Tue Feb 22 2022 21:30:00 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time)
As I mentioned in the last blog, I'm taking a zoom course on Composing Experimental Music, we have optional "homework" assigned -- which is really a set of flexible techniques to experiment with and explore timbre.
In class, Jamie demonstrated several means of exploring amp feedback width stringed instruments (including the immediately recognizable autoharp!), and I really don't have any viable stringed instruments right now. I really wanted to make one out of scrap wood and rubber bands, but time didn't afford that this cycle (I hope to revisit sometime soon). It occurred to me that the springs inside the spring reverb tank might behave a little bit like oddly shaped "strings", so I performed some feedback experimentation.
In this experiment, I left the reverb tank input open, so all sound was internally generated through mechanical vibration of the springs -- either through externally tapping with hand or drumstick, or by the speaker vibrations resonating with the coils. This is what I had really hoped to explore.
I absolutely LOVE the industrial echoing machinery sounds of the spring reverb, but I wasn't going for that this time around.
I got some interesting resonances by playing with various effects settings and modulating the position of the tank and riding the effects controls (mostly volume).
From this experiment, I have put together one rushed/stupid video and one clip of excerpts.
I later set the amp on its back and had the tank sitting on the mesh facing down/vertical. This allowed me to adjust positions while being more able to monitor the effects controls with two hands. I worked with several varied effects modes, but mostly used the downward pitch shift in hopes of getting a lower frequency bass response and reducing the high-pitch static feedback tone that everybody can picture in their head right now.
It was a much longer session, but here are several edited excerpts:
Direct link is here: Homework 02b
I am pleased with the resonant tones/outcome of this experiment, and I believe that additional exploration with a bass cabinet or feeding back through a transducer (possibly through mechanical linkages of odd varieties) could yield even more interesting timbres.
Sun Feb 20 2022 00:30:00 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time)
I'm taking Jamie Stewart's course on Composing Experimental Music, and it's already halfway through and I'm enjoying it tremendously. It's blazingly fast paced and is covering a TON of ground on so many varied topics really quickly.
All of the "homework" is optional and this course is just not for credit or anything, but one of the reasons I wanted to take it was to be exposed to some new possibilities and to nudge myself to do some more experimentation.
For the first assignment, I decided to dust off a synthesizer I built 20 years ago, the triwave picoswash. I ran it through a modeling amplifier that was scrounged from a dumpster that I later repaired (tho it's still fucked up, only one of the digits on the display is working). Jamie covered a little about frequency beating (not a new concept, but one I haven't explored much recently), so I decided to spend some time de/tuning the two sides of the triwave into giving some interesting beat patterns.
Of course, the triwave always sounds better when patched through the noise swash, and then I ran the amp in a reverb/delay mode with the parameters up basically all the way (tho it's hard to be sure with the broken display, heh).
So here's a brief clip from that session, just recorded on a phone:
The second class gave several assignments, and one of them involved capturing a field recording and then turning it into a composition using the DAW. It was a rather slow and mostly quiet Friday afternoon in my neighborhood, but I managed to get some sounds recorded and turned them into this piece here:
Here is the direct link to mp3 here: Homework 02a
I'm pleased with the way it turned out! I wanted to make some musique concrète while keeping some aspects of the source material clearly audible. I wanted it to sound like a field recording, but with some enhanced editing/mixing/structure/interest.
There are several more parts to the "homework" (all of it is optional, for fun/learning/experimentation), I have a bit more to finish up and share. More to come in a following blog entry.
Sun Jul 26 2020 16:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)
This year, World Listening Day was on Saturday, July 18th, 2020. The global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and civil unrest (caused by social injustice) have dramatically altered the world. I thought it would be interesting to try and recreate the soundwalk I did last year in hopes of making a recording that could demonstrate a sonic contrast.
In order to be more faithful to the previous recording, I took the liberty of doing the soundwalk on Friday, one day before the actual official World Listening Day. I met up with my colleague Wes downtown at noon, and we wore masks and stayed outdoors and socially distant. There were a few surprises along the way.
First, the wind was considerably stronger than prior years. I decided to try the windscreens that came with my in-ear binaural microphones, but I wasn't sure how they might be impacting the recording volume (plus, it was just really quiet downtown). Once we were walking for a few minutes, the wind really wasn't that bad and I'm not entirely sure how necessary the windscreens were (although they probably helped). The recording did end up being quite quiet, so I applied a constant 15dB amplification, which I think sounds pretty good but maybe calls up the background hiss/noise floor a bit more than I'd have preferred.
Second, the route I chose last year winds along the Willamette river via a stretch of private greenway (shared use path). Sadly, this year the path was closed due to construction in parts and covid-19 concerns. We ended up with more sidewalk time than I had hoped, which probably makes contrasting with the prior year more difficult. The upside, however, is that we got to find and explore some interesting new spaces, like a parking lot under the Broadway bridge. Ultimately, this detour caused us to be out recording longer, and we captured closer to an hour (compared to 50 minutes last year)
During our walk, I found it harder than usual to concentrate on my intentional listening. The sights and sounds of the city seemed more alien than they normally would, and so my mind was easily distracted and my focus drifted. While this is normal for me (and probably for most) during soundwalks, I found the sense of distraction elevated from previous times (especially visual distraction). Every new bit of graffiti seen brought me back to thinking about our current crises. I tried a new technique of purposefully "softening my gaze", and I think it helped fair amount. Before today, I genuinely didn't know that this was an actual thing, let alone that it's leveraged in Buddhism, anxiety therapy, and yoga (drishti...which I have unknowingly used both in eagle pose and while track-standing on a bicycle).
This is a binaural recording, so good stereo headphones work best. Click here to visit the archive.org page for this recording or just listen to it here:
See you next year for WLD.
Thu Jul 18 2019 13:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Background: 5 years ago I decided to guide a soundwalk for World Listening Day.
5 years later, I decided to do it again.
My employer is awesome. We are encouraged as part of our happy employment and ongoing professional development to engage in "thrive time" -- essentially expansive work that may not be directly related to daily business deliverables, but work that makes us better, stronger, healthier, and happier. I offered this sound walk.
Click the link above or listen to it here:
See you next year for WLD.
Tue Oct 23 2018 18:56:44 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Sat Jul 19 2014 21:12:20 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)
In observance of World Listening Day 2014 (July 18th), I guided a lunchtime soundwalk around parts of downtown Portland, OR. I decided to organize only at the last minute, and there were 5 of us who showed up for the nearly hour long sound walk.
We started with short discussion about active listening and purposeful sound observation and some of the philosophy/ideas behind it. We walked and listened for about 20 minutes, then had a short chat about what we had noticed so far and what we thought was interesting in the act of observing. We continued on for another 35 minutes or so and completed a wide loop. The small group of participants seemed to have a really good time (and it turned out to be some decent exercise too).
See you next year for World Listening Day!
Sun Jan 03 2010 22:17:15 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time)
On the transition from New Years Eve to New Years Day I made a recording of the sounds in my neighborhood, similar to the one I made last year. Here's a link to the archive.org page for it in case you want to download it or read more:
http://www.archive.org/details/NewYears2010WoodstockPortlandOr. It has reminded me just how much I enjoy the sound of binaural recording. I'm still tickled by the spacial placement of sounds in a 3D field. If you listen, you should ideally wear headphones and keep the volume very high (I didn't alter the signal and left a bunch of headroom).