Friday, December 08, 2006

Hair Today

A few years ago I made a picee called Rock n Roll Heart in which a female mannequin's head spun back and forth on a turntable, the hair gently lifting as it does in those hair product commercials. 

Here are a couple of looped snippets from such commercials, as time goes by the irritation ends and they start to phase in and out in a pleasing fashion. When you have seen enough click inside the frame and the movies will stop.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Screen Dump - The Videos


Just over a month ago I compiled a screening of V-log work from YouTube and beyond for the Cog Collective. For anyone who missed it. or who was simply on the other side of the planet, links to all of the videos are now up on the CogBlog site. To simulate the screening experience you shoudl watch the pieces chronologically, though I did notice some nice interference occurs when you play more than one at a time.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Snatch Paste


Back in March I blogged about the imminent release of Snatch Paste, an LP on the Vinyl on Demand label containing an assorted selection of tracks from the three Snatch Tapes Compilations. Well the wheels of the industry can turn slowly but just in time for Christmas I can announce that the disc is now “out” and is a fine document of the more experimental end of the UK DIY tape scene between 1979 and 1981.

I received my copies at the weekend and as always for the first couple of plays was taken aback at just how different a vinyl pressing sounds to the audio master. Don’t get me wrong the record has been perfectly well cut and pressed (on heavy weight vinyl indeed) its just that all records sound different to the audio that went into them. Advocates of vinyl always point to its potential to reproduce a much wider frequency range than CD’s and of course that fully rounded bass sound. Both of these qualities do exist on playback but the medium is far from being a transparent one. When cutting the master the engineer often makes a number of on the spot sonic decisions in a bid to best squeeze on as much of the audio spectrum as possible without causing the cutting head to burst into flames. Its essentially a compromise as, to get 22 minutes on the side of the LP necessitates quiet a bit of audio ducking and diving. A 12 inch single gives just that much more room but in both cases (LP & 12 inch) the bass frequencies have to be drastically rolled off otherwise the grooves in the disc would be too wide to be playable. This is known as pre-emphasis and is a fixed equalisation curve applied to all discs. If you were to play the resulting LP back “as is” far from having a deep bass sound it would be incredibly tinny. However what happens is that the phono amp in every Hi-Fi has an equalization circuit in the pre-amp stage, which reverses the process that occurred in the cutting by boosting the bass. Over the years cutting engineers have learnt to ride this process and make records that are good re-presentations of the original tape or sometimes even sound much better, but a transparent copying process this is not.

So in the Snatch Paste LP we have a pleasing paradox; a series of recordings made for cassette release some 25 years ago, recently digitised and now played back through the medium of vinyl with all its nuances and colors. The end result is like some audio sonar bouncing back a quarter of a century to some murky marine bed of ferric experimentation and then forward to the present day via bit and stylus. Oh and if you make this one of your desert island discs you get the added bonus of being able to use the back of the sleeve as a chess board!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Skypoint


The QuickTime player seems to have trouble with files in avi format but nevertheless tries to open them. The result is a series of flickering colouring squares at the top of the screen that seem in some way to relate to the soundtrack of the film, though precisely how is unclear. Using the max/msp/jitter matching mole patch it is possible to decode these pictures and produce a new soundtrack which whilst sounding nothing like the original in some way follows its digital contours and outlines. Herethen is Skypoint a flamenco flavoured reworking of the Pink Floyd promo movie for Point me at the Sky. (Note QuickTime 7 for Mac or PC required).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

domestique electrique


Before Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey were defrocked so to speak there were plans afoot for a follow up tape to Reprint. Unlike Reprint which was largely tape delay based the new work was to employ small fragments of sound from the domestic interior amplified and then looped and re looped, speed changed, treated, re looped and so on. The sound sources ranged from the electrical hum of the kitchen fluorescent to the static crackle made by a pair of denier nylons. A number of long almost drone like recordings were produced in 1981 in my flat in Deptford indeed the bedroom at the time was missing a mattress but had a number of nails banged in the wall on which hung all the loops (I used to sleep on the sofa in the living room) . The project even had a couple of provisional working titles including domestique electrique and deshabille electronique (that’s electronic undress en francais of course).

Given Cherry Red’s reluctance to pursue further releases with Claire & Susan once their identities were revealed the project was eventually abandoned and the tapes lost or destroyed. However in going through the archives for the various snatch re-issues some small fragments from the original sound sources were found along with a few notes for the project and so it was possible to reconstruct many of the tracks.

Two of these reproductions were included on a bonus CDR released with the 25 copy limited edition Box set (as in a box) of the Seal pool Sounds CD last year. 

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sound Stairs


Whilst uploading the Mekas pic for the blog entry below I noticed casually how much the optical soundtrack portion of the frame reminded one of the banister spindles one finds on stairs. Which all suggests an installation comprising a staircase in which the spindles are modelled from the optical soundtrack of some infamous film scene set on a staircase such as the last few frames of sunset boulevard etc.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fleshtones


The idea of a correlation between sound and vision goes back to antiquity. One starry night on the island of Samos Pythagoras stood contemplating the skies, to him the very rhythm and motion of heavenly bodies in their orbits appeared to him as if governed by a cosmic harmony, a carefully choreographed sequence, the music of the spheres. Two hundred years later, Aristotle wrote in De Sensu: "Colours may mutually relate like musical concords for their pleasantest arrangement; like those concords mutually proportionate."

Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci produced sophisticated spectacles for court festivals that fused music and colour. Another artist from the period Athanasius Kircher demonstrated the "Laterna Magica", a forerunner of today’s slide and video projectors however, the first instrument that could simultaneously play light and sound was built by the Jesuit, Father and mathematician Louis Bertrand Caste. In 1760 Castel constructed an Ocular Harpsichord or as he described it a " harpsichord for the eyes". Castel’s machine was a normal harpsichord above which were 60 small windows, each with different coloured-glass and a small curtain. Each time the player depressed a particular key, the relevant curtain would rise to show a burst of colour.

In the next two hundred years many new instruments for combining light and sound were built. These instruments employed a variety of different techniques including high-voltage electric arcs and gas jets to produce variations in light or sound. Electricity in particular offered a means of overcoming the technical problems of using candles or gas and the British painter A. Wallace Rimington developed a Colour Organ which provided a moving light accompaniment to the 1916 New York premiere of Scriabin's symphony Prometheus: A Poem of Fire. Scriabin had scored not only the music but also the precise colours he wanted to accompany particular passages.

Such colour music forms the conceptual starting point for Fleshtones, a piece for extreme pixelated porn (that's extreme pixelation not extreme porn) and auto generated accompaniment. Footage from webcams and other online sites is broken down into a simple tableau of colour bands, at times rather like the paint charts one might find in a DIY store. Given the subject matter this palette is either predominately pink or coffee coloured thus producing a sequence of flickering fleshtones. Using the wonders of max/msp/jitter to construct a 21st century light organ these Fleshtones are turned into lyrical piano music. A music that rises in falls in response and exact correspondence to the onscreen movement. The motion of earthly bodies thus is transformed into something of beauty, harmony and contemplation.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Answering Back


Before the advent of voice mail there was the cassette based answering machine. Clunky and unreliable the tape machine often unintentionally recorded people’s messages for posterity as the old message was only ever partly erased by the new. The result when played back on a regular cassette player is a collage of snippets of talk interspersed with clicks, beeps and random thuds.

On the night of Camerawork’s shredding show Gustav Metzger is my Dad our patron Gustav phoned in giving his apologies for not being at the private view and entreating us not to give out his address “even to his closest friend”. The message had such a nice ring to it (and as we were shredding everything else) we kept the tape. Listening to the recording some 8 years later one can hear not only Mr Metzger but a couple of messages later a disgruntled punter complaining about the show and then after a darkroom booking or two a member of staff discussing the shredding policy.

A new artform? Of course no surprise, there is already an LP of answer phone messages and a website or two. You can hear two or three minutes from the original Gustav tape here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Highland Jiggery Pokery


Continuing the series of single images pressed into motion, here is a little Highland Jiggery Pokery for you. (

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Snatch Paste


Later this year the German label Vinyl on Demand will be releasing an LP (yes one of those shiny black 12 inch anachronisms) of vintage material from the Snatch Tapes archive. The LP will focus on material from the Snatch compilations 1-3 (originally released (1978-81) with the odd extra bonus drawn from other Snatch Tapes.

The LP will be entitled Snatch Paste – An Audio Assortment of Snatch Tapes, and will be mixed by Capstan Seth (anagrams abound) and feature such gems as Chinese Restaurant Disturbance by Alien Brains, Blues by David Jackman, Dull Sound of Breath inside a Tin by Storm Bugs and White Braves by Claire Vevey and Susan Thomas. Other artists include Orior, N4s, Karl’s Empty Body, and Tony Clough.

The above is a mock up of the sleeve.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Chemical Effect


Since the demise of the Lux Centre some five years ago, filmmakers have been meeting in odd corners of London and putting on good old fashioned screenings of experimental work. I say filmmakers quite pointedly as though the Lux Centre showed an eclectic mix of moving image work including installations and single screen film and digital pieces the post Lux screenings (many organised in conjunction with the small rump of the Lux that remained after the demise of Hoxton Square) seem to be driven by a desire to hear once more the clatter of celluloid through the gate. 

Aside from the simple nostalgia for the glory days of the Gloucester Avenue Film CO-OP there are a number of factors at work. Partly the interest in film and especially structural film is being encouraged by the wider art-world's late realisation that film may have something to offer, this realisation is complimented by the efforts of many of those who have been associated with the critical contextualisation, teaching and funding of experimental filmmaking in the UK (David Curtis, All Rees, etc) to try and ensure some posterity for their life’s work and lastly of course there are the filmmakers themselves such as Guy Sherwin and Malcolm Le Grice who continue to screen (and in the case of the former make) work almost tirelessly. The last and most recent factor in this cinematic rehabilitation has been a supposed (re)discovery of film by a younger generation of artists who despite (or maybe because of) the ease and ubiquity of digital media have chosen instead to lock themselves in darkened rooms and fumble with film and chemicals.

Last night’s screening entitled the Chemical Effect at the Whitechapel Gallery was a showcase of such recent new film work. The auditorium was full with a mix of familiar faces from the old CO-OP scene and those probably just too young to have set a foot inside Gloucester Avenue before it became another trendy housing complex. Rather as if we were attending a service of some outlawed religion there seemed to be an air of collective anticipation as we waited to take part in some secret ritual. 

Superficially we were not disappointed; recalling the days of the Hoxton Square Lux the heat was stifling and there was that reassuring 16mm whirr from the projection booth as latecomers and curators alike came in and out of the rear entrance. So much for the enviroment then, what of the work itself? This seemed oddly familiar almost as if someone had found a long lost cookbook for structural filmmakers and set about following the instructions. (now add two ounces of optical printing, mix in a dash of under and over exposure, hand print the film for 3 hours, add asynchronous sound etc). 

In the post screening discussion Ian White tried to probe some of the issues around this filmic renaissance and its relationship with the past but there was a certain reluctance on the part of the filmmakers in the audience to engage. Some of the filmmakers spoke in an unaffected way about their work, as if history didn’t come into it, from others there was some regurgitation of structural filmmaking doctrine (“sound on a film tells you how to feel”) and even the utterance of the words profilmic not heard in polite company for many a year. On the part of some of the older members of the audience one was reminded of when children are indulged by their parents for in some sweet naïve way reflecting them. All in all one left in much need of a drink.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Rocco Berlin

If you are out and about in Berlin tonight then you can check out that old favourite A Rooco Din at the Videonale being shown at the cinema "Union"Bölschestraße 69 - 12587 Berlin - Germany. Be interesting to see who wins the 'prize".

