BLOG (March 2006 - March 2009)


July 31, 2006

[31.7.06] Research Progress: Sine Tests

Today I spent most of the day in my room atop the Shultz building on level 9 reading books on Alvin Lucier and playing with sine waves. Recently I've constructed a portable loudspeaker frame built out of a guitar stand, some twine and bubblewrap. The loudspeaker is the surviving Kenwood beauty from the June sine tone test disaster (see archive.) The frame is a handy little apparatus that allows me to direct sound towards things.


In my room I did a couple of experiments with feedback modulation of a fundamental sine wave - a process of fixing a microphone close to a speaker cone, raising the mic input to the feedback threshold and tweaking the EQ on a mixer. Through the speaker I played a sequence of single sine waves, starting with 110Hz then shifting 0.5Hz every thirty seconds. As it played back I wasn't necessarily interested in tweaking the EQ all over the place, I was more content with setting the EQ to a fixed position (so that feedback signal was consistent) and letting the periodic shift of frequency of the sine waves do the modulating. There were some very interesting results - pulse patterns and harmonics shifted in and out of phase with each other as the fundemental frequency shifted away from the EQ presets. I'll be doing more tests tomorrow as there are some acoustic phenomena that remain unclear (the room's resonant frequency may be playing a part as well - I'm not sure.)


I then moved my gear out into the Shultz staircase and played some sine and square waves into the space. It was really just a bit of fooling around. In such a resonant area as a stairwell, high-ish frequencies such as 880 - 1200 Hz are suited best as they are reasonably directional and capable of being reflected through the staircase, opposed to a lower frequency which just oozes all over the place. Tomorrow I may explore the prospect of using two sine waves, seperated by a couple of floors and tuned slightly apart from each other - say 1100 and 1123 Hz.


I took the latter idea into the EMU performance space next, pairing a fundamental frequency of 880 Hz with a modulating frequency of 881Hz which shifts by 1 Hz every thirty seconds. As these waves were played into the space, I went over to the Steinway piano and played A5, B5 and C6 notes, observing how the richness of the piano's harmonics caused the sine waves to heterodyne and spin off in various directions. This is a method explored by Alvin Lucier in many of his works, specifically Still and Moving Lines In Families Of Hyperbolas (1973-4) and Wind Shadows (1994).

So, an exiciting day of practical activity, more tomorrow (and some pictures.)

July 28, 2006

[27.7.06] Tyndall Assembly 8

Last night's Tyndall Assembly concert was by far one of the most satisfying programmes thus far, though on the other hand it was a depressing crowd attendance pulling barely half a dozen patrons. This was a great disapointment for me as the performing artists put such a great deal of time and commitment into their works for this concert. Both performances were sublime, articulate and original - by local composers, artists and performers - I urge you to make it to a concert in the future when you have the chance!

The revised staging set-up (other way round)

Andrew Georg (piano) performing his Music For Gongs and Piano with Paul Backman on percussion.

Paul Backman (percussion)

Derek Pascoe introduces 365 Days for solo saxophone.

Derek Pascoe performs 365 Days.

The next Tyndall Assembly dates are: 24th and 31st August

[26.7.06] FAD Bar gig

A tiny crowd came and saw my two-hour set on Wednesday night, it wasn't a complete loss though as it gave me the chance to play some more recent material.

Here's the setlist:

1. Stopframe
2. Cherry Blossom Blues
3. To The Stars
4. Discipline
5. She'll Come Around
6. Almost Everything
7. Secret Meeting [The National]
8. So Little In Between
9. Age Of Abstraction
10. Facing The Sun
11. Rendezvous
12. Rare Sensation
13. Broken Piano
14. Losing Heart
15. Mona Lisa [Grant Lee Phillips]
16. Fever Dream
17. Solotaire
18. Fool That I Am
19. Valentine's Day / Raspberry Beret [Prince]
20. Love Minus Zero (No Limit) [Bob Dylan] ~ for Edie.P

