Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Clicks & Pops, Sound Art: New Only In Name (Exhibition Review)

Clicks & Pops features sound art by Clint Sleeper, Tohm Judson, Jean-Paul Perrotte & Robert Morrison, and student works such as my own. It is in the Student Galleries South location in the Jot Travis building.

What grabbed my attention walking in was seeing Clint's "We are Singing As Softly As We are Able" video projected on the wall and throwing dirt at musical instruments. Clint plugged in a guitar and bass and manipulated the settings while smearing and chucking dirt at them. Since the dirt sort of scattered when it left his hands, the impact on the electric instruments didn't make as jarring of a noise as I would've expected. They were pretty subtle but it's when he smeared the dirt along the necks was when it could really be heard. The dirt was also pretty muted when it was thrown at the floor tom and snare. It could be heard in the beginning because they were the first things that Clint threw dirt at. The electric feedback drowned out the drums after that point. 

I found the performance piece interesting and view it from a perspective of his annoyance with music. There may be some frustration with music in general and instead of smashing instruments like a rockstar, he's throwing the dirt at it. It could possibly stem from growing up in the Gardnerville area where you're surrounded by dirt and the possible futility of coming from such an agricultural place. I'd really like to see the piece on it's own in a big space because the dome speakers that hung down made it difficult to hear the piece but I understand that it needed to be isolated from the rest of the exhibit. I just wish it were louder or maybe went in its own area like Judson's had. I also liked the installation of the dirt piles, snare, and small amps that replicated his video. Nice touch.

Jean-Paul Perrotte and Robert Morrison's "Structures In Microtonal Harmony" were the next main focus of the exhibit. Morrison cast bronze bowls with minute tuning differences and Perrotte used Arduino technology to get metal to strike the bowls at random times through Max MSP. Both artists were interested in how the bowls' soundwaves combined in space and how interesting they sounded because of their distinction. The random bowl strikes meant that there were thousands of combinations of soundwaves that could coexist and the way they lingered in the space made each sound unique. 

On the opposite wall, Perrotte and Morrison made manual strikers that the audience could interact with. The idea of play and interaction interested both artists and having something tangible that could produce so many varieties of sound was instrumental in making the piece successful. I really liked standing in the middle of the bowls and hearing people play around. The high pitches would make my ears perk up and my eardrums would vibrate and it seemed like I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. It was a weird sensation for sure.

The student pieces were things I've seen before and my work was included. That was pretty neat seeing my own project in there and having my name on the wall. Perrotte's "Composition for EEG and Two Computers" video was interesting because his partner, Caplovitz, would play the brain effects and manipulate them live based on the EEG and through Max MSP while Perrotte would control the audio portions. The original performance was done live and was too long to put in Clicks & Pops so he edited it down to a few essential parts and it was really neat. Definitely one of the most interesting sound/video projects I've ever seen and I got to take a class from this guy; how cool! 

The final piece in the exhibition was a video and sound installation by Carol Burch-Brown and Tohm Judson called, "Salt Marsh Suite." The audio was mixed with intensive detail and each channel originally had its own speaker. In this exhibit, they cut the massive number of speakers down to seven. The video contained overlays of animals, scenery, and rowing down salt marches in North Carolina. The effects were pretty interesting and the way each video interacted with one another had a unique sense of play going on.

I originally thought that the "clicking" sounds were obnoxious and wondered why those were included but Perrotte explained that they were actually recordings inside the marshes and that they were crabs fighting and moving around. That made the sounds cool but sort of removed the "reality" from the piece because the video's perspective of being above water means that you wouldn't hear the crabs below the raft. Regardless, the crab audio added to the record of things that existed in the salt marsh environment before it drys up within the next few decade.

The gallery spaces on campus are pretty small and my only desire would've been to see more. I guess that makes the exhibition effective in instilling in me the desire to seek out more sound art. The pieces were really inspirational and gave me some new outlooks on where I could take my own art and expand my realm of capabilities. I'm honored to be included in this gallery, no matter how small, and even more honored to have had the faith put in me to produce work that is worthy of inclusion with these brilliant minds.

"Bury On, Cosby." (Fourth Assignment)

Our fourth assignment required the class to make a one-minute piece of music based on our previous assignments and including our voice. We were free to use any editing software so I used ProTools. I cut, spliced, panned, and manipulated the audio in a variety of ways to make a unique piece of music.

The title of the piece is a play on words. I thought of "Barry On Cosby" like when artists cover each other's songs and I changed it to "Bury On, Cosby." because of the recent scandals surrounding Bill Cosby and how he has buried his past for his entire life and continues to do so.

I used a Sci-Fi effect, reverb, pitch shift, and reversing effects for Manilow's Lap. The opening is solely reverb and is like the beginning to any old rockabilly song coming out of an old radio.

The Care Bears Christmas album had reversing effects that made the record even scarier than it is in its original state. It sounds like an alien or something. Some of the parts I recorded were so funny forwards and backwards that it was hard to choose which version I should include.

I pitch shifted some of Barry Manilow's lines and took out all of the pops from the recording and put the reverb on it. I solo'd it in the middle because the reverb buried the other records that were combined with it so it almost sounded like the regular record. It made for a cool effect like hearing "Even Now" from down a long hallway. I used a large church reverb.

I cut out all of Bill Cosby's lines and put them together and there are some phrases that are audible and kind of funny. I took out all the pops as well.

My looping song has a small part in this piece because it was difficult to fit it in. It's tough to tell the six sources in it and the humming is what really sticks out.