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Process Progress


Back in the summer when this blog was a little more “regular”, I reported on the opening of Chelsea Space, a new exhibition venue which whilst located on the campus of the new Chelsea College of Art at Milbank was displaying an independence of curatorial spirit that promised much for the future. The latest exhibition, a Bruce McLean retrospective, does not disappoint continuing the theme of showing work that whilst hardly obscure is somewhat off the beaten track from that seen in more fashionable galleries. Retrospective is actually not entirely accurate for Process Progress Project Archive is a ‘process-spective”, that runs for six week and ends on the same day that Bruce McLean held his King-for-a-day one day 'retrospective' in 1972.


Instead then of presenting all the works simultaneously, artifacts and artworks from McLean’s archive will be installed, uninstalled, performed, projected and so on throughout the duration. Bruce himself will be on hand at points during the exhibition to facilitate the process, talk about the work, who knows maybe have a beer.


Why then does this process based show work when so many that one has visited in recent years seem to have failed? Perhaps it is because unlike other ‘ongoing’ process based exhibitions where one often wanders in feeling as if one has arrived at half time, between sets so to speak here one feels more as if one is glimpsing the edge of something much larger. The nature of McLean’s work facilitates this, as there are copious drawings, sketches, notebooks, photographs, and posters and so on to choose from. Today’s slice through the McLean back catalogue focused on the Nice Style Pose Art Band, which McLean formed in the early 70’s. Nice Style somehow invigorated the insubstantial and effete elements of the pose with a seriousness that belied an underlying conceptual pranksterism.


Nice Style was in many ways the logical conclusion to the artist’s early performance based conceptual work. Pieces such as Pose Work for Plinths date from a time when many young British artists (no not those ones) were embracing conceptualism. Pose Work and the performances of McLean’s contemporaries such as Richard long and Gilbert & George seem to posses an almost effortless conceptualism; simultaneously throwaway and yet perfectly conceived. This is not of course to underestimate the shock or resistance that such work caused and encountered at the time for whilst from an Art History perspective the antecedents of such work can clearly be seen in the unholy trio of Fluxus, Dada and Duchamp the teaching in British Art Colleges in the late 60's was far more traditional.


The Nice Style Pose Art band performed a final Pose Piece in 1975 but McLean and fellow poseur Paul Richards returned for a final coup de grace the Masterwork: Award Winning Fishknife at the Riverside Studios in 1979. The Fishknife took many of the elements of Pose Art and to a Michael Nyman accompaniment produced a peculiar blend of music performance theatre sculpture, a masterwork indeed.


But then what? I recall going a couple of years later after Fishknife to an exhibition of painting by McLean at the Greenwich theatre; these were bold and quick works, almost like sketches for an imagined performance. As the 80’s wore on McLean seemed to concentrate almost solely on painting, somewhere along the line he became Professor Bruce McLean but the sparkle of the early performance pieces seemed lacking.


In an audio commentary at Chelsea Space (which incidentally should be compulsory listening to all would be curators) McLean talks about “getting the nark” of after a point “not really being bothered”. Maybe it was the easy life of the Art Lecturer or maybe a sense that he had said what needed to be said and that repetition was pointless. Either way it is great to see the early works re-energsied and brought back to life at Chelsea Space. Go once, twice, maybe three times. There is also a nice little publication for £5 and a free poster.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Instant Kitten


Only the mystically inclined would argue for an absolute correlation between sound and vision. There are those such as the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin who believed in a strict parallel between musical pitch and colour; with C being red, D yellow and so on. However in searching for new dialogues between picture and audio it soon becomes apparent that there is any number of ways of creating correspondence.

Moving images have been accompanied by music and sound almost from the start of cinema and the history of visual counterpoints to music is as old as that of dance. A lot of recent work in max/msp/jitter has focussed on gestural movement as a means of controlling synthesis. By using motion detection for example, the movement of a performers arm can trigger a sequence of notes or treat a sound in some way. Whilst this is all driven by a laudable attempt to bring some real-time interactivity to the performance of electronic music, such performed sound can often seem like amateur choreography or simply unwieldy instrument interfaces.

