31 March 2010

Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear by Steve Goodman

Yesterday I saw Dr. Michael Goddard - one of the organisers of the Bigger Than Words, Wider Than Pictures conference. We actually met to discuss the PhD proposal I'm putting together with his help but we also chatted briefly about the upcoming event. There's some great stuff planned. We touched on my contribution and Michael suggested that I might be interested in reading a recent book by Steve Goodman titled Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear.

So I Googled it when I got home and realised that Steve Goodman is the same Steve Goodman that I actually know through his work with the Hyperdub label. There he's more noticeable as Kode 9 and, as label boss, is responsible for releasing groundbreaking music by the likes of Burial, Zomby, Flying Lotus, Martyn, Samiyam, Joker and more. In fact I interviewed him back in 2008 for something else.

What I didn't realise then is that the guy who has also pushed innovative electronic sounds via fanzines and club nights also has a very impressive academic career. With a PhD in philosophy he has apparently studied rave culture, cybernetics and postmodernism and now this book journeys through “philosophy, science, fiction, aesthetics, and popular culture, as he maps a (dis)continuum of vibrational force, encompassing police and military research into acoustic means of crowd control, the corporate deployment of sonic branding, and the intense sonic encounters of sound art and music culture”. A read then perhaps as heavy as one of his DJ sets.

Anyway, I've now got it on order from Amazon.

Available via the following link: Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear (Technologies of Lived Abstraction Series)

Upcoming projects from Matthew Herbert

While engaging with this project's recordings, it was impossible not to recount the work of 'found sound' artists. Musicians like Matmos and Matthew Herbert, for example, have been sampling everyday noises for years before constructing them into intricate, if sometimes wonky, compositions. Today I received notification of three new projects by the latter which are all due for release this year.

Herbert's first - titled One One - is a solo album which is something of a departure after a series of collaborative works. It also includes his singing. The second will be One Club: a long-player assembled from sounds recorded in a German nighclub. The last - and perhaps most controversial - is One Pig.

The process for the final offering has been documented at http://thisisapig.blogspot.com/ and, yes, it involves the noises made by a pig. However Herbert intended to use the sounds of the pig's slaughter in the piece but had difficulties finding an abattoir and attending vet willing to allow the recording of this act.

Last month PETA condemned the project as "cruelty as entertainment" which prompted Herbert to argue that he had merely intended to record the pig throughout its entire life cycle. And the pig at the centre of the controversy was born on a farm that raises its animals for consumption. Herbert pointed out that he hadn't interfered in any way with these events but also made a case for the right to draw attention to just how meat is produced.

Subsequently this (currently unfinished) work has possibly become less about "entertainment" and more about challenging ideas: notions not only about how we feed ourselves (plus the hypocritical squeemishness we develop when faced with the truth about what ends up in our supermarkets), but also the role of art in providing information that might otherwise be hidden from the public.

Which is even more interesting when you consider that Herbert [who isn't a vegetarian; I'm not either] insists that he started this project with no agenda. Especially given that the issues surrounding the work have additionally inspired a campaign for clarity regarding the methods involved in food manufacture (http://www.seeyourfood.org/).


Sonorama from Vogler Voice on Vimeo.

Sonorama from kamila mikos on Vimeo.

Sonorama from Vogler Voice on Vimeo.

Sonorama is a project that catalogues relationships between sound and shape.
More at http://www.sonorama.org/

29 March 2010

Lise Malinovsky postcard

An obscure item in the gift shop at the Statens Museum for Kunst (the National Gallery of Denmark) was the above postcard. It's labelled as being a work by Lise Malinovsky titled 'Det Skjulte Maleri'.

The front features a grey surface with only the tiniest variations in the print noting some very feint markings: the only clue that it has actually been manufactured with an "image" on it. Very minimal, yet different enough to stand out when displayed amongst the more well known miniature reproductions of the Rembrandts, Picassos and Titians.

28 March 2010

Bigger Than Words, Wider Than Pictures invitation

After answering the call for submissions, I've just received notification that I have been invited to participate in the Bigger Than Words, Wider Than Pictures conference. So I'll need to think about exactly what I'll be delivering there. One more recent development has been the news that it won't be partly curated at Islington Mill (as previously suggested) due to it seemingly following Central Library's example and closing for refurbishment.

