnership come about?

I worked with Kings College programming tools, which were still in development, for an installation at the V&A – that led to our partnership for this project. The aim is to make this technology available to a wider number of composers, producers, engineers and studios. 

How did you meet Lucy Hardcastle, what was the moment you realised you could work in this project?

I was introduced to the work of Lucy Hardcastle through a friend at Royal College of Art. I immediately saw the parallels in our work.  Her works also has a sense of the tangible, it is textured, layered and sensual. Digital yet organic and always a part of the story unrevealed, so there is space left for the imagination. 

Visuals for Amaurosis, Lucy Hardcastle

You are visiting planetariums, to give your audiences the best experience, do you bring your own PA system, a bit like Jeff mills at the inception of techno?

Yes, but it’s not as complicated as you imagine.  A big element of this project was being able to create Amaurosis at any venue. In the past this type of installation/performance was restricted to contemporary music. Here I’m using my laptop with Ableton Live and the spatial tools we have been developing at Kings Sound Lab. Really the only hardware is the eight high quality speakers, similar to Genelecs. 

How do you bring music into the future? Is this the fifith dimension of sound?

These new software tools allow producers and sound engineers to bring performance previously reserved for contemporary spaces with various music aesthetics and genres. The technology literally places the audience inside the music. It give the opportunity to revolutionise all kinds of theatre and performance.

Do you think we will eventually move away from streaming?

We I think binaural – the simulation of a 3D space using headphones – will become more and more mainstream.  Its going to be interesting to see how many ways we can experience music. It is constantly evolving and our perceptions change through time as well. 

Tell us about some of the spatial tools you have developed with Kings College for this project? What was the sound lab, under Somerset House like?

I first work with King’s on the V&A project and for Amaurosis I used their spatial tools, which were still in development. The challenge was to mould the tools and work with my music to show how they can expand the melody, harmony and bring a new listening experience to the audience. It was a wonderful experience working with them and testing and giving feedback from the point of view of a producer. The sound lab – well it isn’t as glamourous as it sounds – but if you are a tech head that loves sound, it is the perfect place.

Tell us about the VR project with the Rodin Room at the V&A

Pigment Channel was about exploring the movement of the sculptor, from artist to artisans, to machine and into the future of fashion, with Artificial Intelligence. I worked with artist Patrick Morgan at Escape Studios on the visuals and of-course King’s on sound. I really enjoyed idea of recreating the piece as a whole. A huge amount of people got to experience and it started to open lots of doors. 

You released the single, ‘As We Are,’ with Google Tilt. How did this come about?

Actually it was never released. All my art is free. Yes, I was lucky enough to be given the change to play and experiment with those virtual tools before they were released. It was important to show how tech aimed at the gaming market could be used in an artistic way. It was a great challenge, as it was the first time that VR created in a headset was uploaded to You Tube as a video. It was exciting!

Miss Baker’s Ride was fascinating an dtells the story of the first monkey to return from space? You won an award for the soundtrack on this? How did you come up with this soundscore – how did you feel it depicted the story?

I wanted to tell a story, as most of my work is abstract. Plus I was fascinated with all those amazing images NASA gave us access to. Instead of just using the images I thought it would be interesting to script a story and create illustrations from the actual archives, and to tell the story from this little monkey’s point of view. Most us have never heard of Miss Baker and all the monkeys who hold a special place in history of space exploration. 

Here is a snippet from the performance – listen in binaural for full impact!

Amaurosis 2019: