Monday, January 02, 2017

Towards an Asynchronous Cinema

One of the things that happened in 2016 was I finally got to complete my PhD. I say finally as I had been umming and ahhing over doing one for some years; initially wanting to do a practice based PhD, but never quite finding the right supervisor or setting. A chance conversation with Michael Szpakowski at a screening of Kerry Baldry's One minute programme at Furtherfield led to Westminster University where Michael was completing a PhD by publication. The publications being not texts in the traditional sense, but videos made in the last ten years. This seemed an ideal pathway and I signed up as well.

For a PhD by publication, alongside the work, one writes a paper of anywhere between 12 and 60,000 words.  Reflecting on one's own practice turned out to be tricky, talking about one's work in the third person as if one were reviewing it is best avoided, and locating the videos in a critical context informed by other artists' moving image pieces can both exaggerate their influence and/or appear as if one is trying to insert oneself into the canon. For example a strong parallel with my own use of sound  is John Smith's The Girl Chewing Gum (1976) and this is cited at numerous points in the thesis. However it would be very hard to make any work if one was constantly referring back to some seminal piece, rather a number of influences and ideas tend to circulate, often in some unspoken way in one's brain before morphing into a new idea/piece. So the thesis in part makes explicit what was at the time implicit or internalised.    

Theoretically I found myself being drawn back to the Eisenstein (et al) Statement on Sound (1928) and the dangers of adhesion between sound and image as potential illusionist mutual reinforcement. It was not Eisenstein however, but one of the other signatories to the Statement, Pudovkin and his nuanced use of asynchronism in a document a year later which proved more useful. For Pudovkin asynchronism implies a careful jaxtaposition of soudn and image not wilful non-synchronisation. Key to this is that the asynchronous use of sound is punctuated with moments of adhesion, creating a push-pull dynamic that questions causality between the visual and the auditory and leads to dialectic. 

In the coming year I shall try and unpack and extend some of the ideas in the thesis, for now here is a link to the paper.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Circle Lines

Appealing as the idea of synaesthesia is, the relationship between an on screen visual form and a sound is ultimately arbitrary. A shape could for example expand or change from blue to green synchronised to a sound rising in pitch, but just as easily it could contract and change from red to yellow, and the sound still rise. Such relationships are arbitrary rather than essential, but once a reciprocal framework is established we as viewers will tend to actively adhere sound and image together and see/hear one as in some way causing the other. To create a dialectic one can allow, even encourage this adhesion to take hold but then must offset or upset it in some way to reveal the arbitrary. Circle Lines seeks to do this by having two sound and image production sources that operate in different ways; circles, and lines. The circles create one form of oscillation relative to their size and position, the lines function in a different way producing a stepped sequence according to their position on screen. To add confusion the two overlap visually and acoustically. This 'Test One' is just that a slightly indulgent racket that will form part of a longer piece in 2017.

Saturday, December 10, 2016


Using a form of optical sound married with generated representational imagery

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Tracking - Railway Abstractions

Inspired by the sound, visual effects, shifting light patterns, temporal movements, multi dimensional perspectives, etc that one sees and hears on railways and in railway films - oh and here and there a slight pun on analogue video tape tracking.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Live Chronocut Machine
The first Chronocuts were made using a web browser, a very unpredictable approach, which at times could in itself be interesting. This technique was updated to using a matt to make slices, and then cutting and pasting clips at intervals. A couple of weeks was spent in 2010 trying to automate the process in After Effects and make something more immediate, but with limited success. Long render times and CPU overload, meant the technique wasn't quicker or more flexible. Over the summer holidays just gone I was revisiting some old patches and had another go in Max and very quickly it came together. A live camera input was tried and here is a minute or so. Though it initially just encourages 'larking about', there are clearly numerous possibilities. Live

Monday, August 29, 2016

Moth Flight

Short, 75 sec piece selected for the Amy Johnson Festival 2016 programme curated by Kerry Baldry in Hull a couple of months ago. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Keen followers of this blog may well remember the Chronocuts series that started back in 2008. It all began as a happy accident - whilst testing a new web page in 2007 which contained several movie clips I noticed that the movies loaded one after the other, in a sequential order, a one frame gap between each. By using the same footage for each clip an echoing repetitious moving image was created. With 24 clips placed side-by-side one could in effect watch one second’s worth of footage simultaneously upsetting the singularity of the cinematic moment.