I'm also looking into the potential for external funding/sponsorship so that I can produce something even more ambitious for July's event. Perhaps an installation or have the findings culminate in a publication that could be printed and distributed in significant numbers. However the hand-in date for this project is in May so any additional work would be for myself (i.e. it wouldn't be assessed as part of this Masters work) but I guess the development of the ideas would be part of my conclusion. The real concern would be whether this could become so all-consuming that it would be too distracting at a time when I'm supposed to be working on my major dissertation work. Unless, of course, I work this into that (as yet unspecified) project.

Stadsbiblioteket in Malmo

Another day, another country and yet another library. This one was just a short train journey from Copenhagen in Malmo, Sweden. Again, it was a calming space despite [because of?] its cathedral-like proportions.

One especially nice aspect of the architecture was the small study booths almost assembled like book cases along one side where people worked in relative seclusion whilst stacked up - three units high. Another clever addition was the checking in system which takes the books on a conveyor belt to be put back on display. To get there they travel under the floor with the publications visibly moving through the building under a glass panel.

We also got the wrong train on the way back. We mixed up 'Helsingor' and 'Helsingborg' and, instead of heading back to Denmark, we got to see some very grey Swedish countryside.

27 March 2010

The Black Diamond

I'm in Copenhagen for the weekend so thought that I should check out the city's landmark Black Diamond: a bold extension to Denmark's Royal Library.

It is a great building and one that - even despite its cavernous, semi-industrial interior - feels particularly serene. Maybe the Danes are better behaved but it also seemed to be less noisy than some of the other libraries I've been investigating in the UK. Also being a design-conscious, cultural nation, the elegant gift shop was stocked with a selection of beautiful but sometimes weighty publications devoted to such subjects as furniture design, typography, interiors, architecture and music [the Black Diamond also hosts performances]. It's just a shame that everything is so expensive here.

However it wasn't the favourite location that I experienced yesterday. That honour has to go to Arne Jacobsen's Nationalbank headquarters with its breath-takingly modernist - yet proportionally almost ecclesiastic - foyer. With the current British Library-linked project for the 3Dmax class, I have actually turned my attention to staircases [sort of considering them as metaphors for how sound moves spatially through an environment] so this one located, within an almost silent space, proved interesting. Lovely use of text on the outside too.

25 March 2010

Book making

Speaking of the MA group, we indulged in some 'group therapy' this week. We shared a really great book binding/book making session on Wednesday and I thought that it was exactly what was needed given how intensive these projects can get. It was just nice to sit around with our beeswaxed linen thread and sew together a bunch of pages. But this wasn't just a departure from our routine work - it actually suggested alternative ways of delivering this project.

I'll subsequently be making time to head off to the suppliers over the easter break to get some materials for this print product/booklet/CD packaging element. Okay, it's likely to be a bit more 'crafty' (and runs the risk of being ragged around the edges) but what it loses in flat printed slickness by an external company, it will hopefully gain in terms of the opportunities to combine different surfaces, stock and print techniques.


PAPPELTALKS from vizage on Vimeo.

One of the good things about this Masters is having a group of creative people undertaking the same course of study that spot things that you might otherwise miss. As with the last post, Amy found the above.

Last week Kai also brought in Johnny Trunk's book on 'Library Music' which has some inspirational examples of vintage graphic design.

Identity based on "sonic energy"

Amy found this. It's really interesting: a graphic design agency used the sounds from a client's environment - a school - to develop a unique identity.

Visualising Sound

We're currently just working on the final touches to an identity which is generated by audio taken from the environment the client works in. We developed an application that creates patterns based on different frequencies within the audio being read. Here's a sneaky peek of how it's looking.

More here: www.taktak.net

21 March 2010

Basic Sound Effector from Adam Brandon

Basic Sound Effector from Adam Brandon on Vimeo.

The software used to create this was something called Cinema 4D.

