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Monday
Dec152014

The Enlightenment

 

The Quiet Ensemble is an Italian sound designer duo, consisting of Fabio Di Salvo and Bernardo Vercelli. We’ve seen their mice orchestra, and fish based installation before. Their latest project isn’t based around animals, but around lamps.

The Enlightenment is described as a “hidden concert of pure light”, performed by an uninhabited orchestra of lighting elements, including stagelights and high-powered bulbs. It reminds me somewhat of Francois Bayles “Acousmonium”, but with a variety of lamps instead of speakers. Neon lights instead of violins, strobe lights instead of drums, etcetera.

Each lamp is fitted with its own copper coil, receiving electrical current at various intervals. The electromagnetic field of the lamps are captured by a sensor attached to each lamp, which turns currents into sound. Salvo and Vercelli modify the electric emissions in real time, performing the orchestra.

Monday
Dec082014

Sonify... Wikipedia

Sonification, and especially data-sonification, is still an underused technique. I’ve been quite interested in sonifications, and have heard both very useful, as well as utterly rubbish applications. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around which sonifications work, and which don’t.

In the “Sonify…” posts, I will post about different ways of sonifying data. This time: Sonfiying Wikipedia. Listen to Wikipedia by Hatnote is a sonification and visualisation of changes being made to Wikipedia. Hatnote is Mahmoud Hashemi and Stephen LaPorte, both interested in “Wiki life”.

“Listen to Wikipedia” sonifies changes from Wikipedia-articles in real time. Bell sounds indicate additions, and string plucks indicate subtractions to an article. Pitch changes according to the size of the edit. It’s worth noting that Wikipedia is maintaned by both bots and humans, and it’s only through these web experiments that we can see or hear that labour force.

What do you think? Is this a good sonification of the data of Wikipedia?

Wednesday
Dec032014

Five Sound Questions to Oliver Jennings

 

Oliver Jennings is an audio-visual artist creating moving image and sound in unconventional ways. His practice is concerned with looking for new approaches to generating moving image and sound, with particular interests in revealing hidden natural structures, soundscapes and patterns within unexpected and everyday objects. We’ve seen his work Every Object has a Spirit here at Everyday Listening.

In his most recent work, the award winning Bio-Symphony: Music of the Plants (above), which premiered at this years RHS Chelsea Flower Show, he used a device to read bio-feedback in plant life, which he then interpeted as musical information.

As Oliver is someone who connects the physical and the audible world in his work, I’m very glad to have him on the Five Sound Questions series.

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

It may be a cliché, but the first time I was amazed by sound was when I was very young and wondered why if I held a shell to my ear I could I hear the sea inside it. To a young mind it seemed that the seaside was actually inside the shell. That was a first lesson in the transportive nature of sound that I can remember. 

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

Even if you’re not consciously listening to the world around you, its frequencies are having an effect on you. Living in London, the sonic world seems to be on an endless loop, planes on the flight path create this strange high pitch wining noise like a drone which is constant, and always there in the background almost anywhere in London. This must have a subtle psychological effect on us. I think when you leave your usual area, the difference in sound is what effects your senses the most and changes your mood and opens up new emotions and feelings.

I love to try and listen to the sum of all the noise. If you are standing high up in a building with a view of London and try and focus on the wall of white noise that emerges from the whole city and think about the endless people, machinery, and movement that its made up of and somehow ends up as a rounded hum. Being able to then tap into secret and hidden soundscapes of singular objects is an amazing escape into a different world, a contact mic on the millennium bridge in London was my favourite experience of this. A hidden world of tortured orchestral sound which only I could hear out of the thousand tourists crossing the bridge, when I pulled the contact mic out the recorder I was in a different world within a fraction of a second.

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

Lewes In East-Sussex on Bonfire Night is my favourite sonic environment. One of the most famous and oldest bonfire nights in the world the whole town turns into a crazed environment. It’s a very stressful sonic environment but one which transports you back in time with sounds of marching, pagan rituals and bangers going off consistently for 24 hours, bonfires the size of houses and absolutely no cars. It’s the closest experience to being transported back in time to the middle ages. 

