Wednesday, 10 December 2008

5 favourite sounds of 2008

simple....choose five favourite sounds heard in 2008 - they can be ones you've gathered yourself, heard in situ only or on recordings aquired....submitted lists will be added to this post upon reciept by email

chosen by Pablo Sanz:

1) Wind sounding through the windows of my attic on windy nights. Also the seagulls in the canal downstairs waking me up some days in the morning. (Den Haag, NL)
2) 1st Feb - Keiichiro Shibuya and Takashi Ikegami´s Filmachine installation. Exhibited during Transmediale 2008 (Berlin, DE).
3) 5th Jul - Jacob Kirkegaard´s Labyrinthitis live performance at Funkhaus Nalepasstrase during Tuned City festival (Berlin, DE).
4) 7th Nov - Mark Bain´s Archisonic (Maritime edition) live performance at the boat MS Stubnitz in Amsterdam (NL).
5) 30th Dec - The amplified sound of a faulty escalator heard at night during a field recording session at Chamartin train station. (Madrid, ES).

chosen by Pali Meursault:

1) A vine arbour in of Nodar, amplifying the wind and rumor of the valley through contact microphones.
2) The unexpected feedback in the 50 headphones of the audience during the soundcheck before a dance performance in Grenoble.
3) The undescribable drony rumbling coming out of a chinese speaking-clock while its batteries were dying.
4) A. tuning his throat singing to the engine of the bus while traveling in Chartreuse.
5) Vibrating magnets bought out-of-the-bag to an indian seller in a Paris café, producing a random insect-like metallic crackle.

chosen by Paulo Raposo (sirr records):
some personal tastings:

# Éliane Radigue, L´île re-sonante (CD released by Shiin)
# Alfredo Costa Monteiro, live performance
# Architecture and acoustic space of the national pantheon in lisbon in the project "book of hours" conceived with joâo Silva and using glass sounds moving and diffused through the space of the 80m dome
# Wind sounds at Serra do Caldeirão in Portugal and forest sounds at Kursiu Nerija National Park on the coast of Lithuania while starting to develop the ambar project with maksim shenteliev and john grzinich
# Mascavado 2008, produced by Grain of Sound and Sirr featuring delicate performances by Axel Dorner, Ko Ishikawa, Taku Unami, Masahiko Okura, Klaus Filip and N Moita.

chosen by Matt Davies (Bristol):
Here is my top five in no particular order:

1) Max Eastley's Kinetic Drawings at Bracknell Art Centre.
2) Humpback whales bubble netting on 'World on the Move' (29th July 2008).
3) Clifton Suspense Bridge, Bristol UK.
4) A red wing black bird singing to my skylight window as i was editing some bird song recordings.
5) The piano i recently rescued from the streets, which was about to be scrapped and has been outside in the wind and rain for several weeks.

chosen by Richard Skelton:

1) March 7th. A nameless bird's refrain, heard from Grange Brow, near the village of Belmont, Lancashire.
2) April 6th. The blanket of snow above Moses Cocker's farm, Lancashire, amplifying the sound of lapwings, tumbling and diving.
3) June 15th. The baptismal Yarrow on Anglezarke moor, and what the river said.
4) October 5th. The quiet darkness of Bun An Cnoic, Co. Galway, Ireland.
5) November 30th. A girl softly singing and playing guitar in the early morning.

chosen by Colleen:

1) Mozart :
I was convinced I didn’t really like Mozart until I started hearing Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida’s recordings of the piano sonatas, especially the slow movements : this is one of the most beautiful musics I’ve ever heard, so delicate it feels that dew drops, and not a human being, are behind it. Try the adagio of Sonata in F, KV 280/189e .
2) Sephardic songs :
I found out about the existence of Sephardic music this year with a CD by Françoise Atlan, Sephardic song, from the rose to the jasmine, which includes a wonderfully sad and moving lullaby called « Durme querido hijico ». Since then I’ve been trying to find out more of this incredible music that mixes such different influences.
3) Tams :
This year I was invited to write and perform a piece for the Présences Electronique festival organised by the GRM at the Maison de la Radio in Paris. They are very generous as they give you full access to the instrument storage room of the Orchestre National de France, a basement room within the building where they keep all sorts of instruments, including dozens of harps, vibraphones, celesta, and other instruments you rarely see in such large numbers. I chose three very large tams (I started calling them « gongs », but was told the real word was « tams ») and when I hit the first one, I just couldn’t believe the powerful beauty of that sound. The only way I can describe it is : the universe opening up in front of you – a really cosmic sound, and one that definitely can’t be recorded in a way that will do justice to the feeling you have when the tam is reverberating all around you.
4) Snow falling in japan :
My second tour of Japan started in mid-january, and on the first morning, awakening in the cold room of the badly-heated but beautiful old ryokan where I was staying, the most beautiful surprise awaited me : snow falling thickly over the roofs and streets, snow thicker than I had seen for a long long time, and which made a soft, muffled sound, that made the perfect unexpected introduction to a trip that proved to be wonderful.
5) My cat snoring :
because he sleeps with half of his nose buried in the duvet, he starts making this wheezy, irregular sound, and it’s a comical yet soothing and tender sound that makes me really happy to be there, in the warmth of a bedroom, with this strange furry creature dreaming beside me and leading his carefree life.

chosen by Ivan Palacky:

1) Psst – the sound of Mattoni mineral water in a loosely capped plastic bottle.
2) A newly discovered, really deep sound of my amplified knitting machine.
3) The sound of a steam outlet in the infection department of a children hospital in Brno.
4) The sound of a 2 meter long piece of a plywood fastened to the roof of a car going in the speed of 80 km/h
5) The Epiphone AJ-500 RC 12-fret guitar

chosen by Richard Pinnell (Cathnor):

here are five nice sounds from this year then, in no particular order:
1) Being whistled a lullaby by Antoine Beuger until I fell asleep, Glasgow, February.
2) The blend of Mark Wastell, John Butcher and torrential London rain, ResonanceFM studios, the last audition show.
3) The sound made by Dublin pedestrian crossings. A great sound that reminds me I am visiting Dublin, which is always a good thing.
4) London Sinfonietta's remarkable use of the Royal Festival Hall to perform Luigi Nono's Prometeo in May.
5) The quiet ticking of suspended strip heaters being naturally amplified around the incredibly resonant space that is St Mark's church in Angel, London, November.

chosen by Helena Gough:

1. automatic writing by Robert Ashley
2. Esther Venrooy @ de witte zaal, Gent, july 2008
3. porridge cooking
4. the massed sparrows of Berlin
5. the 'tiktiktiktikwhooomph' of my gas heater switching on

chosen by John Grzinich:

'2008 was full of explorations, collaborations and experiments and thereare certainly too many sounds for me to describe. I will restrict thislist to my personal creations, but I also heard some good performances, CDreleases and natural sound phenomenon'
- click on purple titles to hear -
1) "Old telegraph lines" in Southeast Estonia: I finally got to attach contact mics directly to the wires
2) The "sound walk" as part of the Sound as Space/Sound as Languageworkshop in August in Riga
3) Discovering the "water harp" while working in a river in Portugal. Itsso simple yet so amazing
4) "Junk in my backyard": kinetic collections of objects affected bynatural forces (wind, rain, snow)
5) "What is the sound of 21st century folk music?", enlightening andthoroughly enjoyable workshop with a great group of people I did at thebeginning of the year

chosen by Matt Sansom:

1) Helicopter starting engine, warming up and taking off
2) 'O nata lux' (Tallis) sung from one of the balconies at Kings Place, London
3) Stereo coil pick-up recording of AGFA photocopier
4) Dawn call to prayer heard from the deluxe suite of the Kariye Hotel, Istanbul
5) All distant drones: planes, helicopters, lawn mowers, street cleaners, boilers, air-con, traffic, fans, dehumidifiers, electrical hums etc. etc.

chosen by Maksims Shentelevs:

