[City of Voids] Daikoku City

I’ve been thinking this since the project was first announced, but wasn’t sure whether to post about it or not since I can’t find a tangible connection. (I decided to just do it, though, because, well, why not?)

The idea of cities and voids reminds me of a particular anime I once watched, 電脳コイル (“Electric Brain Coil”), a show about augmented reality, which is reflected particularly in the infrastructure of the city. It revolves around children who explore the city, particularly its forgotten spaces, finding all kinds of voids resulting from disjuncts between actual and virtual reality.

It takes place in Daikoku City, a test site for AR technology. There are plenty of forgotten spaces in the city despite most of it being developed land.

There’s a lot on the idea of spaces, namely that of the real versus virtual space, giving rise to version mismatches, virtual spaces which exist outside of reality, et cetera.

… In other words, this is an unsubtle advertisement. It’s a good show. I promise. Please watch it and love it, it’s extremely underrated.

Although it revolves more around the theme of “distance”, shown through that of the jarring inability of actual and virtual reality to co-exist properly, and that of the dangers and loopholes of augmented reality, I thought the way it presented the interaction of Daikoku’s real infrastructure versus its cyberspace was really interesting. For example, here is an organism which exists only within the virtual world, interacting with the city’s virtual infrastructure.

“Illegal” is a name for these black creatures, as they are virtual organisms which naturally live in obsolete spaces and cannot survive well in the “real” world.
Here you see the window broken: however, it is only the virtual version of the window which is destroyed, than the real, physical window.
It’s still possible to breathe as the water and the fish are part of the virtual world than the real one. Meaning, if one were to remove their glasses, they would see only the buildings and people.

Especially how it brings attention to “voids”, in terms of obsolete or outdated cyberspaces. For example, outside of updated spaces like traffic junctions, it also presents the children exploring spaces like abandoned buildings, bus graveyards, etc.

I don’t particularly know how to relate this to the actual project, but I just felt a strong connection between the two. It might be interesting for future projects though, the idea of juxtaposing what you see with your own eyes, versus what you CAN see with supplementary items like VR glasses, or digital projections, or layering to create illusions of more than what there really is (gestalt?). Especially because we’re in an age of technology, where these kinds of virtual issues are really on the rise, and useful to add a whole new dimension of interactivity (or visual quality).

[City of Voids] Individual Moodbox

(Made with AudioSauna and Audacity.)

A gentle breeze sweeps across the iridescent water, clear but for the occasional trout darting to the surface, and diving again as a small hand reaches to touch. A mother’s hand pulls the pouting child back from his precarious position, leaning over the edge. Under arched bridges of swaying wind chimes, the small gondola skims the water, leaving ripples in its wake. Leaves rustle as the wind blows again, the excitable child skipping off the boat as it reaches the docks of the town square, the prudent mother carefully stepping onto the elevated stone pavement as she hurries after the running child. It’s a happy celebration, but still one to be treated with reverence than wild merriment, and she chides the child to calm him down as she catches hold of his hand, leading him to the fountain around which the townspeople have gathered.

My music background is dubious, but I like composing, singing and harmonising, so I decided to remix it. It was too plain, so I added chords. The ending note didn’t seem to be an ending note, so I replaced it to make a cadence. I couldn’t quite synthesise the rustle sound, so I generated Brownian noise to replace it. It sounded too harsh, so I added airy vocals with legato. There wasn’t enough bass and the synthesiser’s bass was horrible, so I added vocals again. It’s a lot gentler than the original which juxtaposes harsh sounds against the softness of the resonating glockenspiel, but well.

I also like descriptive writing, so that’s the short passage I wrote upon hearing the sound, and Cheryl’s comment that it sounded like a festival. The remixed version is somewhat melancholic too, a precursor to a short passage about the world beneath the water, which reveals a darker side of the city of dreams: that those who are unloved by god are left there to work endlessly in drudgery, supporting the happy world above, where the beloved are unaware of, and unconcerned about their plight. That’s to link with the 2nd sound, which was eventually used for our final model, but you can see more about that sound over at Vanessa and Clara’s OSS posts!

The featured image is basically what I was imagining with the sound. Less green and more cyan, though. Also, here’s the original sound, which is a lot harsher sounding and fast paced.

I opted to work with paper, mostly because I happened to already have a pre-built box made of cartridge paper, and didn’t know what to do with it because it had been made on a whim at 3am under the influence of insomnia.

There was also the element of softness and elegance I felt the paper brought through, regardless, especially where it works well with warm lighting since it’s somewhat yellowed. (I also used washi tape which created a similarly soft feel to me).

I didn’t particularly observe the soundwave forms, instead opting to look more at how each sound “felt” to me, in terms of things like pitch, rhythm and timbre.

  • Scraping: Pitch is relatively low, but not the lowest I could possibly imagine, so it’s still above ground. I find that its timbre is rather rough, and as such I cut out triangles. Nevertheless, the sound is “flat” in a lack of inflections, and it has a smooth flow, such that I opted to make it a flat plane, and the triangles still give it a sense of unity in being a geometrically perfect shape.
  • Rustling: The sound has a directional flow, one that isn’t straight as opposed to curving. It also feels slender and has a diminuendo, so I made it into strips which flow from top to bottom. The sound itself is somewhat jagged, though, so I made it broken planes. It’s also a compilation of many of the same sounds, which sounds like falling beads, so I hole-punched many circles on the strips to indicate that.
  • Chiming: The sounds come in 2 groups of 3, which pierce the rustling. It’s a relatively high pitch, so I positioned above the ground.

I find that the glockenspiel chiming sound is tragically lacking, and it might have been nicer if it had been hovering (pardon the poor Photoshop):

If I could remake it again, perhaps I would consider the following materials to evoke each sound more:

  • Scraping: Balsa wood, a light-coloured one. Preferably with some woodbending involved to create a slight curve as per the slight taper of the scrape, though overall still flat.
  • Rustling: Beads, a lot of them glued together to form the strips which flow
  • Chiming: Something metallic and spherical, I’m not quite sure what, since it would be better if it was also somewhat soft with fading edges.