Super Critical Mass

“There is an imposed passivity in the traditional music hierarchy. You, as a consumer, are given an object or consigned to an area specified for audiences, and the music is impermeable. It happens to you, not with you. We see ourselves as designers in this sense, creating the parameters for the type of aural experiences people can have.” – Julian Day, Co-director, Super Critical Mass

Can design change how we listen? The highly sensorial performance-installations by sonic art collective Super Critical Mass suggest that it can. Co-directed by Julian Day, Luke Jaaniste and Janet McKay, Super Critical Mass bring together ‘masses’  of musicians playing identical instruments that are then distributed within public places to transform how we listen to, and experience, our surroundings.

Super Critical Mass riff on a number of traditions including the orchestra, homogenous ensembles, sound installation, communication arts and public art practice. They operate across a range of scale from 2-person ‘Nano Masses’, to ‘Micro’, ‘Sub’ and ‘Super Masses’, with over 100 musicians performing.

Each ‘mass’ operates within the parameters of a simple behavioural algorithm, which defines the sonic material, patterns of movement and available space within which the performers may move. The result is a spatialised surge of sounds that is at once the result of rules defined by Super Critical Mass, yet simultaneously comprise the instinctual inflections produced by the musicians. Listeners are free to roam through the dispersed ensemble, subverting the familiar social and spatial hierarchies that typify our experience as musical spectators.

For CUSP, Super Critical Mass will present a live Sub Mass in Sydney in late June. This performance will be documented and recreated in digitally within the CUSP exhibition space as a multi-channel audio-visual installation. The configurations of the installation is designed to change across the seven exhibition venues, offering audiences varying pathways through the ‘digital mass’ and subsequently, infinite compositions of the documented soundscape.

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