1) wind drone of electric supply wires. Recorded in Estonia. On the side of the countryside road. Its a special place discovered by John Grzinich.One wooden pole has shifted out of its base and only due to electric wires it still stays in its very unstable position. Instead of supporting wires it hangs increasing tension. It was windy night. Sound was intense and very variable. Recording was made with piezos, but sound was acoustically present due to resonation in massive pole. We recorded one hour of nice drone.
2) Steel wire in forest mountains of Topolo, Italy. Very clear sound of branches hitting wire. Sound travels inside wire causing sharp shots. I had long recording sessions with several piezos and mixer. I discovered very different types of sounds inside the wire. Sources of most still remain mistery to me. Very different structures of clusters and single punctual sounds. Sample is accessible on blog.
3) Small stones recorded with hydrophone in shallow stream in Perruel, France. Tiny stones and sand grain were swirling in constant turbulent motion behind large stone in the middle of the stream. I placed hydrophone just behind the stone and was completely captured by hypnotic rhythm – very constant but fragile at the same time. Almost casual structure of tiny crackings, rustlings and scrapings made its structure very lightweight and literally breathing with very clear and accentuated sounds.
4) Thunder recorded in Topolo, Italy from Morenos’ terrace (which has especcially nice wiev of low alp mountains). Basically 20 minutes of rain, starting with first heavy drops, intensive thunder rumbling (special of Topolo – as one of the most rainy places in Europe). Raindrops on roof tiles and leafs of the hillside tries, in the end of course – birds. Seems nothing special, but I found myself playng this record a lot afterwards.
5) Waves recorded at night on the seaside of Neringa, Lithuania. Place is very special itself for its outstending patterns of Baltic nature. It was very calm autumn night – no wind at all, warm air flowing from the sea. Sound of waves was very clear. In my experience its a rare occasion of intensive waves in calm weather.

chosen by Simon Whetham:

1) the island of ko kradan, Thailand, at night
2) Michael Moser's installation in a water tower in Berlin
3) the extraction fan of the spray booth at limbs & things, bristol, when not in use
4) Ernest truely performing human branding at the art container, Tallinn, Estonia
5) Bev sleeping
'all heard in situ - a tough task to narrow down five and i wouldn't know where to begin with recorded work!!'

chosen by Lucio Capece:

1) The “Devils Throat”, main fall at Iguazu Falls. Iguazu, Argentina. January.
2) My son Lennard ( 2,5 years old) imitating Nelly Omar. ( 97 years old tango singer).
3) A very low sound played by Kevin Drumm in Gent, Quartet concert. May.
4) Christian Kesten´s (singer) countertenor like singing. Duo concert in Berlin. August.
5) A very low sound produced by my bass clarinet with a 1,50 cardboard tube in the bell, in one specific corner of my practicing room.

chosen by Mark Wright (listed in no particular order):

1) Jackdaws conversational yaps as they circled Fountains Abbey in Oct.
2) Ventilation shafts high pitch screams on London’s Southbank.
3) The drawn out oscillating metallic drones within my broken sofa bed.
4) The tin can that rattled down my street last week.
5) Tom Waits’ voice at the Edinburgh Playhouse in July

chosen by Dave Ellis:

1) Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble with a string quartet at this summer's Hull Jazz Festival. Best live gig of the year by far. So good in fact that I really didn't want to hear anything else for quite a while afterwards.
2) Getting back into a warm bed at around 4.00 am recently and drifting off to sleep listening to the distant, melancholy sound of the fog sirens on the River Humber.
3) Imogen Heap singing 'Hide & Seek.' Her song has been around for a while but I only discovered it this year. Moving and humane electronica. I rushed out and bought the CD immediately assuming it would all be equally inspiring. Sadly not, but she's young yet.
4) Nitin Sawhney's Electric Prom with the London Undersound Orchestra. One particularly stunning piece featured Anoushka Shankar on sitar,
it is called 'Charu Keshin Rain'.
5) 'Tango Tarita' is my favourite piece by old mate Paul 'trombone poetry' Taylor. He performed it at the Humber Mouth Festival last June accompanied by drummer Keith Stutt, Peter Elsdon on piano with Gary Hammond on percussion. I wasn't in the band unfortunately, but young Hull bass virtuoso Ollie Hopkins did sterling service throughout and contributed a blinding solo.

chosen by Seth Bennett:

1) Hearing the Pentangle play in the pouring rain atthe Green Man Festival in Wales. I suppose technically that's a collection of sounds, but it was very nice. I was sharing a half litre paper beaker of red wine with Jo Burke and Mary Hampton, and we were all smiling a lot.
2) I played a gig with an improvising band from Leeds called Leeshu, and a pianist called Matthew Bourne, at which there were lots of sounds, but my favourite one came from the piano. I was deep in the middle of it all, with my eyes closed, when I slowly became aware of a strange creaking sound. I looked up to see Matthew standing in front of the piano wrenching it back and forth, making the whole structure creak and groan. It was a very nice sound.
3) I was in Geneva the night of the football Euro 08 final, and was standing on a sixth floor balcony as the final whistle went. It was a warm dry summer's night. We were across the city from where the "fanzone" was, so the sound of all the cheering drifted across the city, and mingled with sounds of celebration closer to where I was. Shouting, Car Horns, "viva espagna" etc. Whatever you think about football, it was great hearing the sounds of rejoicing across the whole city.
4) Walking in the Alps, I came across a herd of Cows. We were on the ridge of the mountain, and there was wind coming over the edge of it. The sound of the wind mixed with the sound of all the cow's bells.
5) The sound of my stove top espresso jug bubbling is a daily joy.

chosen by Lasse-Marc Riek:

1) the first word of my son
2) the first singing birds in early spring
3) the sounds of a epileptic seizure
4) moondog (left channel) johann sebastian bach (right channel)
5) the first snow in december

chosen by Peter Maynard:

1) The sudden wing flutter of a passing bird.
2) The sound when moving air disturbs a draped polythene dust sheet.
3) The sound of a page being turned.
4) I have a Hotpoint RTA41 refrigerator which from time to time makes the sound not that unlike the purring of a contented cat.
5) I had a hearing test recently and the sounds they play to you in order to evaluate any loss were pretty interesting and quite close to that which I would listen to anyway.

chosen by Paul & Kaajal Khimasia Morgan:

1) Birdsong at Entebbe Zoo, on the shore of Lake Victoria, Uganda
2) Our 6 month old nephew singing himself to sleep
3) Mark Wastell (tam tam) & John Butcher (saxophone) at Chisenhale Dance Space in Hackney
4) A Middle Sex (electronics 3 piece) live at The Greenhouse Effect in Hove
5) Alan Tomlinson (trombone), Steve Beresford (electronics) & Roger Turner (drum kit) at Safehouse

chosen by Coryn Smethurst:

1) Car driving with a traffic cone stuck under it
2) Dripping tunnel in Cumbria (recorded)
3) butterflies fighting (recorded)
4) Hoverfly buzzing (landed on windshield) (recorded)
5) Wind through trees - leaves are always beautiful (but painful to record)

chosen by Brian Olewnick:

1) Because I was concentrating unusually hard, Staten Island traffic and other sounds on April 26, for 45 minutes, as my part in the realization of Cage's "49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs".
2) Several occasions sitting in a waiting area at Newark Airport, one of my favorite sound environments: large interior space, muffled PA announcements, all manner of hums, dozens of languages being spoken.
3) Recordings of Keith Rowe from the Tokyo Amplify event.
4) Arek Gulbenkoglu/Adam Sussman's untitled Rhizome disc--76 minutes of next to nothing.
5) Rhys Chatham's Guitar Trio--three discs of almost everything.

chosen by Luis Costa (Binaural):

1) Tô – “Le Crock St. Laurent” (“Mandrola Autumn Soundscapes”, Madorla Netlabel 010)
2) Rui Costa – “El viaje de las golondrinas” (“Mandrola Autumn Soundscapes”, Madorla Netlabel 010)
3) Maksims Shentelevs - “16-36” (“Dérives”, Universinternational Ui-CD015)
4) Duncan Whitley - “Demolition” (“The Listening Project”, Slade Studios, London)
5) Manuela Barile - “Nest n8: Abandoned farm. Estonia” (Unreleased)

chosen by Jez riley French:

thought i'd better list some too & then got totally stuck - everyday I hear things that add so much to the simple pleasure of life. So I decided that i'd choose five sounds heard during some of the field trips i've made as part of the 'in place' project in 2008 (not in any order). Making choices outside this self imposed restriction would result in a list of things spoken by my daughter, Pheobe - whose voice is constant music and joy:

