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Minimalist Ringtones

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Monday
Apr132015

Inner Out

The inner sounds of objects and substances picked up with contact mics or hydrophones never cease to amaze. For Inner Out, Italian sound designer and artist Nicola Giannini uses contact mics frozen in ice, and performs a concert on them by playing the ice. Using different objects and techniques, such as grinding, tapping, hitting the ice, or pouring hot water, he creates the source material which he processes with live electronics to create a surround concert.

 

Friday
Apr032015

Sonify... Earthquakes Worldwide

We often think of sonification as an algorithm that translates data into an often abstract, often digital sound. R x2 by Moscow-based media artist Dmitry Morozov a.k.a. ::vtol:: is different in that aspect. In the “Sonify…” series, we look at different ways of sonifying data. This time: Earthquakes!

R x2 is a kinetic sound sculpture collecting data on the shocks in the earth’s crust (earthquakes) and capturing all of them above 0.1 Richter magnitude scale. On an average day there are up to 200 of these quakes.

The data is converted into signals that control motors connected to a bunch of Thunder Drums acoustic drums. These Thunder Drums consist of a spring attached to the skin of the drum, so when it’s shaken the spring moves and creates a continuous resonance through the body of the instrument, not unlike the rumble of thunder. The rumble that sounds fits the character of an sonified earthquake quite well.

Saturday
Mar282015

Five Sound Questions to Lesley Flanigan

Lesley Flanigan is an experimental electronic musician living in New York City. Inspired by the physicality of sound, she builds her own instruments. Performing these instruments alongside traditional instrumentation that often includes her own voice, she creates a kind of physical electronic music. In her two-day “Residue” performance in the Guggenheim (below), she performs on minimal electronic instruments built from speakers and microphones. Periodically Flanigan enters the room and adds new elements to the system. As the textures react and build on each other, the space reverberates with subtle sonic imperfections, creating a physical sense to the sound in the space.

I found out about Lesley as she is playing some gigs in Europe, alongside sound artist Tristan Perich (whose Microtonal Wall we’ve featured before). One of them being the Fluister concert series in The Hague, the Netherlands on April 3rd. Furthermore they’ll be playing France, Switzerland and Germany as well in the coming days. Check out her website for more dates.

1. What sound from your childhood made the most impression on you?

First, is the sound of my mother’s voice resonating within her body. This is a sound I would hear with my ear was pressed to her chest as she sang or read to me. Her voice was so warm, like a blanket. Second, is the sound of my own voice. There was a hallway in my childhood home that had a natural reverb, and I used to sing in that space when no one was home. It was not a large space, but when I sang, my voice would soar and fill the air like I was in a cathedral. 

2. How do you listen to the world around you?

When I actively listen, I am usually taking a long walk outside or sitting with my eyes shut. 

3. Which place in the world do you favor for its sound?

Oddly, when I think of places that I favor for sound, they are all very quiet places… where sound is almost, but not entirely, absent. 

4. How could we make sound improve our lives?

I think it’s about listening.  I feel that when we take time to truly listen to actively engage in listening to another person, to music, to sounds in nature and in cities, to all the many sounds in world around us — we give ourselves time to be present in our lives. That’s very meaningful to me.

5. What sound would you like to wake up to?

Ocean waves. Birds. Trees blowing in the wind. My husband and daughter laughing. 

Thanks Lesley! See answers by other artists in the Five Sound Questions section, and be sure to check her out on one of her tour dates.

Tuesday
Mar102015

Audio Dust

Timo Kahlen is a German sound sculptor and media artist who has been making works since the end of the 80’s. While his sculptures and installations often need to be seen in real life to experience the tactile, perceptible vibrations, Kahlen has chosen not to expose his sculptural work online in video form. His interactive “net art” works are equally interesting however. A few of these are featured below. Put on your headphones, and click on the images to try them out:

(Audio Dust, 2011)

These works which run in the browser develop individually, are generative. Always live and different, as the viewer moves across, pauses or clicks at the responsive visual texture of the sound objects. As these works are made using Flash back in 2011, they won’t work on most smartphones, sadly.

