Reflections on Unit 1

March 17, 2008 at 11:00 pm (Unit 1 Assessment)

My project as it stands now, is something that I feel I can move forward with and I’m very excited about how it will progress. Through my own research, group crits and tutorials with Andy I have developed and refined my project proposal to a point that I’m happy with. That said, it isn’t set in stone and I must leave room for growth outside of my defined parameters.

Some of the key stages in my projects development can be seen in my blog, which I have updated recently, adding new entries for the work I’ve created in the past few months. Here I shall briefly outline the pathway I took through my research;

The interface
At the beginning of my MA I visualized building an interface in which to explore my audio-visual compositions. However, I realized that this form of interaction can really change the experience of a work drastically, perhaps detracting from its immersive qualities. Also, it would probably take a huge portion of my time to construct the sort of interface that I was initially thinking of. After chats with Andy and my course mates, I decided that researching the technology shouldn’t come first. The technology should serve the idea and not the other way around, so I choose to leave area of study for later.

Synaesthesia
Looking at this subject was quite important, as it gave me a few ideas about translating audio and visual information. Incorporating visual scores in my work and interpreting sketches I make during my journeys is something I will pursue within my project.

2 min intro to my project
This was a useful exercise. It was great to have feedback from my coursemates about my work, and it was certainly interesting how it was understood. To some people it seemed that this piece was in the realm of VJing imagery/sound, something that I’d never considered. However, I wanted to define my work away from that context and explore different aspects of audio-visual composition that incorporate more than just tight syncopation and rhythm.

Interface-MaxMSP and reading
I spent time building a simple interface using MaxMSP/Jitter, to get re-acquainted with this software again. At first it was a headache, but I was really pleased with the result and it made me feel quite enthusiastic about the possibilities of MaxMSP/Jitter again!

During this period I also got my head down and did some reading, discovering lots of interesting avenues to explore further; the Situationists, Guy Debord, Psychogeography, to mention a few. This was an important discovery for me and led me to incorporate their ideas in to my project later on.

Compositions
I also spent time reading more about electro-acoustic composition, namely chapters from Trevor Wishart’s “On Sonic Art”. I remember finding this book particularly inspiring when I first read it at Uni in Bath, it was great returning to some of these ideas. I think these two compositions were a very useful exercise for me and gave me a chance to put in to practice what I’d been reading about. Though the compositions had mixed success, I still learned a fair bit through the process, which was my main objective!

A few trips…
After much more reading and laying down the first draft of my project proposal, I figured it would be beneficial to spend more time actually journeying around the City. These trips were of great import and very enjoyable. I found some interesting spaces and also got more ideas about sound in relation to space. I recorded a lot of new sound material on these trips for my sound library.

MA shows
Creating the work for the MA shows was a good experience. It lead me to explore different ways of using Final Cut. Also, it was nice to meet some of the people from different MA’s and see their work. I enjoyed putting some of my sound recordings to use, as well as taking an live-improvised approach to making music in Logic.

Back to the books
Finally I returned to the books. I started reading Lefebvre, thanks to Andy’s suggestion, and more about the Situationist. I also look at London’s history and this helped me tremendously in defining the River as my departure point.

A good balance between practical and theoretical research helped my reach where I am. I hope to maintain this through the coming months. I will also try to keep my blog entries more regular.

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Final Project Proposal

February 27, 2008 at 10:33 am (MADA UNIT 1)

Please download attached:
final_proposal.pdf

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A few sound recordings…

February 20, 2008 at 10:53 pm (MADA UNIT 1)

… made during journeys around London between 17.12.07 & 11.02.08

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Identity

February 16, 2008 at 4:15 pm (MADA UNIT 1)

This is a piece of work in progress. I may show it at the Identity show next week, if I finish it in time:

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Trafalgar Square

February 11, 2008 at 9:53 pm (MADA UNIT 1)

During the Chinese New Year celebrations @ Trafalgar Square.

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Motion.Time.Space

February 10, 2008 at 1:45 pm (MADA UNIT 1)

These are 2 pieces of work I intend to show in the forthcoming MA group show:

Light-Scratch experiment

This has been an idea I’ve wanted to try for a while, I’ve just needed the right light! The image is actually light reflecting off a piece of vinyl spinning on my turntable. The sound you hear is from that record, it is a sine tone.

Bleed

I made this piece using 25 layers of the same train journey between Wembley Park & Finchley Road (shot out of the window). Each time I added a new layer I delayed it one frame to the previous one and reduced its opacity slighty. So each 1/25 second has a 1 second trace which gradually disappears. The music is derived from sound recordings made on various train journeys around London and came to be through a series of live improvisations with the material.