1) Thornwick bay inlet with hydrophones, East Yorkshire
2) glass bowl - Kettle's Yard, Cambridge
3) upstairs floor near dancer, Kettle's Yard, Cambridge
4) the danube near a rail bridge, Vienna
5) fallen leaves blown by the wind in the beguinage, Ghent

chosen by Patrick Farmer:

1) The rare sound of the Mandarin ducks at Oakmere park, Potters Bar.
2) Wind through the Pines at Gregynog University, Wales
3) Oxygen escaping through the rocks at the edge of the river bank, Newtown, Wales.
4) Wind through the damaged flagpoles along the pier at Aberystwyth.
5) Max Roach's drum beats on the Bud Powell track 'un poco loco'.
& three more:
6) The Cuckoos at Gobbions wood at 5am, Potters Bar.
7) Various resonances through my snare drum in Glasgow city centre.
8) The wind turbines at Rhyader, Wales.

chosen by Sarah Hughes:

1) The slurping Mallards at Churchstoke market.
2) Dry leaves in the autumn wind.
3) Otters at otter and owl sanctuary in the Peak District.
4) The silence at Ynyslas beach at dawn, Ceredigion
5) Canada goslings at Oakmere park, Potters Bar.
& three more:
6) The ambience at Pangshangar aerodrome, Welwyn Garden City
7) A glass tumbler rubbed against autoharp strings
8) The wind turbines at Rhyader, Wales.

chosen by Scott Sherk (

1) Walking on volcanic pebbles on black beach (Iceland)
2) Any sound resonating in the clear, cold air (Iceland)
3) Morning rush hour in the 86th Street 6 Train subway stop (NY, NY)
4) The sound of a distant chainsaw on a hot, humid summer evening (Lehigh Co., PA)
5) The reverb inside the enormous and, mostly, concrete Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral (Reykjavik)

chosen by freesound user daveincamas:

1) tree house during wind
2) thunderstorm 200806
3) storm in Oregon rain forest
4) The sound of dozens of Tundra Swans taking off from a lake. They use their feet on the surface of the water to gain momentum. Dozens of pairs of feet slapping the water surface make a very unique sound.
5) On the DVD of the film "Wall-E", there is a special feature called "Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds From the Sound Up". In this 18-minute feature, sound designer Ben Burtt explains how he came up with the
sounds for the film and also takes a tour of the Disney archives to look at and play with some of the sound-generating devices that Disney sound designers have used over the years. One of the devices he uses is a hand-cranked radio generator from WWII, which is used in the film when Wall-E is moving slowly in a quiet environment.

chosen by Mathieu Ruhlmann:

1) Sebastien's first word
2) Tranquille, British Columbia
3) Corey crushing hundreds of mouse skulls in owl barn, Barnston Island
4) 'Centre of the Universe', Vidette
5) Singing Stones/Sands, Tofino

chosen by Mark Valentine:

1) the sound of church bells deeply echoed in our stone chimney breast
2) the minute, rippling hiss of the singing sands at Jenny Brown's Point, Silverdale, with that strange sense that minerals might really speak and breathe
3) the calm, calm murmuring of a 19th century Ludgate Hill grandfather clock, like a discreet butler of time
4) Richard Skelton's 'Marking Time'
5) a few rare moments when silence, shade and the fall of light seemed to be on the verge of revealing something else.

chosen by Ben Drew:

1) Ensembles - Otomo Yoshihide
Exhibition at Yamaguchi Centre for artsand media, Yamaguchi Japan
2) John Butchers resonant spaces cd on confront
3) Louisa Martin @ the first last lmc festival
4) Michael Colligan @ lmc/arika's Self Cancellation
5) a pacinco hall in Fukuoka japan

chosen by Dale Lloyd (and/oar label):

1) Toru Takemitsu: "Dream Window" soundtrack
2) Puget Sound via water taxi all summer
3) Little Brigitte's angelic voice on Arsenije Jovanović's "Les Vents Du Camargue"
4) The waterbowls of Tomoko Sauvage
5) The soundtracks to "Chariots Of The Gods" and "In Search Of".*
(*ah the 1970s: when loose speculation was still fun and exciting...)

chosen by Julian Skrobek:

1) Michel Henritzi - Nothing (Dyin' Ghost)
2) Éric Cordier - Osorezan (Herbal)
3) Lucio Capece / Sergio Merce - Casa (Organized Music From Thessaloniki)
4) Miguel Prado - Dios aborrece una singularidad desnuda (Free Software Series)
5) Marc Namblard – Chants Of Frozen Lakes (Kalerne)

‘series invisible: audio work by Christoph Korn and Lasse-Marc Riek’

Over the last couple of years I have talked & written more about my work than before & one thing I often find myself talking about in a workshop or lecture situation is that very often some of the most important sounds I hear are the ones I don’t record, that it is equally important to press ‘record’ as it is to not press that button. It’s a tricky thing to explain as it is related to personal feelings and a momentary intuitive action.

This small book by Christoph & Lasse-Marc explores an act that could perhaps be seen as a theoretical attempt to remove the sound but retain the recording process.

‘Specific locations and their sounds are recorded on MD or DAT. Later on these recordings were deleted. This process of finding a location, recording and deleting it is then captured textually. The result is an audio-event noted and transformed into script’ (extract from the introduction - Korn / Riek)

The following pages each contain one set of details: location, date & time of recording, date & time of deletion & duration of original recording. After that there are several pages of notes with small details of some of the locations or related events.

It’s a hard book to review. In fact I feel that an essential element of this book is that, like the recordings themselves, it exists as an object on the edge of existing. Something to view out of the corner of ones eye rather than with full attention. For me, that is the best way to view this book. To glance at it, read the emptiness of the pages below the two or three lines of text and it’s blank dark blue cover.

So, when is a field recording not an actual physical recorded object....but still a recording, a creative act ? There are two answers that come immediately to mind:

1) When the process is retained and valued by those participating.

2) Simply, when we actively listen, when we turn on our ears. Whether we press record, don’t press record or press record & then lose or delete said recording does not alter the act of a sound passing into our memory, being recorded into our life experience.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

new releases of note

several new releases that sound interesting (reviews to follow):

Available now on prele records:

prl004: revenant : topolò

with: yannick dauby, olivier feraud, john grzinich, hitoshi kojo andpatrick mcginley.

tracks 1-5 : 46°11'17" N, 13°36'4" E; 19.10.06, 13:55:26+0100 GMT (52m28s)
track 6 : 46°10'58" N, 13°35'56" E; 19.10.06, 17:14:02+0100 GMT (8m31s)

CD + 12 page booklet

photos: john grzinich, patrick mcginley, hitoshi kojo mastering: patrick mcginley design: hitoshi kojo --
"revenant : topolò" was recorded in a forest near the italian village oftopolò, not far the slovenien border, during the "pushing the medium 3"symposium in october 2006. All sounds from "revenant : topolò" originated from materials foundin-situ, or from the space itself. No overdubbing or editing was done inorder to document this specific action and location in time. “revenant” is an ongoing project with open membership that focuses onsite-specific acoustic actions, or activiated environments. Each action isa document of a specific moment in time in a specific location.

and/oar: and/32

ISOBEL CLOUTER & ROB MULLENDER - 'Myths Of Origin – Sonic Ephemera Of East Asia'
format: CD+ (includes a PDF of extra photos)

At long last, after a culmination of delays amounting to 3 years, and/OAR is extremely happy to finally present a full length release featuring "singing sand" and "booming sand" recorded in Japan and Mongolia by British sound artists Isobel Clouter and Rob Mullender. "Singing sand", "booming sand", "whistling sand" or "barking sand" is sand that produces sounds of either high or low frequency under pressure. The sound emission is usually triggered by wind passing over dunes or by walking on the sand.Also featured are field recordings of a traditional Japanese Sawara Matsuri festival, a Suikinkutsu (underground water zither), Uguisubari (or Nightengale floor), Chion-in temple and Saiho-ji temple .The recordings came about as a result of a project instigated in late 1999, which bears witness to a long held fascination with how the environment generates and shapes culture, memory and myth. There was no desire to conduct any scientific or anthropological field work, but to collect a set of recordings which would serve to illustrate how precious the sonic environment can be, and to act as founding materials for a soundscape collection at the British Library Sound Archive.Track listing:1. Sawara matsuri, Singing sand, Suikinkutsu2. Kotohiki-hama - Kotoga-hama beaches3. Chion-in temple, Nightingale floor, Saiho-ji temple4. Dune ascent / descent5. Aosigetunoer descent6. Baoritaolegainuoer Natural Booming7. Baoritaolegainuoer descent8. Dune 3 descent9. Tibetan Prayer wheels, XiaheThe audio CD also features a PDF of extra photos pertaining to the recordings that can be accessed on a computer, and comes packaged in a four color digipak and a 12 page booklet.

