BLOG (March 2006 - March 2009)


June 12, 2008

Baking patterns

Over the long weekend I spent some time revisiting some experiments I first set about two years ago. Directly referencing Alvin Lucier's Queen Of The South (1972), the process involves activating a responsive surface and strewn materials with sine waves. In the case of the 2006 experiments, I used a keyboard, Marshall amp (with detached 60W loudspeaker), baking tray and strewn materials including cous cous, flour, sugar and nutmeg grains. These experiments led to some interesting results, but they felt ill-suited to my research at the time and were put to the side.

I came back to this idea for two reasons - firstly, because the most recent installment of the research[1] had included references to Rolf Julius' warum grau, warum gelb, warum grun (2002) which uses the process of activating a responsive surface as one element of the work. Secondly, as I am struggling to realise the original concept for my third and final creative work[2], I decided to return to a previously explored idea that is a) easier to realise, and b) more suited to the scope of the research.

For the new experiments I retained the previous materials with the exception that I decided to use two small matching loudspeakers for broadcasting the sine waves and a very simple Max/MSP patch as a means of generating the sine waves. The benefit of using this simple sine wave generator opposed to the keyboard is it can accurately sweep through the resonant frequency range of the baking tray, finding its key areas of resonance and vibration.

At first I positioned the loudspeakers at various points beneath the baking tray in an attempt to activate different points of the surface at closely tuned resonant frequencies. This was successful, though I found a better and more visually interesting result was achieved by positioning the loudspeakers close together beneath a resonant area of the baking tray. Using a slight difference in resonant frequencies (i.e. 161 Hz and 163.3 Hz) an interference pattern is created, thus causing amplitude modulation and a pulse-like vibration. This causes the strewn material to start and stop its propagation across the surface of the baking tray in regular timed pulses. The rate of pulses can be adjusted by either tuning the resonant frequencies further or closer to each other.

The two embedded videos document this process with cous cous, black peppercorns and crushed leaves as strewn materials.

The first experiment with cous cous and black peppercorns was good as it was able to evoke an reasonably accurate phenomena of wave propagation across the responsive surface. The cous cous is used as homogenous material (textural and specific to the wave movement), whilst the peppercorns serve as more individual markers which illustrate how individual grains are caused to propagate - sometimes very chaotically - across the responsive surface.

The second experiment is similar with the exception that crushed leaves are used in the place of cous cous grains. The array of subtle colours and shapes of the crushed leaves make the process a little more visually stimulating, but lack the phenomenological accuracy of the cous cous as a strewn material.

Additional findings for further investigation relate to how the resonant frequency of the baking tray changes when different materials in different quantities are put on the surface. The explanations for this are relatively easy to explain, but are curious nonetheless.


I'm making plans over the week to expand on what I've done so far - in aesthetical/conceptual terms as well as some technical considerations - to give the work more relevance to the research, some identity and distance it from directly referencing Lucier and Julius' work.

More soon.




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