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Blog archive for March 2006


March 1, 2006

While in Oslo last week for the seminar on sound art I also got the opportunity to meet a number of people I haven’t seen in a while as well as making new friends. Dragon of Bull|Miletic has sent me some very intersting links. One of them is for Audium in San Fransisco “the only theatre of its kind in the world pioneering the exploration of space in music. The theatre’s 169 speakers bathe listeners in sounds that move past over and under them. “Sound sculptures” are performed in darkness in the 49-seat theatre.”

The history of Audium goes all the way back to the 1950’s initiated by composer Stan Shaff and equipment designer Doug McEachern.

“I have always been possessed by the evocative qualities all sounds seem to have whether natural or electronic. Sounds touch deeper levels of our inner life layers that lie just beneath the visual world. All sounds are communicative – sound as birth life and death sound as time and space sound as object environment or event. Audiences should feel sound as it bumps up against them caresses travels through covers and enfolds them.

”I ask listeners to see with their ears and feel with their bodies sounds as images dreams and memories. As people walk into a work they become part of its realization. From entrance to exit AUDIUM is a sound-space continuum."

Stan Shaff Composer

The Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific Writing

March 1, 2006

The Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific Writing seems to be a valuable online resource on scientific writing. The kind of writing that I have to do as part of the fullfilment of requirements for the fellowship is not going to be scientific but this might still be a valuable resource along the way.

When deciding how to write I have been asking myself what artists have been writing on their own work and processes in a way that I have found interesting and valuable. Some examples of such writings are Cage (Silence) Morton Feldman (Give my regards to 8th street) and parts of Brian Enos writing in particular cover notes interviews and the appendices.

Sound symbols and surrealism

March 3, 2006

For the past month or so I have been reading The soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World by R. Murray Schafer. It is the most interesting book I have read in a very long while. Of course the subject interests me a lot but the book has still been a positive surprise being full of sharp and original observations. I could more or less have blogged it all. Today I am particularly preoccupied with the discussion on symbolism and his discussion of representation in sound as signs signals and symbols:

The sounds of the environment have referential meanings. For the soundscape researcher they are not merely abstract acoustical events but must be investigated as acoustic signs signals and symbols. A sign is any representation of a physical reality (the note C in a musical score the on or off switch on a radio etc.). A sign does not sound but merely indicates. A signal is a sound with a specific meaning and it often stimulates a direct response (telephone bell siren etc.). A symbol however has richer connotations:

“A word or an image is symbolic” writes C. G. Jung “when it implies something more than its obvious and immediate meaning. It has a wider ‘unconscious’ aspect that is never precisely defined or fully explained.” A sound event is symbolic when it stirs in us emotions or thoughts beyond its mechanical sensations or signaling function when it has a numinosity or reverberation that rings through the deeper recesses of the psyche.

In his book Psychological Types Jung speaks of certain types of “symbols which can arise autochthonously in every corner of the earth and are more or less identical just because they are fashioned out of the same world-wide human unconscious whose contents are infinitely less variable than are races and individuals.” To these “first form” symbols Jung gave the name “archetypes.” These are the inherited primordial patterns of experience reaching back to the beginning of time. They have no sensible extensions themselves but may be given expression in dreams works of art and fantasy.

p. 169


There are several issues here that I find interesting.

First of all I am wondering if the use of the word “reverberation” in the discussion is accidental or if it might be that there is some sort of tie between symbols and space. For a while I have been preoccupied with the relationship between sound and space. I touched upon the subject during my presentation at the sound seminar last week discussing the possibilities of working on real and virtual space in sound and the possibilities for artistic expression offered by introducing virtual spaces.

In an ongoing discussion on how to define sound art at the Sound as art mailing list Douglas Kahn points to the 1938 Surrealist Exhibition as an early example of sound as art. I ended up reading the thesis on surrealism in the landscape by Micah S. Lipscomb that he is referring to for a photo of Oscar Dominguez’Never.