Using web browsers proved to be too dependent on the speed of the web connection and indeed on the browser - in Internet Explorer the clips loaded sequentially but not in many others, so a technique was developed to create new single movies built from several slices. As source footage the Chronocuts used scenes from familiar films ranging from Lindsay Anderson’s If to Hitchcock’s Psycho. Our cinematic memory of the scenes and how they unfold makes the temporal and spatial transformation all the more acute. Rather than glimpse a movement once we see it repeated visually and aurally revealing new relationships and dynamics in the footage. 

So why the post now? Well next week - the 2cnd of December to be precise I will be screening 5 or so Chronocuts upstairs at the Memorial Gallery in Hastings. Especially for the exhibition I have made brand new higher definition versions and an extended version of Iffy plus a new piece Where the air is clear. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Storm Bugs in the Wire

Get yourself a copy of the October issue of the Wire magazine to read a two page spread on Storm Bugs and  Film of the Same Name

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ice Yacht – Pole of Cold

Tucked away on Snatch 3 (the last of the Snatch Tapes compilations released in 1981) is a track by Ice Yacht called ‘0 Degrees North’. An austere piece of drum loop and drone music, there was talk of a full tape having been recorded by the band (?) but no documentation of any further releases can be found.

Rumour had it that members of Ice Yacht had embarked on an ill-fated trip to the North Pole attempting to retrace a journey made by the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen in 1888. This story was given credence when last year a polar research group uncovered a cassette tape in a vacuum-sealed case in the permafrost. The white tape was marked simply Ice Yacht – Pole of Cold.

After letting the tape thaw out it was then baked in a temperature controlled oven for 5 hours and though some oxide had peeled away the tape was playable allowing the transfer of the recordings. Pole of Cold contains six tracks of analogue electronics seemingly mapping an arctic exploration to the coldest place on the planet though exactly when and where they were recorded is unknown. 

Fragment Factory have now made 100 numbered replica copies of the tape and  it is available now on white cassette

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Yo Ho

So a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers – OK, OK I know this blog has been all but silent this year with only four posts, in contrast to the previous 16 or so posts per year and even 60 when it all began back in 2005. A fellow blogger who I still read occasionally was bemoaning the slow deaths of many blogs; starved of audiences by more immediate social media. In particular there was a wistful nod to the time when bloggers would write long entries/essays in response to each other’s posts and there was a real exchange of thoughts/ ideas, videos and sounds.

Despite blogger stats telling me I have had 60,000 page views Brut Smog never seemed particularly popular so its decline wasn’t about the audience moving to Facebook or Twitter but more that I moved to the former and then rapidly seemed to loose the inclination to spend an hour or so writing pieces. So much easier to post a couple of lines or a photo, get a few likes,exchange some banter and move on. Facebook is very good at giving one the illusion of a warm snug glow of being amongst friends but if my Facebook history was wiped out tomorrow there would be nothing to miss whereas in contrast I would be sad to loose some of the blog posts. This doesn’t quite amount to a New Year’s resolution to blog more and Facebook less. A resolution to do more writing, reading even sketching and less computing would be preferable all round.  

Friday, August 01, 2014


Following on from the last post regarding GoTH am pleased to say that the remake - Film of The Sane Name is (after more stops and starts than a 1950s BSA) finally all coming together nicely. To offset/interrupt the workshop and marsh footage some swirling animated sections have been created which have been dubbed "Punctums".

Monday, July 07, 2014

Bike Rental

"The haunting qualities of the English countryside are evoked in this enigmatic film: part fake public information film, part occult jaunt. A woman tours the sparse marshlands of southern England, but what is she seeking? With a tape recorder as her guide, she travels by bike and by foot in pursuit of her secret mission."
Part of the Apostrophe S trilogy finds its way into the Freewheeling strand of the BFI cycling programme. Available to watch for a mere £1.00 or put it another way less than half the cost of a skinny latte.   

