BLOG (March 2006 - March 2009)


December 19, 2006

[18.12.06] Hidden Village/Impulse at COMA

After a ten hour slog at work I needed some mental reprieve so I went to go and check out my friends Hidden Village (Seb Tomczak and Lauren Sutter), who were playing the Wheatsheaf Hotel as part of COMA's Hipnote concert series. Being regular performers at the Tyndall Assembly concerts this year, I was already familiar with the aesthetic of their work and kept abreast of new piece via Seb's Little-Scale blog. A range of technologies are employed - Gameboys, Atari consoles, lasers, water, effects pedals, solar panels, desklamps and Xmas lights (fittingly.) Five works were performed, To Stare At The Sun (for Gameboy), Untitled (for Gameboy), Toriton Plus (water and lasers), Duet for Desklamps (lamps and solar panels) and Untitled (for xmas lights and Atari). There were a couple of technical problems during a couple of the pieces, but this is easily forgiven considering there's so much equipment involved. These minor glitches were irrespective of their overall performance though, as I've always admired the way Seb and Lauren can pull it off without visibly freaking out. The night also featured a slot by Impulse, an improvisation group of musicians and dancers, including Hillary from the Zepher Quartet and one-man-band Adam Page. It was a lot of fun, though it maybe went on a bit too long. Then again, I can be a picky bastard when I'm tired.

[8-12.12.06] Tpot and Edie go to Melbourne for four days

I just came back last week from a short adventure in Melbourne (my first visit in over three years) - a city of heat, humidity, sudden drops in temperature and smoke.

From a spit roast to a paddock...
Edie and I flew out last Friday afternoon, escaping the heat of Adelaide on a slow roast of 38 degrees. We landed in the cow paddock more affectionately known as Avalon Airport, the Melbourne based home of the dodgy budget airline Jestar - but more that later. We were greeted by my mum, her partner Frank and my bro Sean, then driven 60km on the freeway into Northcote where we would stay for the next four days in my brother's sharehouse.

The city centre blanketed in smoke, viewed from an overpass in Northcote.

There is a very clear difference between the sharehouses I am accustomed to living in and 'proper' sharehouses. My sharehouses have always been pure flukes of cheap rent and clean living, which also seems like a contradiction of terms. Proper sharehouses comprise of a week old pile of dishes, numerous ashtrays, fourteen boxes outside full of stubbies and disturbed animals (human and dog variety.)

Northcote and bushfires
Northcote is a beaten up little hamlet about 15km out of the city centre, most of the original buildings still line the main road along with webs of ancient power lines and the persistent rumble of trams. Bushfires burning in the east of Victoria had sent masses of smoke all over the place before our arrival and the thick haze still lingered giving the place a very eiree and ominous feel.

Guitar, banjo-mando and saw
We settled in nicely upstairs in the loft of the house, had some dinner and played a bit of music with Sean and Kat (his girlfriend) into the night. I was playing Kat's old Epiphone acoustic guitar which has a beautiful dark tone to it, Kat played a turn-of-the-century banjo mandolin, and Sean played his saws - an incredible sound when played properly.

Kat on banjo-mando and bro Sean on saw

Anticipated heat, smoke haze and interaction
It seems that the previous days weather in Adelaide had caught up with us by the morning as E and I set out for a possible route into the city centre. After getting lost a couple of times we eventually found a reliable looking tramline to take us in. Along the way I noticed how people speak to each other on Melbourne's public transport, in that they actually talk to each other unlike the growing trend in Adelaide to don fuck-off sunglasses and panic whenever anybody asks how you are.

Haze, confusion and consumer hell
Shelter and reprieve from the heat came in the form of air-conditioned department stores, where the omnipresent racket of Xmas muzak kept us from lingering too long and turning into those horrible people who come to Melbourne for the sole purpose of shopping - like a wandering tribe of blinged up fascists hoarding a village 24-7. We actually did check out a nice little teapot shop sans bling and fascism and bought a couple of inexpensive items for brewing purposes.

Markets and laughter
We used the air-conditioned vessel of department stores to make our way up to the Queens street markets, where we had a light lunch. Strangers caught onto the fact we were dazed tourists affected by heat; pointing and laughing at our incapability to buy a kilo of grapes and take their light humour with a straight face.