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Man-made & Natural forms

February 6, 2008 at 2:32 pm (MADA UNIT 1)

These are a selection of photographs I took on 2 separate trips; one south from Trafalgar Square towards Horse Guard Street, the other around Vauxhall Bridge. I used my digital camera for this

It felt fantastic to go out shooting again! The light was really wonderful those days, creating long, majestic silhouettes. With the photographs taken on Horse Guard Street, it seemed to me that nature was trying to reclaim the space, it’s shadow presence intruding on the urban forms.

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South Bank & Golden Jubilee Bridge

February 3, 2008 at 3:42 pm (MADA UNIT 1)

Experiments with my new film camera (courtesy of my father – cheers!)

The colours are so rich and once scanned the quality and definition of a photo is more than I’ll ever need to work with. I have much to learn about film cameras, but I’m getting to grips with it. With each trip I will learn more.

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Project Proposal (first draft) & Presentation

January 29, 2008 at 10:37 pm (MADA UNIT 1)

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London: City of Transformations

Aims

The focus of my project is to redefine and transform my experience London through the creative exploration of its spaces. I will create a series of interconnected audio-visual compositions, stemming from recorded materials I collect whilst travelling around the City. The work itself will derive from the observations I make during my journeys, as well as my research in to various areas of study related to project.

Objectives

1) Explore the effect of the visual and sonic landscape on the individual, by letting my sensitivity towards the environment guide me through the City:
-How can I piece together the fragments of City that appeal to me to create personal spaces and narratives?
-How can the routes I take around the City feedback in to my compositional process?

2) Investigate the relationship between sounds and the spaces in which they occur:
-How does this sonic activity redefine a space: both acoustically & emotionally?
-How does the sonic activity within a space change at different points in time?
-How do different sounds from a space interact with one another?
-How can these various sonic behaviours & relationships be understood and elaborated upon to form a basis for constructing visual abstractions of a space?

3) Explore the dialogue between natural and man-made forms (visual or auditory), on my journeys around London:
-How can the observations I make about this relationship be used as a catalyst to create new, hybrid forms?
-How can my research in to the construction/growth/behaviour of these natural and man-made forms be used as a foundation for audio-visual composition?

4) Research and reflect upon the histories experienced by myself or by people before my lifetime, at different locations around London:
-How can I utilise and transform these traces of the past to engender new meanings within these locations?

Rationale

Having lived in London for the majority of my life, I feel a strong connection to the place; it forms part of my identity, home to the sounds, spaces and familiar faces that I identify with. However, it’s only recently that I’ve begun to uncover new aspects of the ever-changing metropolis and my relation to it. Out of necessity my journeys around the city have been via public transport, mostly the tube, which itself has transformed in to a claustrophobic, hideously loud and relatively uncomfortable space to be in.

Living roughly 20+ miles from the City of London (Square Mile), I didn’t see a great deal of the centre as a child. Getting acquainted with the City through my teens and early adult life, it always struck me as odd that, on occasion, I couldn’t locate myself when resurfacing from the underground. I’d struggle to find my own bearings, let alone be able to direct a lost tourist to ‘Lie-Sestor Square’ or ‘the River Thames’ (pronounce the ‘h’).

With time and familiarity (and a map of course), this changed. However, seldom choosing to walk through London, locations and their relative distances still seemed somewhat distorted. I felt disoriented and removed from the city that I call my home, detached from myself. When I did begin to embrace longer journeys on foot, new aspects of London’s sonic and geographical environment became apparent. It was like I was rediscovering the City and beginning to redefine it for myself as an individual.

My research so far has led me the area of Psychogeography, a practise concerned with how individuals respond emotionally to the physicality of their urban environment; its ambience, architectural forms and spaces. Psychogeography itself stemmed from an artistic movement called Situationist International (SI), active from 1957-72. SI were focused on the alienation and domination of the individual through mass media and consumerism, referred to as “The Society of the Spectacle” by Guy Debord (one of their key figures). To overthrow Capitalisms power over the individual the Situations aspired to create and actively engage in situations and moments in everyday life, transforming ‘the spectacle’ in to art.

Though I share some of their ideals, I’m much more interested in their methods rather than their manifesto, particularly the method of Derive (meaning to drift).

