During the Dutch Design Week that’s on this week in Eindhoven (Netherlands), designers exhibit their latest works. Very often, there’s also newly graduated students present. Such as Lola Gielen, who graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven this year with her instrument Neo.
Gielen calls Neo “A music instrument everybody can play”, and is designed out of her own will to be able to play an instrument, but getting fed up with practicing or simply not having the time for it. I myself, being a sound artist/designer, can definitely relate to this. Often it is just easier to create or code the tool that you need to fulfill your needs.
Neo is a circular sequencer that combines the tactile, sensory experience of making music with a time-based sequencer-like design. Neo loops over the circular matrix, playing notes when there’s a marble, not unlike pins on a barrel organ. Furthermore Gielen created a collection of external modules, that you can influence while the sound is playing, creating a tactile, interactive sequencer. Inside, there’s a Raspberry Pi running Python scripts getting in the sensor data, converting it to OSC and sending it to a Puredata patch, creating the sound.
In Neerpelt, a small town in the very north of Belgium on the border with the Netherlands, there’s the very unique Klankenbos (or Sound Forest). A public forest filled with sound art installations hidden between the trees, accessible to anyone for free any moment of the day. Something so unique, it’s strange we’ve never written an article about it here on Everyday Listening. Time to make up for that.
Made back in 2005 as a temporary sound art collection commissioned by Musica, the Belgian “impulse centre for music”, Klankenbos has since then become permanent and has been there for ten years already.
Pierre Berthet’s Houses of Sound: Two wires connect two huts on the banks of the Dommel. These are connected to exciters and tin can resonators in a network of wires among the trees around the installation. Inputs (mainly sine waves) transmitted through the exciters make the wires tremble, causing vibrations that create a buzzing resonance in the huts and cans.
With a few additions to the collection over the years, as well as the development of mobile installations, the Klankenbos is everything but a static collection. Just this year sound artist Laura Maes added an interactive sound-bench running on solar energy.
Staalplaat Soundsystem & LOLA landscape architect’s Composed Nature: Composed storms in the trees by washing machine motors, making the trees and it’s leaves shake.
Klankenbos does not only exist of installations in the physical realm: just recently artist Rozalie Hirs created Curvices, a musical grid that works with GPS tracking and can only be heard via a smartphone. Because the organization of Klankenbos is very aware that the forest is very important as well: it shouldn’t end up being a place of technology under some trees, and these technologies allow artists to put their own virtual sonic world over the actual one.
Erwin Stache’s Konversation: 12 mechanical plants conversating through signs and sounds.
On sunday the 18th of October Musica invites everyone to celebrate 10 years of Klankenbos with an afternoon with sound art, music, poetry and silence in the Klankenbos. Artists who will be present are Stijn Demeulenaere who will present his field-recordings of the past few years in a way fitting to the Klankenbos, Hans van Koolwijk in a performance with amateur musicians playing 65 helium-filled balloons, the robot orchestra of the Flemish organisation Logos who designed instruments for Aphex Twin, et cetera. They’ll be there presenting new work by young composers. Enough to see and hear!
Everyday Listening is starting an experiment with guest bloggers. This way we’re able to bring more art pieces and performances from all over the world. The following piece is from Gabriele Cavallo, an art/music journalist interested in sound art and contemporary cross-boundary practices. He attended the Sonic Arts Research Centre symposium in Belfast.
Maria Chavez is a New York-based abstract turntablist. After her debut as a DJ in 1996, the Lima-born, New York based artist has received the legacy of artists such as Christian Marclay, Pauline Oliveros and Christian Wolff. In late May 2015, Belfast Queen’s University hosted a two-day symposium, aimed to investigate the possibilities for parallel approaches to chance in music and legal cases. Chavez performed on her turntables at SARC (Sonic Arts Research Centre). Her performance lasted over 45 mins and was divided into three main sections.
An excerpt of Maria’s performance
Chavez plays two desks, which are connected to a multi-track mixer. She digs out the sonic possibilities of vinyls and record players as physical materials: she taps, scratches, presses on their surface; amplifies and elaborates glitches and shrieks, etcetera. Defective needle styli, or damaged disks are used on purpose. In the middle of her performance, the artist even shatters the vinyls and lets the fragments spin on tables. Throughout the work, she also hits her instruments with found objects, such as stones or small crocks, transforming the turntables into multi-sources of sound production.
From the midst of this multi-media originated texture, excerpts of recordings emerge and are skillfully integrated into the acoustic fabric. Chavez intends sounds as part of a dialogue with the environment. She’s not afraid to interact with the surrounding space, as she welcomes the random sounds by the audience by responding to them cleverly.
Taking part in her performance was an intense, immersive experience. Chavez weaved together sonic events, produced in contrasting ways. She avoids rethorical solutions, interacts with external stimuli and stays multi-faceted and coherent.
Tom Moore is a musician playing traditional music, contemporary acoustic music and sound art. He’s primarily a violinist, but also plays other instruments and works with assorted electronics and hardware.
For his latest performance “Automatic Trio”, Tom performs with simple “kinetic” or animatronic instruments which play themselves. By attaching a bow to a simple bicycle wheel, he’s able to simulate the bowing of a violin or cello, making for some automated accompanyment to Tom’s playing. The set-up is quite simple, but really works with the ambient string loops and improvisation that he’s playing over the droning of the mechanical instruments. The fact that it’s part “installation piece”, part performance makes for something that is also visually compelling.
Martin Backes is a Berlin-based audiovisual artist. In his latest work What Do Machines Sing Of?, he asks the old question of how a computer can communicate, or rather evoke, human sentiment. An automated machine that sings 90s ballads in a digital way, but not in a way which feels distant and cold. And that is what Backes has done very skillfully: retaining the sentimental aspect of vocal intonations, while stripping the songs bare.
Christian Skjødt is a Danish artist and composer exploring temporal, spatial, as well as physical aspects of sound and aesthetics of noise. His installation works are often site-specific and include self-built electronics. Which is the case as well for his Illumination (2014): A site-specific piece for a 18th-century wine cellar in the Botanical Garden in Riga.
Illumination examines the translation of the outer circumstances, harvesting the energy from the sun, and bringing this into the cellar in the form of sound. In the cellar the sounds are spatialised, and the particular acoustics of the dome-shaped cellar are investigated.
Each circuit/speaker is tuned to 440 Hz when it’s receiving optimal sunlight. When it’s receiving less than optimal sunlight, the perfect pitch is distorted, resulting in a microtonal cluster-type of texture due to weather conditions and the rotation of the planet.