My voice part came from a funny Snapchat that I sent to Al and decided I could do some fun things with it. I pitch shifted my voice to an augmented fourth above and made the mix at 60% so the original could also be heard. I made "One minute" audible and repeated it because it was constantly running in my head to do as many interesting but coherent things within the time limit. I reversed a portion of the voice because it sounded good with the alien theme from the Care Bears.

The ending finale came from the 3-way record cut where Beethoven's symphony ended and they played the last note. I thought it would be fitting to put it at the end of mine and I'm also glad that that got recorded and that I could pull it out amongst all the other crazy audio.

Record Cuts (Third Assignment)

Our third assignment was based on some of Christian Marclay's work with cutting vinyl records and putting them together with others. I used a band saw and hot knife to cut mine and super glued them together.

I drilled new holes and made a Care Bears Christmas record play off-center. It didn't sound any weirder than the record normally does. I combined Barry Manilow, Bill Cosby, and Beethoven record together as well and made a few variations with those. I chose Barry Manilow to keep up with the theme of my handmade instrument project, "Manilow's Lap." Bill Cosby is a topical figure in the news lately as well and I thought it'd be interesting what spoken word would sound like with the two. Beethoven is also my favorite composer and his work also sounded interesting to combine with Manilow and Cosby.

The most difficult part of the project was getting the record cuts to line up perfectly and keep them glued together. The pops on the recording are due to some gaps between the cuts and from the glue residue. The recordings remind me of someone changing the radio constantly or switching between songs on an iPod.

(Barry Manilow and Bill Cosby)

 (Care Bears Christmas)

 (Beethoven and Barry Manilow)

 (Barry Manilow, Bill Cosby, and Beethoven)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

“Clicks & Pops – Sound Art: New Only In Name” 9/10/15 (Lecture Response)

“Clicks & Pops – Sound Art: New Only In Name” 9/10/15 Lecture Response
Skye Evans
            The lecture panel began with Brett Van Hoesen discussing a bit of sound art history and talked about Kurt Schwitters, Hannah Hoch, Dada, and the Fluxus movements. Many people in the audience seemed to have little knowledge of such topics and I was glad to finally attend a lecture where I understood what was going on. Jean-Paul Perrotte came up with the exhibition name “Clicks & Pops” from an experience in Germany trying to describe to a friend what his electronic sound art was.
            Jean-Paul Perrotte’s “Composition for EEG and Two Computers” from 2014 was the most interesting original composition that the panel talked about. I found it fascinating that he and Caplovitz were able to have brain activity trigger various sound and video effects. I was also amazed that they were able to perform it live on stage. Perrotte refers to it as a performance piece because it is meant to be seen and manipulated live in front of people; it’s not something you can record and listen to.
            Robert Morrison has been teaching at UNR for 40+ years and his work is sculpture-based. I liked how he talked about the objectivity involved with vision, space, and minimalism. Morrison’s brother was a performance artist and he was a big influence on Morrison’s own work. Morrison’s ideas on space were intriguing and really opened my mind a bit on thinking about reverberation and how to utilize it to make people experience different sounds based on where they stood.
            I’ve taken many classes from Louis Niebur so I had already heard about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and how Delia Derbyshire pioneered sound design in the 1960s. Niebur is more of a musicologist and historian rather than a composer. Regardless of having heard it before; I still enjoyed his small crash-course lesson in sound art and how it was a woman who took the reins.
            Tohm Judson is an ex-music professor from Colorado who is now a freelance artist. I was thoroughly bored with the discussion of his work due to his interest in music and video as time-based art. Judson must’ve said “time” no less than 200 times and his theoretical insight on time was something I had already heard plenty of times before and he added nothing new to the topic. I also disagree with his remark that, “Sit absorption is dying because it takes too long to appreciate anything.” This is from a guy who makes games and wants to encourage people to interact and experience the art.
Sit absorption may be dying in the gallery space where people are confused about how to interact with digital art but it certainly isn’t anywhere near dying in the household. Maybe Judson just needed to be more specific but many of his comments were so generalizing that I’m sure he meant to come off exactly how he had. Judson’s talk was the least engaging of the four and was certainly the most absurd.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"Manilow's Lap" - Make Your Own Instrument (Second Assignment)

For the assignment, we are supposed to use found objects to make a playable instrument. I didn't want to make something percussive since that's the easiest thing to do so I decided to try my hand at making a banjo.

I'm going to use an old tennis racket for the frame and neck, a basket for the resonating chamber, Barry Manilow & Johnny Mathis records to seal the chamber, and a Homeward Bound VHS tape as the drum head. I'll have to buy strings as well.

As of today, I've finished the instrument. I call it "Manilow's Lap." It has evolved a bit from my original idea. The VHS tape drumhead didn't work out so I used the Johnny Mathis record sleeve for the head and put Barry Manilow's face on top. I used a combination of old acoustic bronze and nylon strings. The tennis racket stayed out of shape so I used a bunch of zip ties to hold the resonating basket in place and to keep the racket's handle a specific size to attach the guitar neck.

I had to take off a guitar neck from my existing guitar in order to tune the strings and have a real neck. Miscellaneous wood pieces I cut on the band saw act as the bridge and holds the neck up. The bottom of a Pepsi cup keeps the instrument laying relatively flat on a table but it's easier to hold in your lap.

It's very delicate and seems like a one-and-done instrument. Using a Corona beer bottle neck as a slide is optional. It is tuned to open-G with a D in unison.

I'd like to say that it sounds good but I think the strings are too far away from Barry to have any real resonance so it sounds like an electric guitar without amplification. It's fun to play though and I'm glad I was at least able to make any sound with it at all after two weeks of work on it.