on Sonoris:

– T921 (33:31) Michael Gendreau2 – D156 (21:11) Francisco Lopez CD2:1 – D138 (29:19) Francisco Lopez2 – M928 (21:02) Michael Gendreau

This 2CD set gathers two compositions each by Michael Gendreau and Francisco Lopez. TDDM is based on sound materials recorded in factories in Asia.The 2 Michael Gendreau tracks focus on factories sound environment meanwhile Francisco Lopez works more on machinery and engines. The result is a strong and intense body of work, a total immersion into industrial estates sounds. This isn't a work on microsound or lowercase music but a real physical experience.

Monday, 24 November 2008


Just back from a week in Zlin (Czech republic) appearing at the Mixer festival - run by students from the Thomas Bata University.

First impressions of Zlin aren't promising but spend a couple of days there & you'll soon find countless architectural gems. The city was more or less built by the Bata company as a factory town & the functionalist architecture is stunning.

Many of the old shoe factories are given over to small shops & most have empty floors that one can wander around recording. Of particular interest is building 21, designed by the great Czech architect Vladimir Karfik. This was the Bata company headquarters in Zlin & Bata's office is a standout feature. Basically it's a large square room with Zlinolium flooring & wood as far as the eye can see. A large desk & a wash basin in the corner - but the suprise is that the doors close & the whole office is basically a lift ! fantastic.

anyway, I could waffle on for ages but instead here are some pictures:

Monday, 17 November 2008

Jez riley French - 'pocklington canal head / wansford canal and watton beck' review

review from 'The Wire' (December 2008 issue):

'two pieces comprising untreated field recordings of Yorkshire waterways, recorded with the composer's self built hydrophones. He insists that it's not the technical perfection of a location recording that he's after, but a sense of emotional interaction with the landscape. That's not to say that he's slapdash with his methods - both tracks have a fabulously evocative tactile quality that clearly demonstrates the composer's attention to, and delight in the most minute details of sound. The result of such open-hearted diligence is a brief, captivating mini-cd, beautifully packaged (Richard Skelton's work comes to mind), and which reminds us that listening is the most important part of composition' - Keith Moline

*please note: there are now only 8 copies left of this limited 3inch release*

Matt Sansom

For those of you unfamiliar with Matt's work I strongly suggest you take a good trawl through his website (click here) which has a good collection of location recordings & extracts from several of his installations. He is also currently running one of the UK's only 'soundscape' courses - at Surrey University.

With many 'sound artists' now making use of field recordings (most with limited success & often a distinct sense of them jumping on whatever bandwagon they can to bloster thier lack of creativity & originality) the best of Matt's work captures something of his individual approach to his inspirations.

One such example is his piece 'heardhere' (for Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2007):

'The sounds we hear around us are dynamic. They signify our engagement with the environment and continually change as we move through and interact with our surroundings. The contexts created by these activities determine what and how we hear as much as the sounds themselves. Similarly, hearing and listening are shaped by the contexts generated our inner world of memory, intuition, emotion, desire, will, belief, and so on. As Douglas Pocock writes, 'something is happening for sound to exist ... it signifies existence, generates a sense of life, and is a special key to interiority.'

heardhere is a sound installation and collection of site-specific audio treatments for mp3-player. Strongly connected with the auditory culture of Huddersfield, the installation makes exclusive use of location recordings of the town centre and the audio treatments, although incorporating a broader range of sources, are designed as responses to specific town locations. Together, they raise questions about the status of what we listen to and the ways in which we listen. On one level it reasserts the idea of the musical value of everyday sounds, and on another it invites a response to the deeper significance of sound and of our connection with it.
The installation, using elements of repetition, reduction , and stillness, is an inwardly focused exploration of the elemental and essential qualities of the urban soundscape. In contrast, the site-specific treatments take listeners back into the environment for modified listening experiences of 'live' auditory space. The work as a whole is born of a desire to listen to sounds, their relationships, contexts and meanings in order to reflect on what they reveal and say beyond themselves' (from Matt's website)

audio extracts can be found here

Matt is also about to unveil a new work for the HCMF - a set of metal dishes permanently installed in the Colne Valley, accompanied by a sound walk - details here

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Nils Aslak Valkeapaa - 'Goase dusse' (bird symphony)

Many years ago now I ran a business distributing cd's - basically assisting small, specialist labels to get thier music into shops & on mail order catalogues. We had a strong reputation for tradition based musics & were, at that time, the only serious importer of musics from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark etc etc. It was during this time that I first heard Sami traditional music, a tradition based around the yoik (a form of sung poetry). Nils Aslak Valkeapaa was a particular favourite. Not only for his voice but because his works often combined the yoik with field recordings made in the Sami landscape. Many of the cd's released under his name (on the DAT label) were extended compositions for yoik, field recordings & occasional instrumentation. I should also mention that the same label released the cd by Johan Anders Baer - 'Mahkaravju' (dat12) which is, basically, Johan sat on the edge of a cliff yoiking to the ocean & the seagulls. As with much of Nils' output, in the wrong hands this could easily fall into the trap of being tacky, but thankfully it avoids that particular trap. It retains a creative, unaffected quality that speaks of a reality & the same is true of much of Nils' work.

I have to admit that I hadn't listened to any of the cd's by Nils I aquired for a few years but the other day I was reminded of the 'Goase dusse' cd (dat15) & gave it a listen. It's probably fair to say that when this cd was released (1993) it was one of the few 'field recording' cd's available that offered something a bit more than the new age approach & as such it made a strong impression.

The work, which won the Prix Italia Radio music award in 1993, is, as the title suggests, a symphony made primarily of bird song, with a short section also featuring yoik & the sounds of reindeer - and of course the sami wind makes itself heard. I'm sure some of you are thinking that this could be terrible & indeed it could well have been. However Nils' composition is simple & honest, leaving the sounds of the various birds to create thier own movement through the piece. Nils had a genuine and instinctive connection to his surroundings & this natural respect and empathy shows.
a short MP3 sample can be found here.

So, I decided to write about this work as I suspect many of you out there have never heard it. Indeed I think it's an overlooked classic of the genre. Sadly Nils died back in 2001 on his way back from a trip to Japan.

Do track the cd down if you can. It's well worth the effort & if you can't find it most of the DAT releases seem to be available to download & previewed from here.

Monday, 20 October 2008

new release of note: Greta Hoheisel & Norbert Lang

Bukarest Bucureşti – fragmente Greta Hoheisel & Norbert Lang (Gruenrekorder 068) - cd + book - limited to 500 copies
Nicely presented project for a start ! - so, let me get the cynical comment out of the way first: I'm really interested in photography & indeed the 'snapshot' style of some field recording & so in terms of the images it's fair to say that Greta's style is one that i'm familiar with - it's one that most creative photographers explore at some point - the focus on detail and the transformation of the everyday object or scene into a framed and revitalised image. Having said that it's not something everyone can pull off & in terms of this project at least the images do work & do convey a creatively pleasing impression.
When it comes to the recordings it's fair to say that they do fall into the 'snapshot' catagory & as they are well recorded then they do the job so to speak. I always hope to hear individual when I listen to recordings, something that reflects the interests of the recordist & with this approach that is both difficult to achieve & also not exactly the point. However I really believe that, like with the 'eye' of an interesting photographer, it is the 'ear' of the recordist that hopefully will come through. I think these recordings show something of that & certainly the collaboration between Norbert & Greta indicates a shared artistic searching.
I suppose if I had to say anything negative about the recordings it's that I personally crave for simplicity in snapshot recordings. I get a bit tired of discs that try to capture various odd or 'evocative' sounds - I feel that it can sometimes edge over into cliche. However, this is a personal viewpoint & no doubt has something to do with the sheer amount of recordings I listen to. I reckon most folks would find the recordings interesting & a fair portrait of certain elements Bucharest. There are plenty of the usual street scenes, snatches of music & prayer of course, giving a definate experience of the 'fragments of Bucharest' project aim but also recordings of music students rehearsing at the university (track 12) which I for one would have liked to have been much longer.
Reading back my comments so far I realise that it sounds like i'm giving this release a negative review. which is not my intention. It's another quality release from Gruenrekorder & is well worth the price. It certainly made me want to hear more of Norbert's recordings & to hunt for more images from Greta.
'Bucharest - fragments is a journey through a metropolis in continuous flux. It is a hybrid of exhibition catalogue, book and compact disc; containing photos, texts and soundscapes - three obstinate elements that reciprocally comment on one another.

