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Always wanted to play with virtual physics-based objects in a playful way? Andrew Stewart Allen is a programmer, researcher and composer based in San Diego. His recent work is mainly focused on researching and programming physically-informed real-time interactive audio systems. His system Ruratae, which he also wrote his dissertation on, is exactly this. Ruratae is a collaboration of him with visual artist Susanna Var, who created the unique visual style and UI.

For some reason, procedural audio is still not widely used. In software and games, the same sample is often loaded and played, making for quite static behaviour. Procedural audio can make a simple interaction seem like a living, breathing thing, even if it’s just another tidbit of code. George Lucas, Danny Boyle, etcetera, they’ve all been known to say that sound is a very important part of a film. In interactive media, interactive audio has been scarce, which is a shame. The effect is very clear in Ruratae, where the smallest change makes for a totally different sonic beast!

People like Drew are pushing the boundaries and opening up lots of new possibilities with something like Ruratae. Being able to create your own instrument from scratch in a virtual world, according to physical rules, with no DSP knowledge whatsoever is a very interesting new take on audio in games and other software. If you’re a Windows user, you can try out Ruratae yourself!

As Drew is not only a technical guy but also a composer, we’ve invited him for the Five Sound Questions next week!



Most composers have composed their music based on the assumption that the audience will experience the works facing a stage with musicians. Most classical works aren’t made to be listened to from behind the stage. On the other hand, composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis have been working with the location of their audiences in mind, spatializing the music.

Young composer Chatori Shimizu (1990) wants to do this differently with -shikaku-, which is derived from the Japanese homophones “四角 (square)”, “視覚 (visual)”, and “死角 (blind spot)”, all pronounced “Shikaku”.

The setting of this work is designed so that the music is delivered to audience members surrounding the chamber orchestra, with deliberate blind spots.

 All audience members have a different “blind spot”, none of them will experience the work in the same way. This reflects the story of “Blind Men and An Elephant”, where a group of blind men touch an elephant, each feeling a different part of the animal, and discussing it. Argument breaks down when the men starts to claim that an elephant was a thin, floppy, fan-like creature, as another states that it was a smooth, solid being. Not one man’s statement is untrue, as those are the precise features of an elephant.


Sound of Light

Sound of Light, by Marco Barotti and Marco Canevacci is a synesthetic sculpture which interprets and dynamically transforms sunlight into audio frequencies. It is a site specific installation designed for the former music pavilion in Hamm, Germany, which was built in 1912.

Cameras film the sky and sunlight, dividing it into six colours - RGB and CMY. The six hanging, coloured columns of the pneumatic structure – which stand for the primary RGB (red/green/blue) and secondary CMY (cyan/magenta/yellow) colour models – are designed to receive different frequencies and convert them from visible to audible sensory input. A series of woofers is fixed directly on the bottom of each column and convert the whole architecture into a giant vibrating loudspeaker.

By mixing sound and architecture, the audience experience a unique oneiric reality through the superimposition of colours, shapes, sounds and vibrations. Visitors can also discover their own concert by changing their point of view – an individual spectrum. Sadly, it’s hard to experience vibration through a documented piece, but I can imagine what it would be like to touch the column with a cheek. The structure reminds me of Space Odyssey. A space-ship like structure to experience sunlight using different senses.


Five Sound Questions to Jeff Mills

Jeff Mills is largely regarded as an innovative techno DJ or producer. More recently, he’s been adopting his ideas, concepts, stories and esthetics from the outset. Since 2000, he’s been pushing further than his DJ fame. Started with creating a soundtrack for Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”, his interest in the future and science-fiction grew, and over the years he has made various sf-inspired works.

For example, a more recent work is “Man of Tomorrow”. Featuring Mills’ poetic sounds and Caux’s invasive cinematic imagery, it is a portrait of Mills portraying his immense perception of the future. Other examples include him imagining a series of strange avant-garde objects questioning our relationship with the world, space and time.

