sQRikebeam bor fow

Ich bin auch ein Fahrrad, -or- Bikescream for QRow

-or- traffic jam session

Recommendation: Watch the video clip while listening to the sound:

The participants made sounds with the bikestruments and formed them with their voices through the Anthropomorfer. When working with the sounds via smartphones, how could we do with only very little space? I hadn’t prepared a silver concept for that part. Somehow someone came up with the idea to follow the passing cars, bikes and people with the sounds. So each participant chose one feature, for instance “everything yellow”, and each time a yellow car, bike og hat passed by, he/she would ‘follow’ the moving object with the sound, panning from left to right or vice versa. In this way, a new aspect was introduced in the the-street-as-an-instrument-concept: SILENCE!! Since there were not yellow things passing by all the time the participant following yellow things had to keep silent in the pauses. But since each participant followed his/her specific feature, – bike helmets, taxis, blondes, etc., a great variety of movements and velocities naturally came to the improvisations, thus creating variation and new mixes/collisions. QRaaaaa QRaaaa!

Related articles:

Bikestruharp, former bike now instrument (www.akutsk.wordpress.com)

Bikestruments, bridgestruments, anti padlock guerilla (www.akutsk.wordpress.com)

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Building streetstruments: paint-bucket-bass, drain-trombone and sewer-chimes

First workshop: constructing streetstruments

The street dressed for the streetstrument workshop

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Materials from the construction site are lined up according to their characteristics

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The participants are constructing streetstruments

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Sewer chimes

Second workshop: Collective improvisations on electrified streetstruments

Improvising using the paint bucket bass

After the workshops: The streetstruments are left in their street, inspiring passers by to make their own street improvisations

Paint bucket bass and drain-trombone entrusted the passers by

Related posts:
Construction site interacts musically with neighbors

Quotation: Lefebvre about the living disorder of the street

The street sound activist’s toolkit

Tubes from the ground, now getting a sonorous aftelife

Construction site interacts musically with neighbors

Tubes from the ground, now getting a sonorous aftelife

Tubes from the underground. Now getting a sonorous afterlife in a streetstrument/ giving-back-the-noise workshop

Concept: During a street art decoration of the wall around the local metro construction site, akutsk is making a ‘streetstrument’ workshop.

The workshop is going to be in two parts:

  1. a streetstrument building workshop. In these weeks, I’m collecting debris from the construction. At the event August 11, these objects will be the material for instruments.
  2. a Anthropomorfer workshop, where the participants form the sounds and improvise collectively via laptop and smartphones

Everything is on location, anyone can join, and afterwards we paste up QR-codes linking to recordings of the impros.
Here is the Facebook event.

Similarities in composition

Ich bin ein Amateur!!

Collection, composition, reflection, these are the three main elements of an artistic process, and here I’m going to do the third.

For a detailed account on my “cycle of artistic processess”, read here: http://www.wix.com/akutsk/akutsk#!artistic-processes-cycle

For the processes of collection and composition I use the Anthropomorfer. This is an instrument I have build in the computer, using a program called MAXMSP. The Anthropomorfer in its current version makes it possible to record sound in 8 ‘players’. For each recording, the user uses his voice in a 2nd microphone, adding a ‘meta-layer’ to the first recording, let’s call it the “voice” of the player. The meta layer works as a mould for 1st recording, – the “body” of the player. You do not hear the second layer; what happens is that the Anthropomorfer makes an analysis of the second layer of sound, and uses this analysis to form the first layer according to  two sets of parameters:

  1. Volume and pitch.  The analysis of the volume and pitch of the 2nd layer controls the amplitude and sample rate of the first player. As a result, you perceive changes in melody and rhythm. This is the prosodic level of speech, and it is – among other things – our means for using our voices to imitate movement. We use prosody when we are moved, and we use prosody to move a virtual fist in the face of the other in a discussion. In the Anthropomorfer, this is where ‘the voice’ makes ‘the body’ move.
  2. Timbre. The analysis of timbre of the voice/the 2nd layer is being used as a filter for the body/the 1st layer. Timbre, we also call it tone quality or simply color, is the domain of phonemes, quality of voice, and different ways of using the oral cavity. We use timbre when we form words, and also as a mark of our feeling state. We distinguish between voices according to timbre. Timbre has to do with identity. The identity granted to a thing/concept, when we use words; the identity of a person, when we hear his/her voice; and the identity of an emotional state. In the Anthropomorfer, timbre is a way of infecting a layer with the identity of another layer. What you perceive are changes in the spectral quality of the sound. It corresponds to instrumentation in an orchestral score. In popular music the effect of tweaking the EQ of a theme/track is extremely common.