Debord encouraged the individual to break from their daily routine and the same paths they take to get around the city, instead following their emotional responses to their urban terrain and embarking on new routes with a newfound sensitivity towards their environment. Through this exploration of the city, the individual can redefine and transform their surroundings, regaining their sense of self.
On the Passage of a few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International 1957-1972

Whereas psychogeography’s focus is how the physicality of our urban environment affects us, Acoustic Ecology (another area of my research), focuses on the relationship between people and their sonic environment. The other side of my research has been based on Acousmatic music; composition using found sound/playing with perceived space, and Synaethesia; a mental condition whereby one sensory input stimulates another. I will update my blog with this research over the next 2 weeks, to use as personal reference.

With this project I want to regain the sense of London being part of me and transform my personal relationship with it via: (1) the act of derive, (2) studying sonic activity in spaces, (3) exploring the dialogue between natural and man-made forms in the City, and (4) uncovering the traces of the past in locations.

I wanted to find a way of approaching a work about London that would allow me to explore and uncover meanings in an intuitive way. Using psychogeographic methods I may discover places and sounds that otherwise I may not have considered with a more concrete, formalised approach. This process will allow the work to evolve in a more organic way, rather than setting its boundaries from the onset.

Outcomes

Develop a series of interesting, dynamic and meaning audio-visual works that fully explore my objectives.

Present my finished pieces in an immersive audio-visual environment, allowing the viewer to play a part in the creation of the work. (using sensor technologies)

Methodologies

Derive – exploring the city: noting down my observations/reflections, my route, making drawings and recordings with my camera.
Studying sonic behaviour in spaces – making sketches of sound on location, recording with my WAV record for later analysis. Revisiting these spaces at different points in time.
Research – libraries and internet (starting point) – architectural forms, natural forms (e.g. the growth of a tree) and histories of locations and how they’ve transformed.
Continue my reading on composing with found sound and using perceptual space.
Refresh my memory of MaxMSP/Jitter and develop my skills to create sound transforming tools & possibly use it for ‘interactive’ element of my installation.
Utilize and expand upon my knowledge of FCP and Photoshop to develop my visual transforming tools.
Create work using gathered material (along the way), to generate ideas.

Risk Assessment

All equipment installed safely (e.g. If camera is used above viewer to track movement, wires kept out of the way, no exits blocked!)
Be careful where the landscape leads me…

Timetable

Next few months:
Refine project proposal – end of Feb
Each week at least one journey must take place.
Each week at least one blog entry will be written as a means of reflecting
Every 2 weeks I must reflect on the material by starting or adding to a composition (to generate ideas)
Schedule in time to expand software skills
End of Year 1:
Work towards making a ‘scaled down’ version of my work for MA show
Reflect upon its success, refine further
Develop idea and make/refine all separate audio-visual compositions
Develop software environment (MaxMSP/Jitter) and sensory data transmitters for my immersive environment
TEST
End of Year 2:
Install final show!

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Journey

January 8, 2008 at 12:00 pm (MADA UNIT 1)

This piece of music is derived entirely from a single sample (which you can hear in isolation at the end of the piece).

This piece is cyclical and there are 3 sections to it. In the first section you hear the initial manipulations of the sample. In the second, I sampled the ‘green area’ from section 1 and used that as the sound material for section 2. The ‘blue area’ is the material I used from section 2 to create section 3! In the ‘yellow area’ of section 3 you may hear tiny traces of the original sample, as well as the fragments from the first section once more, completing the cycle.

The image that accompanies that piece are ‘snapshots’ of the audio waveform, arranged in an octagonal shape. The top part of the waveform is the left (stereo) and the bottom part is right (stereo).

*note – best listen to on headphones (or a speaker set-up where L & R are defined)

With this piece I wanted to restrict my source material so that I would push myself to compose in a different way within Logic. I thought it would also lead me to explore the potential transformations of a single sound and its relationship with a space more. My process (explained above) helped me with this too. I limited myself to the use of one sampler (EXS24mkII) & Channel EQ for shaping my sounds and used a single reverb, Space Designer.

Listening back to the piece now, I feel that there are some aspects of it that worked and that others didn’t. I think there are some nice ambient passages (particularly the final section) and a few curious otherworldly jungle-esque sounds (in the intro!). Although in some places the sonic gestures seem a bit flimsy and lack dynamism, the use of space and distance make it interesting again (through the simple use of panning and amplitude). I tried to make the spatial relationship consistent throughout the piece; whenever a sound got quieter (further away perceptually) the ‘space’ surrounding it would get louder (reverb would increase for that sound), much how sounds behave in ‘real’ space.

In terms of what I learned technique-wise, I feel that I explored the use of the EXS24 more, as well as finding ways of making the spatial relationship between sounds interesting for myself.

I think the piece could have been improved in some ways for the listener. For example, I could have presented the transformation of the original source material more gradually (retaining at least some sense of what it was).

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