Stencil graffiti
One of the reasons I was so excited to be in Melbourne is because of my interest in graffiti culture - specifically stencil graffiti, which has had a resurgence in populartity in recent years. I remember coming across the trend the last time I was in Lismore mid-last year. Stencil graffiti is an interesting medium - capable of communicating various agendas; specifically political and the absurd, and the creative process of preparing a stencil before going guerilla in public spaces is intriguing to me.

Yarra and Hicks
We then went down to Federation Square and rested in the shade for a while by the Yarra river. We overheard a demonstration commemorating the fifth anniversary of the detention of David Hicks. The Shadow Attorney General was there and gave a good speech, nice to see that the 'opposition' is trying at least to be some form of opposition.

Fitzroy and lost in a wandering car with no muffler
Later that night, we went out to a birthday party in Fitzroy with Sean and Kat. Perhaps Kat anticipated this would not be our kind of party and gave me her car keys if E and I wanted to leave early. We were out of there in under half an hour. Maybe I'm just getting too old and socially conservative, but a party which has disaffected youth dressed like bad punks, smoking filthy bongs and playing dig naked in a wading pool doesn't seem to appeal to me anymore. We hopped in Kat's car as I tried to remember the way back to the house, and within thirty seconds we were on the Eastern Freeway panicking. We left the road 3km later to find ourselves in a conservation park somewhere running perilously low on fuel. We decided to turn around and find some streetlights, going on Edie's advice finding a buried street directory and navigating our way back. A spooky scenic route at 1am in an hour and a half trip. Finally bed...

A sensible morning
E and I decided to get ourselves lost again taking the long way to the main street which runs through Northcote. Again, the heat was punishing as we hung out desperately for the promised cool change to come through. We had an indulgent breakfast in a lovely cafe called Alphabet City - the kind of homely cafe that just simply doesn't bother to exist in Adelaide. Afterwards, we decided to check out the stores which lined the street, with friendly vendors specialising in the areas of antiques, groovy rags and scented soaps.

My ever-present obsession with all things Eno continues and one of the second hand shops on High St.

Bad hip hop and a moody Tpot
Later in the afternoon we headed into the city for a gathering commemorating Human Rights Day behind the Flinders Street Train Station. The sentiment of the overall event was pleasing, but bad agressive hip hop just soured the whole atmosphere for me and we decided to bail an hour in.

An post-orgasmic Tpot next to a series of upturned bells along the Yarra.

Dinner, chai and the American Astronaut
Around 6pm we rushed to grab some organic veggies for a lamb roast that my brother was preparing for dinner. We came to a fruit and veg place that had just closed and pleaded like hyperactive mimes with the owner to let us buy some potatoes and carrots. She greeted us with a cretinous glare and made several throat slashing gestures at us. All lighthearted gallows humour, amusing me but scaring the shit out of Edie. Later that night my brother put on a prized bootleg of a film called 'The American Astronaut' - a superb absurdist space/western/musical, like a cross between Ed Wood and Andy Warhol. My favorite moment was towards the end of the film where they land on Venus (the home of women) and we hear a recitation of the highly original torch song, 'The Girl With The Vagina Made of Glass.'

More grafitti, Belgian waffles and The French Revolution
A late start as the cool change that came through the previous afternoon which allowed E and I sleep less fitfully. We took the train in and (on the advice of Kat) found Degraves street off Flinders Street Station and found veritable amphx of colourful and tasteful graffiti sponsored and commisioned by the city council(!!!). By the way I apologise to some of you who may have a problem with the term 'uber c**t'. A late breakfast beckoned, and we found ourselves guided to a rouge hole in the wall by the seductive aroma of waffles. Here we met a friendly accommodating mad Belgian who declared his love for U2 and produced an original book from the 19th Century on the French Revolution, wherein he pointed out his supposed 'dad' in several of the illustrations. We had explained we were visiting from Adelaide and he asked if we had permit visas and the right currency to pay for our meal (he was obviously joking.) We parted company after about half and hour where our gracious host complimented that I have a lovely sister. It's hopefully the last time that Edie and I encounter such incest intrigue, though over the course of our relationship we have begun to look a little more like each other. I have smaller breasts though.