20 March 2010

Cardboard Record Sleeve Doubles as Record Player

Cardboard Record Sleeve Doubles as Record  Player

From gizmodo.com:

This is pure genius: Audio engineering company GGRP Sound sent a 45rpm record in a corrugated cardboard sleeve that doubles as a record player. You can put it together one single step.

Cardboard Record Sleeve Doubles as Record  Player

Once is in position, you can play and scratch using a pencil. Clever.

14 March 2010

British Library project

As mentioned in the previous post, this project has moved on from being one primarily concerned with comparisons between the noise in different libraries and has become one about documenting how it occurs within a specific space. As yesterday's visit might suggest, I've opted for the British Library.

The British Library is iconic given the fact that it is required by law to carry a copy of every book that is produced in the United Kingdom. And, while its architecture divides opinion, I felt it was an interesting environment.

What especially interests me is the balance between this very weighty tradition and the more abstract aspects of the building. Located somewhere between these two elements is this thing called noise. As discussed in last week's group tutorial, I want to [half-jokingly and half-seriously] create something that reflects how the sounds of the British Library have a quality that carries the essence of all this information and intellectual endeavour. I mean, the amount of people who go to study there suggest that the environment has more than wi-fi when it comes to that ability to inspire. So in terms of deliverables, this has become about the ability to commodify this essence: maybe in the way that, say, "Holy Water" is bottled at Lourdes.

So now I'm developing the idea of selling the sounds of the British Library as a package. Something that can be perceived as a potent study aid or an 'environment enhancer' that may suddenly turn your Jackie Collins paperbacks into weighty tomes. Perhaps while instantly increasing your IQ. But then also something that is more of a curio: a novelty gift if we have our tongue firmly in our cheeks.

Above is a quick interpretation of how it could be packaged using one of the photos I took yesterday. It also uses the design layouts that are used in existing British Library material. The plan is to produce it alongside some kind of print product that will explain more about the environment, the British Library's work and the sounds that were recorded.

Interestingly, they already sell CDs of birdsong and rainforest sounds in the British Library's gift shop.

13 March 2010

Visit to the British Library

I took a trip to the British Library today and hopefully got everything I needed. I recorded some of the sounds around the building and took plenty of photographs.

Although while I was there, I felt myself more attracted to the architecture of the place rather than the books. The recordings also seem to be noisier than I had expected although that might be because I am studying this perceived "silence". Subsequently the (fuzzy) image that I had in my head about what this project might look like has disappeared.

I also paid particular attention to the gift shop given that the focus of this project is now to use silence as a commodity and specific environments as a sign of quality to create a marketable product. More on that all later once I've had time to digest and post the material that I collected today. Plus the train journey helped me get on top of my reading while I managed to attack a chunk of the report too. On reflection, it wasn't a bad day at all.

(The above image, by the way, is today's checklist.)

11 March 2010

Toulon books

Another short, quick experiment which looks at the potential to use the colours from library book spines as markers for noise. There would be a requirement for the assignment of a colour to particular tones [perhaps with more or less vibrant hues representing the pitch of the sound] and then editing it to the audio track: maybe producing something that is choppier and far less gradual than the above trial. The inspiration for this visualization was disco lights.

Chris Cunningham

I'm currently working on something else where I may get to interview director Chris Cunningham. Who is one of my idols and a truly modern visionary. Ahead of that, I'm revisiting the Directors Label DVD that collected together some of his work back in 2003 and its booklet contains some words from him about trying to provide visuals for music.

On his video debut making Autechre's 'Second Bad Vilbel':

"...I was obsessed with the idea of making things move in time with music. I was trying to build this chunk of non-specific industrial machinery that would come apart in time to the music. So I built this model in my back garden and got all these pieces of machinery and stuff and ended up filming them. Then I tried to make a video out of the footage. I remember the band being really disappointed and me realising that the bottom line is... how do you turn a visually abstract idea into a piece of film. Even now I think that most of the stuff that I think up whilst listening to music is impossible to achieve..."

While Cunningham sees this project as something of a failure, it was the first in a series of works that married sound and vision - albeit while developing a relationship that is uniquely Chris Cunningham. How some of these ideas were triggered by a particular record is really interesting [in the case of Aphex Twin's 'Windowlicker', as one example, he felt that the track itself verged on the pornographic while he also wanted to create something that subverted the imagery that we are used to seeing in rap videos].