Jeff Mills, Tomorrow + X, 2013 (c) Axis Records / 10 unique white records produced by Jeff Mills, iron spots and hands.
Beginning 2015, Mills exhibits his new work The Visitor, a “UFO inspired machine”, whose language system would be a complete reinterpretation and restructuration of the TR-909 drum machine. Something we might feature later here on Everyday Listening. For now, we’ve asked him to answer the Five Sound Questions, and we’re honored to have him on the site!

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

The sound of the ice cream truck that used to come through all Detroit neighborhoods. One sound of the iconic music the driver would play out of his loudspeaker would send any kid into a frenzy. The trick would be to run home, asked your parents for money, then catch up and stop the truck. It was almost like capturing a White Unicorn Horse. Every kid was conditioned to react immediately to the sound of the truck music.

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

In various ways. Because I only speak English, I’ve leaned to read body, hand and eye movements very well, so I may not know exactly what is being said, but I can detect the sentiment. As a career DJ, it’s taught me to listen to multiple things at the same time. Consuming more reality than the average person. It’s made me much more attentive to everything around me. A drawback is that sometimes, my focused attention can be taken away too easily because I’m quite sensitive.

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

New York City. The city never sleeps. It’s like an alarm clock they never shuts off. Crazy, but I love it. 

4. How could we make sound improve our lives?

I think we can improve our lives with sound by trying to achieve true  silence first. Then by strategically applying sound would make us more appreciative for the sounds that are more relevant. Like a baby crying or laughing, people having a conversation, nature, the sounds of life in general.

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

The sound of the ocean. 


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


Peter Vogel - The Sound of Shadows Documentary

We’ve seen some work by Peter Vogel on the site before, but for some reason I forgot about it, until I came across this documentary on the sound sculptures of Peter Vogel. His interactive installations are quite magical, and what I like about the documentary is that every part of it is demystified.

“Fascinated by the work of English neurophysiologist William Grey Walter (1910-77), who invented small robots (called Machine Speculatrix) that simulated basic neurophysiological behaviour, Vogel was intrigued to discover that, with the help of sound and light sensors, such machines could react to the world. Thus, at a time when many artists were pursuing the idea of the viewer as active participant, Vogel began to embrace interactivity as a major theme in his work. And all of this prompted him to move away from painting and start to create picture-like interactive objects.”

– Jean Martin. Full essay:

From very simple components, Vogel creates complex interactive works with a lot of character and depth. Very inspirational to see.


Five Sound Questions to Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard

Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard is a Danish composer who has been working with multiplying instruments to make the sound transcend itself, creating a pure new sound without references to anything. We’ve recently posted about SOUND X SOUND, his project devoted to this. How sounds have the capability to affect the human body, and how the human body is to be heard in sounds, is what he focuses on in his works.

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

I think the sound that made the most impression in my childhood, was the sound of our garden sprinkler. It was one of those sprinklers with a head, that would turn around and sprinkle water. The stream of water was abrupted by a piece of metal, moving very quickly, to make the water spread over a larger area, and this would create an exiting pattern of rhythms and water sounds. This sprinkler would change speed, first creating a slow rhythm and then suddenly move backwards in a faster speed and create a more intense rapid rhythm and dramatic water sound. I was quite fascinated by this.

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

I listen in different ways each day, and I don’t know why. Somedays my listening is focused on the intervals, melodic structures and tones that I encounter in nature, traffic, etc. On other days, my ears seem to be more focused on the rhythmic patterns of our surroundings- patterns that are often random and erupt and dissolves again. And third, my way of listening can have a bodily and mental focus. How does this sound make me feel? I like this way of listening the most, and I often experience it when I´m out in the nature-the sound of wind in the treetops, or some high grass that is swaying back and forth. I then feel that nature takes care of me, and I feel connected with nature in an mysterious and ancient way. I feel very grounded.

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

I grew out near the western coast of Jutland. It´s on the countryside, and I really favor this place because it´s so very quiet.

4. How could we make sound improve our lives?

I think that sound could improve our lives even more, if we were willing to recognize that sounds can have a healing effect in several ways. Of course soothing sounds that are often referred to as being “beautiful”, can make you feel good, but also noise and very confronting sounds can make you feel better, and be very soothing I think. If I experience a noise inside myself, it can be very soothing for me, to listen to very extreme noise- that noise absorbs my own noise and then I feel better.