The constant humming sound of the city, house walls that we pass by, the snatches of a conversation which we hear on the streets – fragments, that we are confronted with every day, but to which we nevertheless pay hardly any attention. It is not just the pompous and spectacular view on the city, that forms our relation to it, it is also the seemingly incidental and fragmentary occurence.

To seek for those fragments, the german photographer Greta Hoheisel and the sound-artist Norbert Lang stayed in the capital of the new EU country Romania, in Bucharest for almost one year. What they found was a complex urban realm between consumerism and tradition, between turbo-capitalism and religion. The outcome of their continuous striving through the sound- and cityscapes of Bucharest is a multimedia exhibition called »Bucharest – fragments in a box« and also »Bukarest Bucureşti – fragmente«, a hybrid between foto-catalogue, sketchbook and audio-CD.

The basis for the book-CD are 20 fieldrecordings that tell about the life in the city: About sudden horn concerts during rush-hour as well as about the rural idyl in the backyards of the city. Each of the 20 chapters in the book is dedicated to one fieldrecording on the CD, consisting of a sketchy text and photographs, showing deserted places around the city. The combination of those three elements generates a city mosaic full of gaps, that needs the pre-text of the observer and listener to be put together. Thus »Bukarest Bucureşti – fragmente« can be understood as a universal work about urban sound- and cityscapes in the 21st century.'

Friday, 10 October 2008

new release - 3inch cd of hydrophone recordings

. pocklington canal (early afternoon)

.. wansford canal and watton beck (early afternoon)

these waterways, close to my home in east yorkshire, have been a source of many days pleasure over the years. I have always had a fondness for small rivers and canals - thier banks to walk, thier unique hold on local wildlife and of course the varied and constantly fascinating, evolving sounds that exist due to thier pressence.

here are two pieces created from recordings made with hand-made and other hydrophones.


. limited edition release (46 copies)
. photo printed paper folded cover
. vintage postcard mounted cd
. 'in place' art card

£4 inc p&p

click here to listen & for order info

Andreas Bick - 'Dripping' (extract)

Andreas Bick - 'dripping'

'Dripping' - by Andreas Bick

A Sound Composition for the WDR Studio Akustische Kunst
Awarded the Prix Ars Acustica 2000
Editing: Klaus Schöning

First broadcast: 18th November 2000
full length: 29 min.

"Drip drop, drip drap drep drop. So it goes on, this water melody for ever without an end. Inconclusive, inconsequent, formless, it is always on the point of deviating into sense and form. Every now and again you will hear a complete phrase of rounded melody. And then – drip drop, di-drep, di-drap – the old inconsequence sets in once more. But suppose there were some significance to it! It is that which troubles my drowsy mind as I listen at night. Perhaps for those who have ears to hear, this endless dribbling is as pregnant with thought and emotion, as significant as a piece of Bach. Drip-Drop, di-drap, di-drep. So little would suffice to turn the incoherence into meaning. The music of the drops is a symbol and type for the whole universe; it is for ever, as it were, asymptotic to sense, infinitely close to significance but never touching it. Never, unless the human mind comes and pulls it forcibly over the dividing space."
"Water Music" (1920) – Aldous Huxley

'dripping' introduces the listener to imaginary rooms, whose physical structures are made
tangible by the composition of droplets generating sound. The droplets can be thought of
as being the echoes of a location system, which gives the listener access to a whole
microcosm of almost unperceivable sounds from the perspective of an insect. The initially
irregular dripping sounds describe a path through a "virtual" soundscape of various
different material consistencies. They then begin adopting rhythmic patterns that create a
hypnotic atmosphere as a result of their combined repetition and nuanced fluctuation. The
spectrum of dripping patterns ranges from the zero value (according to information theory)
of a steadily dripping water tap to the broadband noise produced by rain, though the
emphasis lies in experiencing dynamic dripping systems whose information content is
described approximately by the middle of these two poles (1/f-noise).

The melodic and rhythmic structures were created using dripping devices that were
specially constructed for dripping. The equipment comprised several burette-like droppers
that were connected to a water supply by symmetrically arranged hoses. The dripping
behaviour of each of the outlets influenced one another because the hoses were all
interconnected. Changes to the water pressure and flow velocity generated self-organising
processes leading to complex rhythmical patterns. The arrangement of resonating bodies
with different pitch characteristics beneath the droplet outlets led to the formation of
melodic structures – a free-running system of self-generating musical patterns was the
result. The dripping exhibited a rhythmical subtlety organised around a clearly discernible
pulse and demonstrated considerable musical complexity. In order to analyze these
complex structures, a looping technique was used which "drifted" through the material,
moving through it in tiny steps. This permitted a flowing shift to take place in the rhythmic
interpretation each time the loop was run. By using this montage technique, several
dripping patterns could be interwoven into dense structures that developed out of the
above-mentioned tangible rooms and "virtual" soundscapes.

'dripping' is divided into five sections based on the principle of the Chinese theory of Wu
Xing, or five phases. These five transformation states are generated by one another in an
endless cycle. Their characteristics can be attributed to the elements of wood, fire, earth,
metal and water. The resonating bodies that are used in each section correspond with these
elements and describe an imaginary room that is initially "scanned" using sparse and
isolated droplets. Over time, rhythmic references begin taking shape between the
individual droplet pulses, and complex structures start forming – a constant alternation
between contraction and relaxation and between ordered and disordered states underlays
the whole composition.

• The sound of a droplet
Droplets do not produce a sound on their own nor do they have their own characteristic
sound (despite the fact that they have a tendency to oscillate in zero gravity). Only when
they strike an object, i.e. a resonating body, do they generate a sonic event. This
percussive event is isolated and amplified so that listeners can immerse themselves in the
sound and experience it at an as yet unfamiliar proximity. The listener begins to notice that
although the drops produce a superficially uniform sound, each impact does in fact
generate a different reverberation in the resonating body, the overtones ring out slightly
differently and the drops splash and scatter into thousands of tiny droplets that can be
heard as a light drizzling sound. This seems paradoxical: no droplet is the same as the next
despite the fact we tend to accept the notion that they exhibit some kind of universal and
recurring self-similarity, whose shape any freefalling liquid takes on. In this perfect
embryonic state, liquid molecules attempt to reveal as little of their surface area to their
surroundings as possible. To see the world in a grain of sand – to recognise the cosmos in
a droplet of water if we look, or in our case listen, closely enough.

Another dimension was added to this basic phenomenon in the form of a varied assortment
of resonating bodies – the instrumentation. The resonating bodies are associated with the
above-mentioned five elements and only idiophonic objects were chosen which resonate
naturally after the impact of a droplet. Some resonating bodies were available in various
pitches and were used to create melodic structures. Instruments made from metal, wood,
glass and clay were used, such as flower pots, agate disks, wooden boards, cognac glasses,
singing bowls and gongs, but also materials like sand, gravel, stone, plants, leaves, foliage,
metal sheets, etc. played a role. Other unusual sonic events were also incorporated, such as
the vaporisation of water droplets on hot coals, the dancing of a droplet on a stove hotplate
and the impact of a hot droplet on ice. Some recordings of droplets falling into vessels of
water were carried out using an underwater microphone. Various instruments and
pentatonic pitches were combined to produce a harmonic structure that was subject to
constant change due to the overlaying of individual resonances (implied harmonies).

