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.