Friday, December 20, 2013

Hollow Gravity Review

To end the year a nice review of Hollow Gravity LP on the Sound Projector website. Given the volume of releases coming through Mr. Pinsent's door, reviews in the Sound Projector can be a little after the fact though rather than being a cause for complaint in the internet world in which releases are hyped to death for about a week and then all but vanish the longer slower approach arguably has its merits. The LP of Hollow Gravity sold out some time ago though copies can be found online without too much trouble and/or you can of course get a digital version on the Bandcamp page here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Upstairs Backwards

Myself and VDO have been working on a couple of collaborative tracks. The first fruits of our labour is Drums in the Sanctuary (the office abandoned, she descends into the underworld) the title being a willful misreading of this. Another track is already recorded and who knows if a willing body can be found there will be some kind of release this year. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Gift of Vision and Sound

This Saturday at the Furtherfield gallery One minute (Volume One) curated by Kerry Baldry  will be screening. Included, as part of the programme is a video called Jiggery Pokery I made back in 2005. Jiggery Pokery was part of a sequence of pieces, which attempted to very directly link sound and image.

During the 1990s I created a number of installations in which a key element was the interplay of sound and vision and once I got my first Mac in late 97 I began experimenting with various programmes that allowed you do this on screen. The Mac in question had a blistering 200 MHZ processor and it wasn’t until 2002 when I upgraded to an iMac G3 (600 MHZ) that really anything of interest began to happen. In 2001 I also came across an application called Vidoedelic that provided real scope for linking image manipulation to either sound or midi signals.

Using sound files or live sound in Videodelic was rather imprecise working as it did rather like a colour organ by filtering the sound into frequency bands (bass, mid or high) and then allowing you to apply one or other band to a parameter. Anything other than a very straightforward bass beat was hard to track. What worked much better was using midi data.

The midi value of notes could be precisely matched to parameter changes. So for example as you ascended up a scale an image could rotate in steps precisely equivalent to each interval. Using this approach I worked up a number of pieces. As with the installations the idea was to use sound to animate the image in some way, articulating a tangentially related aspect or property. So for example in A Rocco Din the idea was to take a picture of an accordion and then have a piece of accordion music perform a digital dissection of the image.
A Rocco Din was the first piece to be completed and took a couple of months to finish this was largely down to technical problems as though Videodelic can record QuickTime movies of its output it can’t do this when being controlled by midi only when using sound files. The solution ended up being using an on screen recorder with the midi track running at ¼ speed then speeding it all back up… all in all far more than any iMac can handle. Arriving at a perfect sync which was in a way the whole idea proved to be very difficult.
The next completed piece was Jiggery Pokery. Again working from a single image this time of two highland dancers and using an adapted midi file of a highland jig as an animation source the image was coerced into ‘dancing’. By this time I had acquired a box that meant one could play the piece live on the Mac and output the VGA of the computer to a DV camera. Not entirely without loss of quality but a lot easier than the first method.
I completed two more pieces using a similar approach Quadrangle and Row Row, working from an image of a white square and of two men in a boat respectively. Quadrangle uses a quasi-random midi sequence generator producing a possible more inventive series of sequences than those used in A Rocco Din or Jiggery Pokery. Quadrangle also uses the midi data to change the colour of the image. Row Row in contrast is the most straightforward of the four works with the image of the two men in the boat being stretched to create the illusion of the image rowing.
Looking back of the four pieces Quadrangle and Jiggery Pokery still seem to ‘work’ the other two seem a little too restrained possibly hidebound by the technical difficulties it took to simply finish them. 

After making the four pieces, which took best part of two years I largely stopped using Videodelic as it was never upgraded from os9 to Mac OS X and the problems with capturing the output was never resolved. Instead I began to use MAX/MSP/Jitter to make pieces such as Fleshtones.

It might be interesting one day to revisit the pieces in a more performative fashion.