July 20, 2006

[20.7.06] Tyndall Assembly Concert 7

Tyndall Assembly concert 7 took place last night at the Delacatessen Gallery last night, it was a good casual affair. Two works were performed, my Translations #2 for acoustic guitar and sine waves and an improvised performance based on Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies. My piece (an extentions of an earlier version) used sine waves to resonate the guitar's strings, employing addtional effects such as feedback and treatments. The Oblique Strategies are a set of cards developed by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in 1975, designed to help to artist in compositional and performance processes. Each of the cards contains instructions such as 'honor thy error as a hidden intention', 'be dirty' and 'what is missing?'. The improvised performance included all members of the audience who were given two cards each to use. Prior to the performance each audience member selected from a range of objects including Ukulele, harmonica, bottles, bowls, mugs, glasses and sheet metal. The performance was made up of four movements - the first was spontaneous, where the audience could play as they wished, for the second movement the audience would refer to their first card and play as it instructed. The third movement involved the second card, whilst the fourth movement was an attempted recapitulation of the first movement. The main objective of this piece for each audience member to deliberatly and intuitively shift in dynamic, altering their playing technique throughout the performance. It was a lot of fun with some wonderful, if not chaotic results. I'll post more on this performance process at a later date. Unfortunatly there are no photos from the performance as were all too engrossed in our playing and no-one was available to take pictures. But here are some others anyway:

Prior to the concert Adam Page offered a selection of tasty buns.

Some of the objects used for the Oblique Strategies performance.

Some of the crowd for the concert.

Performing my Translations #2 work.

The next Tyndall Assembly concert is Thursday next week (27-7), starting 8pm featuring new works by Derek Pascoe and Andrew Georg. Hope to see you there.

July 18, 2006

[18.7.06] Hans Jenny - Cymatics

As previous posts indicate, currently I am experimenting with Alvin Lucier's Queen Of The South work for responsive surfaces and strewn materials. The work was influenced by the Swiss physicist Hans Jenny who coined the term cymatics, and composed an impressive catalogue of images using all manner of surfaces and materials. Cymatics is the study of wave phenomena, Jenny's compositions used sound vibrations from sine tones to create an array of patterns using substances such as gas, water, powder and liquid pastes.

These are extraordainary compositions! Though my flour and cous cous patterns were nice this is something else. It may be time to venture down the rabbit hole a little deeper.

1,2. Wikipedia. 2006., last viewed 17/7/06.

July 17, 2006

[17.7.06] Research progress - Flour power

Today I set up my studio upstairs replete with technological doodads and whatnot. Last night I experimented with Alvin Lucier's Queen Of The South by using a glass surface and cous cous as my strewn material.

Today I decided to use a metal cooking tray and flour - the results were very good. First of all, the metal surface is a lot thinner in density than the glass surface allowing for a greater response from the sine waves.

F1 [43.6 Hz] really shook the surface up, throwing the fine white grain into powder. I decided to shake things up a little further by playing the F1 together with an E1 [41.2 Hz], which created a very strong pulse effect.

I was chatting with Michael Yuen earlier today about the trial last night, and we discussed the nodes of a resonant object - that is a point at which the amplitude of vibration in a standing wave system is zero. If you think about it in terms of harmonic intensity, the surface has particular points which are strong and effect the movement of the strewn materials. I am thinking of attaching contact mics to areas of the surface and using a spectral analysis to find the strongest points.

Moving the flour with an F1 note.

As the F1 and E1 notes are taped down, the flour moves erratically. I am drawing patterns in the flour and pressing down on points of the surface to create different surface vibrations.

Also, the metal surface is quite interesting sonically as the E1/F1 notes in combination cause the metal to sound with beautiful harmonics.

[17.7.06] Research progress

After a month long absence from my Masters research, I've decided to get back to it focusing on a Lucier work called
Queen Of The South. The work explores responsive surfaces and strewn materials, examining how the activation of a surface (through the use of sine waves) can move materials around - creating formations and patterns.

The picture above shows me setting up a trial - the keyboard is set to play sine tones, which are sent to the amplifier then to a loudspeaker which sits beneath a glass plate suspended just above the speaker cone's rim. A sine tone is then played which resonates the glass surface causing the strewn materials (in this case, cous cous) to move around.

I experimented with a number of formations, finding that the most resonant frequency with the glass surface was an E2 sine tone (82.4 Hz).

