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Minimalist Ringtones

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The Mother, called MOM.

Isn’t it smart to call you project ‘WOW’? Everyone using this as the title will look impressed. You know I like my things simple. The Cleartones project is a good example of this. But WOW, created by Carl Schilde, takes minimalism to the next level. It’s a vinyl record with just one sine tone. You can change the pitch of the tone yourself though, by switching your turntable from 33.3 rpm (a tone of, indeed, 33.3 Hz) to 45 rpm. The groove of the sine wave creates a nice visible pattern on the vinyl.

So why would you want to play a record like this? I like the way they describe how the record will bring up the little imperfections of your record player. Each needle and each tone arm will sound different. You will hear wow and flutter, and WOW will shake the whole building when you turn up the volume. You can read more about WOW and order one of the records (priced at €33.33) on Is this the thing you’ve wished for all your life? Then why not forget about that brand new car and spend €33,333.33 on the silver master record of WOW, called MOM (pictured above).


Forgotten Songs

When I first saw Forgotten Songs by Michael Thomas Hill, I was struck by the beauty of the image. Watching all those empty bird-cages hanging over the street I automatically start hearing the sound of birds in my head, even though it isn’t there. The image is so strong, the installation doesn’t need sound. I was slightly disappointed when I found out the artist doesn’t leave it up to our imagination - it actually does make sound. 

There is a message though: the fifty birds that can be heard in this installation in Sidney, used to live there. But habitat loss is credited as the biggest threat to bird survival. The birds that can be heard in Forgotten Songs were forced out of the city by European settlers. At night, the sounds change to those of nocturnal birds. 

Via My Modern Met



Dyskograf is like a turntable, but this time you can draw the record yourself. OK - you cannot actually create a song, but a loop of electronic music. It’s like a circular step sequencer with a nostalgic appearance, as it bridges the gap between virtual instruments and the tactile way of writing music with pen on paper. The audible result is not all that inspiring, but it sure looks good.

A camera reads the information drawn on Dyskograf’s paper disks and transfers the information to the software which plays the sound. The installation is created by French new media collective Avoka. Will this make you more creative, or is it just a good looking toy? Watch the video to see Dyskograf in action:

Via The Verge


Cleartones Organic

After launching the Cleartones minimalist ringtones project since more than a year ago I have been thinking about how to take it to the next level. One type of sound people always seem to like is that of clean bells, gentle chimes and things alike. So I decided to record a large amount of percussive instruments that would fit the concept of Cleartones: minimalist, simple, elegant, and select the best ones for a new set of Cleartones: Cleartones Organic.

Percussionist Marijn Korff de Gidts has a huge amount of instruments in his studio. From ‘standard’ inventory like glockenspiel and woodblock to a complete Indonesian gamelan. Enough sources of beautiful ringing sound. I am very pleased with the result, and apparently I am not the only one!

Again, people recognize the need for a product like Cleartones. David Report, Cult of MacBrett Terpstra and my friend Joachim Baan all understand why I started this project, and I’m very happy they do. I like how Brett describes them: “I’ve listened to them all, and there’s not one that would make me want to punch somebody in a grocery checkout line.” 



An interesting question: what happens if you put 14 acoustic guitars on the floor and play them randomly? You would assume it would result in uninteresting noise, but listening to Playa by Ruben Dhers proofs the result can also be quite enchanting. 31 DC motors play the guitars using fans, and a computer controls the installation. The speed of the fans varies, causing a pleasant change in dynamics, and when they swing back and forth a higher speeds it feels like we’re listening to waves of guitar strings. 

Playa can be seen in real life at the Neues Museum Weimar, Germany. 