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

I like waking up to the sound of my kids. If I´m not at home, I like waking up to the sounds of birds, or the sound of our old garden sprinkler.

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


Zadar Sea Organ

Zadar, Croatia is known for it’s beautiful sunsets. But since 2005, the coast of Zadar has even more to offer. In a redesign of the coast back then, architect Nikola Bašić made a sonic improvement as well. He installed this beautiful sea organ. I’ve seen or heard about sea or wind organs in Vlissingen in the Netherlands, or the Wave Organ in San Francisco we’ve featured way back. There are lots and lots of impressions on Youtube and Vimeo, but I’ve sought out some to post here:

The Zadar Sea Organ was brought under my attention when NTS Radio (a great eclectic radio station, playing everything from experimental music to house music), broadcasted a two hour recording of the sea organ.

I love the fact it sounds very otherworldly, but still very natural and flowing. Also great to see how people come there to relax and listen.



Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard is a Danish composer who, in his series SOUND X SOUND has been working with multiplying instruments to make the sound transcend itself, creating a pure new sound without references to anything.

The SOUND X SOUND series consists of a cycle of 7” vinyls where each release is an exploration of one single instrument, multiplied. The first release consists of music composed for 8 recorders. The aim is to get the instrument to exceed its own familiar sound and be transformed into a new and clean sound, by multiplying it. It was released on the 25th of november on Hiatus.

Currently, Niels is running a crowdfunding campaign for his next 7”, a fantastic spectral piece based on 30 chromatic tuners. You can watch the Kickstarter video below.

In these two cases, Niels uses the strengths of the instruments very well, treating the recorder as a single frequency and the tuner as a spectral building block. This tickles my curiosity; what will be the next instrument in the SOUND X SOUND series?


In Between

An exhibition can be quite a different experience than your everyday life, and it can even come as little shock. For the latest exhibition at De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, artist Henk Schut made an installation to bridge the gap between the everyday life and the exhibition.
In Between consists of 40 huge vibrating steel plates. By drowning out the ambience of the church when you walk along the plates, you slow down the transition from the bustling city of Amsterdam to the contemplative atmosphere of the church where the exhibition is held. The metal plates rumble with a low frequency, slowly transforming in sound character, but always continuous. The immaterial impact of the installation works on when you exit the narrow path of metal plates and enter the next space.
Henk Schut (1957) is a multidisciplinary artist from Amsterdam, who has been working with sound quite a lot for the last fifteen years. For sounds and spatialisation, he’s been working with sound designer Robin Koek for his most recent installations.
In Between is on display at De Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam as a part of the “Magisch Afrika” exhibition, which can be seen until the 15th of February 2015.

Sonify... Wi-Fi

With the coming of “the cloud”, and other services which rely on wireless internet, we’re living under the impression that Wi-fi is constantly around us. However, if you travel a bit like me, you’ll still often find yourself looking for Wi-fi. Furthermore, even when it’s around, the very fact that it’s wireless sometimes makes it a vague technology.
In the “Sonify…” series, we look at different ways of sonifying data. This time: Wi-fi signals. Phantom Terrains is a collaboration between science fiction writer Frank Swain and sound artist Daniel Jones. Swain has been slowly going deaf since his teens, and he’s been thinking about using hearing aids in different ways.
Phantom Terrains works by receiving a wireless signal on a hacked iPhone and sending the sounds to Swains hearing aids, connected via Bluetooth. After a few months of testing and experimentation, they’ve released the first audio of their sonification. Wi-fi is a very rich signal, almost as rich in data as our own physical surroundings. In urban life, it is almost constantly around us, so Jones made sure it sounded like something which would not be too intrusive, and could be around you all day. Distant networks are heard as a gentle clicking, which ticks more frequently as the wearer gets closer.
I think the fact that one could create an application where you’d be able to choose between different layers of sonified data is very promising. What other signals would we be able to sonify?
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