Australian Sound Artist

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kunst Radio: Artist Residency

The last three days spent in Vienna were dedicated to a residency in the studios of Austria's broadcasting company, 'ORF', working on material for the 25 year old radio program, 'Kunst Radio'. Program editor, Elisabeth Zimmermann, seeks out and develops Kunst Radio programs, ensuring they focus on sound art and experimental radio pieces. I was extremely grateful to Clemens Hausch from Moozak, for organising the simpatico between myself and Kunst Radio and to Elisabeth, for so generously making available the studio resources and her interest in my work. 

It is an interesting concept - that of creating sound works that are to be invited into the intimate spaces of their listeners. Unlike a live performance or an installation, the listener will be allowing the sounds to fill their undisclosed locations, joining them in their current course of life, enhancing the present experience that is already in motion - its place preset by the listener themselves. There is no social demand on the experience-ee in that they are not required to attend a place or a time to witness such an event, nor engage in polite social chatter or be quiet as the sounds begin. They are master of the listening experience and can tailor it to suit their happenstance and not vise versa. 

It seemed natural that I would ask artists from the Moozak festival if they would be interested in me recording their sounds to use as source material for my own compositions for the Kunst Radio program.  I have not recorded another artists installations before as source material and I have to admit, I was a little nervous at how to commence the process. I felt it was important that I made clear to each artist that I would be recording their sounds, with full credit given to their original works as the source material but, that I myself, would be creating my own work anew from the sounds that I would capture!

I selected two artists whose sounds are quite different yet I feel compliment each other. The final compositions, (at this point in time) will consist of four pieces - two for each artists works. Each artist's work will be represented by a relatively, 'Untouched' recording of their installations - presenting their works as true to life as possible and also, my own composition, created through using these recordings as source material, to process/construct and spatialize as possible. Kunst Radio has the facilities to playback 5.1 surround pieces on air (folded down to stereo) and so my compositions will be in surround.

The first artist whose work I recorded is, Andreas Trobollowitsch with his piece titled, 'Minigit'. He describes the installation as follows,

:: Andreas Trobollowitsch, 'Minigit' @ Moozak Festival, 2012 ::
'Spatial sound installation for four acoustic guitars on the wall.
Four converted ventilators that use cello-bow hair instead of propellors set the strongs into oscillation.
Soundscapes arise through the soft, smooth pickings of the guitar strings by the circling cellobow hair, the permanently modifying overtone layers are reminiscent of an electronically generated sound aesthetic'

The recording of this work was kept quite simple and true to space in that I recorded it while it was installed at the Moozak Festival. The recordings themselves turned out very well in that they blend the musical tones of the installation with the sound of the environment beautifully. You can hear the voices of the attendees and audio snippets of other installations behind the closer recordings of, 'Minigit'. I paid particular attention to the mechanical rattlings and scrapings of the fan rotation mechanism used to spin the cellobow hair that strikes the guitar's strings. These details turned out surprisingly well, with the microphones picking up such delicate sounds whilst also capturing the general room ambience.

Microphones: DPA 4060 (Matched pair).
Configuration: Stereo omni
Positioning: Stereo pairs were placed in each gap between guitars for 2min recording of each space as well as a general room recording with Mics positioned 1meter  - central - infront of the installation.

The second artist is Uli Kuehn with his two installations, FEEDBACK MACHINE and ROBOT. I am not 100% sure that these are the correct titles of the pieces but will talk to Uli and find out....
The recording of Uli's work was done at the Studio's of ORF which enabled me to grab more 'sound proof' recordings. I'm still not sure if this is a positive or a negative as I found the room sounds so appealing in the 'Minigit' recordings nevertheless - I am happy with the outcomes.

:: Uli Kuehn, ROBOT (innards) @ Moozak Festival, 2012 ::
ROBOT consists of Uli's own circuit creation utilising four oscillating square sound waves as controlled and layered by four rotating pots installed on the front of an old 'Mego" brand toy robot (hence, why I'm referring to it as ROBOT). The circuitry schematics are developed and created by Uli himself and the layering of sounds that are made possible by his device are millions. They all contain that feel of old analog 8 bit (pleasing) whine and sounded considerably dense when played back through speakers. The most delicate tweak of any of the four turning pots can alter the outputting tone dramatically, affecting its timbre, volume and texture.

