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Entries in sound (11)

Thursday
Dec072017

Of Nature and Things

Fedde ten Berge is a Dutch interdisciplinary oriented sound artist, whose works investigate the use of different types of material. Recently, he’s been working with ceramics expert Frank van Os to research the resonating qualities and electrical capacitance of ceramics. Three of these form the collection “Of Nature and Things”: installations in which the audience is invited to physically play the material.
In each work the ceramic is combined with another object made of another material. Some of the materials stay true to their natural form, like the block of wood in case of The Trunk. In case of The Shroom, people play a wet, smooth surface with their hands or a mallet. The Egg has the most alien form, and is mainly meant to be played by proximity, like a theremin.
As the objects are so alien but still approachable, and the interactions are quite novel (sound by proximity, dipping your fingers in liquid to create sounds), the objects offer a lot of room for exploration from the public.
The Shroom mainly focuses on translating different vibrations to sound, such as electromagnetic and acoustic vibrations. Through this translation, the designed sound merges with the acoustic vibrations. The Egg contrasts a very gentle shape with harsh sound and light, and with the ceramic trays in The Trunk one can play electronic sounds in a water-percussion manner.
Technically, the installations were built using the BELA: a low-latency audio board for embedded applications. It allows the installations to run without any other hardware needed, and makes them quick to set up and play!
Monday
Feb062017

Vertical Studies at Sonic Acts

The theme for this year’s biannual Sonic Acts festival (23-26 February, Amsterdam) is “The Noise of Being”. The festival generally focuses on contemporary and historical developments within art, music, science and technology. Over the last decade, the festival’s focus has shifted more and more from the universe to planet earth. This edition, it hits a little closer to home, speculating on the strange and anxious state of being human.
One of the commissioned works this year is the collaboration between Espen Sommer Eide and Signe Lidén. The two have worked together in the past during Sonic Acts’ Dark Ecology programme, recreating the historic soundscapes of the Russian settlement Nikel in the work “Altitude and History”. Through working with the local communities, they brought back the sound of wood being chopped, the lighting of the morning stoves, the sounds of animals and birds in the forest, which has since been burnt away. Vertical Studies builds upon this work.
For Vertical Studies, they reimagined the beautiful water tower in the Dutch settlement Sint Jansklooster into a vertical field-lab, where Eide and Lidén are introducing their ongoing investigations into connections between sound, history, wind and weather. For this, they use several specially constructed instruments, created for the recording and playback of sounds in the vertical dimension. By recording sounds using instruments with strings resonating with certain wind speeds, they created an archive of sounds of wind at various heights.
By using this material in the 46m high water tower, they are able to let the audience experience the effect of sounds at different altitudes in different ways, creating a kind of concert hall for vertically recorded sound. It’s quite the trip from Amsterdam (a 1.5 hour bus drive), but the building alone is already worth it, and to hear the ongoing research of Eide and Lidén in this unique space is quite the experience. It can take quite some time to get used to the space- I kept slowly going up and down the stairs, trying to find the right position to be able to fully take in all of the interventions in the space, which is logical with a piece in a new context like this. The artists use various ways of making the space resonate beautifully: by using glass resonators and very physical low resonating tones, they create a very diegetic work consisting of their archive of sounds. While the piece is about using the sounds recorded at different heights, the piece is also very much about the beautiful architecture of the water tower itself.
“Vertical Studies” can be visited during the upcoming Sonic Acts festival, which is from the 23rd until the 26th of February in Amsterdam. The excursion leaves on the 23rd from Amsterdam, at 12PM and 02PM. The installation in the water tower can also be visited on 4, 11, 18 and 25 February. Have a look at the website for more information.
Friday
May132016

Sonambient Sculptures

I’ve wanted to write about Harry Bertoia’s sound sculpture work for quite some time now, but never got around to it. As New York’s Museum of Arts and Design is currently showcasing a retrospective on his work, it seems like fitting time.
Bertoia (1915-1978), originally from Italy, chose to move to America in the 1930’s. First starting his career as a painting student, he soon got to work with metal as he was asked to take over a metal workshop. After the war, he was quickly able to devote himself to sculptural work as he had made a wire-chair for Knoll, a furniture company, which was selling quite well.
Bertoia got interested in sound while bending wire. The thin strand of metal, when it snapped and struck another wire, vibrated and made sound. What would happen if he bundled these wires together, and turned this hitting of one wire to another into a symphony?
This led to several Sonambient sculptures, art pieces which resonate when touched and put into motion. Betroia believed and loved that these sculptures did not need any musical training or understanding. Bertoia didn’t see himself as a musician or a sculptor, but somewhere in between. The sound of these sculptures was released on several albums. These have been grouped in the amazing release Complete Sonambient Collection:
The exhibition Atmosphere for Enjoyment is on until the end of September at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.
Tuesday
Jan122016

