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Monday
Nov282016

Spectrogram: Mislata

Edu Comelles is a Valencia-based sound designer, musician and curator. His works often make you aware of certain sociocultural elements, or your everyday surroundings.
For his latest project, Spectrogram: Mislata, Edu recorded the city of Mislata for a whole month. The resulting archive consisting of local urban, rural, social and cultural soundscapes was analyzed and turned into a spectrogram: a visualization of the spectral information in an audio-file.
By doing this, he makes the intangible heritage of Mislata visible without being very intrusive. The murals combine various spectrograms from different recordings. The image is full of details, complexities and graphic nuances. The murals are composed of parts of spectrograms of sounds from birds, cars, sirens, buses, church bells and all kinds of hums, hisses and roars that Edu found in the city of Mislata. Those textures, put together, form a portrait of the city and it’s inhabitants.
Sound art often takes time to immerse yourself in. Pieces in public space, even if they do tell a story about the neighborhood they’re in, can be an annoyance to the locals. By visualizing the soundscape, Spectrogram: Mislata blends in with the surroundings. The viewer can wonder about the sounds visualized on the mural at their own pace, when they pass it every day.

 

Sunday
Oct092016

Looking Forward: Sound during the Dutch Design Week

It’s already October, and that means the Dutch Design Week is almost upon us. During this nine-day event, the best of Dutch design is exhibited, and there are lots of workshops, seminars and parties to attend.
For a sound artist, the DDW used to be quite uninteresting. Last year, experience designers Arvid Jense and Marie Caye thought up Bizarre Sound Creatures: an exhibition space for sound art creations in the heart of the DDW.
This year, Bizarre Sound Creatures is back with another edition. Amongst the installations exhibited are the Dato Duo, the Pigstrument, but also other exciting interactive installations. See an impression of last year’s edition below:
Additionally, I am involved in organizing a small symposium on sound design for the everyday life, together with other institutions, which is being organized at the Bizarre Sound Creatures venue as well. We hope this will grow, and will become a larger symposium next year.
Next to Bizarre Sound Creatures, artist duo Strijbos & van Rijswijk is also curating a selection of interactive sound works that can be experienced at the DDW Music Lab. It’s safe to say that sound in design is becoming a hot topic. Now let’s just hope the boundaries between disciplines will blur, and different designers will work together towards a world where things not only look and feel better, but also sound more fitting.
Monday
Aug152016

Pigstrument

Marie Caye is a French design researcher, experience designer and artist who’s currently studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. For one of her latest projects, the Pigstrument, she’s researching what the possible musical culture of pigs could be.
To know what sort of music culture and instrument would fit the pig way of life, she spent a lot of time finding out what it is like to be a pig. She made a Pig Empathy Suit to be able to live between pigs for a day. From their farmer, Marie found out that the pigs seemed to enjoy spitting stones on the metal fences because of the sound it created. To get the most out of the instrument she worked together with experience designer Arvid Jense, who sound designed the tubular bells on the instrument.
The instrument Marie created seems a logical choice: it can tumble and fall over and will still function, is suited for multiple “players”, and doesn’t rely on anything electronic. On her blog she writes, early on in the project: “One big question is, how to make the instrument affordances suited to pig behavior? I have seen that they will push relentlessly any object. I was thinking of trying to prevent the object to be turned around by pigs when my teacher Wieteke pointed out, it’s better to use this attitude of the pig in the way of playing the instrument.” I think the fact Marie documented her process so well adds to the viability of the project.
I like Marie’s idea to actually try and live like you’re in the skin of another species, to experience what might be an ideal music instrument. Her research blog got me interested in music for cats, “virtual reality” free range chickens and more. Very interesting and mostly untapped design areas. We might never know what the pigs actually think of it, although looking at the footage, it seems like they really enjoy it.
Tuesday
Jul052016

Pietre Sonore

 

I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more sculptors making use of sound in their work. Even though Wikipedia has quite a list, it’s not something you run into very often. Also, most of the artists on the list have only made use of sound one, or only quite a few times in their career.

Pinuccio Sciola, a quite renowned Italian sculptor who sadly passed away two months ago, was one of those artists who used sound in his sculptures, and even performed them. Often called “the man who makes the rocks sing”, his most famous works are the Pietre Sonore, or the Sounding Stones: sculptures, often made of limestone, that he used to play with his hands or with small rocks.

His ideas on these sounding stones were quite spiritual: he believed that stones have a voice that has always been there, but he only helps to release it. His limestone sculptures for example make a sound of a “liquid quality” when played, because geologically seen limestone is just fossillized water. As if the memory of water was imprisoned inside the stone during glaciation. An interesting way of looking at the world which might be very abstract, but helps one to think about long timespans.

To the rational minds that are sceptical of his ideas, Sciola only had only one thing to say: “I want to remind those who are sceptical that all the information circulated today by computers and digital networks in the end is stored and elaborated using infinitesimal silicon crystals.”

Friday
May272016

Dato Duo

At Everyday Listening, we try not to get distracted by fancy looking gadgets. We do however, love things that are playful. The Dato DUO is a small synthesizer, simple enough to be used by kids. And while the act of making electronic music can be quite lonely experience, the Dato DUO is aimed at playing with two people.
The DUO has two sides, one with a simple sequencer and pentatonic keyboard, and one with a filter and a waveform. This creates a way to sculpt the sound as a duo: a very original way of playing together!
What Dato have done in a very smart way, is tweak the playable parameters in a smart way so there’s still a lot of freedom, but it will never sound really unattractive. An interesting approach for an interesting and difficult target audience. They’re doing a Kickstarter-campaign at the moment.
Friday
May132016

Sonambient Sculptures

I’ve wanted to write about Harry Bertoia’s sound sculpture work for quite some time now, but never got around to it. As New York’s Museum of Arts and Design is currently showcasing a retrospective on his work, it seems like fitting time.
Bertoia (1915-1978), originally from Italy, chose to move to America in the 1930’s. First starting his career as a painting student, he soon got to work with metal as he was asked to take over a metal workshop. After the war, he was quickly able to devote himself to sculptural work as he had made a wire-chair for Knoll, a furniture company, which was selling quite well.
Bertoia got interested in sound while bending wire. The thin strand of metal, when it snapped and struck another wire, vibrated and made sound. What would happen if he bundled these wires together, and turned this hitting of one wire to another into a symphony?
This led to several Sonambient sculptures, art pieces which resonate when touched and put into motion. Betroia believed and loved that these sculptures did not need any musical training or understanding. Bertoia didn’t see himself as a musician or a sculptor, but somewhere in between. The sound of these sculptures was released on several albums. These have been grouped in the amazing release Complete Sonambient Collection:
The exhibition Atmosphere for Enjoyment is on until the end of September at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.
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!