Anyway, this presents a good enough reason to embed some of his work here for future reference. The last, his own 'Rubber Johnny' film project, is a pretty disturbing masterpiece.

Autechre - 'Second Bad Vilbel'

Bjork - 'All is Full of Love'

Aphex Twin - 'Windowlicker'

Aphex Twin - 'Come To Daddy'

Portishead - 'Only You'

The Horrors - 'Sheena is a Parasite'

Chris Cunningham - 'Rubber Johnny' [music by Aphex Twin]

By the way, this isn't the first time I've posted something Aphex Twin-related. Previously I added his spectrogram. Interestingly, he also claims to suffer from synaesthesia which is very much related to the report part of this study.

"What Is Noise?"

Taken from Noisemap: http://www.noisemap.com/

Noise is often defined as ‘sound which is undesired by the recipient’. A sound which one person finds enjoyable, such as some music perhaps, could be very annoying to another person who doesn’t want to hear it. Since it is quite probable that whatever the noise, there will be someone who doesn’t like it, there is a common presumption that all sound is bad. This presumption is even the basis of some legislation, which often seeks to limit sound levels on the basis that any sound could be annoying to someone.

However, this presumption is by no means always true. Individual sensitivity to noise varies greatly and some people are not bothered by noise that would be intolerable to others. Moreover, there are many situations where noise is appropriate: for example a football match conducted in silence would be unnatural and hardly enjoyable for fans.

In English law, it is illegal to create noise which amounts to a nuisance, but in Common Law, the test is whether an ordinary person, taking account of the circumstances, would find the noise to interfere with the ‘enjoyment’ of their land to a material degree. Statute Law has changed the situation in recent years, and objective noise tests are becoming more important.

It is relatively easy to devise measurement units that can measure sound level, but because noise perception is subjective (ie it depends on the listener), acousticians have not been able to find a perfect unit or index for measuring noise.

This means that acousticians use a variety of measurement units that describe sound levels in a variety of ways. Using these as a guide to the impact of noise on people requires careful interpretation by skilled practitioners.

However, increasing regulation, both national and European, is changing the situation, so that assessments are now more likely to depend on taking noise measurements in accordance with a defined procedure and for the result to be compared with objective guidelines.

10 March 2010

Noisia - 'Machine Gun' video

Holland's Noisia - an act known for their ability to shift from drum & bass to electro - have employed Henk Loorbach to provide a video for the grinding title track from their new 'Machine Gun EP'. The band state that it's “an abstract story of mankind and its self-destructiveness, loosely based on the tale of Frankenstein’s monster”.

It possibly has very little to do with my current project although I do like the use of the collaged footage within the video. [Even though it gets a bit gory towards the end.] Anyway, just as a general influence, I thought that it was worth documenting.

Meantime, I also booked my ticket to go to London to carry out my British Library work.

08 March 2010

Paul Octavious - The Book Collection

More here: Paul Octavious - The Book Collection.


tenori-on from M I C H E L on Vimeo.

The last video reminded me to post something on the Tenori-On. Probably most visible via Little Boots' performances, this sequencer is an instrument that also provides a visualization of the music as it plays. I've seen it used a few times (including as part of Little Boots' stage show) and it's hypnotic.

Clavilux 2000: Generative Music Visualization Composition

Clavilux 2000 - Interactive instrument for generative music visualization from Jonas Heuer on Vimeo.

Another link that I need to thank Amy for finding:

Clavilux 2000 [jonasheuer.de] is a subtle music visualization installation that represents the playing of sounds by way of a simultaneous animation that can be interpreted.

For every note played on the keyboard, a stripe appears of which the dimensions, position and color correspond to the way the particular key was stroke. The length and vertical position of stripe is mapped unto the velocity, while the stripe's width reflects the length of each note. By mapping the color wheel on the circle of 5ths, the colors give the viewer (and listener) an impression of the harmonic relations. Notes belonging to one specific tonality correspond to colors from one specific area of the color wheel. Therefore each key has its own color scheme and "wrong" notes stand out in contrasting colors. The more different tonalities a music piece has, the more colorful the resulting visualization will be.

