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Minimalist Ringtones

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Wednesday
Apr202016

Chatty Maps

Since I’ve been interested in the influence of urban sound on our everyday life, I’ve come across lots of different projects and angles of looking or mapping the problem.
Chatty Maps particularly caught my interest. While most projects rely on great amounts of fieldwork, Chatty Maps makes use of social media data to construct sound maps. A very interesting approach.
Daniele Quercia and his collegues of Bell Labs in Cambridge, England analysed words that describe sound on social media to be able to give information on what the urban soundscape is like. Using a statistical analysis of peoples reactions to different sorts of urban sound, they drew up four broad categories: chaotic, calm, monotonous and vibrant. This way one can start to see what the city sounds like. The beaches in Barcelona are an ocean of calm and nature, for example, while there’s a lot more construction and traffic going on in the center of London.
This way they can start to map out the sounds in London, Madrid, New York, and Barcelona, and they hope to be able to inform the creation of restorative experiences in our increasingly urbanized world. Get an insight in the urban soundscapes of these cities on the website of Chatty Maps, or read the full paper for more information.
Friday
Mar252016

Ode to the meeting of Miss van E. and Mister van C.

Jeroen Diepenmaat is a Dutch artist with a predilection for sound, living and working in Deventer, the Netherlands. His works in public space are quite compelling. With a recent release on esc.rec., “Drums for Eugène”, and sound installation “Ode to the meeting of Miss van E. and Mister van C.”, his works are more and more leaning towards sound art. Another example of this is “belcanto”, where bells ring when you cycle over tubes.

“Ode…” consists of 83 music boxes in a forest in Diepenveen in the Netherlands, all playing two notes when a cord is pulled. When multiple boxes are activated, the noted come together, creating a melody.

Just like two people can meet each other coincidentally, and can become inseparable. A nice idea, and a nice intervention in public space.

Monday
Feb292016

The TANK

Back in 2009, we wrote about TANK-FX, a website where you could upload a sound and have it played back in a former water tank somewhere in Germany. After it recorded your played back sound, it would send you back an MP3 of the recording. TANK-FX has since gone defunct, and every so often I think of it and Google it but it really doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

This is why I got quite excited when we got an e-mail about a project called The TANK: a 20 meter tall, 12 meters wide empty steel water tank in Rangely, Colorado. And while it’s functionality is different, it’s quite interesting. “Sonic thinker” Bruce Odland discovered the place in 1976, and it became a place where a small group of musicians and sound artists recorded their music for decades. With a shifting, swirling reverberation longer and richer than the Taj Majal or Great Pyramid, it is quite the acoustic marvel.

By 2012 the TANK was in danger of falling silent. It was decaying in the elements. Luckily, a organisation formed and they succesfully did two Kickstarter projects, and now the TANK is alive and kicking, and serving as an educational place to learn about sound and for musicians to record in. The immersive experience encourages visitors to learn about sound from within, by experimenting through sound, movement, cause-and-effect… A stunning initiative, and a unique place for sonic arts. And while you might not be able to upload sounds and get them back played in the tank (convolution reverbs have become good enough to emulate just that), it does serve an even better purpose, I think. It’ll definitely be on my list the next time I’m in Colorado.

Monday
Feb152016

Ground

Jeroen Uyttendaele & Dewi de Vree are two artists from the iii initiative, an artist-run platform supporting radical interdisciplinary practices engaging with image, sound and the body. We’ve featured work by iii-artists before. “Ground” is a performance that Uyttendaele and de Vree have been doing for years, but when I saw it in Berlin a few weeks back, it still seemed novel to me.

In Ground, graphite drawings are used as a control interface for several electronic instruments. By drawing, erasing and touching, they’re able to control pitch, amplitude and sound colour. Graphite is conductive, so conducts electricity. In Ground, it is used as a variable resistor, instead of using a standard knob. Basically, they’re drawing an integral part of an electronic circuit.

In a way, de Vree and Uyttendaele “draw” their own controller, live. Because of this, it allows for a great field of experimentation possibilities in which auditive and visual elements are interconnected. Drawing, touching, slowly or rapidly repositioning instruments: the sound is modulated immediatly, creating a performance that blends senses together. A very tangible way of making live electronic music. If they’re ever playing near you, I suggest you go see the performance!