So. You have a body. And you have a voice. The voice moves the body and changes its appearance. In the Anthropomorfer, it doesn’t stop there, though. There are 8 players. Actually any ‘player-voice’ attached to a ‘player-body’ can form any of the other players. In ‘movement’ or ‘identity’ or both. And what’s more: The player-bodies themselves can form each other. In moving the other ‘player-bodies’. Or infecting the other player-bodies with its own timbre-identity . The only thing that can’t happen is a player-body controlling its own ‘movement’ – it stands still!

Imagine 8 player-bodies, playing around, making each other move, and infecting each other with their appearances. Like independent actors each with its own will, sometimes being influenced, though keeping its own basic characteristics, sometimes influencing others. In the current version of Anthropomorfer, your role as an improviser is akin to the role of a director. I have made an iPad user interface for the Anthropomorfer, where you can control:

  • the overall volume and pan of each player, thus being able to move each of the player-bodies to the front/back (volume) and the right/left side (pan) of the soundspace.
  • the degree of ‘timbre-susceptibility’. You can fine tune how sensible a given player-body is to the viral influence of another player-body or player-voice. This is being perceived as the saturation of the sound, sometimes to a degree of overdrive
  • the influence-matrix. Which player-body or player-voice is influencing which player-body’s movement and/or identity. This is done through two 8X24 matrices.

You can mould any player with your voice (or any other sound) in real time. Actually up to 8 external players (IRL) can participate.

In the improvisation ‘Æææææ’ I use two microphones. One hanging out of my window, recording the sounds from my street, and the other in front of my mouth. At the moment of the improvisation, there were workers working on the construction site in front of my house, listening to the radio and mounting some plywood on a wall. People were passing by, talking. All these sounds make up the recorded player-body layer. I use my voice for the recorded player-voice layer, and I use it while improvising, in real time.

Listen to this improvisation, headphones recommended.

It is my own improvisation. Nevertheless, I will try to listen to it as if it was exterior to me. This is what I call level 1 of exteriorisation. It is a very important part of the cycle of artistic processes. But it is often ignored. With the Anthropomorfer, a good deal of the result is not a direct consequence of the improvisers intentions, and this gives it an open quality, where you can actually surprise yourself. This is why the first level of exteriorisation is more easily reached, when working with the Anthropomorfer.

So, what happens in the improvisation Æææææ? It seems, there are two overall movements.

  1. A rhythmic pattern, in a quasi 5/4 meter, with a hammer-like sound, garnished with other sounds.
  2. A dense complex mass of thick sound with elements of human speech.

These two movements intertwine, the 1st being present through the whole improvisation, though a little subdued, while the 2nd comes and goes, insisting, dense and confused, brutal. There is an overall division in two of the improvisation. The first part is where the two movements intertwine, the second messing around where the 1st keeps a calm repetition. At a moment, the 2nd movement disappears, and the 1st stands back, while being changed in color. A sharper, more crisp sound, in comparison with the more warmer sound at the beginning.

To me, there is a similarity between the way this improvisation works, and this painting by Asger Jorn:

Similarities in composition, used with assumed tacit accept by the painter

I use the Anthropomorfer for improvisation mainly to ‘try my own medicine. I want to make improvisations the way anyone with the instrument would be able to do it. In that sense, my approach is essentially one of an amateur. Being an amateur means loving what you are doing (the root of the word is ‘love’), it is about sharing, since you love it so much, and you want others to be a part of it. There is no issue about who did what, since there is no money involved.

In that sense, I’m proud of declaring: “Ich bin ein Amateur!!”