Solid Vibration

According to Wikipedia, Archaeoacoustics is “the use of acoustical study as a methodological approach within archaeology”. As sound is fleeting, it is pretty logical that the aural isn’t the focus of archaeology. In recent years, there has been more attention to this, primarily in the field of acoustics, architecture and archaeology. There has been a lot of controversy around sound encoded in ancient artifacts, such as a pot or a vase with ornaments that can be “read” like a gramophone record. Back in 2006, Mythbusters found out that while some acoustic phenomena can be found on pottery, it’s highly unlikely that one would find pots or vases with sounds like voices encoded into them. I am not sure if Ricky van Broekhoven had this in mind when he thought up Solid Vibration, but it sure reminded me of it a whole lot!
Ricky van Broekhoven’s SoundShapeLab designs sound and music that “exceeds perception with merely our ears”. For Solid Vibration, he worked together with designer Olivier van Herpt. Using Olivier’s ceramic 3D printer and a speaker, they are able to influence the printing process with sound. By letting the pottery wheel vibrate with a speaker, the creation is influenced and the vibrations are made visible.
We’ve seen different ways of visualising sound in tangible objects before. Never before something one can actually use, though. I wonder if van Broekhoven’s thought of a way to turn them back into sound again!
Wednesday
Oct282015

Tasteful Turntable

Nikolaj and Lars Kynde are two Danish sound artists/composers who are both obsessed with synesthetic experiences: in what way does music influence our smell, taste and sight, for example?
In their work Tasteful Turntable, their interest in the synesthetic is very clear. In an intimate setting, four participants take place at a low, rotating dinner table. Different peculiar looking bites rotate by on the table, while participants privately listen to corresponding compositions. The sounds create an “aural spicing” to the food.
When a light is cued, the participants simultaneously take a bite and put it into their mouth. The ritual this creates joins the participants together. The internal experience however, that of the fusion of what one tastes and hears, is a private experience.
Tasteful Turntable is one of the few projects that works with synesthetic experiences. A field which artists are just starting to explore, or so it seems. Research on the topic is also scarce. A very good theoretical review article, which I’ve used myself in the past when composing for taste, is Crossmodal Correspondences Between Sounds and Taste by Klemens Knöferle and Charles Spence. Let’s hope we see loads of projects with unexpected synesthetic experiences in the near future!
Saturday
Mar282015

Five Sound Questions to Lesley Flanigan

Lesley Flanigan is an experimental electronic musician living in New York City. Inspired by the physicality of sound, she builds her own instruments. Performing these instruments alongside traditional instrumentation that often includes her own voice, she creates a kind of physical electronic music. In her two-day “Residue” performance in the Guggenheim (below), she performs on minimal electronic instruments built from speakers and microphones. Periodically Flanigan enters the room and adds new elements to the system. As the textures react and build on each other, the space reverberates with subtle sonic imperfections, creating a physical sense to the sound in the space.

I found out about Lesley as she is playing some gigs in Europe, alongside sound artist Tristan Perich (whose Microtonal Wall we’ve featured before). One of them being the Fluister concert series in The Hague, the Netherlands on April 3rd. Furthermore they’ll be playing France, Switzerland and Germany as well in the coming days. Check out her website for more dates.

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

First, is the sound of my mother’s voice resonating within her body. This is a sound I would hear with my ear was pressed to her chest as she sang or read to me. Her voice was so warm, like a blanket. Second, is the sound of my own voice. There was a hallway in my childhood home that had a natural reverb, and I used to sing in that space when no one was home. It was not a large space, but when I sang, my voice would soar and fill the air like I was in a cathedral. 

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

When I actively listen, I am usually taking a long walk outside or sitting with my eyes shut. 