Graffiti off Degraves Avenue in the city centre, and a series of banknotes in the mad Belgian's waffle eatery.

ACMI, Illusions, postcards
It was then onto ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) to drop off some support materials for the Shoot Collective's Sounds From Level Four, a work I collaborated with them on as a sound designer for the Adelaide Fringe this year. E and I checked out the Eyes Lies and Illusions - an exhibition full of tricks for the eye and the mind. The exhibits, some up to 400 years old, explored idea pertaining to perception, spatiality and motion. These included beautiful Byzantine lithographs illuminated by backlights, optical illusions, light installation and computer interface works. My friend Michael Yuen's work, Swarm was also on display, a collaboration with visual artist Craig Walsh. After some lunch, we then checked out the ACMI bookstore, refraining from buying expensive books I bought some postcards instead.

Attracted to bright and shiny things hanging from the ceiling.

MGV and departure
The afternoon was spent checking out a small section of the MGV (due to time constraints), then dinner back at my brother's place before heading back to the cow paddock to catch our flight back to Adelaide.

Edie and myself in a lopsided wave.

The Jetstar flight was running late due to the weather and we weren't told what was going on. By the time we knew we had missed the Adelaide Airport curfew we had to put up in a hotel in Geelong for the night. After checking into our room at about 2am, Edie and I only got about two hours sleep before we had to catch our early morning flight. Fueled on a heady mix of caffeine, fatigue and contempt for budget airlines, we got back to the house, managing to get a couple of hours sleep before having to go the work. Oh well.

Despite this inconvenience though, a pleasant trip.

December 18, 2006

[18.12.06] Lack of transmission

The regular frequency rate of blog posts has slowed down of late as I've just finished moving to Glenelg and lacked a monitor for my computer (I chucked the old one out before the move - smart one...I've only just bought a new flat screen.) Oh, and no internet connection at present, so I'm naughtily blogging after hours at work. Anyway, I'll post a blog on my recent trip to Melbourne in the next couple of days.

November 27, 2006

[26.11.06] Mount George

Today Edie and I hiked up to Mount George, which is about 2km outside of Bridgewater. From there, it's about another 2km to the summit from the base. Here are some photos I took:

1. A view from the summit with Mt. Lofty in the background.
2. An ant trail going up the length of a massive Ghost Gum about halfway up.
3. A view from the summit looking down into the scrub.
4. An unfocused though nice flower.

November 26, 2006

[24.11.06] Algerian lamb and cous cous

Over the past couple of months I've been using cous cous for the sole purpose of visualising sound waves. But enough of that I say! Let's eat it instead! I decided to incorporate these little things into an Algerian lamb dish for our final Stirling cookoff, here's a rough rundown:

  • 3 tbl spoons of olive oil
  • 1 tbl spoon of Balsamic vinigar
  • 1 tbl spoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 tea spoon of powdered chilli
  • a thumb sized knob of ginger (grated)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (diced and crushed)
  • 1 tbl spoon of coriander seeds (to crush)
  • 1 tea spoon of nutmeg
  • 1 tea spoon of cumin seeds (to crush)
  • 1kg of lamb (diced small-ish)
This is the marinade for the lamb to be prepared the night before. Put the lamb aside in a large mixing bowl, and mix/bash every else together in a morter pestle. Mix this together with lamb and put in the fridge over night. The next list are the ingedients for the rest of the dish.

  • 1 red onion (halved and sliced)
  • 2 carrots (diced)
  • half a medium sweet potato (diced)
  • two handfuls of raisens
  • one can of Roma tomatoes
  • one lemon (juiced)
  • 250g cous cous
  • one knob of butter
Use a bit more olive oil and fry up the onion with some salt and pepper, adding the carrot and sweet potato once the onion is soft and transparent. Add the marinated lamb and cook until browned. Add the raisens and tomatoes with lemon juice and allow to simmer for 30 mins. Prepare the cous cous and serve striaght away.

Enjoy with seven bottles of red wine (as the picture instructs or whatever.)