There seems to be some shared denominators between the statement above by Schafer and some of Libscombs listing of common elements of surrealist art (p. 15):

  • exposes the unconscious in art or poetry
  • elicits revelations
  • uses uncanny juxtaposition
  • uses or is inspired by found objects
  • sensual disorientation
  • finds the extraordinary within the ordinary
  • promotes the aesthetics of confrontation shock (convulsive beauty)

I am not necessarily convinced about the existence of archetypical symbols my personal belief is that these symbols to a high degree will have to be subjective and relativistic. A similar criticism has also been raised against the surrealism:

The surrealists often employed images and symbols in their art that have personal significance however these symbols often do not resonate with other people (Muller 54). They assumed that their images were a reflection of an unconscious that everyone shared in. However this depends upon the existence of a universal unconscious which is debatable.

(Libscomb pp. 12-13)

In the further discussion of symbolic sound Schafer becomes fairly literal: water wind bells horns and sirens and ends with a discussion of how the associations stirred by these types of sounds are culturally and historically dependent and undergoing continuous changes. From this discussion I am not convinced that Schafer himself is necessarily subscribing to the idea of the universal archetypes.

I believe the discussion of symbols in sound could be extended to much more artificial or abstracted sounds as well. When working on art projects I often find one of the most difficult and critical phases of the process to be the hunting for sound to work on. I might have ideas beforehand of what I want to do and context and content to relate to but I still tend to end up in an deadlock creating and rejecting sound for the project. I am not able to move further before I have “found something” a sound or a rudimental sketch for a sound generating process that I feel have the potential for further development. I have not been able to understand what this “something” is in a way that could make the process of finding it easier faster or more accurate (so that I would be able to push the material further). This is always a stage of crisis in the project with the possible result that I do not find sound to work on leading to total failure.

All I know is that the sound in addition to be able to relate to the general ideas and concepts of the project also has to be suggestive offer an openness hinting at a number of different associations perhaps vague ones and it need to have an aesthetic surface and quality that is worth paying attention to that stirs curiosity.

Cross-reading Schafer and the text on surrealism the most striking contrast is in the consequences of the awareness gained:

The surrealists never fulfilled Rimbaud’s invocation to – change life – their goal of transforming society never happened. Their art rarely convinces the viewer to take action. Yes it shocks and overwhelms the viewer but only once in a blue moon does it cause true revelation (Gersham 18). Their technique of depaysement or disorientation of the senses of the viewer takes viewers into dream-like spaces. However disorienting the viewer is not an end in itself (Muller 55). If surrealism serves as an escape from reality is there something that viewers come out of this escape with? This is an enduring question that has been posed to surrealism. Surrealists sought to infuse their art with revelation but this challenge was not always met. Without fulfilling this challenge surrealist art can be dismissed as a weird novelty. Yes these dream pioneers take us on fantastic exhilarating journeys into the unconscious but what do we come back with?

(Libscomb pp. 12-13)

Schafer on the other hand moves on to discuss noise noise pollution noise abatement legislation acoustic ecology and acoustic design.

Tammy Griffin: Intimate Circuits

March 7, 2006

South-African artist Tammy Griffin combine oil paintings and mixed media with programmed and animated LEDs. From the artist:

My paintings are abstract versions of realistic portraits private associations self-invented marks words and maps of energy. For this exhibition I added moving light to my palette to animate the works – oils mixed media and electronics on canvas. I scratched pierced sculpted painted hammered soldered cut poured touched and calculated. I have used 500 LEDs 1500 meters of wire as well as 20 microprocessors to drive the lights. The result is full of texture movement music and rhythm. In the end meditative and restful.

By way of Nathaniel Stern

Sonic presence

March 10, 2006

Today the Borealis festival of contemporary music opens here in Bergen with several interesting concerts over the next week. Unfortunately I will miss two of the days including the Fennez concert as I have to attend a fellowship seminar in Oslo Monday and Tuesday. As part of Borealis Bergen kunsthall will have a sound art exhibition including works by Stephen Vitiello Finnbogi Pètursson Susan Hiller Bernhard Lang and Janet Cardiff &amp George Bures Miller. It is curated by Steinar Sekkingstad and Solveig Øvstebøand I am really looking forward to it!. Below is the press announcement (in Norwegian).

