The Show

December 25, 2008 at 8:31 pm (Window Music - Prototype 1)


It’s been a few weeks since our show at the House Gallery, which turned out to be quite successful on the whole. The private view was great, lots of people attended and shared their thoughts with everyone else.

It was certainly a useful process for me, hearing instant reactions and responses to what I had created. Whilst the piece of music I had made was quite strong, the visual element appeared weak in comparison. It seems there was some confusion in what I was trying to convey with the visual element. In the short space of time I had to set up the work I wanted to recreate a window frame using 7 identical photographs of my window, which I developed in the darkroom. 4 of these images, which made the top part of my window frame, were positive, whilst 3 of these images, which made up the bottom part of my window frame, were negative. Audio tape (from an old cassette) was intertwined over and across the window frame attempting to show how the feeling of that particular space was shaped by the sounds present within it, as well as the music I had composed using these particular sounds.

What seemed to be missing in most peoples perception of the work, was that the image was meant to represent a window! Also, not everyone could link the thin black tape as  being audio tape. So, the two key signifiers of the work were not that clear! I agree with the comments about the ‘window’, not being window-like, but not so much with the audio-cassette tape. Having said that, this comes down to the audiences familiarity with material. I think the source of this sort of material would be clearer to an audience more familiar with old analogue recording methods.


We all had feedback sheets in which we asked a question/s related to our work. There were some interesting responses:

Name a place in London that you visit or travel through alot.

What does it sound like and how does that sound make you feel?

person A – Oxford Circus

The place sounds like machine noise, because everyone looks very busy, rush, doing shopping, nervous – which is like a machine never stops running.

person B – New Cross

It is very difficult to describe a sound and harder still to describe a whole soundscape & this is a very small box…. it is hard to describe sound without referencing other sounds or generalizations about pitch i.e. noisy, quiet, etc.

person C – the park

woosha woosha woosha – librated

person D – Camberwell


person E – the roads

Sounds like a hurry… feels like time is running out…


Here are some earlier dark room experiments (of varying success!):




Permalink Leave a Comment

Curation for Prototype 1

December 2, 2008 at 8:56 pm (Window Music - Prototype 1)

All entries are relevant to the development of this prototype. This was my initial prototype, which I tried to develop using Max by linking the two compositions. This ended up being unsuccessful, so I carried the Big Ben idea forward. Initially I still intended to present this in the intrim show, but circumstances didn’t allow me to. Since the robbery I have returned to the Window Music piece, replacing the interactive element with a visual one. (more details below)

Permalink Leave a Comment

Window Music in “Feedback Show” @ the House Gallery

December 1, 2008 at 6:50 pm (Window Music - Prototype 1)

Title: “Window Music (inside-out mix)”

The dialogue between sound and our perception of urban space

is central to my current research.

This work is a reinterpretation of a piece of music

which was composed entirely from sounds recorded

outside of my window. It examines the new feeling of

the space in the light of more recent events that took

place inside my room.


I’ve decided to get involved with the show at the House Gallery, which will be on 4th-18th December. I will to rework my Window Music piece, incorporating a recording of the police searching for evidence in my room on the day of the burglary. I will also create a visual element to the piece which will be derived from the ‘evidence’ photographs of my room taken the day after the burglary. The work will be installed by the window downstairs, with headphones hanging on the wall and the visual element either on, or directly underneath the window.


I’m looking forward to finishing this work. I feel it will help me let go of past events, as well as giving me the opportunity to get feedback on the prototype that survived the burglary. Since I couldn’t get involved with the interim show, this will serve as a good precursor to the MADA final show in July.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Window Music Revisited

October 1, 2008 at 3:29 pm (Window Music - Prototype 1)

Window Music (part 2)

Whilst sitting by my window a couple of weeks ago my ears perked up to the exuberant sounds of a dancehall a capella being blasted down the street. It wasn’t coming from someone’s sound system though; the rambunctious vocal rhythms were leaping forth from the mouth of a local Jamaican man, marking his presence in the soundscape with his thick patois accent:

Permalink Leave a Comment

Linking Cycles

August 23, 2008 at 3:55 pm (Window Music - Prototype 1)

I’ve been trying to work with Time and link my two cyclic compositions together.