• Creation of droplet patterns
The droplet patterns were created using a dripping device based on the research equipment
used by experimental physicists investigating dripping water taps. Research showed that if
water droplets, initially of the same size, were produced at the same regular intervals, and
the flow velocity within the water tap was then increased, a phenomenon known as period
bifurcation would occur causing pairs of droplets of varying size to be produced per unit of
time. Further increase in the flow velocity caused additional period bifurcation, which
produced an irregular series of droplets just before the formation of a constant stream of
water. The behaviour of the system described irregular curves on a graph, which are called
chaotic or strange attractors, and point to deterministic concepts for the random behaviour.
If several droplet outlets are combined, however, a global coupling starts taking effect that
leads to a synchronisation of the individual drop sequences and to 2, 3, 4...n-cyclical
period bifurcation. Furthermore, after a new droplet separates, the visible trembling of the
remaining droplet suspended from the outlet seems to influence the behaviour of the
dripping system. It seems that the high frequency oscillations involved in this trembling
constantly excite themselves and lead to a subtle variation in the point in time at which a
droplet separates.

The dripping device was constructed as follows: a water bucket was suspended from the
ceiling. The bottom of the bucket was fitted with a hose and the flow of water through it
could be controlled precisely using two taps. This hose was connected to the actual
dripping device, which had to be mounted at a height of at least 1.50 to 2 m above the
ground. To ensure a constant flow rate, the water container must have a surface area of at
least 1 square metre and the droplet outlets should be positioned 1 m below the water
surface. Various dripping devices were used – generally hoses arranged in a circle with
equally spaced droplet outlets. Various resonating bodies could be placed on the ground
and recorded using separate microphones. The water drained away into a children's
paddling pool and the resonating bodies' immediate surroundings were dampened with soft
material to prevent splashes and drained water from spreading.

The following parameters can be used to influence the drop pattern: the density of droplets
and therefore the dripping speed can be changed by adjusting the water flow. The use of
various types of outlets leads to a range of different droplet sizes and other rhythmic
structures. By using more viscous liquids such as oil or glycerine, more sluggish, slower
rhythms could be created without the universal mechanisms of droplet formation being

• Rhythmic pattern and ambiguity of the material
The rhythmic patterns generated by the above dripping device have certain qualities:

• The listener perceives a clear rhythmical underlying beat that is paraphrased ncyclically
by the dripping or, expressed musically, paraphrased in quarter, eighth
and sixteenth notes and in triplets. However, the listener does not perceive any
rhythmical emphasis, the "one" becomes blurred and can conceivably occur on any
beat. This ambiguity of the rhythmical material means it can be interpreted
musically in various ways.

• The ostinato rhythms appear to be repetitive only superficially – the rhythmical
subtlety is actually subject to constant change, each passage is different from the
next. This is where a fundamental principle of nature can be experienced: on the
macro-level, cyclical processes and pattern-forming processes take place
conforming to simple uniform natural laws. However, on the micro-level, every
single unit proves to be totally unique.

• The finest rhythmical quantization of a series of droplets is around 20 pulses per
second, i.e. near the frequency at which the human brain is no longer able to
discern them. This is an important basis for the application of the above-mentioned
looping technique.
This montage technique involves works with the axis of the pulse running through the
polyphonic dripping pattern. This pulse is used to split the audio material into time
windows that drift through the rhythmical material. After every repetition, however, the
window jumps by one unit (for example 1/32 of a beat) in the direction of the time
axis and causes a drift. Because of this, a rhythmic cycle occurs in 32 different versions
before a repetition takes place. Our hearing, however, is too slow to discern this minimal
offset. What we hear is much more a flowing, shifting rhythm moving around a constant
centre, which, in the case of a 4/4 rhythm, corresponds with the 2nd and 4th beat.
Furthermore, we hear 33 instead of the expected 32 loops, which means we perceive the
pattern at a slightly higher speed. This new tempo can be calculated according to the
following formula:
New tempo = original tempo + (original tempo / (unit / loop length)),
whereby "Unit" represents the number of offset steps per beat and "Loop length" stands for
the length of the loop in quarter notes (i.e. 2 in the case of a 1/2 beat, 4 in the case of a 1/4
beat, etc.).
This montage technique can be used for all rhythmic recordings but it has the most
pleasing effect if the value for the offset steps is at least around 20 pulses per second, i.e.
around the frequency at which the human brain can just about discern separate pulses.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Austria September 2008

just back from a few days spent in Vienna visiting my friend Frank, who's rather good at knowing where the best old coffee shops are - you know, the ones where they haven't been gutted & turned into faceless, bland spaces. The ones where the wallpaper has turned brown !

I took some recording equipment with me but actually hardly made any recordings. As i've mentioned elsewhere sometimes I just don't feel like turning on the recorder, even if I make the effort the results leave me cold. However I did make a few on the trip we took to a mountain trail some 1 & a half hours drive from Vienna. A small water mill offered up some nice sounds but the highlight (recording wise - the scenery was, of course, breathtaking) came when we reached the reservoir. The water level was such that the horn-like overspill channel was exposed & from it emerged a tonal, bell-like sound - a mixture of rushing water & the effects of the massive and focused reverb. Unfortunatly it wasn't possible to get really close to the opening but I still managed to get some nice recordings from a short distance away & am currently talking to the Austian water company responsible for this reservoir about returning & making more extensive recordings.

Whilst in Vienna itself me & Frank went to an opening for an exhibition featuring artists from the UK - it was, probably, the worst i'd been to in a long time. The work was badly concieved, badly chosen (2 works being almost identical) & displayed / installed with a heavy hand to say the least. Each to his own of course but....So, me & Frank sat in the car afterwards feeling somewhat at a loss when suddenly a girl who had been standing at a nearby bus stop calmly walked up to the side of our car, turned round, adopted a starting position & then ran as fast as she could back towards the bus stop & her waiting friends - all laughing of course. It took us a few seconds to realise that she had been testing herself against the street corner speed camera ! (she reached 7km). Now that was the best peice of art i'd seen in Vienna !!!! & it made that evening worthwhile after all.

Unfortunatly, music wise, I had a not so enjoyable experience when we attended a concert at Alte Schmiede:
Sigrid Trummer (piano) performed works by Katharina Klement (reell leer, 2004), Oskar Aichinger (Ouverture ouverte, 1995), Bernhard Lang (Differenz/Wiederholung 12 Cellular Automata, 2003 & Michael Amann (Indian summer, 1999).

The room acoustics made the piano sound rather dry for one thing. The pieces themselves were, perhaps, ok - some rather clumsy and full of the usual 'serious contemporary music' tricks of the trade. The works by Lang, Aichinger & Amann had some good moments but I have to say that the pianist was really not the best person for the job here. I understand that she is more associated with work from the 19th century but there was something in her approach to these pieces that raised serious concerns for me. For a start she played as if she had no real knowledge of these pieces (made more worrying knowing that she had performed some of these works in the past so must have 'known' them for sometime), her eyes rarely leaving the scores. I am of the opinion that music needs performers who have an instinctive connection to the work for it to be performed at its best, but in respectful hands should still offer up something of its intent. I felt that wasn't the case here at all. Sigrid wore shoes that made sound whenever she used the pedals for example. Her transition from playing the keyboard to the sections in Klement's piece that required her to play the inside of the piano was noisy and clumsy, breaking any journey that the piece was making. Her choice of pieces showed a real lack of ability to know how contemporary works can work best together - it felt as if she had given no thought to the overall shape of the evening. She left barely a second of silence after each work before gesturing for applause &, well, to put it bluntly, she made it impossible for these works to be appreciated. Oddly, three of the composers were at the performance & seemed pleased so perhaps I missed the point, though this only made me wonder how they would react if these works were performed by one of the few pianists able to approach such work with a more sensative focus. Perhaps Sigrid's rather cold, stiff style of playing appealed to them, but for this listener, as you can tell, it made me rather annoyed. The concert was free but I still felt like asking for my money back ! (nb: this paragraph is part of my grumpy old man therapy !)