BERGEN KUNSTHALL ønsker velkommen til åpning av utstillingen SONIC PRESENCE
fredag 10.000 Mars kl 20 00.

Stephen Vitiello (USA)
Finnbogi Pètursson (Island)
Susan Hiller (GB)
Bernhard Lang (Østerrike)
Janet Cardiff &amp George Bures Miller (Canada)

Utstillingen Sonic Presence henvender seg til både øyne og ører. De fem
omfangsrike installasjonene er laget av internasjonalt anerkjente
samtidskunstnere. Enkelte av dem arbeider med lyd alene mens andre benytter
mediet som én av flere uttrykksformer.

Lydkunst er ikke et nytt fenomen. Man har de siste årene kunnet registrere
en markant økning i interessen for lydmediet innenfor samtidskunstfeltet.
Gjennom romlige arkitektoniske og teknologiske installasjoner har museer og
over hele verden vist at lyd kan være kunstnerisk interessant på andre måter
enn som musikk i konsertsalene. Det er med dette utgangspunktet at Bergen
Kunsthall i samarbeid med samtidskunstfestivalen Borealis viser utstillingen
Sonic Presence. Det bør imidlertid bemerkes at Sonic Presence ikke er en
lydkunstutstilling som har til hensikt å vise mangfoldet eller egenarten til
en bestemt kunstgenre. I stedet presenterer utstillingen fem ulike verk som
hver på sin måte behandler auditive erfaringer gjennom installasjoner i et
gallerirom. De representerte kunstnerne er internasjonalt anerkjente og
beveger seg over et bredt spekter av uttrykk fra det klanglige og
konseptuelle til det fysiske og visuelle.

Utstillingen er produsert av Bergen Kunsthall og er et samarbeid med
samtidsmusikkfestivalen Borealis.
Kurator: Steinar Sekkingstad &amp Solveig Øvstebø

Støttet av Norsk Kulturråd og British Council.
Takk også til Lydgalleriet for samarbeid i forbindelse med Bernhard Langs

Ambisonics in Max

March 10, 2006

Graham Wakefield has released a bunch of Max externals for ambisonic encoding manipulation and decoding.

Yesterday jasch mailed me to tell that the ambisonics externals made at Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology will soon be freely available as GNU LGPL. I have been using them for a while and have very good experience with them. As soon as they are publicly available as GNU LGPL I will start developping ambisonics modules in Jamoma.

It will be interesting to see how the two libraries compare.

As is currently down for maintenance I’ll just store three links from Graham here in the meantime:

Shell script to delay launch of application

March 10, 2006

The following shell script can be used (Mac OSX) to delay the launch of an application at start up for 10 seconds. Useful for delaying the launch of a Max-based standalone application in an installaton.

Create script and put in startup items:

sleep 10
open “/Path/to/your/” 

From the max-msp mailing list

DeAmp sound absorbers

March 11, 2006

DeAmp AS seems to be creating an interesting line of products for “sound absorbing elements in solid materials which gives architectonic freedom and a healthier indoor environment”. Apparently the product is already put to use by HSD in Bergen so I might have an opportunity to see it in real life.

The web page does not provide any detailed information on absorbtion coefficients price or distribution.

