New piece arranged and performed in SuperCollider.
This piece is a demonstration of the Part-Aleatoric Sample Machine, a project I am working on to explore possible interfaces between human and non-human listening. In the PASM, a computer uses chance principles to select samples for playback and apply effects; a human performer decides how long each sample is played for, and also operates a simple sine wave oscillator.
The samples used in the piece were recorded at Linton Falls, North Yorkshire.
At the weekend I attended a workshop hosted by Birmingham’s Grand Union art space and led by Andrea Franke and Eva Weimayer of AND Publishing, with input from digital archivist Karen DiFranco. AND has amassed a sizeable number of pirated books to form their unique Piracy Collection, part of which has been made available to read at Grand Union over the past few weeks. The methods and intentions of the piracy differ from book to book, with artists’ modifications, unauthorised translations, commercial frauds, and publisher and printing house errors all represented. The task of the afternoon’s workshop was to begin to classify and catalogue some of these books. Established cataloguing systems were dismissed as ill-equipped to reflect the often unique provenance of the books in the collection.
An archive containing the SuperCollider code and audio sample can be downloaded here.
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I first came across artist Katie Paterson a few years ago when she made the streetlights along Deal Pier flicker in response to lightening storms for her work Streetlight Storm. Since then she has continued to make connections between ordinary, everyday objects and natural phenomena, ranging from nanomolecular technology to dead stars and quasars. In the process, she has developed close working relationships with scientists, often through residencies at leading research centres such as University College London’s Department of Astronomy and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. The recent launch of two new works seemed like a good opportunity to reflect on her conceptually rigorous and aesthetically engaging practice.
Two years is a long time these days. I can no longer make sense of most of what I wrote nearly two years ago upon seeing Jan Martens’ Sweat Baby Sweat for the first time, but luckily (and unusually, for contemporary dance) I had the chance to see it again at The Place in London, courtesy of the Dance Umbrella festival.
I’ve been a bit useless with sharing my thoughts about things I’ve seen over the summer, but a couple of things stuck in my mind long enough for me to finally get round to writing about them. Jeremy Millar’s 18-minute film Daphne (2013), seen at the Turner Contemporary’s summer exhibition, was one of those memorable things. The film was shot in the Photographic Collection at the Warburg Institute in London, and consists of numerous very long shots of filing cabinets, potted plants, whitewashed pillars, and piles of artworks stacked on tables or leaning against walls. Occasionally a cardiganed arm or the top of a head is glimpsed as members of the Institute’s staff sort prints into piles, or quietly discuss some aspect of how the Daphne of the film’s title, a minor figure in Greek mythology, has been represented in art over the centuries.
Seth Kim-Cohen’s In the Blink of an Ear: Towards a Non-Cochlear Sound Art (2009) is an odd book. On the one hand, the author lays on a relentless attack against what he calls “sound-in-itself”, or rather against those artists and theorists that would seek to reify such an imaginary sonic essence in order to posit it as the transcendent origin of the sound art they favour. At the same time, he articulates a version of Seventies Conceptualism that comes to replace the phenomenal sonic object as the underwriter and validator of what is now the sonic ‘text’. In the place of perception, he advocates an approach that understands sound art as a blank surface upon which the inscriptions of context — “sociality, gender, class, race, politics, and power” — can be read, going as far as to suggest that some sound works, such as Alvin Lucier’s seminal I am sitting in a room (1969), are better apprehended without listening to them.
An article I wrote in 2012 about polders, nature, and experimental ambient music has just been published over at the newly re-designed Fluid Radio. I think what I was trying to say was that Nature appears in the interactions between at least two (other) objects — a tree and a camera lens, for example, or a bird and a tree branch. Have a read, see what you think.
While you’re there, you can take a look at some of my recent music reviews and interviews.
There’s an interesting discussion going on over at Caleb Kelly’s Sound Thoughts blog about the nature of field recording to which I’d like to draw attention. To summarise: the discussion centres around Chris Watson’s Ynys-hir Dawn Chorus recording, in which the morning calls of various birds and animals can be heard. Kelly argues that an edit Watson makes in order to cut out the sound of a passing military jet results in a less authentic field recording, because while it seeks to remove traces of human intervention in a natural soundscape, the edit is in fact itself a human intervention, altering the record of what is found.
Arboretum is a short film made with leaves and twigs from the Forest of Blean, a study for a forthcoming larger project on tree dieback. Enjoy!
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