SATSYMPH – what we do

Welcome to Satsymph



SATSYMPH is located audio designer, poet and writer Ralph Hoyte, coder, composer and audio engineer Phill Phelps, composer and visual artist Marc Yeats. We have a common interest in composing interactive, spatialised soundart and dramatised heritage scenarios accessed through the smartphone either in real-world physical environments, or ‘in armchair mode’.

The Unity3D platform we have developed ourselves to create these amazing experiences is:

  • Interactive: we utilise all the smartphone’s sensors to create experiences modulated by what the participant does within that environment – for example, what you hear can depend on which way you’re facing; how slowly or fast you’re moving; whether you are holding your phone right-side or downside up etc
  • spatialised‘: the sound is directional – for example, the sound may be heard as if it’s coming from a great distance away, so you can move towards that sound if it interests you, or towards another if that interests you more, getting louder as you approach the core of that sound; or, it can mean that the sound moves of its own accord around you as you stand still; or, that it changes from your left to your right ear as you spin on the spot.

Depending on the type of experience, you can either open the app, then stick it in your pocket, navigating with your ears (a very interesting experience!); or, you can ‘chase soundpools‘ – like the ones in the picture above. It’s really up to you!

What do we put into these soundworlds? Well, ‘The Temple of Hermes‘ is an example of a contemporary classical music/contemporary poetry fusionscape. ‘Stenness‘ is two other artists’ content relating to an ancient fishing community in a remote region of Shetland. ‘1831 RIOT!‘ is a dramatised re-imagining of the brutal 1831 Reform Riots in Bristol – experienced on Queen Square in Bristol, where the riots actually happened over a 3-day period in 1831, which centres you, the participant, right in the middle of the action!

How do they do it??? We build these sonic artworks using our own highly sophisticated and extremely flexible ‘in-house’ Unity3D platform, SSQR.  First we do a lot of research, especially if it’s an authentically-based heritage re-imagining. Then we gather and/or create the content. A script is written, then recorded with professional voice actors (the advent of really convincing AI voices is having an impact in this regard!). This script – with added effects – is the basis for building an app. It is actually akin to the film-making process – but for audio. The app is uploaded to the Appstore and Google Play. You download it from there to your smartphone, go to the start of the experience – and enter the parallel universe, navigating the virtual world with your ears, or by chasing the dancing soundpools on your screen – whilst remaining in the real world!

We work solely in audio as our experience over the years has shown audio to be the more compelling medium; and as peering at a small screen in the great outdoors is both difficult, distracts from the actual reason you came to the great outdoors – and can prove dangerous (think ‘obstacles’ you don’t see as you’re peering at your phone!’) 

The advantage of accessing the experience through an app is that all the content is in the app, the soundscape itself being either locationally-triggered (gps) or through the participant’s actions. It also means a phone signal is NOT required (a big advantage in areas with no, or poor connectivity!). The ‘virtual soundworlds’ can be any shape or size, can be disseminated or composed so that the audience members converge in certain areas, or are ‘funneled’ in certain directions.

It’s as if the landscape is talking to you!” (User comment on the Quantock Poetry Trail)

a recent example showing some of the complexity possible: the Temple of Hermes layered over the Parc de la Devesa in Girona, Catalonia for the Walking Arts and Relational Geographies Conference July 2022