Kianga Ford – Self Presentation

March 18, 2006

Monday 20th March KL 13.00
Lecture room 4th floor
KHIB Dept. of Fine Arts

Working with sound and environment as primary media Kianga Ford’s narrative experiments query the psycho-physical dimensions of social identity formation. Her immersive often story-based installations engage the viewer in a participatory exploration of the limits between individual and collective intimate and public given and contingent categorical and particular. In the increasingly considered field of sound art she has worked collaboratively with a range of international composers from Toronto to Berlin as well as recently with the Frankfurt-based Forsythe Company. Her work has been shown at venues including The Studio Museum in Harlem The California African-American Museum The Banff Centre (Alberta Canada) The Museum of Contemporary Art Miami and The Brooklyn Institute for Contemporary Art. Her recent solo shows include presentations of new work at Lisa Dent Gallery San Francisco and Occidental College Los Angeles. Ford is one of 25 artists selected for the 2006 California Biennial. Her explorations with narrative are informed by her studies in English and Theater at Georgetown University where she received her BA in 1994 and post-graduate work in film at NYU. Ford received her MFA in 2003 from UCLA where she studied with Mary Kelly in the Interdisciplinary Studio program. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the History of Consciousness program at the University of California Santa Cruz where she is completing a dissertation on articulations of race and identity in contemporary exhibition. She lectures frequently on her dual-inquiry into questions of contemporary identity in discourse and practice and has recently spoken at SFAI MIT NYU Stanford and USC. She has published texts and criticism in several anthologies and also for the UCLA Hammer Museum and X-tra Magazine among others. She is currently artist-in-residence at USF Verftet in Bergen Norway. Ford is Assistant Professor in the Studio for Interrelated Media at Massachusetts College of Art. She lives and works in Los Angeles and Boston.

“Why do we have to go over the same set of symptoms twenty times before we understand them? Why does the first statement of a new fact always leave us cold? Because our minds have to take in something which deranges our original set of ideas but we are all like that in this miserable world.”

Evaulation of PNEK 2001-2005

March 20, 2006

The Norwegian Production Network for Electronic Arts (PNEK) was established in 2001 funded for a limited time as a pilot project by the Norwegian Art Council. Late last year more permanent gourevnmental funding was secured albeit far from enough to ensure a decent level of activity.

Recently a report on the first four years was published written by the network coordinator Janne Stang Dahl and freelance writer Grete Melby. It contains a summary of activity so far interviews with members of the board during those four years including me and an article discussing the current state of transformation. In particular the concluding article by Grete Melby makes for worthwhile reading. The report is available online here (Norwegian only).

Robert Worby: lectures at the art academy

March 20, 2006

Next week Robert Worby is visiting Bergen. He was here two years ago as well as part of the “Sound in focus” seminar doing a series of very interesting lectures on sound sound art and experimental music. Here are the topics for next weeks lectures. I am afraid that I might end up missing out on most of them as I will be participating in the Teatrix workshop hosted by BEK.

The Bergen Lectures 2006

1. Making Structures With Sound

How can we make sense of contemporary music and sound works? Is there an art of listening? What can we hear when we listen? A broad sweep through developments in Western music and sound art in the 20th century. Cultural shifts technologies sounds and structures including the rise of pop music improvised music and sound art.

2. The Legacy of John Cage and Experimental’Music

The great cultural emigration from Paris to New York in the 1950s gave rise to new ways of composing that made no reference to the musical traditions that were long established in Europe. This caused rifts between European and American composers that still continue today. The work of John Cage gave ‘permission’ to many composers performers and sound artists to make the work that they did. Who was this man what did he do and why was his work so important?

3. Electronic Music – Early Pioneers to The Present Day

Music and sound works from wax cylinders to laptop computers. Loudspeakers microphones and tape recorders. Synthesizers sequencers and software. The invention of sound recording completely changed the way that music is composed how it is performed and how it is consumed. An overview of sound and technology from Stockhausen and Shaeffer to the Aphex Twin and beyond.

4. Contemporary Music and Sound Art Now

Some music and sound art from 2000 – 2006.000 Including pieces by Robert Worby.

Feeding Frenzy at Landmark

March 20, 2006

Fast Forward is holding a ‘culinary concert’ at Kunsthall/Landmark on March 24! It is the culmination of the Food week he is doing at the Dept. of fine art (in relation to the workshops held by Alicia Rios). It can be described as a happening for 4 cooks 4 musicians and 4 waiters.

From the tagline: “400 plates of food 4000 sounds in 90 minutes simultaneous activity by four chefs four musicians and the audience!”

Entrance is kr. 100 – and it is a one-night-only event.

As part of the orchestra happily pick-sliding away on mandolin mando-cello and continuuum fingerboard treated to some wacky Max patches: Yours truly.

Art – Place – Technology

March 20, 2006

Liverpool School of Art &amp Design and FACT

New media art is a global phenomenon: a rapidly changing and dynamic field of creative practice which crosses conventional categories and disciplinary boundaries challenging our assumptions about art.

