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Posts Tagged ‘sound art

Found through the Feminatronic blog: some articles, videos etc. on  Louis and Bebe Barron, two American electronic music composers  who made the score for the classic sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet in the 1950’s:

The Barrons didn’t get the credits as music composers of the score of this classic movie, however. This article on the NPR Music website from 2005 explains why and how they became “forgotten pioneers” of electronic music. But all was not lost: Louis and Bebe Barron continued to compose electronic music up until the turn of the century and thus were not completely forgotten. They now even have their own Wikipedia article, which saves their work for future generations…

More information:

 

Fragile Territories is a laser and sound installation by Robert Henke (a.k.a. Monolake). The installation runs on three Mac Mini computers, two for the four lasers and one for sound, code written in MaxMSP.

More information:

I watched Amon Tobin’s performance of his latest “ISAM” album live on the closing night of STRP 2011.
Instead of the usual boring DJ – bent – over – a – desk – and – waiving – stupidly – with – his – hands, Tobin’s DJ booth was integrated in a large 3D video wall which displayed a dazzling array of video fragments following the music:

An impressive combination of intricate sound sampling and VJ-ing. The claim on www.amontobin.com that this combination of music and video art provides “a beyond 3-D experience experience” by providing a “stunning multi-dimensional/shape shifting 3-D art installation surrounding Tobin and enveloping him and the audience” was fulfilled IMO, although there was not much (if any) interaction with the audience during the concert: it was so overpowering that you just watched it..

Altogether much more interesting than the Aphex Twin concert which followed “”ISAM Live”  and seemed to meander on and on…

Some 20 years ago I bought an obscure Philips/Harlekijn LP containing the famous Ballet Mecanique by George Antheil.  In 1924 Antheil worked with Fernand Leger on a DaDa inspired abstract film called “Ballet Mecanique”. The music for this film was to come from electric bells, tree airplane propellers, a siren and piano rolls in 16 player pianos linked to a central control panel. However, the technology to realize this “central control panel” to synchronize all these player pianos was yet not available in 1924, so Legers film and Antheil’s score went their separate ways. The Ballet Mecanique score was technologically so ahead of its time, that it could not be performed in the way it was conceived in the 1920’s.

To resolve this issue, Antheil prepared a new reduced version of the piece for eight pianos, one player piano, four xylophones, percussion and two airplane propellers. This drastically simplified score was presented to audiences in 1926 and 1927 in Paris and New York. The work was never published in its original form. In 1953 a heavily cut version of Ballet Mecanique was published by George Antheil which featured only four pianos. This is the score of which a live version played during the 1976 Holland Festival was recorded for the above mentioned Harlekijn LP.

Bad Boy Made Good DVD

Last year I stumbled across a DVD called “Bad Boy made Good. The Revival of George Antheil’s 1924 Ballet Mecanique” on the antheil.org web site. The DVD documents a revival of the original orchestration of Antheil’s magnus opus using the 16 player pianos for which the piece was originally intended. Using MIDI technology to control the 16 player pianos (for which now Yamaha Disklaviers were used), it was now possible to synchronize the pianos in the way Antheil originally intended in 1924. The DVD documents the preparation and the world premiere of this original version of the Ballet Mecanique in the Concert Hall of the University of Massachusetts in Lowell on November 18, 1999. It also contains the Léger film with the newly realized 16-player-piano version of Antheil’s score.

World premiere by UMass Lowell Percussion Ensemble

The MIDI controlled piece was subsequently performed in many concert halls in the USA and Europe, a complete list of performances and DVD ordering info can be found on the informative Ballet Mecanique page/antheil.org web site which accompanies the DVD. Check it out if you are interested in the early history of  “noise music”.

The crackle box designed by Michel Waisvisz in the seventies was probably the first commercially available portable ‘non-keyboard’ analog audio synthesizer with an inbuilt loudspeaker. Crackle boxes are still sold by STEIM and are regarded nowadays to be the archetype of ‘glitch music’ or ‘circuit bending’.

Original cracklebox

Since the new cracklebox has been released by STEIM in 2004, various performers are playing this instrument like Mouse on Mars and Coil. Old crackleboxes have become collectors items. I happen to own a limited edition “2nd release” cracklebox from 2003. Being a “second” and not a first release I don’t know if this also classifies as a collectors item, but that’s beside the point: it still makes an awful lot of noise!

Old and new cracklebox

With the renewed interest in analog electronic music the humble crackle box has generated quite a lot of offspring. A world-wide cottage industry has emerged thanks to the web and e-commerce of small “noise box” manufacturers. Sites like Analogue Haven and NoiseGuide are the trading places and outlets for these builders. Brand names are Audible Disease, Bug Brand, Electro-Faustus, King Capital Punishment etc. Links to the sites of some of these manufacturers are listed in the Links list of this blog.
Usually these builders combine pure analog noise boxes of synthesizers with boutique guitar effect pedals in their product catalog. Being a guitar and synth player and not too fond of playing keyboards, I am always interested in their new product offers.

I own Audible Disease Dementia DM-1 “ultra noise synth” for instance, which although controlled by knobs instead of a touch surface is a direct descendant of the cracklebox to me in terms of sound (noise).

Moody Sound’s BabyBox noise generator is both a noise box and a guitar effect pedal, enabling me to manipulate the noise with my guitar:

A class of their own are the electronic instruments made by Arius Blaze and Ben Houston, a.k.a. Folktek. These devices are genuine sound artworks, also accompanied by the hefty price tags usually associated with art pieces…
But in their “Symbiotic” series of touch based instruments Michel Waisvisz’ crackle box concept and look and feel is still reminiscent IMO, albeit in a far more elaborate design.

So if you are interested in generating spontaneous analogue noises, you now have a wide range of devices to choose from, starting with a simple STEIM cracklebox to a unique and expensive Folktek sound art piece, all depending on your requirements and budget.


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