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Soundclusters 2: Robotic instruments

The very first post on Everyday Listening was about music making machines. And while we know these machines can't put a lot of expression in their music, they're really fascinating to watch. Somehow it's hard to disconnect the image of an instrument being played from the person playing it. 

Roland Olbeter created Soundclusters 2, a group of mechanical string instruments and a drum. Pneumatic and electro-mechanical actuators operate the strings, which are picked like a guitar by two pneumatic plectrums. 

The movie shown here is an older one, where the machines are playing Elena Kats-Chernins' Fast Blue Air. At the Sonar festival, which starts next thursday, Soundclusters 2 will play pieces composed by Jon Hopkins and Tim Exile.


Listen to the world on Radio Aporee

Last week we took a look at SoundTransit, a website with many location based recordings, and I wrote about having a similar idea and how I was surprised to find out this already had been done. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, as I found a couple of similar projects.

There’s one of them I’d really like to share with you, as it comes closest to my vision of it. Radio Aporee shows us a large map, and each red dot resembles a sound recorded at that location. You can listen to the sounds by clicking on the dots, and add your own recordings without having to create an account.

One little problem: I tried to upload a sound myself, but it didn’t work. Hopefully a temporary bug? I really like browsing the sounds of the world like this.


Sound on websites: A sensitive subject

You probably recognize this situation: You’re surfing the web looking for inspiration, you click on some links, monitor your Twitter feed, and open pages in the background for later review. Suddenly your computer starts to scream!

It’s some rock song, very loud and unrecognizable because of it’s way-too-low bit rate. You don’t know where it’s coming from but you want it to stop immediately so you close all browser tabs and it’s quiet again.

Almost all people I ask about background music on websites tell me they find it totally annoying. A website just isn’t a thing you would expect to make any sound. People often listen to music while browsing the web, there’s no room for an extra layer of sound.

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Octachord: Hail to the sine wave

A long rope hangs from the ceiling in the main hall of the Utrecht University Museum. Connected to the rope are eight speakers, spreading sine waves over the stairs. Low frequencies come from the lower speakers while high frequencies come from those at the top of the sound installation. The natural reverb of the hall cause the frequencies to melt together.

Octachord is a sound installation created by Mark Thur and Simon Snel, students at the Utrecht School of Music and Technology. They used sine waves as building blocks for the ever-changing soundscape generated by the installation. Here’s a small example of the piece:

Octachord is a good example of how to create an installation for a specific architectural space and its properties. Being aware of the influence of a space on your creation and using this knowledge in the design of the work is very important and can lead to a great result.


Sonic Marshmallows: whisper to me

These Sonic Marshmallows, created by Troika, use sonic reflection and enable you to listen to the other side of the pond. They can transmit and receive a whispering voice over 60 meters without any amplification, using only their shape.

Apart from providing a quite spectacular experience, the Sonic Marshmallows are fun to look at as well. It seems like some giant aliens dropped their candy in the Wat Tyler Country Park in Basildon Essex.

Troika is a multi-disciplinary art and design practice founded in 2003 by Conny Freyer, Eva Rucki and Sebastien Noel, who met while studying at the Royal College of Art in London.


Bridge Music by Joseph Bertolozzi

We've already taken a look at the Singing Bizovik bridge and the abstract soundscape created from it, but Jodi Rose isn't the only one capturing the sound of bridges. Composer Joseph Bertolozzi recorded the sounds of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge and used them to compose his music with for this site-specific sound installation. Bertolozzi used various mallets made of different materials to strike the metal surfaces of the bridge.

There are two listening stations on the bridge itself, and there's a 24/7 transmission on 95.3FM within the parks surrounding the bridge. 


Go on a sonic journey with SoundTransit

I like to share my own recordings of the places I traveled to in the 'Places' category. I've been thinking of creating a system to collaboratively share these 'sonic pictures' from all over the world. It would be very inspiring to be able to listen to any part of the world.

But it seems I'm too late! SoundTransit, a project created by Derek Holzer, Sara Kolster and Marc Boon, does exactly that. You can search for sounds by keyword, country, city. You can also book a transit: choose your point of departure, a destination and an amount of stopovers, and your journey will be ready in a moment. I just went from Marrakech to Antwerp via Vienna. It basically just crossfades the files, but it's a nice idea.

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Passage: a dynamic sound corridor

The idea of creating a ‘sound corridor’ is not new, I’ve heard about similar projects before, a buildings hallway seem like a suitable place for a sound installation. Things change all the time, people move up and down the corridor, creating an ever changing pattern for an artist to capture and use to generate or influence sounds.

You need a good technical system to capture these movements though, and that’s exactly what IRCAM created and and what Pierre Jodlowski uses for his dynamic sound corridor ‘Passage’. 16 sensors detect visitors movements. The information is sent to Max/MSP so the composer can use it to control his music.

You can experience this sound installation yourself at the Agora event in Paris: Monday, June 8 and Saturday, June 13, 1pm-6pm.


Put your sounds in the clouds with SoundCloud

As you might have noticed I use the SoundCloud player on my website. For website owners it’s a nice way of offering streaming audio without having to worry about hosting and the use of bandwith. I’d like to share my experiences with this review.

What's SoundCloud?

As a artist it’s great to have a professional looking way of sharing music with fans, label owners and venues. You can create a set of tracks on SoundCloud to embed it on your MySpace page, a much better sounding solution than the standard MySpace player.

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This is what sound looks like

Sound is made audible air vibrating air molecules. Sound is a form of energy, we can’t see it, and we can only hear it when the volume is high enough and if it exists between 20Hz and 20kHz, the audible range of the human ear.

Sound also moves through liquids though, and Eva Schindling created a computer model which simulates the collision of two sounds in a fluid environment. The resulting form is then modeled out of Styrofoam. Now we have a sound we can touch, but we can’t hear it!