JB: The first time I can remember SPASM being presented was in 2008 by Boris
Debackere at Test_Lab: Better Than Reality. What’s been happening with SPASM
SF: The basic idea behind SPASM has stayed the same. We wanted to offer a tool
for artists looking to use sound in an immersive experience or to mix spatial
sound. In practice, that tool turned out to be too unpractical for a lot of people to
use. As I was working on SPASM in 2011, I came to the realization that the
previous version had been designed too much from a programmers’ point of
view. Programming turned out to be too high a barrier for many artists,
musicians and producers. So I wanted to make a new, user-friendly version, in
which I'm using Ableton and Cycling ’74’s Max for Live, a tool often used in the
JB: What's new about SPASM 4 LIVE?
SF: It's easy to add channels to a schematically represented virtual space; every
channel has its own color, and its placement and strength determine the
listener's experience of the sound. All the channels are visible on a virtual stage,
and you can easily adjust them by moving them. That’s it. The coolest thing is
that we started with the idea of a person walking through a real space and create
an immersive audio situation; now you can use SPASM 4 Live already in the
sound production process. That means, you don't have to export files or anything
like that; you can hear the result right away. For the listener, the effect is like
moving through an virtual auditive space. The effect is achieved through ether a
combination of panning the sound and using an orientation filter or make use of
the head-related transfer function (HRTF). You can choose the right method for
each channel. The spatialization of the sounds works best with headphones.
JB: In the Netherlands, people often talk about media art in the context of the
“creative industry” and the development of products for the media art market.
From experience, we know there's a big difference between a prototype and a
product, but is SPASM 4 Live an example of a product born out of artistically
SF: Definitely – although of course SPASM 4 Live is open source, and at this
moment it's not possible to use it to, say, make something for PlayStation. On the
other hand, it’s a valuable tool for more experimental developers and producers.
Game developers can also benefit from it, because it makes it very easy to set
down a quick outline. I really hope a lot of people will use SPASM 4 Live and
help us think about the development of new capabilities and functions. In any
case, for now, everyone’s welcome to come to me with questions and comments.