Tuesday
Jan122016

Solid Vibration

According to Wikipedia, Archaeoacoustics is “the use of acoustical study as a methodological approach within archaeology”. As sound is fleeting, it is pretty logical that the aural isn’t the focus of archaeology. In recent years, there has been more attention to this, primarily in the field of acoustics, architecture and archaeology. There has been a lot of controversy around sound encoded in ancient artifacts, such as a pot or a vase with ornaments that can be “read” like a gramophone record. Back in 2006, Mythbusters found out that while some acoustic phenomena can be found on pottery, it’s highly unlikely that one would find pots or vases with sounds like voices encoded into them. I am not sure if Ricky van Broekhoven had this in mind when he thought up Solid Vibration, but it sure reminded me of it a whole lot!
Ricky van Broekhoven’s SoundShapeLab designs sound and music that “exceeds perception with merely our ears”. For Solid Vibration, he worked together with designer Olivier van Herpt. Using Olivier’s ceramic 3D printer and a speaker, they are able to influence the printing process with sound. By letting the pottery wheel vibrate with a speaker, the creation is influenced and the vibrations are made visible.
We’ve seen different ways of visualising sound in tangible objects before. Never before something one can actually use, though. I wonder if van Broekhoven’s thought of a way to turn them back into sound again!
Wednesday
Dec162015

Time and Tide Bell

I love sound installations that are out in the open, especially if they’re played by nature. Last summer I was able to see the Sea Organ in Zadar in real life, and it has had a very special place in my heart ever since. The way its sound was created by waves crashing against the organ embedded in the shore fitted the view and the weather conditions perfectly. The Time and Tide Bell project by Marcus Vergette, a multidisciplinary artist from the UK, has a similar appeal.
“Time and Tide Bell” is a permanent installation, existing of 12 bells around the U.K. in several very different locations, rung by the sea at high tide. The rise of the water at high tide moves the clapper to strike the bell. Played by the movement of the waves, the bell creates a varying, gentle musical pattern.
As the effect of global warming increases, the periods of bell strikes will become more and more frequent, and as the bell becomes submerged in the rising water the pitch will vary.
In that way the project is one of the few great examples of art that will be around for a long time, drawing attention to a large-scale, long-term problem.
Wednesday
Dec022015

Ear Accessory

Antoine Bertin is a sound artist curious about our relationship to the environment. Together with material designer Hélène Combal-Weiss, and technology creative Simon Cacheux they form SounDoesnTravel, a sound driven creative studio designing innovative listening experiences.
They conducted a workshop for HEAD, the Geneva University of Art and Design. Together with students from the university they created different ear accessories, transforming the way we listen.
Some of them are quite novel from a sound perspective, while others seem to be designed more just to look interesting. In any case, I’d love to try them on to hear what the effect is!
(Thanks to Tena Lazarevic for sending this in!)
Friday
Nov202015

Noids

For his final bachelor project Noids, interaction designer Cas Zeegers created four small rhythmical instruments, small entities creating different patterns.
From a research perspective, Zeegers was interested in making the sound source more intuitive. Noids does this by simply showing how sound is physically produced by it’s mechanical movement. Being able to see the sound being created strengthens both the audio- as well as the visual aspect in the perception of the viewer.
The musician or interaction can change the speed of the patterns create a composition. The four patterns are all different, shifting over each other, creating polyrhythms. During the performance, the audience is invited to explore the space where the instruments are set up. Because the instruments have their own rhythm and movement, the audience can start to recognize patterns and see how a certain sound is created.
Wednesday
Oct282015

Tasteful Turntable

Nikolaj and Lars Kynde are two Danish sound artists/composers who are both obsessed with synesthetic experiences: in what way does music influence our smell, taste and sight, for example?
In their work Tasteful Turntable, their interest in the synesthetic is very clear. In an intimate setting, four participants take place at a low, rotating dinner table. Different peculiar looking bites rotate by on the table, while participants privately listen to corresponding compositions. The sounds create an “aural spicing” to the food.
When a light is cued, the participants simultaneously take a bite and put it into their mouth. The ritual this creates joins the participants together. The internal experience however, that of the fusion of what one tastes and hears, is a private experience.
Tasteful Turntable is one of the few projects that works with synesthetic experiences. A field which artists are just starting to explore, or so it seems. Research on the topic is also scarce. A very good theoretical review article, which I’ve used myself in the past when composing for taste, is Crossmodal Correspondences Between Sounds and Taste by Klemens Knöferle and Charles Spence. Let’s hope we see loads of projects with unexpected synesthetic experiences in the near future!
Wednesday
Oct282015

Breathing Volume

We’ve featured some works of Marco Canevacci and Marco Barotti last January: Sound of Light. With Breathing Volume, they continue making immersive environments. Where Sound of Light sonified the weather by looking at the sky and the sunlight, Breathing Volume plays with the notion of space in an audio-visual context. For five minutes, the public is embraced between breathing walls, constantly changing their physical volume. This creates the perception of being inside a living organism.
Four ventilators make the lungs breathe in the same way humans do, and subwoofers transform the pulsing bass frequencies into the soul of the organism. Breathing Volume unexpectedly steers the focus from what surrounds us, to what is immediate, here and now, offering a distorted reflection on our relationship with space, its distance and extension. Again, as with Sound of Light, it reminds me of Space Odyssey, this time very obviously, als because of the black speaker-monolith at the end of the space.