The above image initially started as drawings within my sketch book, later translated in to a clearer digital schematic.

What interested me about linking with these 2 circular sound-compositions in visual terms was that two logical paths that formed due to times direction. This transition point in between the two circles formed another circle; the opposite ends of which touched the start/end point of each compositions. Essentially, it hinted at two separate routes between the two spaces, which made me think about embarking on two different journeys between the locations; one from beresford road to vauxhall bridge and vice versa.

In an attempt to move this forward I began thinking about this idea with MaxMSP in mind. First I returned to my sketch book to quickly get down my ideas, then went back to the computer to create another digital schematic. This process of moving in between the ‘real’ and the digital was an effective and interesting process! Here is my schematic:

The idea is simple in theory, but slightly more complicated in terms of using a camera / sensors to map movement, as well as programming within Max. It is however, doable!

With the intrim show forthcoming in September I thought it’d be sensible to think about a scaled-down version of this using the wacom. To my horror, I’d somehow managed to delete the wacom object, as well as previous Wacom interface patch (see interface), so I had to start from the very beginning once more. I decided to keep things simple and used the mouse position to separate areas of the screen, which later on I could adapt when I downloaded the Wacom object:

The screen is separated in to 4 sections and there are four sound sources, (4 sin waves at different frequencies) each of which is designated to a space. Depending on where you position the mouse you will hear either a different mixture of tones at different volumes. Most of the work was simply scaling numbers and working with maths. Although rather the patch is rather dull and cumbersome, creating it was a useful excersize in problem solving within MaxMSP.

The next day I downloaded the Wacom object and began to work on this…

….which proved a lot harder than I thought. I really wish I hadn’t misplaced my interface patch! I’ve got a lot of work to do in MaxMSP, perhaps an ‘Ay Caramba’ is in order. There, that’s better. I shall take a break from this idea and consider my options. Perhaps a derive is in order!!!


A few days on and I feel that the Wacom-Max combo and my idea of using 2 cyclic compositions don’t mix in this instance! Whilst my initial idea could be accomodate by somebody’s movement in a space, transferring this to an A3 Wacom would be hindered by how people would instinctively use it. It’s a drawing tablet, so you’d want to make gestures and explore the effect of different movements across the surface (for example). If however, I took one composition (such as Vauxhall Bridge) and separated it in to it’s 8 layers (8 separate pieces of short looped audio) and then went on to separate the Wacom’s surface in to 8 segments for each piece of audio, then it might work well. The pressure of the pen could be mapped to volume and/or the movement within one ‘area’ could alter the frequency content of the sound, similar to ‘interface’ (see previous). This is interesting and has potential, but I’m not sure if it’s really worth the time. All this thinking about interface recently has taken me away from thinking about the compositions themselves and my objective of describing the sonic activity visually. I must have a think…

Permalink Leave a Comment

Vauxhall Bridge Composition

August 20, 2008 at 6:45 pm (Window Music - Prototype 1)

… and without narration:

Permalink Leave a Comment

Constructing “Window Music”

August 19, 2008 at 8:36 pm (Window Music - Prototype 1)

This is a piece composed from a series of recordings made out of my window on Beresford Road, Islington.

Recordings made;

Construction work – recorded 10am or so

Rubbish/recycling collection (Vehicle, bottles smashing, men shouting) – recorded 7-8am

Police sirens – recorded various times

Passing cars – recorded various times

Car Alarm – recorded one afternoon

Rain – recorded 5am

Ice cream van (Bells of St. Clements) – recorded afternoon

Bird / insect – recorded 4am

Man and luggage (?) – recorded 8am

The piece is 3 minutes long and is cyclical (loops around).

I’m interested in cyclic composition for these reasons;

The listener can enter at any point in time and experience the piece without beginning or end.

This may reflect how we experience the soundscape, entering it at any given moment and being enveloped within it until we decide to leave a space.

Also, I am keen on exploring the idea of cyclic composition due to how I may use MaxMSP for my final piece. (more on this later)

The piece began, or rather was initially inspired by the sounds of construction which woke me up one morning. I made a recording of 20mins or so during the construction work; the relative quietness of the street ambience interrupted momentarily by the loud clanging of metal pipes and girders. The sound of these rich, metallic timbres colliding were sonic signifiers of the development of a new structure being built on the house across the road. This was my starting point and would determine my approach to the material.

