Audio Diaries



I realize I have been neglecting this blog very badly. This post is to prove I have indeed still been recording various situations in stealth documentary mode and mashing them together. Most of this material is from various nooks and crannies of Detroit and the Ypsi/Ann Arbor region of Michigan.

Experiments in Speed, Time, and Sound on the Tube

This is a 10 minute long sound piece focusing on speed and timing as a tool in sound as a medium apart from cinema or performance. The sounds heard are that of the London Underground. The event is entering a London Underground station, going through the gates, riding the elevator, walking and boarding a train.

The piece is broken into four distinct sections:

The first sequence looks at time in fast forward. The original event in real time is literally sped up so it lasts less than a minute compared to the original five.

The second sequence is also sped up from the real time length, but in a different way. In cinema, directors edit down from real time to move through events faster while still giving us the details we need to make sense of the story. This sequence is cut down to one and a half minutes from the original length to illustrate how sound can be edited like filmed material. The edits are kept unmasked and very noticeable to the listener to emphasize the jumps. All the main distinguishable elements needed to associate the sounds with boarding the tube are retained, while the monotonous bits are subtracted.

The third sequence is an original real time (5 minutes) event of entering the station and boarding a train to give the viewer an explanation of what the first two sequences illustrate.

The final sequence looks at the tool of music and how it can warp and change our sense of pacing. In a film or performance, music is used to move through events that the director believes the viewer will not need dialogue to understand. For example a scene where we are reading the emotion of a characters face or observing a silent action may just be accompanied by music that fits the mood and draws us into the moment. We can be made to forget about how long the scene is taking, or that time is passing because our minds are sorting out what the character is thinking or doing and what the music may mean in relation to it. In this final sequence I have layered music into a composition of the sounds of entering the station and boarding, as well as riding trains. This turns into a collage of music and sounds, the point being the music can slur the fact that long amounts of time may be going by, even as we accept we are moving at the same pace.

The point of this piece was to give thought to how the mind perceives time when we go through events that we do not deem important. To me, the mind seems to dismiss bits of time when the body is going through a repetitive motion or routine. In this example, a daily routine trip on the tube to work or school is put in a warped light. When presented in a gallery setting it is meant to cycle repeatedly.

On Steve Reich’s ‘Different Trains’

I have listened to this a few times and enjoyed it.  Now I am making the connection between it and my current work on ways of conveying the sense of time in different ways in sound.

“Mr. Reich’s 1988 piece, Different Trains, marked a new compositional method, rooted in It’s Gonna Rain and Come Out, in which speech recordings generate the musical material for musical instruments.”    – Al Filreis 

“Back in the 1960’s Steve Reich hit on a marvellously simple idea. He noticed that if a fragment of recorded interview was looped and recorded interview was looped and repeated, a melodic pattern would mysteriously emerge from it. In Different Trains, written in 1988, he elaborated on this idea, taking phrases from interviews with travellers and train staff and weaving them into a continuous musical texture of live and pre-recorded string quartets. The effectiveness of the piece hinges on the audibility of the process. We hear a musical motif suggested in the voice, and enjoy the way its made hard and definite – crystallised, you might say – in the thick weave of the layers quartet parts.”

This piece came out of Reich’s trips on trains in the states during World War 2, also referencing the reality of holocaust trains during the same time period.

To me the piece evokes a sense of moving towards something very fast.  The combination of the strings playing paradiddles, the repetitive presence of the train whistle and speech, and the ever-increasing tempo create this urgency.

I think my current work responds to this and uses the same concept of composition out of non-musical sound as well as musical elements.  I am trying to create a sense of constant movement at one speed throughout rather than an ever-increasing pace a Reich accomplished here.



Listening at The Horse Hospital

This was a unique and cozy event held in The Horse Hospital gallery right behind the Russell Square underground station.  Around 20 people gathered to sit and listen in the dark to a hour and a half collection of audio clips compiled by Larry Sider of The School of Sound.  The inspiration for this event was the fact that seldom do we sit and strictly listen to sound pieces or music like we sit and watch television or films.

The Light and Shadow Salon: Listening:  Curated by The School of Sound, Presented by Larry Sider,  Attended Friday, 25 November at The Horse Hospital. 

