Feedback session on a boat
We had a scheduled feedback session on our course program to end the camp. Giving feedback is a common practise when it comes to intensive courses and teaching but for this camp it being a camp about sound art we all had instantly a different idea when we saw the scheduled “feedback session” on the program. We certainly had had “sessions” already and we had discovered how to do feedback with the zoom and a portable speaker on the very first day (you take the signal from headphone output to the speaker). So why not do the feedback session on a boat? Being on a boat you need some commitment and will need to share it with the ones who are with you. You’re not on land but you’re floating across the scenery they way the winds blow. Water carries well the sounds of the surrounding nature and boat forms a space that has its own frequencies and resonances. A good place to do sound art with you friends.
So what is feedback? It needs an input and an output and if it is to be self sustainable the two should form a loop. So there is a slight difference when we are talking about giving feedback from something you have done to somebody by talking about it and the feedback we associate with sound. The difference is the loop that is formed with the input and output though there certainly are behavioural feedback loops between people and social systems too but they are not so straight forward and in general the input produces something arguably more different in the output when it comes to things happening between people (though it could be in the same category - love creates more love and hatred produces more hatred etc.).
In nature a genuine feedback loop is a rare phenomenon and probably can occur only a certain period of a time and in acoustic sound it doesn’t exist in the strong sense. Otherwise it would mean that something would keep getting louder and louder and create exponential energy. Maybe this could happen in a situation similar to a black hole (but reverse) but let’s say that for feedback in sound you will need amplification and more than the acoustics can produce so you will need electricity. And when doing sound with feedback its good to have some equipment that limits the level of the feedback so that you can control it better. The Tivoli Audio speakers have for example an internal limiter. In live sound applications feedback is associated with danger and of something uncontrollable about to get on loose. And then again when it is controlled and played by someone who masters it it can produce mesmerising beauty. And you can never control it completely and when its between a microphone and a speaker it will always produce different reaction in a different space. All this is the fascination of feedback.
In the boat the best parts were when we had the same frequency in both the front and rear part of the boat and it started to oscillate with the different speakers and mics creating a perfect sweet spot for the person sitting in the middle of the boat. We could also feel the sound in the boat itself under our asses as the boat vibrated with the sound. It was kind of therapeutic thing to do. Also because of the spontaneity of the whole “feedback session on a boat” it felt a very liberating way to end the camp. The whole act was about shaping your own reality in the way that we took the scheduled “feedback session” as an impulse and made it our own and did whatever we wanted with it. This I would like to have more in our educational system and society in general. Its about thrust and balance between freedom and control. Much like playing feedback in sound.
Text: Timo Viialainen