(Signal-to-Noise, 2011)

There are quite some more to explore as well in his net art series, such as Scratch, Undo/Delete, Numbers. The interaction with Kahlen’s works isn’t so direct that it feels like a website, instead he’s really searching for a good balance between the autonomous and the direct, so it feels that there’s something organic to explore.

If you’d like to experience Kahlen’s physical sculptures, the next exhibition of his work is in Berlin, at the Ruine der Kuenste Berlin (Hittorfstr. 5, 14195 Berlin) from April 26 to May 24.

Monday
Mar092015

The Sound of Empty Space

Feedback is a phenomenon which is not uncommon in sound art. Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music used swinging microphones over speakers to create different tones in a certain rhythm, already back in 1968. There is something primeval about feedback, the way it can run out of control and become chaotic. Because of that, it’s no wonder there are still a lot of artists working with it.

(all photos by Emily Gan)

With his new series of works called The Sound of Empty Space, composer & media artist Adam Basanta explores relationships between microphones, speakers, and surrounding acoustic environments through controlled, self-generating microphone feedback. Adam’s work investigates perception, and listening in particular, as an active, participatory, multi-modal activity.

In The loudest sound in the room experienced very quietly, an endless feedback loop between microphone, public address system amplifier, and speaker cone is enclosed within a soundproof aquarium. A communication system disrupted and turned against itself, the sound level within the enclosure reaches an ear-damaging 120dB, approximately the loudness of a car horn at close distance.

The notion of amplification systems as self-generating sound producers is further developed in the piece Pirouette. Like a life-sized ballerina atop a music box, a microphone rotates slowly, bringing it in proximity to seven mounted speaker cones. As the microphone hovers over each speaker in sequence, a tuned feedback melody emerges. Throughout nine full rotations, a skeletal version of the main theme from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet can be heard.

Finally, in Vessel, the naturally resonant acoustic properties of a large glass jar are amplified, creating a feedback monody by varying the distance between speaker and microphone. As the components continually move closer and further away from each other, we encounter a system that offers no resolution. Interesting to see how Basanta is able to use a chaotic element as feedback in such a controlled way.

Friday
Feb272015

Five Sound Questions to Jana Winderen

Jana Winderen is an artist researching the hidden depths with the latest technology; her work reveals the complexity and strangeness of the unseen world beneath. The audio topography of the oceans and the depth of ice crevasses are brought to the surface. She is concerned with finding and revealing sounds from hidden sources, both inaudible for the human senses and sounds from places and creatures difficult to access.

The ways Jana records are quite unique. One of the works which made a big impression on me is the Heated (Live in Japan) record. A live performance using source material gathered with various types of hydrophones and microphones in Greenland, Iceland, and Norway. The record is from 2009, but I only recently picked it up, and has been a great inspiration ever since. The depth and variety of sounds are unlike anything I’ve ever heard before on a “field recording”-type of record. A mysterious world of groans, squeaks, unearthly sounds…

1. What sound from your childhood made the most impression on you?

Wind around the corner of our mountain cabin. I knew we could not get out, you had to sit inside until it calmed down, and the sound faded out.

2. How do you listen to the world around you?

 With enthusiasm and curiosity.


3. Which place in the world do you favor for its sound?

I would not favour anywhere, each place has its sound character, and I keep getting amazed by the different underwater environments I listen too, for example the variations between different depths and different oceans and lakes.  A cold climate has its character, very different from a rain forest environment…

4. How could we make sound improve our lives?

To be more aware and to be able to control our sound environments. 


5. What sound would you like to wake up to?

I once woke up on deck of a boat in a hammock by a humpback whale breathing sound. That was a good start of the day…

Thanks Jana! See answers by other artists in the Five Sound Questions section.

Jana is playing the Sonic Acts festival tonight where she will be performing Pasvikdalen (2015), a commission by the Sonic Acts festival.