As all the stripes do not disappear, the resulting representation is able to convey insights about the composition as well as the specific performance: Which notes were played the most? Which were the loudest notes? Which range of the keys was played mostly? How harmonically constant was the music?

Larry Cuba's 'Calculated Movements'

I posted Calculated Movements by the seminal Larry Cuba on the Communication Design blog a while ago. I remembered it again today as Cuba's name was mentioned in one of the books I have [within a chapter about music represented through video].

05 March 2010

Current reading

To add to the bibliography:

Harkleroad, L (2006) The Math Behind the Music, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Link: The Math Behind the Music (Outlooks)

Leppert, R (1993) The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation, and the History of the Body, London: University of California Press.
Link: The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation and the History of the Body

Scrutton, R (1999) The Aesthetics of Music, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

04 March 2010

Ikea use augmented reality


I've been working on my report today and have been trying to define a boundary for this study. Only the more I look into this subject, the bigger it becomes.

Subsequently, I've narrowed it all down and decided on my chapters. One thing (amongst many) that I've excluded is researching the idea of dance as a way of visualizing/interpreting sound - although the above Busby Berkeley images do share a similarity to the cymatics I've been looking at. I still think that they're worth ackowledging here.

Meantime, here is the list of chapters for the first section of the research report:








Reply from The British Library #2

Via email:

"Dear Daniel,

As long as it is a hand held camera with no additional equipment, that should be fine and will not require supervision. It will also be fine to record background noise but not any individual conversations, etc.

Hope that helps.

Best wishes,

So that's that sorted. I just need to find a suitable time to head down to London and get what I need.

Reply to The British Library

Via email:

"Dear Chloe,

Many thanks for your reply dated 1st March 2010 in response to my request for permission to take photographs and record sound in The British Library.

To confirm, it would be using a hand held camera and no additional equipment. The purpose would be to document the environment - rather than the library's users - and would not be intrusive. I don't believe that I will require staff supervision.

With regards to the sound recordings, these will be made using a small hand held digital voice recorder - about the same size as a mobile phone. It is battery powered and has an in-built mic so does not require the use of any additional leads.

The purpose for this is to document the sounds/background noise in the library as part of a project that looks, in part, at what we refer to as silence. Both are part of my research for a MA Communication Design project that attempts to visualize sound.

Should you require any further clarification, do let me know.

Daniel Cookney"

Reply from The British Library

A reply from the British Library arrived this morning. If it looks a bit crumpled, then that's because the dog got to it before I did.

It basically states that they require a little more information before they can grant permission but it doesn't look like photography with a hand held camera will be a problem in the public areas (the use of tripods and additional lighting would require the supervision of a member of the library's press office).

With regards to the recordings, they again need to confirm what equipment would be used plus they need information about whether it would be for the interviewing of library users or "simply recording the sounds of the library". The latter response suggests that my request isn't going to met with confusion.

The letter also contains the email address of the Press Assistant requiring the additional information so I'll send my reply electronically and hopefully get everything confirmed.

03 March 2010

Cymatics in 3D

So I'm thinking of how to integrate my 3Dmax/Virtual Worlds class with my Negotiated Project and, lecturer, Mick reckons that it would be possible to build some of the cymatic forms I've been looking at as rendered 3D works. Unfortunately, if these get too complex, they fall apart if you try to use them as augmented reality elements. But there's the above which uses simple geometry and imports the cymatic image as a map - then turning a jpeg into an undulating relief image.

Augmented Reality tutorial

Great introductory AR tutorial found at http://www.marcpelland.com/2009/03/26/getting-started-with-augmented-reality-flartoolkit/

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality is a technology that allows you to superimpose images into real-time environments. For the purposes of this tutorial, you just need to know that it reads a marker (shape/symbol), interprets the angle and size of that marker and then allows you to place objects at that size and position on the screen (or whatever your medium is).

Here are a couple example videos:

Mini Video and the GE Site

What is FLARToolKit?