Here are a couple of images showing an initial formation and its altered state after the tone had been played for about ten seconds. It's not the most visually stimulating example, but it deatials the simple effect that the resonating surface can have on the strewn materials. Also this was with just one louspeaker, once I can find a larger piece of glass (or otherwise) I'll begin testing the process with multiple speakers. This has led me to a couple of simple conclusions:

1) Frequency must resonate surface (pretty obvious, really).
2) End formations of strewn materials also dependent on:
(i) nature of materials (cous cous, rice, sugar, dirt, sand, coffee grains)
(ii) density of materials (clumps, piles, sparse)
(iii) placement of speaker[s]
(iv) resonance/excitement of surface.

There is a variation of this setup where contact mics (or piezos) are attached directly to the surface, I will experiment with this also over the next week.


With regard to the research writing, I am preparing a proposal for my presentation in late August. As detailed in previous posts (see March/April/May archives) I have a rough outline of the topic, though an argument and discussion hasn't been apparent to me until recently. I have decided to examine perspectives on experimental music, specifically in relation to Lucier's work. This will include a commentary on experimental music using sources and arguments derived from composers and writers such as John Cage, Morton Feldman, James Tenney, Brian Eno, Steve Reich and Douglas Khan.

July 16, 2006

[16.07.06] Upcoming Tyndall Assembly concerts

The Tyndall Assembly concert series rolls on this month with two shows featuring an eclectic mix of local and historical works.

Concert 7: Wednesday 19th July
Translations #2 (2006) - Tristan Louth-Robins
> for acoustic guitar and sine waves.
Oblique Strategies (1975) - Brian Eno and Peter Shmidtt
> an improvised performance based on the Oblique Strategies.

Concert 8: Thursday 27th July
new work
(2006) - Derek Pascoe
> for solo saxophone
new work
(2006) - Andrew Georg
> for solo percussion

July 12, 2006

[12.07.06] ACMC: Sounds From Level Four

My collaborative installation with Adelaide visual arts collective Shoot, Sounds From Level Four is being exhibited as part of the Australasian Computer Music Conference's proceedings from 11th to 14th July.

The installation is much simpler in terms of technical setup as opposed to the Fringe exhibition in March (see March archive), though the small exhibition space has produced some very interesting and satifying sonic results - particularly in terms of interference pattern and standing wave phenomena.

I also presented a brief artist talk detailing the conceptual and compositional aspects behind the work.


The exhibition space (with seating.)

[11.07.06] ACMC : Earpoke 1

After a frentic day at the Australasian Computer Music Conference (ACMC) including a fatigued artist talk, the time came for the masses ear to be gently poked at the Jade Monkey. I played a new version of my work The Sky Is Falling, a phonetic deconstruction piece using a couple of Csound patches and EQ/delay controls. I was very happy with the performance as it had a strong rhythmic element to it, and it was my first sole laptop performance. Chris Martin & Derek Baily, Poppi Doser and Ross Bencina played on the bill as well. Also, my extended apologies to Ross for spilling wine on his white shirt on my way out.

July 05, 2006

[1.07.06-4.07.06] Sojourn > Edith's farm

The other day I returned from a brief weekend holiday with my lovely gal Edie. We stayed at her family's currently vacated farm near Koolunga (about 200Km north of Adelaide). Here are some photos with light commentary:

Day I - arrival and observations.

Upon arrival, we went down to the river that runs through the property and had a look at the effects of a record flood that had came about a month prior to our visit. Note the reeds in the trees as an indicator of the alarming propensity of the floodwaters.

A 'windshadow' created by the wind brushing a clump of overhanging leaves over natural debris and earth.

Two piles of stones at the edge of a paddock. Removed by hand.

Day II - walks and paddocks.

This day was spent with walks around the perimeter of the farm property - crossing over long paddocks and checking out some very old ruins dating back to the mid-nineteenth century.

Day III - directions, windows and light

A trip out to the town of Koolunga, sunrise over a paddock, and a view from the window of another ruined though beautiful two-room house.

Day 4 - depature / little house (we didn't stay here though I wished we had.)

Now I am pleased to report I am refreshed and ready to start doing some research work again.

intrepid visitors since 25/1/08