4. How could we make sound improve our lives?

I think we should bring the way sounds function in the cinema into the real world. We already know that quite often accurately recorded sound adds nothing to the experience of an image in film. It’s always enhanced and manipulated to create an exciting new reality, quite often when sounds are distorted so they no longer correspond with the image, they create the most exciting audio-visual experience.

I think it would be great to use this cinematic enhancing property of sound in certain aspects of the real world, to make everyday things more fun and give genuine appeal to things which are difficult to motivate people to do. For example, imagine a headpiece that allows you to swim through pure silence so it feels as if you are swimming through air, for instance. I think this could be like bringing cinema into a new sensory dimension. People underestimate the power of experiencing something with separate sounds. In a world full of noise it could be a welcome escape from the familiarity of every day.

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

I love waking up to the sound of rain, especially in a tent, another cliché, but it is the most calming feeling in the world.

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

Monday
Dec012014

Shimmering Beast

Nicolas Field is a musician, composer, and more recently, active in fine arts. He studied percussion in Amsterdam and The Hague, and is a founder of N-Collective, who strive to support and promote adventurous music.

His work “Shimmering Beast” is a huge, upside down triangle, formed by sixty cymbals and stands, bass-transducers and light. This monumental and visually stunning collection of cymbals strike eachother lightly because of a resonating floor, and produce a shimmering sound. “Shimmering Beast” was created during a residence in the Swiss Institute in Rome and was a part of the Needcompany performance Caligula.

This installation is one of many which can be seen at Orkest! a group exhibition featuring works by Rutger Zuydervelt, Julian Sartorius, Oliver Beer, Rubén D’hers, Michael Schmid, and Konrad Smoleński. Orkest! can be seen from the 7th of december 2014 until the 6th of march 2015 at the netwerk / centre for Contemporary art in Aalst, Belgium. We’ll feature some other works from this exhibition in the coming weeks.

Tuesday
Nov252014

Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More

Konrad Smoleński is an artist working in different fields, often collaborating with other artists and musicians. He works and lives in Warschau and Bern. His works are often big and sculptural, connected to sound or video.

His work “Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More”, is a sculptural instrument written for two bronze bells, two walls of loudspeakers and resonating objects, in this case resonating lockers. The composition links the rich symbolic sound of the clocks to the abstract sound of reverb and resonating noise. By using delay and other effects, Smoleński creates a world wherein history comes to a standstill.

This installation is one of many which can be seen at Orkest! a group exhibition featuring works by Rutger Zuydervelt, Julian Sartorius, Oliver Beer, Rubén D’hers, Michael Schmid, and Nicolas Field. Orkest! can be seen from the 7th of december 2014 until the 6th of march 2015 at the Netwerk / centre for Contemporary art in Aalst, Belgium. We’ll feature some other works from this exhibition in the coming weeks.

Sunday
Nov232014

Volum in the Berliner Dom

Korinsky is a Berlin-based art collective using technologies and the knowledge about human hearing processes to create sound installations that play with the contrast of visual and acoustic impressions. We’ve seen them before here at EL, with their project 3845 m/s.

Their latest project is Volum. For this project, Korinsky worked together with a group of architecture students and professor Katrin Günther to explore the non-visual part of architecture. The students got to explore the way the Berliner Dom reacts to sounds, completely imprinting it’s architectonic qualities on the sounds in the dome. The absolutely amazing short documentary explains their work in the best way possible, so I won’t write too much about it.

Brilliant project. In an age where all disciplines seem to shift into each other, sound and architecture seem like two we’d really need to spend more time on. Like the narrator asks at the end of the short documentary:

“Next time you enter a building, think about it makes you feel. How does it affect you acoustically?”

Wednesday
Nov192014

Five Sound Questions to Ronald van der Meijs

Ronald van der Meijs is a Dutch artist working with physical objects and sound from an architectural perspective. We saw one of his works, If I Should Live in the Past, I Wouldn’t Need a Memory last week.

One of his latest works, Parthenocarp, is a big string instrument slowly transforming it’s sound as the connected cucumber plants grow. The growth of the vegetable plays the instrument.

