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Minimalist Ringtones

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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.


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.



Last week, during Amsterdam Dance Event, 4DSOUND presented their system with artists like Vladislav Delay, Max Cooper, an evening with artists from the Raster Noton label, and various talks and workshops. 
Looking like something which could’ve been next to the Philips Pavilion at the World’s Fair back in ‘58, the structure alone is already quite amazing, even before any sounds are heard. It is said it was inspired by Tesla, and it shows.
(photo by Georg Schroll)
The way the audience listened, with such pure focus, is rarely seen these days and got me thinking about what 4DSOUND does to the listening experience. The freedom to walk around, feel the resonating pillars, sit on the ground, etc. doesn’t distracts one from the listening experience, but rather keeps the audience focused in some way. The design is simple and transparent enough to not “dictate” a certain style.
I’ve visited the room for four different sets, all with very different feelings and ways the space was used. Furthermore the fact the pillars vibrate makes it wildly different than a wavefield-synthesis system, for example. More physical.
Could this be the future of active listening in a concert setting?

Ryoji Ikeda's Superposition

We’ve seen the works of Paris-based artist Ryoji Ikeda before. They are often raw, glitchy works exploring data sonifications and, more recently, the combination with visuals.

Ryoji’s latest work, or rather update of the work superposition is described as follows:

A multimedia music, visual, and theater work at the intersection of art and science, superposition, inspired by the subatomic world, mines the notion that it is not possible to fully describe the behavior of a single particle except in terms of probabilities. The work is an immersive experience, an orchestrated journey through sound, language, physical phenomena, mathematical concepts, human behavior, and randomness, all simultaneously arranged and rearranged in a theatrical arc that obliterates the boundaries between music, visual arts, and performance.

To achieve this, Ryoji has two performers generate the materials live; videos, point clouds, text, sounds, and superimposes these over 21 screens. Premiering in the US this month on October 17th and 18th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


Electrostatic Bell Choir

Darsha Hewitt is a Canadian artist who makes electromechanical sound installations, drawings, videos, an experimental performances. See her other unique work here (take the brilliant “20 Oscillators in 20 Minutes” for example, which is part experimental music performance, technical challenge, and comedy act!). She has an interest in demystifying the invisible systems embedded throughout domestic technology. This is also visible in the above artwork, Electrostatic Bell Choir (2012).


Static electricity affects everyday materials in curious ways – hair stands on end when rubbed with a balloon; laundered clothing clings together if an antistatic sheet is not tossed into the dryer; a static shock transmits from a finger after one drags their feet across the carpet…
The Electrostatic Bell Choir is an electromechanical sound installation that plays with the static electricity emitted from discarded CRT TV monitors. This static, that can be felt when one places their hand on the screen when the TV is turned on, is gleaned for it’s potential to generate subtle movement. Sets of static bells are mounted in front of twenty television sets. A control circuit cycles the TVs on and off, which causes static to build up on the monitors. This static charge agitates hanging pith balls, causing them to lightly strike the bells ‐ resulting in quasi‐melodic compositions.

The TVs are muted, tuned to various channels of white noise and physically spacialized in order to devise a dynamically layered soundscape textured with the sound of the cathode ray tubes warming up. The glow of the screens and the subtle resonance of the bells magically punctuate the dark surroundings of the installation.


The Dutch Soundlings collective is a group of international professionals working with sound, which I’m proud to be a part of. During the annual renowned Gaudeamus Muziekweek, known for their contemporary classical programme, Soundlings is organising Soundroots: A poetic theory and trail on hearing the secrets of plants. For Everyday Listening I’m always on the lookout for sound art with a poetic layer that tells a story or makes you wonder. Soundroots does just that.

Below is their teaser for an ongoing crowdfunding campaign. It would be wonderful if you could help Soundlings achieve their goal to make the on-site artworks even better! Here’s the campaign (dutch site).


Consisting of a short talk, a trail of almost thirty sound installations and a spatial composition in the old Botanical Gardens of Utrecht, the collective plays with what’s real and what’s not. By doing this, they’re balancing between actual theory of biology and technology, and poetics and mythology, making for a trail that leaves the visitor wondering. Visit Soundroots during the Gaudeamus Muziekweek on the 13th and 14th of September!



Some art just sticks in your mind. In 2012 I saw Roman Kirschner’s / Els Viaene’s Maelstrom at the DEAF Festival in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and last year I found myself thinking about it a couple of times. Seeing the work; the subtlety of it, and not knowing how it worked left a big impression on me.

The work is inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe story “A Descent into the Maelstrom”, in which a man reminisces about surviving a storm, shipwreck and a whirlpool. Over time, memories are transformed and imagination comes into play. Our memories are liquid.

In Gaston Bachelard’s description of the most important travel of human beings, namely the one between the real and the imaginary, he states that when art takes us to this travel, it is not about the stay in one of the two realms. But instead the journey, the movement, the border crossing and the mutual exchange is what we should pay attention to. The dark line in Maelstrom is the vehicle of this travel and the border at the same time. It doesn’t show us one of the two realms. It shows us the process of trying to make sense, its materiality, its movement, its buildup, decay, turbulences, and fluidity.

When I saw the work, I had the revalation that because of not being able to understand the technology, I could focus more on the actual meaning and thought behind the work, as if it had been a painting. I did not “get” how the fluids worked, and the sounds tied in very nicely and came from within the object. If this would’ve been a projection, speakers and some visual algorithm, this would not have been possible.


Cities & Memory

We’ve seen quite a few projects using geolocation lately, from Sterepublic which “crowdsourced the quiet”, to the URB project in Porto, also collecting sound data from locations. The Cities & Memory project is different in the sense that it wants to record the sounds of the actual space, as well as the poetic, underlying space.

Every faithful field recording document here is accompanied by a reworking, a processing or an interpretation that imagines that place and time as somewhere else, somewhere new. The listener can choose to explore locations through their actual sounds, or explore interpretations of what those places could be – or to flip between the two different sound worlds at leisure.

I think the idea of having both the real field recording and the poetic interpretation side by side is very interesting. Of course this is an interpretation, so bound to be quite subjective. I’m especially curious if we, in time, could figure out a certain sound-vocabulary to describe the poetics of a place. If any, Cities and Memory is a good start!


Frequencies (a)

Nicolas Bernier is a Canadian sound artist who we’ve seen before. His “Frequencies” is an ongoing process focusing on basic sound generation systems. “Frequencies (a)” is a sound performance combining the sound of mechanically triggered tuning forks with pure digital soundwaves. The tuning fork, producing a sound closest to a pure sinewave, provides a historical link between science, tonal instrument works, and electronic music. The performer is triggering sequences from the computer, activating solenoids that hit the tuning forks with high precision. Streams of light burst in synchronicity with the forks, creating an intense sound and light composition.


Sounds Like Silver

Synaesthesia is the neurological phenomenon in which the brain mixes up the senses; stimulation of one of the senses leads to experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. For “Sounds Like Silver”, Kevin Blake worked with a group of three people with sound to colour induced synaesthesia, documenting and illustrating the visual experiences of the group upon hearing his composition. The work explores the concept of synaesthesia being both a blessing and a curse, and explores visual spaces that are both real and surreal. It was completed as part of a thesis exploring the use of “Synaesthesia as a Creative Tool” - for the Music and Media Technologies Masters Degree at the Trinity College of Dublin.

As the work is based on direct input of the test group, the visual aesthetics of the piece might be hard to pin down, though it is definitely interesting to see a representation of what people with synaesthesia experience. What do you think? Is the video a good visual representation of the composition?

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