Post Group Tutorial and Friends in Your Field Update

Currently the critical practice body of work is progressing nicely.  I am working on condensing the overall length of the piece from almost 30 minutes of ideas to exactly 10 minutes.  I feel that precise specifications and goals  for the end product will help me define  and push the point.  At times there is almost a sense of rush.  The piece is still focusing on the options of speed in a sound story, with the tube as the main topic.  Separate clips are separated by the click of a tape recorder being turned on and off.  Right now it looks like there will be four clips, the order of which is still being decided.  Real time, fast forward, cuts from real-time similar to film,  non-diegetic music layered in.

Ideas from Tutorial Meeting 1

Possible focus points in better defining sound as a medium standing on it’s own

– Speed: real time, compression(fast edits, such a film does), stretched

– As Information, dialogue/instruction/described actions.

– Music-emotion, mood, flow

– Diegetic/Non-Diegetic

Invisible sound – electrical interference , record using induction coil,

Defining the Potential of Speed in Sound Design and Art

Boarding in 1 minute (Not real time):

This is an edit of getting into the london underground and boarding a train. It takes about one minute here to create the story when in real time it would take at least six minutes to get through the gates, ride the elevator down, walk through, board, and for the train to leave.

Boarding in real time, unedited:

This is the real time version of boarding the tube.  It is evident that unedited, more time is spent on the elevator, and walking through the platforms before boarding.

Boarding the tube slower and slightly backwards for a moment:

Here the same clip as boarding in 1 minute(above)  is manipulated almost beyond recognition. slowed down, and bit stretched.

CP Discussion from Blackboard

The Predicament II: Themes, questions

New technologies: does the use of new techs necessarily mean that the art work will be of general relevance, accessible to all etc? [Considering the fact that many new techs may be expensive, hard to operate, demand advanced skills].

Does new technology dictate the nature of the artwork’s communication?

Do we allow corporations too much control over our artistic and social expression?

It’s hard to experience anything without new techs at present. Getting a perspective is hard!

The late 19th-early C20th must have felt similar?

Is this a repetitive process- do we end up asking the same questions over and over again?

New techs: a way of returning to the idea of medium specificity? Do the new techs give rise to a widening or a narrowing effect?

In early C20th, artists move between media. However Art criticism tended to ignore this and focus on the idea of the specificity, the essence of the medium.

e.g. Greenberg’s avoidance of moving image and narrative work.

Is there an essence of video? [For e.g.]

Me: Is there an essence of Sound on its own

How integrated is the digital world and the artworld? Eg- using digital images for painting source. Ref. Photorealism, superrealism?

Ref. Adorno’s critique of ‘affirmative culture’: is this . Equally, for Greenberg the discussion was not just about aesthetics – it was about how art, politics and society interrelate.

Ideas on a Critical Practice Body of Work

While in London, I’ve been becoming interested in the limitation of recorded sound as a medium, rather than it’s purpose accompanying film, performance, or narrated pieces.

On October 18th, during the 2nd lecture for CP last week, we continued our discussion on the predicament of contemporary art.  Clement Greenberg was trying to find “the form” for music.  He thought that art critisism was lagging behind that of literature and music.  Comparing art to music in terms of form, he said that even more abstract music still had some type of coordinates or score to guide the progress.  Because of this, he began to think on what the form for abstract modern art would be, coming to the conclusion that the limits of the flat canvas were it.  He also had the idea that an artist being self critical meant acknoledging the flatness of the canvas. This makes 3-dimentionality a property of sculpture and theatre, not painting.  See the work by Pollock displayed below.

“Greenberg helped to articulate a concept of medium specificity. It posited that there were inherent qualities specific to each different artistic medium, and part of the Modernist project involved creating artworks that were more and more ‘about’ their particular medium. In the case of painting, the two-dimensional reality of their facture lead to an increasing emphasis on flatness,in contrast with the illusion of depth commonly found in painting since the Renaissance and the invention of pictorial perspective.”  -Wikipedia

This lecture brought on the idea to somewhat explore or try to define the limitations recorded sound has standing on it’s own.  A sequence can be shown in real time, or edited as film to give direction and setting but faster.  The same bit can be stretched, or shifted up or down in pitch similar to music.