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Anthropomorfer – a tool for intercontinental collective sound art improvisation?

We are all virtuosos with our voices. Imagine being able to improvise over the sounds around you using your voice as an infinitely fine-tuned  controller. While  real time jamming with someone on the other side of the planet.

The mission is: I want to find the optimal tool to allow people to improvise sound art in collectives across the planet, in a creative, pleasurable, and reflective way. I have developed the Anthropomorfer as a desktop application, allowing collectives to improvise, while being in the same place. Now, I want to extend the functionality from a local wifi based context to a global web-based one.

The tool is intended for anyone interested in working with sound as a means for expression, but these contexts are of special interest:

  • working with children developing their analogue literacy and their divergent thinking
  • in organisations enhancing communication skills

What will the participant experience:

1) Open your app. Start a group or sign up for one. Select a sound, either by recording it on the spot, or from a database of sounds that other users have chosen. 2) You now hear your audio while viewing it as a waveform on your smartphone. You choose which part of the sound you want. 3) When all the participants in your group has chosen and cut their sound, start your session 3… 2… 1…. and:  4) improvise together. You can turn volume up and down, pan, and you can shape your sound with your voice via the phone’s microphone. 5) afterwards, you listen to the improvisation, give it thumbs up or down, and if a majority votes for it, the improvisation is saved on the server. Here you can comment and discuss it.

What lies behind:

Technically, there must be a server where the program runs, and audio files are stored. From each cell phone the server receives  1) an upload of a short sound file (max. 15 seconds). Or a selected audio file, which is already on the server. 2) A flow of analysis of the voice. Not the voice. Just analysis of pitch and volume. The server streams audio from the collective improvisation to the participants.

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Sound becoming color

A series of improvisations using the Vocogram-addition to Anthropomorfer: using my voice as an equalizer. The concept: an improvisation for each vowel sound in Danish. (there are many!!)

Read my reflection over Æææææ in my post Ich bin ein Amateur!!

Read about the vocogram in my Danish blog (translated by google): http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=da&langpair=da|en&u=http://oerermedfilter.wordpress.com//

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How do we store the analogue?

Why is it so important to store analogue knowledge? Because our collectives with their extended analogue illiteracy waste to much energy and develop too many negative behaviours, instead of inspiring people to solve common problems in sustainable ways. Developing sustainable forms of analogue interaction is crucial to our collectives, but without an efficient method of storing this knowledge, it is soon lost in our ephemeral societies.

If you are confused about my use of the terms analogue and digital, please read my blogpost Analogue and digital processes

In collectives sharing a strong folklore, dance, music and storytelling are efficient sites for developing, storing and retrieving analogue knowledge. The activities are inclusive, cross modal and open ended. Participants are guided by a common knowledge about steps, rhythms, scales, etc., and possible ways of combining them. Events develop according to a number of open factors, being sensitive to context and to the participant’s intentions. They are improvised, and may turn in several directions, like a dinner conversation.

A strong, inclusive and open ended culture for dance and music gives a collective the means for  developing a refined attunement to the physical and mental space of the other, giving the participants a common, codified language for analogue interaction.

In our welfare society, our capacities for dancing, music-making and storytelling have been colonised by market economy, setting up clear boundaries between producer and consumer.

A major obstacle for our communities to have an efficient replacement for our lost folklore is our fragmented way of life. What about the new technologies, can they be the glue that restores our lost proximity?

Since analogue processes are gradient and embedded in context, storing information about them is an enormous challenge. We might think that the new technologies for making traces of visual and auditive elements give us the sites necessary for storing and retrieving analogue information. To some extent, I believe they have the opposite effect. Since film, sound recording and photography are so seemingly close to our instantaneous perception, we are easily tricked into believing that what they depict is a somewhat true picture of the actual event. This is of course only a surface point of view since we all know that a movie actually just consist of many pictures/frames taking in a row, – remember the root of the word: moving pictures – and a sound recording is a “mechanical inscription of sound waves” as it says in Wikipedia. Whether done by what we call ‘digital’ or ‘analogue’ equipment, these inscriptions are basically digital, in the sense I use here, since they proceed from a linear approach, taking one frame or sample at a time, storing them in a long row, on a disc or a tape. The procedure shares its conceptual framework with writing, and you might say that we merely have rebuild the (phonetic) typewriter into an audio and an image typewriter. It is true that the bitrate of our devices makes these small images/sound samples appear so rapidly one after the other that our senses are completely tricked into perceiving movement. Nevertheless, the linear character of this method for storing analogue information makes it inefficient when it comes to building up a culturally sustainable collective:

  • A recording is myopic. It can only collect information that it is constructed for collecting, ignoring all the other types of analogue information we receive in an event. The hegemony of the video recording, as stated by the success of Youtube, boosts the existing  hierarchy of the senses, where the visual is by far the most foregrounded sense.
  • A recording is uni-directional. The different interactions in an event flow in multiple, and often contradictory directions, and since the one who produces the recording must make a choice about which stream(s) to follow, the consumer is left with limited if any possibilities to follow other streams of interaction. These underprivileged streams might be present as traces, but you cannot follow them further since they are cut away or continue outside the frame. New supposedly revolutionary technologies like 3D video and surround sound broaden the field of the linear recording, but they do not come with a solution to the basic problem about the decision of the viewpoint, which still lies in the hands of the producer of the recording.
  • A recording petrifies potentiality. In a given event, there is an infinite number of potential combinations of interaction between the participants, whether human or non-human, animate or inanimate. In order to interact adequately in a situation, you must be able to read the potential intentions, movements and reactions of the other participants.

Directors , photographers,  and composers are tweaking their respective media in order to challenge these build in limitations. Just like the writers tweak text in order to convey the totality of an event. Being a competent user of text requires years of study.

Related: http://immanentterrain.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/gilles-deleuze-on-framing-2/

For some reason we believe that visual literacy and auditory literacy is easier  to achieve. Although the technologies are available to everyone now, the users’ possibility for  impregnating the process of recording with significant analogue  information is limited. The abundance of apps, programs and gadgets that should help us do ‘as the professionals’ result in an enormous amount of works that appear ‘professional’. Nevertheless, since these tools are generally based on a surface understanding of the choices in artistic processes, they give you ready made options that will mimic (commercially) successful works, while impeding you from making choices according to an understanding of the context your process is embedded in, with all its potentiality, agency and … analogueness.

Our folklore-deprived collectives  need new sites for analogue storing. Although the new technologies for recording sound and image are now completely democratised, their capacity for giving the average user a site for storing and retrieving analogue information doesn’t compete with the capacities lying in a strong culture for dance, music and storytelling.

Our current level of analogue literacy leaving us with an almost autistic society, where we are challenged in reading the non-binary information in our interactions, a need for new methods is apparent. We allocate most of the time available in our childhoods to the development of (phonetic) literacy and numeracy, and it seems improbable that this is going to change in the near future.

Can we develop methods and tools that will shortcut the steepness of the learning curves for analogue literacy?

Music, dance and storytelling didn’t come out of thin air. They are rooted in our inherent competencies for prosody, gesture and speaking. Everyone is capable of expression through these modalities, and this is where the key to new sites for developing analogue knowledge lies.

These tools and methods for developing, storing and retrieving analogue knowledge must enable the extraction of information about the existing (rudimentary) analogue infrastructure of a collective, providing a site for the playing around with these elements, and
offering simple methods for reassembling them into enhanced and sustainable analogue infrastructures. The tools and methods must deliver intelligent, humanised interfaces, ready to read the analogue information in gesture, movement and speech, while being sensitive to context and the agency of the participants, not only human, but also non-human or inanimate. They must be open ended, open for the users to tweak and hack them, developing extensions or ‘plugins’, including new elements from the local context, and the surrounding processes in society, in popular and elite culture. And finally, they must include storing methods that facilitate the sharing, distribution and efficient  retrieving of analogue know-how in the collective over time, and between collectives working with similar processes.

Related reading:

“No ear, no piece of apparatus could grasp this whole”  (www.akutsk.tumblr.com)

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