Recording format: Line out (microphones not necessary)
Configuration: Mono

:: Recording of Uli's FEEDBACK MACHINE in process at the studios for Kunst Radio. Image by Uli Kuehn ::

FEEDBACK MACHINE consists of a small microphone placed on the end of a rising and falling lever (built out of Lego). This mic faces a small computer speaker that is outputting the microphone feed, creating a feedback loop when the microphone is close enough to the speaker. Using settings in arduino, the lever rises when the feedback level drops (bringing the mic closer to the speaker - feeding the loop) and falls once the feedback volume has escalated to a certain level, creating a musical seesaw sound, delicate yet still piercing in its sinetone-esk feedback output. This piece not only generated the tonal output of the feedback loop but also, the intriguing clicks and scrapes of the small lever mechanism as it dutifully responded to its commands. Studio sound guru and technician Martin Leitner captured the trivial sonic details using his astoundingly completely waterproof Aaton Cantar and Schoeps microphones.

Microphones: Schoeps (matched pair)
Configuration: Stereo cardioid
Positioning: One microphone was focussed on the feedback sounds generated by the speaker and the other, on the mechanical sounds of the lever. For Martin's mechanism-only recordings, both microphones were focussed on different aspects of the level.

Keep tuned for more details as the work unfolds. The next step will be to take the sounds back to Australia and work on them in my own studio after commencing the process at ORF. 

Many thanks to Martin Leitner for his generous creative input and assistance, to Uli Kuehn and Andreas Trobollowitsch  for their inspirational works and contribution of sounds, to Clemens Hausch for the discovery and alignment of such an opportunity with Kunst Radio and of course - to Elisabeth Zimmermann, for her genuine interest and commitment to the genres of sound art and experimental music - bringing them into the homes and intimate spaces of her listeners in Austria.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

'Selected Realities' Album Launch: Moozak 2012

:: 'Samadhi Mechanism' - live still ::

:: 'Samadhi Mechanism' - live still :: Images by Lennart Katzwinkel ::

Friday the 21st September was the opening night for the Moozak Festival, 2012 and the launch of my debut album. I had the absolute pleasure of being sick with (debateably) the worst headcold this side of the galaxy. Other than that - it was a blast.... 

I do feel the need to clarify a few things regarding my work - particularly, 'Samadhi Mechanism', (the audio visual piece that I presented on the night), as I was asked more than a few times about my work process and the source of the material, both Audio and Visual.

'Samadhi Mechanism', in it's entirety was created by me alone.
I recorded the sounds myself with my own equipment and using techniques as developed throughout my work. The only exception to the recordings is the melody - this is my own custom setting on Absynth (not a field recording). I recorded the visual material also. If I do collaborate or find source material elsewhere I am always quick to specify this fact and point to the original artist - that transparency is important to me - especially as sampling sounds and visual data can be so common amongst art practices (but not mine). Personally - i think it's worth clarifying these grey areas and important to credit those where credit is due.

BACK TO THE FESTIVAL................

Joys of the night included discovering local Viennese artists such as Peter Koger (No input visual mixing desk) and MAD (Fischer & Vicard & Kern) with their gritty conglomerative transfigurations of Kraut rock, free jazz, contemporary classical and improvisation. Other impressive acts included 'The Oscillation' with visuals by Julian Hand; this combination made the 60's themselves look like the 80's as they draped their stage in oil slide projections and psychedelic inspired kaleidoscope patterns. Throughout the nights performances there were a number of sound/visual installations surrounding the main area, to keep the punters interested and intrigued between acts. I must say that I love the combination of installation and live performance. Most festivals do not have the courage or the love of the arts to go to such lengths for only a couple of nights and it was impressive to see that Moozak want to interpret their label and their festivals in such a way. 

Catching up with the three behind Moozak, Clemens, Gerald and Ben, on Sunday night - they all looked to be stunned, exhausted and blissful. We did what all people do when in Austria and celebrating - ate schnitzel and drank beer and then rumor has it - they finally got some sleep..... I grabbed a copy of Moozak release 002 - which has sonic creations by Clemens and Gerald in it's descriptions. I am looking forward to listening to it back in Australia with my cats.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Welcome to Moozak and Vienna.....

:: 'This Mortal coil', 'It'll end in tears' album cover, 1984 ::
Have arrived in Vienna, dragging bags of microphones, socks, spools of copper, power adapters and a relentless ache of focus on sound. It's so easy to submerge yourself in creating and your medium of choice but such a nightmare pulling yourself out again. For now, I'll let myself live the dream and continue deepening the dive....