As I was very intrigued by most of his works I’ve seen, I’m glad to have him on the Five Sound Question series!

Also check out an exhibition with six of his solo works from 2nd of December 2014 until 28th of February 2015 in Assen, the Netherlands.

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

It was in an early stage, still in my childhood that my own voice started to get darker and lower already, while my friends still had a high-pitched voice.

I was intrigued by the resonance in my chest. When I set on a wooden bench and made my voice real low the wood of the bench started to vibrate. Also when I was picking up the phone a lot of people thought it was my dad. They started to talk to me if it were my dad they were talking to. I was still very shy, so it was hard for me to interrupt them and tell them they were not talking to the old man himself but to his son.

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

With an open mind and real ‘open’ ears for details. I noticed many people don’t hear the details. But of course it has my attention because of my work. I relate to it. And I’m always looking for special sounds that have an appealing quality. 

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

None in particular. Every place in the world has its own qualities and specific sounds that can be interesting. For example when you go to India there is that typical ‘blow horn’ sound of every car on the street.

While on the streets in cities there is always a lot of background noise, empty buildings can be very nice because of it’s heating system and some hissing airco sounds. It’s like the organs of a building. Although I have to say in nature, sounds can be very clear and thus more interesting.

The most striking sounds I’ve heard were on a glacier in Iceland. Complete silence except from the cracking and echoing sound of moving, grinding ice masses. To hear this in such a hostile and out of space environment is really thrilling.

4. How could we make sound improve our lives?

By listening to it more, and having more patience in life. Standing still for a moment and really listening to the environment. For example when people go for a walk in nature, they’re always chatting with each other, and looking down instead of being quiet and listening to the surrounding nature and the wind blowing true the treetops. It has a real nice peaceful and relaxing quality to it. To enjoy it you need to be quieter yourself.

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

I think with tropical bird sounds, crickets or Gibbon monkeys in a tropical forest and the sound of croaking frogs in a rice field at night. Not four or ten, but thousands of them at once. I simply love nature. 

Wednesday
Nov122014

Frequencies (Light Quanta)

Nicolas Bernier is a Canadian artist creating sound installations and performances. We’ve covered his work Frequencies (A) last summer. His “Frequencies” series is an ongoing process focusing on basic sound generation systems. For this iteration, Frequencies (Light Quanta), Bernier taking the quantum -the smallest measurable value of energy- as his conceptual basis. The project uses basic quantum physics in a metaphorical way to create 100 sound and light fragments that develop themselves organically, generating “an never expanding but yet disruptive form in time and space”.

Always good to see an artist develop an idea further, and look at it in different ways.

Sunday
Nov092014

If I should live in the past, I wouldn't need a memory.

Ronald van der Meijs is an Amsterdam-based Dutch artist, designing from architectural principles. In his autonomous work, architecture physical objects and sound come together.

I saw his work “If I Should Live in the Past, I Wouldn’t Need a Memory” last week at Arti in Amsterdam. Referencing to the unhealthy situation miners in charcoal mines work in, the installation consists of two giant lung-like structures, made out of bags that slowly inflate and deflate, creating a crackly sound. Next to the lungs hangs a birdcage, which refers to the miners who took a canary into the mines. If the situation was unsafe, and toxic gases spread through the mines, the bird would suffocate and the miners would know they’d need to get out as quickly as possible.

The structure reacts as you get close to it. If you stand in between the two lungs, the crackling sound of the lungs inflating is quite intense. Interesting work bringing together interaction, sound and sculpture.

Monday
Nov032014

Traveling Wave

Current exhibition in the EYE, the futuristic-looking national museum for film in Amsterdam, is on Anthony McCall. This British artist’s most important work consists mostly of large-scale light-projection installations, which he calls “solid light films”. However, looking at his sketches and drawings, all his work seems to be about space and spatiality.

No wonder that one of his works is also sound-based. Looking at the sketch above, it seems to be about experience of space, just as his other works. For Traveling Wave (1972/2013), McCall wanted the audience to experience a rolling wave, but in only sound. By using multiple speakers, filtered white noise, and a huge crescendo, the rolling of the wave almost becomes visible.