Listening from the beginning of the piece you can hear (and see in the arrangement) a rhythmic structure being built with each progressive bar; every new bar of the blue instrument in the middle of the sequence has one construction hit added each time. This additive process continues until we reach 33 seconds, when new elements are introduced.

At this point in the composition I started to make new recordings. It was a day or so after the construction work had stopped, so I wanted to reflect this in how I worked with the sound from here on.

Before going on, first I must explain how I sequenced the construction hits. I made a multi-channel instrument using the  EXS24 sampler in Logic. This allows you to group sounds within the instrument and send them to different outputs (channels), which means you can work on each group separately, for example, with different EQ. So, I grouped the construction hits according to similar frequency (low, mid, high) to use as ‘drums’, so to speak.

Ok, so from this point in the composition (33 seconds) I wanted to use a subtractive process, leaving space for the new sounds that I recorded on Beresford Road to develop (e.g the Bin-man collection drums). As time passes in the composition the construction drums mid, high and low frequencies fade out respectively. This is mirrored in the behaviour of the Bin-man drums, which by 1m30s, are just the high frequency, gestural waves of the vehicles breaks emitting air.

All the sounds in the composition are related not just by the location of their recording, but also by their behaviour within the composition. The bass-heavy sound of a car passing which is first introduced at 34 seconds forms a part of the groove, helping to defining each repetition of 4 bars. There are two car sounds used in the composition, the first (heard on the first of the four bar cycle) gradually ascends in pitch, whilst the other (which repeats during bar two, three and four of the cycle) has a faster descent in pitch.

Similarly, the ‘winding-up’ of a police siren heard at the beginning (and end) of the piece repeats (twice every bar) during the development of the construction drums, until finally (at 33secs) it continues its life and unleashes its alert phase. The siren is mirrored by the behaviour of the incessant car alarm which greets us later in the composition.

The rhythmic groove element of the piece drives the other elements forward until it gradually disintegrates within the ambient loop of the ice-cream van and refreshing high frequencies of the Bin-man vehicle breaks. At 2m11s into the piece we reach a turning point in the composition, where I gathered more material from my window. It was early one morning, perhaps even a week later. There was a tiny insect emitting it’s lonely single note call in the tree outside. It was so quiet outside. I wanted to bring his call to the fore (using EQ), it was perhaps the only sound of nature I heard during this study.

There was a need for me to reveal or at least hint at the sources of the sound and this is what this final section of the piece does. At the moment of transition (2m11s) you hear the car passing (heard previously), but this time it is layered with another car passing that has most of its high frequency content is present, allowing the image to form more fully in the listeners minds eye. As the car disappears in to the distance the EQ changes to draw our attention to the insect that is present. We hear the sounds of the construction work and rubbish collection in their original (unsequenced) form and much quieter, accompanying the insect as he chirps. Eventually, as we approach the end of the 3 minute loop the police sirens become present once more and the groove of the construction drums start to form completing the loop.

After finishing this piece I decided to work with some video shot out of my window, in an attempt to visualize my sound composition:

I feel this experiment had some success; the filmed audio file and sequenced drums from Logic were interesting to use.

However, after getting feedback about it from my coursemates, my perception of it looking too much like a music video was perhaps correct! I think acheiving my dream of acurrately describing how sounds behave using film / animation techniques will be very difficult and, of course, a lot of work.

Also, I must consider the balance between sound and image carefully. This particular music composition has some quite subtle details and a gradually transforming sonic landscape which require focused listening. I can imagine that if I were to create a visual representation of each sound as it occurs in the composition and project it large on to a wall space, that the visual may overpower the sound. I may well be wrong though! Though tight audio-visual syncopation can create a rather intense end experience, like in Gantz Graf (autechre/alex rutterford), I feel that playing with the relationship in a more dynamic way may be more interesting.

I’m trying to imagine evolving relationships between sound and image; both in-phase (in-sync) gradually becoming out of phase, visual rhythms playing off sonic rhythms (rather than just mimicing them), creating a jarring feeling when sound & image contrast one another…. this all reminds me of Michel Chion’s book ‘Audio-vision’. I should read this again!

Gantz Graf

Permalink Leave a Comment