the door study

The Door Study

Stereo               3:59

This piece was part of The Door Project.[1] The sound of doors is being used a lot in acousmatic music for the strong literal and metaphoric significance it has for most people and for its interesting and complex spectral qualities. During ICMC2000 conference delegates in the Berliner Staadtsbibliotek noticed the prominent sound of the doors to the gent’s toilets. Joerg Spix and John Ffitch made a thirty-second recording of these doors, put it on the Internet and asked composers to make short pieces using this material only. In reply to this call I made The Door Study.

The recording was short but nevertheless quite complex containing a number of different sound types. I isolated the background noise between the door gestures, the squeaking glissando of the hinges and the percussive sound of the door opening and closing. I used these sound objects raw or separately processed through resonant filtering, time stretching, transposition, granulation, layering and repetition. I also made longer variations of the original by ring modulating them with drones made from the door squeaks.

For the structure I used the recorded door performance as a template. It was suggesting a very clear natural form: stasis – we wait for something to happen, doors open, suspended middle section, the doors close – end of event, life goes on. In the piece we have two main nodal points. Energy builds up towards the first and it is sustained for a while with gestures. Then, we move from one landscape into another through a section of variable activity, towards the second nodal point. We are left with processed but more or less recognisable door sequences, until the piece finishes with a definitive closing sound.

These doors were being used all the time, so the piece is referring to a continuous series of events, a snapshot of which was available in this clip. By elaborating on the energy trajectory of the archetypical door sound I transferred some of my own imaginary sonic scenes onto this model, trying to respect its form but also allowing space for the imagination of the listener to roam into free association, away from the model itself. The repeated opening, passing through and closing is being used metaphorically, as a source of inspiration and as a supporting conceptual framework. The extreme dilation of time, as well the isolation and processing of individual sonic elements contained in the source recording was instrumental in achieving this goal.


[1] Performance with various composers in Havana, Cuba, 2001 and CD compilation, 2002 (produced by John Ffitch).

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About stelios giannoulakis

composition, sound design, engineering, improvisation
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One Response to the door study

  1. Pingback: HELMCA – Electroacoustic Minatures | stelios giannoulakis

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