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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!

Sunday
Feb012015

-shikaku-

Most composers have composed their music based on the assumption that the audience will experience the works facing a stage with musicians. Most classical works aren’t made to be listened to from behind the stage. On the other hand, composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis have been working with the location of their audiences in mind, spatializing the music.

Young composer Chatori Shimizu (1990) wants to do this differently with -shikaku-, which is derived from the Japanese homophones “四角 (square)”, “視覚 (visual)”, and “死角 (blind spot)”, all pronounced “Shikaku”.

The setting of this work is designed so that the music is delivered to audience members surrounding the chamber orchestra, with deliberate blind spots.

 All audience members have a different “blind spot”, none of them will experience the work in the same way. This reflects the story of “Blind Men and An Elephant”, where a group of blind men touch an elephant, each feeling a different part of the animal, and discussing it. Argument breaks down when the men starts to claim that an elephant was a thin, floppy, fan-like creature, as another states that it was a smooth, solid being. Not one man’s statement is untrue, as those are the precise features of an elephant.

Wednesday
Jan282015

Sound of Light

Sound of Light, by Marco Barotti and Marco Canevacci is a synesthetic sculpture which interprets and dynamically transforms sunlight into audio frequencies. It is a site specific installation designed for the former music pavilion in Hamm, Germany, which was built in 1912.

Cameras film the sky and sunlight, dividing it into six colours - RGB and CMY. The six hanging, coloured columns of the pneumatic structure – which stand for the primary RGB (red/green/blue) and secondary CMY (cyan/magenta/yellow) colour models – are designed to receive different frequencies and convert them from visible to audible sensory input. A series of woofers is fixed directly on the bottom of each column and convert the whole architecture into a giant vibrating loudspeaker.

By mixing sound and architecture, the audience experience a unique oneiric reality through the superimposition of colours, shapes, sounds and vibrations. Visitors can also discover their own concert by changing their point of view – an individual spectrum. Sadly, it’s hard to experience vibration through a documented piece, but I can imagine what it would be like to touch the column with a cheek. The structure reminds me of Space Odyssey. A space-ship like structure to experience sunlight using different senses.

Monday
Jan262015

Five Sound Questions to Jeff Mills

Jeff Mills is largely regarded as an innovative techno DJ or producer. More recently, he’s been adopting his ideas, concepts, stories and esthetics from the outset. Since 2000, he’s been pushing further than his DJ fame. Started with creating a soundtrack for Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”, his interest in the future and science-fiction grew, and over the years he has made various sf-inspired works.

For example, a more recent work is “Man of Tomorrow”. Featuring Mills’ poetic sounds and Caux’s invasive cinematic imagery, it is a portrait of Mills portraying his immense perception of the future. Other examples include him imagining a series of strange avant-garde objects questioning our relationship with the world, space and time.

Jeff Mills, Tomorrow + X, 2013 (c) Axis Records / 10 unique white records produced by Jeff Mills, iron spots and hands.
Beginning 2015, Mills exhibits his new work The Visitor, a “UFO inspired machine”, whose language system would be a complete reinterpretation and restructuration of the TR-909 drum machine. Something we might feature later here on Everyday Listening. For now, we’ve asked him to answer the Five Sound Questions, and we’re honored to have him on the site!

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

The sound of the ice cream truck that used to come through all Detroit neighborhoods. One sound of the iconic music the driver would play out of his loudspeaker would send any kid into a frenzy. The trick would be to run home, asked your parents for money, then catch up and stop the truck. It was almost like capturing a White Unicorn Horse. Every kid was conditioned to react immediately to the sound of the truck music.

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

In various ways. Because I only speak English, I’ve leaned to read body, hand and eye movements very well, so I may not know exactly what is being said, but I can detect the sentiment. As a career DJ, it’s taught me to listen to multiple things at the same time. Consuming more reality than the average person. It’s made me much more attentive to everything around me. A drawback is that sometimes, my focused attention can be taken away too easily because I’m quite sensitive.

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

New York City. The city never sleeps. It’s like an alarm clock they never shuts off. Crazy, but I love it. 