Good health. TLR

CATEGORY: Food and sociale

November 22, 2006

[22.11.06] Stirling >>> Glenelg

Today Edie and I and my housemate Bri went down to Glenelg to check out the house we'll be moving into in a couple of weeks. From the rustle of poplar/oak trees to the static of the surf - soon it'll be time to replant and adapt to another soniferous garden.

The house has a quiet street, harwood floors, stained glass windows and has a nice resonance.


[22.11.06] Mismanaged

On Monday afternoon after work I went to a launch party for a new book on the ledgendary Australian composer Percy Grainger. It was held in the Grainger Studio (also home of the Adelaide Symhpony Orchestra), and due to the events affilliation with the Elder Conservatorium there were an awful lot of horrible logos everywhere and a few people I regretted making eye contact with.

Grainger was certainly an eccentric character - aside from a fondness for masochism, leathergoods and crafting garments out of beachtowls, he invented a variety of his own instruments and made several (unsuccessful) attempts to overhaul the English langauge with his own brand of psuedo Dutch/English. In reality, this Grainger langauge sounds more like the way an academic writes after a few years of post-grad study whilst being stuck with a dissatisfying lecturing position. Like a snake eating its own tail (meow!).

His music is interesting, a kind of quasi-obsession with transcribing folk songs whilst absorbing Asian and American influences into his work. During the launch, one of his pianola works was played - a transcription of a neo-romantic-classical piece. The piece was transcribed for both the piano and orchestral parts, a veritable keyboard frenzy for up to twenty able digits and what must have been an early foray into over-dubbing circa 1920. I love the technology of the pianola (early MIDI), but I think I just hate classical music (up to 1897), as this piece just went on too bloody long with all of the usual cliches of exposition , development, recapitulation. I could have really done with a nice decapitation about five minutes in.

The one performance on the night that stuck out for me was a Grainger adaption of an old Chinese folk song which had been transcribed for string quartet by fellow Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe. The quartet (Grainger Quartet, but of course) played long beautiful sustained notes which overlapped each other with light harmonics arcing between the performers and around the space. The piece seemed to colour the room for me, with its shifting tints and hues. Much better.

By the way, later in the evening I found out from someone who shall remain anonymous that the Elder Conservatorium is half a million dollars in debt. Seems I got out at the right time, and I always knew those expensive plants in the garden area were a big mistake.

November 17, 2006

[17.11.06] Graupel audio

On my day off mid-week, I decided to revisit my Graupel work (formerly know as Songs and Paintings) and record some of the subsequent experiments. Whereas earlier versions of the work instructed that a sine wave be used for the sake of acoustic clarity in perceiving the phenomena of the bowls' natural resonances, I have found more harmonically complex sounds deliver more satisfying results - such as harmonic sweeps and notable changes in tone colour.

The audio sample below is the result of two bowls being played with seperate synth patterns being used as the sound material. What you are hearing are the synth patterns being articulated by the bowls' natural resonance, which are being excited by a shallow layer of water crossing harmonic nodes of the bowls' base. Naturally, the synth patterns are exciting the bowls' base as well, though it is the activation of harmonic nodes and the glissando movements of the water crossing over the base which causes the amplified frequencies and whistling tones.

Graupel: 151106.mp3

November 06, 2006

[6.11.06] Lake - "Symbols for hearing"

I went down to the lake on Saturday with my camera and a little loudspeaker in tow. These are some of the pictures I took of the loudspeaker; positioning it at various points around the lake.


This is not my idea. German sound artist Rolf Julius started experimenting with this concept a few years ago as he was walking through an abandoned stone quarry in Finland. He didn't have any recording equipment with him, so he took a couple of loudspeakers out to some small ponds and sat them upon some protruding rocks. His intention was to create a 'symbol for hearing'[1] where the artist is '[an] author in perception'[ibid].

A loudspeaker sitting in a natural environment with no sound being played through it strikes up a perculiar paradox. For a loudspeaker is essentially autonomous by nature - in this situation it is one sound source surrounded a multitude of natural (and unnatural) sounds eminating from all peripheral directions. The fact that it sits silent compounds the scenario - does the observer direct their attention to the silent loudspeaker and focus their perception upon sounds coming from that direction? Or does the observer listen to sounds which come from around the loudspeaker? A definitive answer would waste my time, and would probably sound a bit too Zen.