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

Oddly, when I think of places that I favor for sound, they are all very quiet places… where sound is almost, but not entirely, absent. 

4. How could we make sound improve our lives?

I think it’s about listening.  I feel that when we take time to truly listen to actively engage in listening to another person, to music, to sounds in nature and in cities, to all the many sounds in world around us — we give ourselves time to be present in our lives. That’s very meaningful to me.

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

Ocean waves. Birds. Trees blowing in the wind. My husband and daughter laughing. 

Thanks Lesley! See answers by other artists in the Five Sound Questions section, and be sure to check her out on one of her tour dates.

Tuesday
Feb102015

Listening is Making Sense

Listening is Making Sense lets you listen in on vibrations carried through thick wooden beams. The only way to experience the installation is by getting into physical contact with the resonant matter, by placing your ear directly on the wood.

Michele Spanghero is a sound- and visual artist whose work focuses on the acoustic art and the visual arts, trying to find a natural synthesis between these two forms. In this work that idea is clearly visible and audible, by using the material as a resonator.

In one version the viewer has to bend down to the ground and put his ear on some wooden beams to listen to the sound propagating inside them, while in another the spectator is invited to an upward movement to place his ear directly on the beam supporting the roof of the building to hear a sound that flows into it. The synergy between the physical and audible is something that’s quite unique about Spanghero’s works.

Friday
Feb062015

Microtonal Wall

1500 speakers, each playing it’s own microtonal frequency, collectively spanning four octaves. That’s what Tristan Perich’s Microtonal Wall is. For some reason I thought I’d posted it before, but I hadn’t. The work of Tristan Perich has been quite a fascination for me, ever since he made his “1-bit music”;  an electronic circuit assembled inside a CD case with a headphone jack on the side, playing back 40 minutes of lo-fi 1-bit electronic music, the lowest possible digital representation of audio. Microtonal Wall expands on this very clean idea by confronting you with 1500 individual 1-bit noisemakers, playing all at once.

The beauty of Microtonal Wall is that when viewed from a distance it seems like noise, but when inspecting the installation by taking a closer look reveals that the noise is actually made up of individual frequencies.

It’s a very simple idea, but a very strong one. Noise is something which exists in our minds only- we just can’t keep track of all the different things happening at once, so it becomes “noise”. By being able to physically focus on one aspect, you’re able to experience that in this installation.

Monday
Dec012014

Shimmering Beast

Nicolas Field is a musician, composer, and more recently, active in fine arts. He studied percussion in Amsterdam and The Hague, and is a founder of N-Collective, who strive to support and promote adventurous music.

His work “Shimmering Beast” is a huge, upside down triangle, formed by sixty cymbals and stands, bass-transducers and light. This monumental and visually stunning collection of cymbals strike eachother lightly because of a resonating floor, and produce a shimmering sound. “Shimmering Beast” was created during a residence in the Swiss Institute in Rome and was a part of the Needcompany performance Caligula.

This installation is one of many which can be seen at Orkest! a group exhibition featuring works by Rutger Zuydervelt, Julian Sartorius, Oliver Beer, Rubén D’hers, Michael Schmid, and Konrad Smoleński. Orkest! can be seen from the 7th of december 2014 until the 6th of march 2015 at the netwerk / centre for Contemporary art in Aalst, Belgium. We’ll feature some other works from this exhibition in the coming weeks.

Tuesday
Nov252014

Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More

Konrad Smoleński is an artist working in different fields, often collaborating with other artists and musicians. He works and lives in Warschau and Bern. His works are often big and sculptural, connected to sound or video.

His work “Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More”, is a sculptural instrument written for two bronze bells, two walls of loudspeakers and resonating objects, in this case resonating lockers. The composition links the rich symbolic sound of the clocks to the abstract sound of reverb and resonating noise. By using delay and other effects, Smoleński creates a world wherein history comes to a standstill.

This installation is one of many which can be seen at Orkest! a group exhibition featuring works by Rutger Zuydervelt, Julian Sartorius, Oliver Beer, Rubén D’hers, Michael Schmid, and Nicolas Field. Orkest! can be seen from the 7th of december 2014 until the 6th of march 2015 at the Netwerk / centre for Contemporary art in Aalst, Belgium. We’ll feature some other works from this exhibition in the coming weeks.