How do curators engage with new media art?
What makes a good curator of new media art?
What can we learn from the pioneers of this field?
What does the future hold for curating new media art?
What common ground exists with other disciplines?

These and other issues will be explored at Art – Place – Technology.

csound~: Csound5 as Max external

March 22, 2006

Davis Pyon has made a MaxMSP external for accessing Csound5 in Max according to the Csound5 API. The external was first named cmp.csound~ but he has now inherited the csound~ name previous used by Matt Ingals for his external accessing Csound4. The new csound~ external can be found here.

Music & Gesture 2 20-23 July 06: programme

March 23, 2006

The programme of events for the Second International Conference on
Music and Gesture to be held at the Royal Northern College of Music
Manchester (UK) 20-23 July 2006 is available for download from the
RNCM website (under ‘Research Events’).

Ambisonics Externals for Max/MSP and Pd

March 30, 2006

Several MaxMSP and Pd libraries for ambisonic encoding decoding and manipulating have been announced lately. Below are announcements of four different libraries by jasch at ICST Dave Malham and Matt Paradis (Music Research Centre University of York) Thomas Musil and Markus Noisternig (IAEM) and David Wakefield.

ICST releases Ambisonics Externals for Max/MSP

The Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology ICST of the Zurich School of Music Drama and Dance is proud to announce the release of a set of externals for Max/MSP for Ambisonics surround sound processing.

These externals are the result of research and practise using Ambisonics since 2000 and have been tested and used in numerous concerts compositions and installations.

The ICST releases these externals under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL).
For more information regarding this license go to

This release comprises four objects for surround sound processing and source-control in three dimensions:

  • ambidecode~ – decode up to 3rd order ambisonic b-format to n audio-channels
  • ambimonitor – graphical user interface object for sound-source placement (Mac only)
  • ambicontrol – control sound-sources in the ambimonitor in a variety of ways (Mac only)

This release has been developed and tested on Mac OS 10.400 (Tiger) and Max/MSP 4.5.x

The DSP-objects have also been compiled and tested under Windows XP SP2 and Max/MSP 4.5.×. Due to the considerable task of porting the GUI object to Windows this release for Windows contains only the audio-objects.

The files can be downloaded from:

We hope you’ll enjoy them!

Jan Schacher
Philippe Kocher

Zurich School of Music Drama and Dance
Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology

Baslerstrasse 30
CH-8048 Zürich
Telephone ++41 43 305 45 00


Ambisonic externals for both PD and Max/MSP

As part of our continuing efforts to make Ambisonic technology
available to all my colleague Matt Paradis has ported the
functionality of our first order VST Ambisonic plugins to both PD
and Max/MSP externals for both PC and Mac. The first release of
these can be download from

Dave Malham

Experimental Officer
Music Research Centre
Department of Music
University of York


BIN_AMBI (A library for binaural sound reproduction in Pure Data)

A library for the use with Miller Puckettes open source computer music software PD (pure data) is presented. The library is downloadable for free and you can use it under the terms of GNU General Public License.
The theory that forms the basis of the propsed library is an improved Virtual Ambisonics Approach. Using this approach provides a computationally efficient implementation of virtual environments with

  • multiple moving sound sources
  • room simulation
  • head tracking
  • time varying listener positions
  • interchangeable HRIRs

The proposed library provides a simple API (application programmers interface) to make it easy to use for scientific as well as artistic projects.


Ambisonic externals for Max/MSP by Graham Wakefield

Max/MSP externals for Ambisonic encoding rotating and decoding up to 3rd order for two or three dimensional speaker arrays.

More info and download here.

Artist talk: Jean-Pierre Gauthiere

March 31, 2006

Jean_pierreCanadian Sound Artist Jean-Pierre Gauthier’s mobile sound installations express the delights of disorder. Objects such as tools appliances cleaning equipments music instruments become strangely haunted they move and produce sound freely. The viewer in contact with his work triggers a chain of event that is never predictable. His objects evolve in space with gracious movement and in a playful way trying to get free of their physical and spatial limitations.