The motion detection abilities of max/msp/jitter can however be used to interact with movie files so that motion of the frames (either in or between) can trigger notes or samples. I have been experimenting with developing a proto app to do this (codename Instant Kitten after the Matching Mole song of the same name)and it is interesting how when using straightforward instrumentation the results are similar to those of a jazz/improv pianist. Here then is an example or study. Some images of the elephant and castle where sourced from the net, these were then cut together in an impromptu fashion. The resulting mov file was then fed into Instant Kitten, which supplied the “musical” accompaniment. To see some Instant Elephant look here here

Piece of the Week - Tale Chase


Rummaging through the archives looking for something (else) I stumbled acroos an old VHS of Tale Chase by Andrew Fitzpatrick. Andrew was a contemporary of Steven Ball and Michael Denton on the FVS course at Maidstone College of Art, which is how I got to meet him. Having previously recorded music for (and with) both Michael and Steven for various video projects Andrew who having successfully got a small grant asked me to produce a soundtrack for his video in about 1986.. 

Somewhat blind (having not seen the video) I produced three new tracks at IPS studios in Shepherds Bush for the project all using heavily treated acoustic guitar. However once we got together it soon became clear that these didn't really jell with the visuals and so I reworked some other material I had, specifically the little 'vibe' sequence originally written for Michael Denton's Watertight and the percussive car track which combined a Led Zeppelin drum loop with Isle of Man TT race sounds.

Having not seen the piece for a few years what is interesting seeing it gain is the way in which the video is edited (particularly in the second part) in an almost scratch style to the echoes and repeats in the music. The visual motifs of maps and compasses can also be found in many of Michael's videos from the period and indeed to some extent in Hangway Turning.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sound Projector


The winter issue of Sound Projector is out. Included between its pages are a host of goodies including a review of both the Storm Bugs LP 'Up the Middle Down the Sides' and, the Sanderson CD 'Seal Pool Sounds'. As an appetizer you can read the Bugs review here

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Engine Trouble - Update



If you happen to be in Naples this weekend you can catch Engine Trouble at MAGMART | video under volcano international festival of videoart. The other "winners" slected by the jury and on show are as follows.

Dies irae by Jean-Gabriel Periot (France)
Headpincers by Antonio Pannullo (Italy)
Glimpse by Jerry King Musser (U.S.A.)
The physicality of thought generation by Jerry King Musser (U.S.A.)
Svankmajer by Jerry King Musser (U.S.A.)
Piano sfera by Jerry King Musser (U.S.A.)
House of tomorrow by Agricola de Cologne (Germany)
Crocodiles in Venice by Ries Straver (Holland)
Fuck television by Ries Straver (Holland)
Selfportrait for Francis Bacon and George Dyer by Matt Flowers (U.S.A.)
Inferno by Matt Flowers (U.S.A.)
Exten(z)sion project III by Chiara Passa (Italy)
Audiocommédia by Audioside (France)
Electric sleep by Kevin Kunze (U.S.A.)
The tower trilogy by Barbara Agreste (Italy)
Gameplay by Anne Holst, Jean-Marc Matos and Antoine Schmitt (Germany)
Timer/wait by Dario Quaranta (Italy)
Blaine by Paul Ketterman (U.S.A.)
Fulltime by Artur Muradyan, Dmitri Sozinov and Sergey Soloviev (Russia, Armenia)
Day of poetry by Tatiana Antoshina, Marian Zhunin and Artur Muradyan (Russia, Armenia)
Motion A: flow by Yuki Ogawa (Japan)
Abstracts by Thomas Hitthaler (italy)
Structural myopia by Lane Last (U.S.A.)
Jour de reve by Yuki Kawamura (Japan)
Engine trouble by Philip Sanderson (United Kingdom)
Dalek/Zu by 47thFloor studio (Italy)
Magic mountain by Hackworth Ashley (U.S.A.)
Militar standard by Uqbar Project (Chile)
Showcase by Adam Hinterlang (U.S.A.)
The train by Yang Zhifei (China)
More info at http://www.magmart.it

Not in Naples, well get the pasta suace on and watch Engine Trouble here.