So, on my way to the airport to fly back to the UK & with only perhaps 20 minutes of recordings made I had some time to spare before catching the U. I sat on the banks of the Danube, put my binaural mics inside an MP3 pouch & recorded for 28 minutes the sounds of the river itself, the nearby U bridge, passing swans & the wind blowing the nearby trees. As often the case, this random & quite casual pressing of the record button resulted in a really pleasingly simple recording (to me at least).

all in all my trip to Austria & the experiences mentioned above resulted in a reminder of the importance of sensativity & simplicity - and not getting caught up in the negative elements of ones creative urges - leaving the recorder in your bag is often just as valuable as taking it out !

link of the month: October - radio aporee

interesting sound map set up by Udo Noll - take a look & do add your sounds to the map:

radio aporee ::: maps is an open project about the creation and exploration of public sonic layers. it collects and organizes sound recordings from daily surroundings and living spaces all over the world. the sounds are organized within a mashup system of mapping software, databases, telephone networks and the Internet. sites and sounds can also be explored and accessed in situ by recent GPS-enabled mobile devices.

the project reflects on actual changes and developments in mobile computing and so called locative media, which we assume to be crucial to the way we experience our near future daily life, where media and markets will emerge at the precise position of our body. whether and how we can create and keep unoccupied spaces aside from predetermined functions and fictions, is an important question to the project.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

seeds & bridges 2008 # 2

Being both a performer and an organiser of live events leads to all kinds of issues sometimes & here in Hull, where very little in the way of truely creative contemporary music takes place, one is always concerned about the audience both in terms of whether anyone will turn up and how they will react when they do.

With last night’s ‘seeds & bridges’ event featuring Angharad Davies, Catherine Kontz & myself we were all pleasantly surprised by the turn out (which left only a couple of empty seats) & more importantly the quality of it. Despite the fact that approx. 80% of those attending had no prior experience of contemporary composition everyone remained quiet, listened intently and several also spoke to us after the performances to ask interesting questions.

below are the programme notes:

‘….tonights concert bridges the area between improvisation and composition. The pieces chosen often allow for both compositional presence and flexibility for the performers – hence leading to music that stretches the path that winds between different focuses and subtleties’ (JrF)

Angharad Davies – solo improvisation (2008)

Alvin Lucier – ‘East Yorkshire (memory space)’ (1970 / 2008)….performed by Davies / Kontz

‘a memory of a space or environment specific to the geographical location of the performance forms the ‘score’. The players attempt to re-create this memory using only their chosen instruments or voices. In this instance Angharad & Catherine took notes whilst standing below the north tower of the Humber bridge & these formed the score for the piece’(JrF)

Catherine Kontz – ‘Woollen yarn’ (2008)....performed by Catherine Kontz

‘Woollen Yarn is a graphic score written for one performer playing three instruments. It belongs to the 'Woollen' series of pieces which I started in 2005 with 'Woollen Laces' and for which I sew the graphic instructions onto a black canvas’ (CK)

Thomas Stiegler's – ‘Sonata Facile’ (1993)....performed by Angharad Davies

…is the final part of the 3- part cycle "Kammerkomplex". These pieces approach the instrument as if discovered for the first time. "If you conceive of the instrument as a landscape," the composer says, "you find yourself confronted with a given infrastructure, a texture of possible routes: some predictable, some bumpy and wildly overgrown." In this landscape the pieces, as it were, explore various routes, learning the way as they go. In "Kammerkomplex" Thomas Stiegler conceives a constructive reduction of violin playing as a kind of virtuosity. A maximum of adventurousness and sensitivity is required from the player: a loving wrecklesness - Antoine Beuger


Pauline Oliveros – ‘The witness’ (1989)....performed by Davies / Kontz / French

‘The structure of ‘The witness’ consists of three strategies for listening and responding with guidelines for the use of the strategies. Appropriate spatial relationships are to be developed by the players during the performance through awareness of height, angle and distance and it’s effect on sound’ (PO)

Henri Vaxby – ‘Violin & Voice’ (2007)....perfomed by Angharad Davies

‘Derived from a series of compositions for strings based on the overtones of each instrument's open strings, 'Violin and Voice' continues to explore this sound-world with the help of the player's voice. First performed by Angharad Davies at Ad hoc 2008, London’

Christian Wolff – ‘Instrumentalist(s) – Singer(s)’ ....performed by Davies / Kontz / French

‘a series of melodic options and interactions are set out and acted upon by the players without the aid of any written score. One intention of pieces such as this, based on strategies for performance, is to allow the composition to be guided by the composers ideas and, at the same time, by the chosen performers own artistic sensibilities’ (JrF)

Catherine Kontz – ‘seeds (for dulcitone)’ / ‘bridges (for dulcitone)’ (2008)
....performed by Catherine Kontz

‘The graphic and spatial notation used in this set of two short pieces defines pitches, registers and dynamics precisely while leaving a little freedom in the actual placement of 'events'. 'Seeds' - 'Bridges' was especially written for tonight's concert’ (CK)

‘The dulcitone is , basically a small keyboard that uses tuned metal bars to produce the notes. It is a forerunner of the celeste & was manufactured from the late 1800’s up until the mid 1930’s. The instrument used tonight is my own & the pieces take into account the rather unique nature of it’s condition. Restoration of these instruments is almost impossible due to the sprung steel and tuned bars’ (JrF)

Davies / Kontz / French – ‘intuitive composition for trio’ (2008)
....performed by Angharad Davies, Catherine Kontz & Jez riley French

‘A compositional arc develops from the intuitive interaction of the chosen players. The outcome hovers between a successful forward momentum and the inevitable fragility of focused interplay’ (JrF)

Thursday, 14 August 2008

'Air vent' - Will Montgomery

see post below for further details

air vent bnc.mp3

Will Montgomery - 'Air vent'

Sometimes, late at night, I'm aware of sounds in my bathroom that don't seem to come from my own flat. Children's voices, music, the whistle of air. But all this activity is very faint and often I don't even notice it. This recording is a snapshot of that sound. There's no pump or fan on the vent - the movement of air is the unaided 'breath' of the building - Will Montgomery, August 2008
mp3 above
more info on Will can be found at:

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

new releases of note: Davis, Milton & Saade + La Casa & Peyronnet

Matt Davis, Matt Milton & Bechir Saade - 'dun' (another timbre)

Exquisite music by a trio described in The Wire as “three young musicians re-inventing improvised music”. Matt Davis and Bechir Saade, who are quietly building reputations for themselves as two of the rising stars of the improv world, are joined by newcomer Matt Milton whose quiet, careful violin playing underpins these three beautiful pieces.
“A world in which silence, or near silence, is as important as producing a sound…. One that unfolds its beauty in a peaceful way.”
- Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly

Eric La Casa & Cedric Peyronnet - 'La Creuse' (Herbal records)

'Our project is defined by its aim: to represent in sonic terms, and in duo, a particular environment – a triangular area in the north of the Creuse département in central France. In the first place, based on cartographic representations, we set about breaking down the chosen territory, an area between the Petite Creuse and Grande Creuse rivers, into specific sites. Secondly, we placed the map ‘under surveillance’, as it were, conducting sonic surveys in the selected sites. These surveys led us to a geophonic approach, each based on a development of specific auscultatory techniques, in which the wealth of sounds collected nourished our research into (sonic) territoriality. The aim of the project was not to replace image with sound but to give that which surrounds us a (sonic) body; to give landscape a sonic corporeality. It might be that, being unrelated to notions of admiration that go hand in hand with seeing, a sonic evaluation can go some way towards confounding our a priori notions of landscape. Thirdly, the resulting data gave rise to an ensemble of exchanges/interactions, enabling formal variations. For one of these formalisations, musical composition, we chose the following protocol: each site was given a musical interpretation by a composer, his work being based on the site’s specific sound-bank. The composer then sent his piece to a second who, with recourse to his own bank of sounds, responded to the first interpretation. The second composer redefined the composition, adding his own sounds also. The final interpretation, therefore, is based as much on the layered listenings and recordings formed at the site itself as the musical conceptions of each individual'

Friday, 1 August 2008

a favourite place: Halle Saint-Pierre by Julien Skrobek

a Favourite Place: The Halle Saint-Pierre

One of my favorite places in Paris is the Halle Saint-Pierre, a beautiful piece of Baltard architecture giving on the gardens of Montmartre. It is literally at the foot of the Sacré-Coeur. It's a place dedicated to Art Brut, or Outsider Art, but it's not only a museum, as the gallery, book-shop, auditorium and café are on equal footing with the exposition. The architecture creates a natural reverberation, and spending an hour in this place is a lot like listening to a recording by Akio Suzuki: the sounds, while clearly identifiable, warmly reverberate all around you.

