Occasional Ramblings on Sound and the Creative Process
Thanks to the Media Arts Technical Assistance Fund, a regrant program of NYSCA Electronic Media and Film, administered by free103point9, I am currently in New York City, attending the Megapolis audio festival! Per the festival’s website, “The MEGAPOLIS Audio Festival is a weekend-long event dedicated to the art of sound. Artists including documentarians, technologists, musicians, educators, urban planners, scientists, radio producers, and fans interact to share secrets on producing and presenting challenging audio works online, on-air, and on the stage.” After my first day at Megapolis, I can definitely say that there is a very interesting mix of different types of media-makers here – it is very refreshing to be working with people from so many different backgrounds!
Currently, I am nursing sore feet and a completely blown mind at my hotel – so many great ideas/sounds to play with/share! For example, check out this neat online sound tool – http://www.jazzdrummachine.com (use Google Chrome browser for best results, per the programmer Ben Lacker). You can use the sample jazz drummer tracks to create interesting sounds by dragging the sliders up and down, or head over to someplace like archive.org and grab an mp3 file to load into the program to create something even more unusual-sounding. The tool will first sort through the file, isolating eight different groups of sounds according to their timbre (each slider corresponds to one grouping of sounds with a similar timbre, for a total of eight groups). Once the processing is complete, you can hit the play button to begin playing a loop – use the sliders to add or subtract sounds in real time from the loop. The higher the slider, the more clips of that timbre will be included in the loop (this baby gets LOUD). I will definitely be playing with this tool more in the future – I am curious what it would do with voice or piano. It definitely does very cool things with drums.
The other session I attended today was “The Way Things Travel” with John Roach and Aaron Moore. In this noise-making extravaganza, we created several instruments using various odds and ends. Check out two of my instruments below:
The stringed instrument in the front can be hooked up to a simple piezo pickup and – voila – you have a very interesting-sounding electronic instrument made with rubber hands and a resonator made of an old DVD security case. Also in this picture is a “bow” made of soft plastic tubing with a piece of wire stuck through it and a “saxophone” made with a straw and an old spool. I am amazed at the varied and interesting sounds these instruments produce. I also took notes on how to make another really neat instrument out of a cigar box and some wire – I will most certainly be recreating something like this at home! I will need to figure out how to create a piezo pickup – the ones we used today were very low tech, something like what is described in this article. Looks like a trip to Radio Shack for a couple of buzzers/cables and some tutoring in soldering technique from my husband is in my future! In the meantime, tomorrow the group of us from the first “The Way Things Travel” session will perform for an hour on our new instruments. Fun times!
Good news if you enjoy reading about sound/art – my favorite sound art journal has 10 free articles posted – no database access required! Check out (and download) a bunch of great articles from Organised Sound for free until March 31st, 2013 here.
Art nerd moment – just found a really great journal and had to share! If you have database access and are interested in art, creativity, and psychology, I highly recommend “Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts”. The latest issue has several articles on music and emotion. Volume 6(1) has a fascinating article which originally attracted me called “Physiological Correlates of Aesthetic Perception of Artworks in a Museum” (Tschacher et al.). The authors of this article used quantitative (hard data) measures to evaluate museum-goers’ responses to artwork. This methodology is fairly novel, as so much of aesthetics research is qualitative (subjective). The researchers tracked participants physical path through the museum, as well as heart rate and sweat responses to specific works. I found the focus on arousal patterns (increased heart rate etc.) particularly interesting – one major conceptual area I explore in my sound work is physiological response to sounds. My work is constructed specifically to slow the pulse and decrease respiration, guiding the listener into imagined worlds, memories, or meditative states. I hope to see more research in this area as time goes on, as I would love to learn more about how aesthetic experiences can effect the body – and put findings to work in my own compositions.
Anyway, if you like this resource and want to check out some others that I have dug up (many of which do not require database access or a subscription), check out my Resources page. I continue to add things to this list as I find them – I often bump into things at random whilst looking for other things and the librarian in me (yes, that’s one of my other hats) always jumps at the opportunity to share interesting or useful materials!