Why did I do this? For one, I thought the loudspeaker could do with some fresh air. More intellectually though, I thought I would use Julius' example to stimulate my imagination a little.

[1] Julius, Rolf. "It made everything silent", Resonanzen/Resonances: Aspects of Sound Art. (Kehrer: Koln, 2002) p. 118

October 31, 2006

[31.10.2006] Lake

If you are a regular browser to my blog it may have been evident I have been having some trouble inspiring myself into creating works of a various description in the past month or so.

I left my post graduate study at the University of Adelaide in mid-September to take up a job that I was offered at the Australian Network for Art and Technology working in administration and records management. (n.b. This is not the only reason I left of course, and the muddy prints of this affair are peppered throughout this blogs archive.) The ANAT job has a represented dramatic shift away from the way I have been used to working in the past with the most notable feature being routine (shock horror..) Such a change to my day to day work habits has definitely caused some kind of alteration to the way in which I construct ideas and disseminate information, this would explain to some extent the bout of creative impotence I've been experiencing of late.

There's a lake down the road from where I live in Stirling and I've been visiting it and the surrounding nature reserve of late, trying to find some reconnection with where my artistic endeavors were situated around the time I left post-grad. As I was becoming more pre-occupied with aspects of ecology and nautral phenomena, observations of wind through trees, ripples in water and the flight patterns and songs of birds have reminded me of what I was looking to focus on in the research topic. Of course, it has become even more evident how much I had (deliberatly) forgotten about the research, almost as if my head had been aired out with all of the academic rhetoric being done with. I am in no doubt that overanalysis of the topic rendered it useless towards the end of my Uni tenure, I've only just had the courage to look at some of the proposals of my rejected topic outline to see how bad my writing had become at this stage. That said, I wouldn't say the topic itself is not relevant or capable of being revisted in the future. For now I'm just happy being a quiet observer. I have ideas about things I'd like to create and draw attention to, and I'm sure something will accumulate before too long.

October 30, 2006

[30.10.06] The distance between what we have and what we need

I came across this at work today whilst I was compiling ANAT's email digest. The Distance Between What We Have And What We Need is a remarkable installation by Tavares Strachan comprising of a four-ton block of ice which is displayed in a specially built freezer and is maintained by a solar energy system which helps keep block intact. The work is currently on exhibition in a gallery in Miami, to later travel to Europe and eventually the rest of the world. The prevailing motivation behind Tavares' work is to draw attention to climate change and the current state of the environment.

There's something strangely forboding about a block of ice being carried around the world and put on display to draw awareness the array of dire ecological situations currently besetting the planet - the the melting of the polar caps and Greenland ice sheets for one. There's also something very sombre about this spectacle - like an endangered part of the earth has been captured and preserved like the last of an animal species for future generations to see.

The title of the work couldn't be anymore profound.

October 29, 2006

October 25, 2006

[24.10.06] Bob

I've been listening to an unhealthy amount of Dylan of late - so much so that my hair is becoming unkempt and I'm tempted to drink wine on the bus on the way to work. The man puts bad ideas into your head: I fantiscise of being in the back of some dive on Hindley Street scrawling lyrics onto a toilet door, or climbing up a creeping vine to gain access to some secret party. (Actually, both those fanatasies sound more like the stuff of Tom Waits on a good night, but no matter.) The dilemma is that I haven't written any decent songs for eons and I am once again attepting to source the codes from The Great Deceiver. I've been reading plenty of books on him as well - collections of essays, interviews, impressions and his own memior Chronicles, which was published last year. These seems to help as little as much as the albums, which I've been listening to in a scattershot chronology; Street Legal (1978) [the much maligned psuedo-Boz Scaggs one], Freewheelin' (1962) [the first decent one], Oh Mercy (1989) [the comeback album], Desire (1976) [the gypsy one], Time Out Of Mind (1997) [the one about death] and Modern Times (2006) [sketches of the weird America.] The resources tell you all you would possibly want to digest about Dylan without running the risk of intigestion or heartburn, they work perfectly as a foil for crafting songs - anything beyond that is an imitation.