Monday
Feb232015

Long Wave Synthesis

The Sonic Acts festival which starts next week is a very unique festival in the Netherlands which focuses not only on music and art, but also on science & society. One can expect lectures by theorists, but also installation art and various performances by artists focusing on the same theme. This year, that theme is The Geological Imagination. “How much do we actually know about the ground beneath our feet?”. The constantly increasing influence of the human race on the world. Climate, nature, night… Everything.
(footage from the preparations of Long Wave Synthesis)
This year, one of the most promising works is Raviv Ganchrow’s Long Wave Synthesis. A huge land-art scale sound art installation that investigates infrasound, and probes the relations between how we perceive the landscape and long-wave vibrations. 
(footage from an earlier version)
Infrasound is the range of frequencies below the actual hearing threshold. Like all sound waves, infrasound is vibrating air, the only difference is that this sound is just very low frequency. Ganchrow’s work focuses on the experience that we might not be able to hear the actual slow vibrations of air, but the “pressure wave”, and objects in the field which might vibrate with that low frequency. Just below the threshold of hearing.

According to Ganchrow, infrasound is what connects the skies, oceans and earth. “Micro-movements in the earth crust can translate and arrive at mountain ranges. These move a nanometer backwards and forwards. That movement translates to a movement of air, that air produces a tone.” It’s a tone below the threshold of hearing, but still there’s a sensation of it, as it can shape the clouds coming over that mountain range, for example. You can view an interview with Raviv explaining infrasound here:

Sonic Acts starts next Thursday evening the 26th of February, and ends on Sunday evening the 1st of March. The field trip to Long Wave Synthesis is on Sunday at 15.00 (more info).
Tuesday
Feb102015

Listening is Making Sense

Listening is Making Sense lets you listen in on vibrations carried through thick wooden beams. The only way to experience the installation is by getting into physical contact with the resonant matter, by placing your ear directly on the wood.

Michele Spanghero is a sound- and visual artist whose work focuses on the acoustic art and the visual arts, trying to find a natural synthesis between these two forms. In this work that idea is clearly visible and audible, by using the material as a resonator.

In one version the viewer has to bend down to the ground and put his ear on some wooden beams to listen to the sound propagating inside them, while in another the spectator is invited to an upward movement to place his ear directly on the beam supporting the roof of the building to hear a sound that flows into it. The synergy between the physical and audible is something that’s quite unique about Spanghero’s works.

Friday
Feb062015

Microtonal Wall

1500 speakers, each playing it’s own microtonal frequency, collectively spanning four octaves. That’s what Tristan Perich’s Microtonal Wall is. For some reason I thought I’d posted it before, but I hadn’t. The work of Tristan Perich has been quite a fascination for me, ever since he made his “1-bit music”;  an electronic circuit assembled inside a CD case with a headphone jack on the side, playing back 40 minutes of lo-fi 1-bit electronic music, the lowest possible digital representation of audio. Microtonal Wall expands on this very clean idea by confronting you with 1500 individual 1-bit noisemakers, playing all at once.

The beauty of Microtonal Wall is that when viewed from a distance it seems like noise, but when inspecting the installation by taking a closer look reveals that the noise is actually made up of individual frequencies.

It’s a very simple idea, but a very strong one. Noise is something which exists in our minds only- we just can’t keep track of all the different things happening at once, so it becomes “noise”. By being able to physically focus on one aspect, you’re able to experience that in this installation.

Wednesday
Feb042015

Ruratae

Always wanted to play with virtual physics-based objects in a playful way? Andrew Stewart Allen is a programmer, researcher and composer based in San Diego. His recent work is mainly focused on researching and programming physically-informed real-time interactive audio systems. His system Ruratae, which he also wrote his dissertation on, is exactly this. Ruratae is a collaboration of him with visual artist Susanna Var, who created the unique visual style and UI.

For some reason, procedural audio is still not widely used. In software and games, the same sample is often loaded and played, making for quite static behaviour. Procedural audio can make a simple interaction seem like a living, breathing thing, even if it’s just another tidbit of code. George Lucas, Danny Boyle, etcetera, they’ve all been known to say that sound is a very important part of a film. In interactive media, interactive audio has been scarce, which is a shame. The effect is very clear in Ruratae, where the smallest change makes for a totally different sonic beast!

People like Drew are pushing the boundaries and opening up lots of new possibilities with something like Ruratae. Being able to create your own instrument from scratch in a virtual world, according to physical rules, with no DSP knowledge whatsoever is a very interesting new take on audio in games and other software. If you’re a Windows user, you can try out Ruratae yourself!

As Drew is not only a technical guy but also a composer, we’ve invited him for the Five Sound Questions next week!