To start with ARToolKit is the development package that has allowed developers to tap into the power of Augmented Reality. FLARToolKit is an Actionscript 3 port of the Java version of the toolkit.

What do I need for this tutorial?
In this tutorial, we are going to use FLAR Manager, which is a framework setup to make the combination of Papervision 3D and FLARToolKit easy and quick to setup/use.

If you would like to simply use FLARToolKit (or just get a little more information about it) clik on the following link: http://www.libspark.org/wiki/saqoosha/FLARToolKit/en

Otherwise, download FLARManager (using v0.1 in this tutorial) from http://words.transmote.com/wp/20090309/flarmanager-v01/ . FLARManager actually comes with a build of FLARToolKit in it and you can get it for AS3/FP9 or AS3/FP10 (we are using FP10).

You will also need FlashDevelop or another Actionscript editing tool. In this tutorial I am going to be compiling my code directly from FlashDevelop, but feel free to use the compiler/method of your choice.

You should also get a pattern generator so that you can create your own patterns (markers). Go here for more details: http://www.squidder.com/2009/03/05/for-nerds-only-custom-flar-markers-explained/

What else should I know?

You should be aware of the fact that there is a licensing fee to use check here: http://www.hitl.washington.edu/artoolkit/license.html for more details.


I picked up a few DVDs that I thought would highlight some of the ways that other people have interpreted sound visually. One was Addictive TV's Audiovisualize. The write-up on the project sounded promising enough:

"Although working in an area with a rich but relatively little-known history, today's audiovisual artists perhaps owe as much to the VJs and music producers who've emerged from 90's electronic music culture, as some of the most influential 20th Century experimental film makers like Norman McClaren, Len Lye, Jordan Belson and notably Oskar Fischinger, who began laying the foundations of this fusion genre, based on a synthesis of motion, colour and sound, over half a century ago.

Now, using contemporary techniques such as sampling, remixing and digital manipulation alongside traditional film, video and music production methods, modern audiovisualizers are able to push creative boundaries ever further. Music and image play an equal, complimentary and indeed synergistic role in this arena with modern software allowing a much closer and more specific integration than was ever possible previously.

Whether it's finding new ways of visualizing music, or expressing images sonically, the goal is the same now as it ever was; to produce something that can be watched in much the same way as we listen to music. Again and again."

Unfortunately the 2004 release already seems very tired. The opening project - a video put togther for a track called 'Snake Worship Island' by Eclectic Method - is particularly uninspiring. An edited selection of old kung fu movies accompanies a soundtrack that might have appeared at least a little cutting edge had it been released before Depth Charge's early 1990's output and there appears to be some prevailing, naive approach of 'if it moves, filter it'.

More successful is a second video under the title 'Corp. Inc' which utilises archives of science-based imagery and some text overlays that share some similarities with Rob Chiu's 'The Time Has Come' video. But there is no getting away from the fact that the relationships involved in "visualizing music" throughout the DVD are tenuous at best. It barely touches on the synergy that the project aspires to create.

Maybe I'm being overtly critical, but I just don't believe that matching up the tempo of a piece of music to random imagery, however pretty, really adds anything of massive value. Personally, I'd expect more of a considered undertaking where even the most abstract of imagery has an agreed relationship with particular sounds. Like the Kate Moross videos (posted earlier) where the kick drum is represented via one element and a narrative becomes defined by the audio. Audiovisualize instead lacks the attention span and conviction to present something close to a schematic system for addressing sound in a visual form. I'm guessing that in many cases the music was felt to be too repetitive for the artists to create something that rigidly represented specific sections/sound elements and still hold the interest of the viewer. But, sadly, the end result - laregly a series of ever-shifting fractal-like eye candies - just proves to be meaningless.

02 March 2010

Amsterdam Library #2

Amsterdam Library #1

He should have been romancing his missus and/or getting so wrecked that he'd ride a bicycle into a canal, but somehow Dave found time to drop into Amsterdam Library on my behalf last weekend. He took the posted pictures and also managed to record some sound for me.

As a result, I owe him much more than the Haribo that I'll be taking with me to tomorrow's group tutorial.