I'm not exactly sure what this post is about, but perhaps it sums up my current position, which is that of confusion. I don't really know what or whom I'm writing for.

Because something is happening here and you don't know what is ....

October 22, 2006

[22.10.06] $1.69

I'm not a huge fan of the iTunes music store as its intentions with regard to pricing and artist distribution are dubious at best, though occasionally they do stuff up. I was roaming the store this evening when I found Brian Eno's Neroli could be downloaded for $1.69! (the price of a single song file.) Though it is listed as an album, it seems the single track of an hours duration is going out cheap, so if you are an Eno fan scoop it up quick before they correct the pricing error.

October 09, 2006

[9.10.06] Menace

...but they're so goddamn cute...

[9.10.06] James Tenney (1934-2006)

I have just found out through a mentor of mine that American composer James Tenney has died. Tenney proved to be one of the most under-recognised though important composers of the latter half of the twentieth century, as both a pioneer of both experimental and electronic music. Tenney's studies into psychoacoustics and the observation of sound phenomenology were at the core of his work - a synergy of artistic and scientific thought. His Masters thesis Meta/Hodos,which I finished reading around the time of his death in August, remains one of the most groundbreaking books on music theory of the last century. I have to admit I only became aware of Tenney and his work over the past year through Alvin Lucier - a close friend and contemporary of Tenney's for over forty years. I am deeply saddened by the news of Tenney's passing. He typified a credo synonomous with composers and artists whom I hold the greatest level of respect for - to challenge artistic and philosophical conventions, whilst encouraging new observations, thought and commentary. Though there is something rarer and more precious about Tenney's work. Just like the work of Lucier, Tenney conveyed his art with with the most elegant degree of articulation and beauty, conceptual and scientific theories became secondary in the wake of observing or imagining a natural phenomena, like ripples in a stream or how the wind shapes a mountain.

Kyle Gann has written an excellent obituary on his blog. You can read it here

October 05, 2006

[2.10.06] COMA Hipnote

On Monday night I performed two works at COMA's (Creative Original Music Adelaide) Hipnote concert series at the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Thebarton.

Translations(which I have performed at the Tyndall Assembly series twice) is a piece for an acoustic guitar where its strings are resonated sympathetically by sine wave frequencies. This creates contrasting timbres and beating patterns. Unfortunately, the piece suffered this time round due to the retro equipment I was forced to use since my laptop is still out of action. The lo-fi set-up comprised of a TASCAM tape desk, CD player and damaged loudspeaker.

Thankfully, the second work Two Bowls was realised more satisfyingly. A collage of contrasting sounds from tape (tones and noise) are played onto the bases of the bowls using piezo speakers, the bowls (which contain a shallow amount of water) are then tipped slowly to amplify the various harmonic nodes of each bowl. The shallow water is responsible for this - as the shifting water edge locates the nodal points on the bowl's surface, the rest of the bowl works as a sounding chamber of sorts. The water surface also works well as a primitive filter and is particularily good when playing tape hiss as well.


Lo-fi music technology isn't such a bad thing - it depends on how you use it and how useful it can be for a given process. I'm actually a very strong advocate for endangered and extinct forms. In fact, last month I rescued around 60 reels of tape from the trash outside the Electronic Music Unit, unfortunately they're not blank (they contain French langauge lessons) but at least they've been spared a burial in a landfill faraway. I'm just another thoughtful conservationist in the soniferous garden. ;)

September 28, 2006

[21-24.9.06] Man In Chicago

Over the past couple of months I've been writing music for an experimental theatre work called Chicago Chicago, written by Australian John Romiril, directed by Peter Dunn, and performed by the second year acting students at AIT Tafe. The script was written in 1968, and is a satire on the American way of life - with all its foolish granduer, malevolence and decaying culture condensed in 20 disperate though inter-connected scenes.

A presidential candidate is the central character, and as the play unfolds he mentally unravels in his apartment where he is visited by a host of demented characters and a reccuring woman who takes on a series of guises. The subject matter of the play has numerous unnerving parallels with today's global culture of fear, and the actors performances are pushed to absurb extremes - but remain ultimately affecting.