Urban Time Machine

“A three dimensional physical and aural mapping of conversations that occurred within the community of Providence, Rhode Island.” That’s the somewhat curious description of the concept for the Urban Time Machine sound installation. But whether you can still perceive these conversations or not, it’s an interesting idea and the result is quite impressive. At least when it comes to looks…

Urban Time Machine is a project by Joshua Lantzy, whose work is based around sound, design and architecture. For this project he collaborated with Benjamin Phillips. Have a look at his website for some other interesting projects. So, what does the Urban Sound Machine sound like? It’s like a never ending composition, which apparently doesn’t sound the same for at least 19 years:


Blind Date

Me wearing the Blind Date helmet, getting ready for an unusual sonic exploration of the city of Ghent

During our visit to TRACK in the beautiful city of Ghent, we were invited to discover the city in a whole new way. Blind Date is a project by the Belgian art-education organization Aifoon. Visitors are given a helmet equipped with headphones, a directional microphone and goggles blocking all visible impulses. Wearing these helmets we were guided through the city by Aifoon’s Jeroen van de Sande. 

Walking around while not being able to see anything is scary at first. But normally we use our ears a lot in our everyday navigation, listening to the reflection of sound on all kinds of surfaces around us and and we depend on our ability to hear where a sound is coming from. Blind Date shuts off these normal auditive senses and replaces them with directional hearing: it focuses your hearing (in mono) on wherever you turn your head towards and amplifies it. Here’s a video about the Blind Date experience:

At first I found this impairment quite frustrating, as I heard what seemed to be a very large truck passing by, but I wasn’t able to tell if it came from the left or from the right. I was just standing there helplessly. I wanted to listen to the world in stereo like I normally do. The trick is to fully trust the person that takes you by the arm and leads the way. You have to surrender to the experience and once you do, it’s interesting and surprising.

I wasn’t able to tell what the streets we walked on looked like, it was very hard to measure the distances we walked. We crossed a wide road, but to me it seemed very small. It was a windy day, which resulted in quite a bit of noise on the headphones at times. Normally I would hate that, this time it also disabled my sense of hearing for some time, making me completely dependent on tactile information from my guide.   

If you’d like to visit Ghent (I highly recommend it!) and experience Blind Date yourself, have a look at the agenda on the TRACK website for dates. 


TRACK - A fine weekend in Ghent

Here’s a little preview of all the nice things I encountered while visiting Belgium for a weekend of artistic surprises. From May till September 16th TRACK - a contemporary city conversation adds a little spice to the already beautiful city of Ghent. 

An huge structure of old swimming pools, mobile homes and other junk. detitled, 2012 by Peter Buggenhout

Of course my main interest was to see what sound-related projects were there, but I was impressed by the other contemporary art forms as well. Expect to be surprised by large, intense works of art, all telling their own story. 

This heap of concrete doesn’t mean anything…. until we know it resembles the exact amount of concrete used in the building in the background. De betonberg, 2012 by Lara Almarcegui

It brings visitors to places he/she would never have discovered otherwise. An old abandoned boxing school next to an old industrial site, an empty monumental directors residence, or some psychiatric center. TRACK encourages and enables you to explore the secret corners and the rough edges of the city. A very pleasant experience!

Due to a camera which was left in Belgium (but will be back next week, hopefully, as it contains a lot of photos and movies), I’ll save more detailed information about the sound-related projects of TRACK for later - so stay tuned! 


Volumes for Sound

Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson came up with Volumes for Sound while looking to find a physical representation of immaterial things. The objects can be seen as sculptures which can form all kinds of different structures, but are equipped with speakers as well.

This summer Volumes of Sound is exhibited as part of the 2012 Reykjavík Arts Festival in Iceland. Various sound artists will be asked to compose a piece specifically for the installation, which plays eight channels of audio. 


Qompendium x Cleartones

The Cleartones project is still going strong! In a collaboration with Qompendium I created a gift for our visitors: a pair of special Qompendium x Cleartones ringtones. One is the letter “Q” in melodic Morse code. The other consists of a clear sound to grab the attention combined with a hidden message - the word QOMPENDIUM in Morse code, on a very low volume.

To complete the pack the nice folks at Qompendium created a set of 10 wallpapers to accompany the ringtones on your phone. iPhone and Andoid compatible. You’ll find the download link on the Cleartones website. Enjoy!