Preparations for the Moozak Festival (from my end) are well underway. Last post was written from the equator between imagined plans and actual reality. Thankfully, I made it to the other side, ironing out buggs and familiarizing myself with my new programmed controllers so as to work on intuition and ignore the thought of body process. Let's see how it comes together.....

I have met two of the men behind the Moozak legacy. Clemens Hausch and Gerald Krist. It's been humbly touching to meet fellow artists, halfway across the globe who are as consumed by similar passions as yourself - who have that  look of absolute conviction behind their eyes that you know so well. I like not having to explain what I do and why - it's an unspoken code - a shared disposition that keeps me ticking over in the day to day and one with common struggles.

The first night of Vienna was spent with Gerald, his loungeroom tropical underwater ecosystem, a bottle of wine, what could possibly be the 'best' custom-built stereo system I have ever experienced and his vinyl collection. 'Do you want to choose something to listen to,' he says. The three of us walk to his wall of records. I see a familiar album cover and pull out a Spezialmaterial compilation, 'I have this' I say. He grins at the wall and keeps searching. I don't try to find the sounds but leave it to him. I could point out what I know and every now and then I let out a 'Ahh' but there is no need for me to search and really, I am not sure what to look for. He grasps a handful of records and says, 'now we listen'. 

The first and last album I remember is by, 'This Mortal Coil'. It cuts to the bone and reminds me that I am allowed to use more than just raw sounds in my music. I envy those who have the nerve to put words to melody...... We keep talking about our common passions. Music, speakers, the hardships of creating events such as 'Moozak' and the joys that make us do so regardless. Len and Gerald talk to each other in German and the lilting rhythm of their voices merge into room and my experience is complete. The memory is sealed - not to be altered - senses are filled and the time and place has become a uneditable past that will morph with my memory but always stay the same. Gerald says goodbye and leaves and i hear the words of, 'This Mortal Coil' fade with him and the click of the door latch.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Samadhi Mechanism: Live for Moozak

I can't remember the last time I left the house. I did go to my day job at some point in the hazy past but that's all it's become - hayyyyyzeeeeeeeee. Moozak is fast approaching and I have managed to reconfigure my control environment for this piece. The Behringer BCR2000 was beginning to look a little tired and as per all of us in the gadgets, gizmos, apps and widgets age - I've come to expect more.
The system I will be using for Moozak involves the Jazz mutant ipad app, 'Lemur'. I remember when these came out as an all in one touch screen + software hardware module for a cool $5000 give or take. Oh did I want one. And wasn't Bjork the envy of us all when she used her fame and influence to buy the things dreams are made of and coerce the creators of the Reactable to part with their treasure. I wasn't Bjork and I didn't have $5000 + dollars. I was the very-uncool one in the corner trying to find a way - any way - to get my hands on a Jazz Mutant Lemur.

Fast forward about five years and my wish is granted - no longer do I have to save my 5 cent pieces for a piece of glorified hardware - I can just get the app for $50 (and that is one expensive app mind you.....) and an ipad that does cost enough to make make you retch a little but hey.... I gave up justifying gear money a long time ago....

The selected elements to bring Samadhi Mechanism to life are
1. Audiomulch
2. Code controller by Livid
3. Ipad running Lemur.

It was harder than expected - but then again, the first time with a new setup is always a little bumpy and seeing as the piece had already been created, it was not such a fun process, more just the hardwork of trying to make the system do what I had been fantasising about for 5 long years. I managed to get there in the end and the final patch that I implemented in Audiomulch will definitely be made use of - good and proper with double digit speaker systems at some point in the future (I've made that promise to myself....). I havent' had any major buggs yet that I haven't been able to fix and I must say - it makes me nervous. Really would prefer not to crash and burn in Vienna - would much prefer it at those gigs you play with the one guy in a trenchcoat sitting at the end of the bar watching you and you know he's not there to listen... Those gigs always go smoothly but the big ones seem to find an excuse to FREAKOUT.

Enough delusional rambling. I would like to sleep before I get on the plane so back to it I go. I wish you could be there and maybe you will. I'm at sleep deprived level where I can see my microphone cases moving out of the corner of my eye but dammitt!!! -  they stop as soon as I look right at'em.... crafty buggers....

Monday, September 3, 2012

Moozak Festival - Vienna 2012.

See you there for the long awaited album launch....
Samadhi Mechanism - Live performance
Volume (extended) - Live performance