My musical contribution could be best described as a quasi-jazz noise accompaniment - a series of musical themes (mostly acoustic) which introduced each scene with Ruth Buttery on vocals. During each scene I would either play understated jazz/blues motifs on my acoustic guitar, or treat my electric guitar with a socket wrench, bulldog clip, lap slide and my bare fists. The electric guitar wasn't so much played as guitar, rather as an industrial music box - using the webs of feedback and mauled strings to articulate the action on the stage.

Once I get get hold of a recording taken from the last and most chaotic performance on Saturday I'll post some excerpts for you to hear. In the meantime here are some photos I took:

September 16, 2006

[16.9.06] Directives

I am sitting in my girlfriend's room posting a blog to pass the time. A few things have happened during the week - it has been very busy with rehearsals for a theatre work I am writing music for, and the usual rigmarole of work and finishing my Masters proposal off. One thing has become very clear with regard to the latter, once the proposal is finished (sometine today - one week overdue) I will be leaving Uni and the research for awhile. The reasons for this move stem from being overrun with extra-curricular work, and a need to cut myself free from academia and pursue my ideas and projects with a little more freedom. This might sound a bit dramatic but if you are a student studying arts/humanities at Adelaide University considering doing post-grad in the future, don't do it unless you have yourself finacially backed (i.e. with a Scholarship,etc.) Because the powers that be will not give you any money unless you subscribe to comprimising your art to fit into their niche. It's an ugly old place, and I'm glad I'm getting out with my sanity and interests intact. Still, it could have all changed when (or if) I ever return to Adelaide Uni, then again (let us be realistic) given the direction that all University's are heading - towards absolute commericial interest - people like myself might be making the right choice to leave before we get removed by force. That is a bit dramatic.

There is a better future beyond concrete towers of academia and the city of quartz.

September 08, 2006

[8.9.07] Water, Materials & Sound (II)

A few days ago I spent some time extending my explorations of visualising sound through water by introducing some additional materials. Primarily my intention was to create a process where I would by able to imprint sound waves onto a surface, I came up with the following series of methods.

1. Water, paper, instant coffee.

A piece of paper is immersed in a very shallow amount of water, as the metal surface vibrates and makes the sound waves visible on the surface of the water, grains of instant coffee are dropped in the centre of the paper. A low sine wave frequency of 65.4 Hz (i.e C2) was used to resonate the surface of the tray, only a small amount of volume was required to make the waves visible.

As you can see by the image (above), it is a little hard to tell whether the sound waves are affecting the movement of the dissolving coffee grains. Paper was used with the intention of allowing the coffee to stain its surface, in effect 'imprinting' sound and giving it some kind of permanence.

2. Water, instant coffee.

Similar method, though no paper used this time, just the shallow water and the coffee grains. The same sine wave frequency of 65.4 Hz was used.

Again, difficult do really determine the waves influence of the dissolving coffee grains, but visually it was quite interesting.

3. Water, ground nutmeg.

Finally, some success. Nutmeg grains were immersed in the shallow water, and one the had settled on the surface of the tray, the C2 tone was played and left for one hour. The images below show the formation state in ten minute intervals. To observe the details of the process I uggest you click on the image below to enlarge it. (don't panic it's 'websafe')

I would say that my experiments in this field have been exhausted for the time being. I will revisit them when I can find a means of applying them in an appropriate installation and/or performance context.

August 29, 2006

[29.08.06] Visualising sound with water and light

This afternoon I experimented with making the propagation of a sine wave visible using a shallow amount of water in a cooking tray and a directional light source to capture the wave's movement. As with the bowl piece, I've been using my Marshall amplifier to drive the sine wave, the amp and speaker have been removed from the speaker box as this makes things more convenient. The thing about a cooking tray is that it (at a specific set of frequencies) it resonates quite violently, so not a great deal of volume is required for this phenomena to take effect. This is good as I really want the sine waves to be in the background as much as possible. Though they are part of acknowledging the intention behind this process (sound and vision), the sine waves shouldn't necessarily be the centre of attention, the beauty lies in its interaction with the metal tray, the water and the refracted light. I am thinking of incorporating this into an installation - a darkened space, with four or five of these trays (of various sizes), listeners would be given hand held torches and go around to each of the trays reflecting light off the moving surfaces of the water. The sine waves could also move in cents of frequency (gliss) as this would cause the waves to move and change shape and formation. I'll write more on this soon...