Of course I love all the great expositions that have been held here. I am especially grateful for the Jephan de Villiers expositions. He's a sculptor who has created a miniature civilization out of things he picks up during his walks in the forest. It's interesting that Eric La Casa has made an 'audio portrait' of Jephan de Villiers called Voyage En Arbonie (Editions Mémoires). It's a great record. Jephan de Villiers talks (in French) about his art, but La Casa introduces many sounds in the portrait, obvious ones like rustling leaves, or the wind, but also strange drones which can act as a subconcious expression of the artist's discourse. I can understand that because when I visited the exposition at the Halle Saint-Pierre, I could really hear voices and noises that seemed to come from those little creatures. To me, art brut, naïve art or whatever you call it, has this in common with sound art: its practitioners often collect pieces of material when the time is right (autumn for Jephan de Villiers) then process this material, by altering it or by making juxtapositions. Sometimes, art is in the choice of material itself. I think Morton Feldman said something to that effect...

I have never experienced such things in other museums, because the Halle Saint-Piere offers an incredible mix of sounds that are unintentional. I'm not too interested in sound installations in general, but it's a thrill when sound pervades life and art and provoke unsolicited emotions.
It's not unusual to see couples or families spend some time in the café, or people reading the papers, or wandering through the bookshop. The place never falls into the “silent sanctuary” mode of museums.

There are children crying on Wednesday afternoons (no school in France on that day), and it never fails to connect in my mind with the kind of art exposed. After all, those children are visiting a place where childhood holds a special place. Sometimes children's work are exposed, there are wonderful books of children's drawings at the bookshop. It reminds me of the clichéd reaction to art brut: 'a 2 year-old could do it!' Well, there are workshops organized for children and teenagers, so they can give it a try... I know I spent hours looking at children drawings in the bookshop.

Of course there is the noise of the café, the percolator, the voice of the guide, the waitresses taking orders in all languages, the creaking staircase leading to the first floor's exposition and the constant flow of tourists coming back from their visit to the Sacré-Coeur... To me that's the soundtrack of art brut, because I've been there so often. Isn't it funny how we come to associate certain sounds with concepts that sometimes have no real connections for anyone else, all because of our individual context ?

Concerts are sometimes organized at the Halle Saint-Pierre, but not too often, and frankly I much prefer the unsollicited concert of noises that take place there everyday.
Of course, it wasn't too long before I got the idea to use those sounds in my music. I started coming to the place with a minidisc recorder. I wanted to use them as a background for a piece I was doing at the time called Membra Disjecta. I wanted the final result to sound like a live recording, except that all the elements would be separated. Many rock bands used to do this in the 70's and 80's: record in the studio then add some crowd noise to pretend it was done live. I thought it was a pretty cool example of deconstruction from an unexpected musical area...
Eventually I did not use those recordings. It turned out the place completely dominated the composition I had. I could have accepted this, because I knew and loved Taku Sugimoto and Radu Malfati's 'Rhizz' piece on Futatsu, where the sounds from the venue are much more prominent than the notes played. I think that the place simply didn't need my sounds to be a piece of music. For the first time, I understood how an unedited piece of field recording could really be considered as music.

nb: in order to retain Julien's written 'voice' I have not adjusted any grammer issues for English - it is not important to subject us all to these obsessions (JrF)

Saturday, 26 July 2008

JrF interviewed by John Grzinich

John asked me some questions & posted the interview on his blog - do take a look here.

Goh Lee Kwang exclusive mix

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

recording diary - July 2008: Oxford & Cambridge

just back from seven days spent in Oxford & Cambridge:

Oxford: recording the JdP

Part of St. Hilda's college, the Jacqueline Du Pre building is a purpose built concert hall named of course after the cellist. Jacqueline's playing was an early inspiration for me - catching me in the midst of new wave I found the experience of hearing her ability to communicate emotion within the construct of composed music a total revelation. So, when I was selecting building to record as part of the 'in place' project & composition it seemed obvious to include the JdP. It should also be pointed out that the opportunity to have unrestricted access to the building via the extremely helpful JdP administrator, Clare, made this trip very productive.

Both this building & Kettle's yard in Cambridge were ones that I expected to produce the quietest recordings. Partly because they are quiet spaces & partly because I think of them as places of stillness in some form. However this very fact meant that even the smallest sound was made more obvious & so the most interesting recordings from both buildings have been the sounds of surfaces and vibrations.

The internal spaces of the JdP itself has a smooth, almost liquid 'silence' to it & whilst I came away with several hours of material, I think perhaps only an hour or so actually captures the memory of the place.

Gaining access to the roof space revealed an impressive array of acoustic constructions designed to baffle the sound of the ventilation and air conditioning systems. So out came the contact microphones !

I also met up with two fellow recordists: Peter Maynard (who has a new cd available via Sound 323 I believe - it features some found sounds, along with guitar & other objects) & Pablo Jones

We spent a friendly and informal day wandering around & getting to know each other a bit & I think by & large limiting the number of folks to two results in a more personal and creative time for all.

Cambridge: Kettle's Yard.

One of my favourite places for sure here in the UK - see here for more background info.

Having access to this unique space outside public opening hours was a real treat - just to sit in the various rooms without anyone else walking around was fantastic.

Recording wise I spent most of the first of my 3 days there capturing the sound of each room & finding that, as with the JdP, the still atmosphere only made any other sound seem more intrusive. Here the traffic outside became tiring until I shifted focus to capturing the sound of the various surfaces around the building: wood, stone, glass, ceramics - all giving off a rich and diverse range of sounds.

Particularly with Kettle's Yard, it is the emotions I feel towards the building that affect what I take from making these recordings. Sometimes it is the sheer pleasure of being able to interact with these structures.

I feel excited by the sounds I found at Kettle's Yard - they are different to what I thought I would come away with & yet they have, I feel, captured that stillness, that reflective nature and the celebration of objects and light that are so important to ones experience of being in the various rooms.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

recording dairy - June 2008

since returning from the Czech republic i've been testing some new Aquarian hydrophones alongside a new design of my self made piezo based ones.

I spent a warm and windy day at Wansford Canal & Watton Beck capturing the various sounds underwater. I've spent a long time recording canals and small rivers around my home in East Yorkshire & have been waiting to feel 'right' about a release for some of these recordings for sometime. In fact, I suspect I waited too long & missed the moment, so i've taken the bull by the horns & issued a piece based on these recent recordings (along with one featuring Pocklington canal head) on a limited 3 inch cdr - for details & to hear an extract see here.

I always enjoy time spent near water and canals are a particular interest recording wise. The architecture of the locks themselves, the drains and outlets, can offer up some intense sounds, whilst the relatively still water of the canal stretches are full of aquatic life. The fact that most of the canals around here are no longer in use means an excess of plant life & in the right conditions the process of photosynthesis can be captured.

Then, earlier this week after several months of negotiation I finally got the chance to record inside the Humber bridge (in the chamber below the carriageway & the anchorage rooms). I could attempt to describe the sounds underneath the deck, but the sheer intensity would be hard to put into words. I have often thought it might be interesting for the public to go on tours along this chamber, but I suspect the creaks, groans and crashes would result in them thinking twice about driving across the bridge in future !

I managed to make some recordings of the space itself & then a shorter time with contact mics attached to the metal floor. The reverb of the space resulted in an almost constant roar within the space, whilst the floor itself offered up more of the detailed sonic properties of the plates rubbing together as traffic passed overhead.

The anchorage rooms, truly cavernous spaces, I was unfortunately unable to spend long enough recording this time so this will have to wait for my next visit. However I did take 20 minutes or so from the main cable cradle, with a piezo contact mic attached to the housing - which resulted in some nice strung wire rumbles and twangs.

So, June has been a good month for recording. Apart from the recordings mentioned above, I returned from my trip to the Czech republic with the first section of the 'sonic architecture' recordings complete and a range of other interesting recordings (lakes, train tracks, hollow paths and various windows) - some of which will appear soon on the 'favourite sounds Prague' website (see the links section).