4. How could we make sound improve our lives?

I think we can improve our lives with sound by trying to achieve true  silence first. Then by strategically applying sound would make us more appreciative for the sounds that are more relevant. Like a baby crying or laughing, people having a conversation, nature, the sounds of life in general.

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

The sound of the ocean. 

 

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

Saturday
Jan242015

Peter Vogel - The Sound of Shadows Documentary

We’ve seen some work by Peter Vogel on the site before, but for some reason I forgot about it, until I came across this documentary on the sound sculptures of Peter Vogel. His interactive installations are quite magical, and what I like about the documentary is that every part of it is demystified.

“Fascinated by the work of English neurophysiologist William Grey Walter (1910-77), who invented small robots (called Machine Speculatrix) that simulated basic neurophysiological behaviour, Vogel was intrigued to discover that, with the help of sound and light sensors, such machines could react to the world. Thus, at a time when many artists were pursuing the idea of the viewer as active participant, Vogel began to embrace interactivity as a major theme in his work. And all of this prompted him to move away from painting and start to create picture-like interactive objects.”

– Jean Martin. Full essay: vogelexhibition.weebly.com/jean-martin-peter-vogels-interactive-sound-art.html

From very simple components, Vogel creates complex interactive works with a lot of character and depth. Very inspirational to see.

Wednesday
Jan212015

Five Sound Questions to Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard

Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard is a Danish composer who has been working with multiplying instruments to make the sound transcend itself, creating a pure new sound without references to anything. We’ve recently posted about SOUND X SOUND, his project devoted to this. How sounds have the capability to affect the human body, and how the human body is to be heard in sounds, is what he focuses on in his works.

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

I think the sound that made the most impression in my childhood, was the sound of our garden sprinkler. It was one of those sprinklers with a head, that would turn around and sprinkle water. The stream of water was abrupted by a piece of metal, moving very quickly, to make the water spread over a larger area, and this would create an exiting pattern of rhythms and water sounds. This sprinkler would change speed, first creating a slow rhythm and then suddenly move backwards in a faster speed and create a more intense rapid rhythm and dramatic water sound. I was quite fascinated by this.

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

I listen in different ways each day, and I don’t know why. Somedays my listening is focused on the intervals, melodic structures and tones that I encounter in nature, traffic, etc. On other days, my ears seem to be more focused on the rhythmic patterns of our surroundings- patterns that are often random and erupt and dissolves again. And third, my way of listening can have a bodily and mental focus. How does this sound make me feel? I like this way of listening the most, and I often experience it when I´m out in the nature-the sound of wind in the treetops, or some high grass that is swaying back and forth. I then feel that nature takes care of me, and I feel connected with nature in an mysterious and ancient way. I feel very grounded.

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

I grew out near the western coast of Jutland. It´s on the countryside, and I really favor this place because it´s so very quiet.

4. How could we make sound improve our lives?

I think that sound could improve our lives even more, if we were willing to recognize that sounds can have a healing effect in several ways. Of course soothing sounds that are often referred to as being “beautiful”, can make you feel good, but also noise and very confronting sounds can make you feel better, and be very soothing I think. If I experience a noise inside myself, it can be very soothing for me, to listen to very extreme noise- that noise absorbs my own noise and then I feel better.

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

I like waking up to the sound of my kids. If I´m not at home, I like waking up to the sounds of birds, or the sound of our old garden sprinkler.

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

Thursday
Jan082015

Zadar Sea Organ

Zadar, Croatia is known for it’s beautiful sunsets. But since 2005, the coast of Zadar has even more to offer. In a redesign of the coast back then, architect Nikola Bašić made a sonic improvement as well. He installed this beautiful sea organ. I’ve seen or heard about sea or wind organs in Vlissingen in the Netherlands, or the Wave Organ in San Francisco we’ve featured way back. There are lots and lots of impressions on Youtube and Vimeo, but I’ve sought out some to post here:

The Zadar Sea Organ was brought under my attention when NTS Radio (a great eclectic radio station, playing everything from experimental music to house music), broadcasted a two hour recording of the sea organ.

I love the fact it sounds very otherworldly, but still very natural and flowing. Also great to see how people come there to relax and listen.