With the setup of speaker, water tray and directional light (amp and oscillator out of shot.) What I'm doing here is trying to move the waves around manually.

Example one: A low frequency resonance (note large bandwidth). The metal tray has many resonant nodes, the complicated formation is due to the waves reflecting off the edges and corners. It would be interesting to see a more pure representation of a single spherical formation - though this is proving difficult to acheive.

Example 2: A much more elaborate formation at a higher frequency with a shallower amount of water. A blue bulb was being used at the stage.

August 22, 2006

[22.8.06] The Past 2 Weeks

Here's a summary:

[22.8.06] CCSP Research Proposal Presentation

This was a presentation that didn't go badly, but didn't go well either. For a start I was grappling with a change in the direction of the topic (which happened two weeks ago), and had been rushing to put together something plausible. Secondly, I forgot my copy of Lucier's I Am Sitting In A Room, and was forced to explain the process with the audio (which equates to disaster). Finally, I ran out of time and was unable to present the last two components of my research methodology, as well as demonstrate a new work, Songs and Paintings for (a) Metal Bowl(s) [more on this work below]. There were some constructive comments at the end, and for some reason they weren't directed at the apparent holes in my topic at present, then again maybe they were being polite.

[19-20.8.06] Songs and Paintings for (a) Metal Bowl(s).

This is the work that was going to be demonstrated at my CCSP proposal, oh well - perhaps some other time. Here's a technical description:

This a work called Songs and Paintings of (a) Metal Bowl(s). It is a work for a sine wave generator and a metal bowl with a shallow amount of water in it. Attached to the outer base of the bowl is a piezo speaker allowing direct contact with the metal surface. A sine wave which corresponds with the resonant frequency of the metal bowl is played through the speaker thus causing its physical state to vibrate and sound. Because the contact speaker is attached at the centre of the bowl’s base, this creates what is called a node – that is where the amplitude of a wave in a given medium has a value of zero. By tilting the bowl, the water’s edge changes it’s coverage of the bowls base, enabling primary and corresponding harmonic nodes of the bowl to become amplified. The loudest sound appears when the the water’s edge is exactly halfway across the diameter of the bowls base, this represents the first harmonic of the bowl, similar in the way that if you play the 12th fret harmonic of a guitar (exactly halfway along the strings length).

There is no performance process decided upon at present, though two possible outcomes have arisen through a careful examination of the system and it’s relative phenomena.

The first possibility is to allow a performer to explore the sonic potentialities of the bowl by thoughtfully employing different playing techniques, such as tilting the bowl to sweep through its harmonic range. The performer may also sing or project sounds into the bowl, thus causing beating patterns and the amplification of certain waves. Performance could also involve more than one bowl, of different sizes, resulting in an array of contrasting resonances.
(See image below.)

The second possibility is to put the bowl at a fixed position so that the first (and strongest harmonic) of the bowl is sounded. And due to the strong amplitude of the resonant wave - patterns relative to the propagation of the sound wave across the base of the bowl become visible on the surface of the water. With the benefit of a directional light source to refract the wave phenomena, these patterns become more visible and attractive. These patterns could be altered by lowering and raising the frequency of the resonant sine wave by slight degrees – in this case a pitch shifter is ideal for this. For an audience to observe the wave patterns, a video camera could be setup to project the process on a video screen.

[18.8.06] Raoul Valentine plays at the Academy Awards.

A more lighthearted moment came at the Helpmann Academy Awards where I appeared in the rare guise of Raoul Valentine. The girls backstage did a lovely job with the make up as Raoul demanded they make him look respectable. As a cross between Jack Sparrow and Liberace, Raoal sung Tom Waits' 'Temptation' and Leonard Cohen's 'I'm Your Man'. Doing his filthy duty, Raoul took his award and receded like an unforgiving hairline - INTO THE NIGHT.

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