Residency with Witte Rook, Breda, The Netherlands
Week one (17-23 May 2021)
As I mentioned on the main project page, this week was spent exploring Marseille for sound activity, much as I would have done over ten years ago to gather material for a project in a new location. However the reason is slightly different.
I am enjoying the experience of rediscovering Marseille in this way. I was aware of certain sounds particular to the city, but my work is not so based on reconfiguring environmental sounds in the way it was. These recordings are to activate or be filtered through various salvaged motors devices.
And on the first day although I found and documented some interesting activity, I was already feeling the limitations of only recording with ambient microphones, so on the second day I revisited many of the locations with my trusty hydrophone. However the weather was much less windy meaning much of the activity from the day before was not happening. This is the nature of field recording! I always found that if I go with an intention, I very rarely capture what I set out to. And if I manage to, it's usually not so interesting or inspiring after all!
That said, I did hear some nice echoey clicks and some creaks that sound like wildlife in the harbour area close to Mucem.
The third and fourth images to the right show how I attached my hydrophone to a wooden pole in order to place it against my ceiling and record various intrusive sounds that come from my upstairs neighbours.
Going back to the matter of intention and field recording, on the fourth day I set out to record any wave action I could from along the coast. But as I said, intention often results in... well no results! I walked as far as the Endoume area of the city, around the marina and along the coast. The only place I could get near the water, there were crowds of people. Firstly I don't want to disturb them in whatever they are up to, but often they will disturb me and my recording activity. However I did manage to record some passing traffic in a reverberative tunnel.
I am meeting with the team of Witte Rook on a regular basis to exchange progress and ideas. The organisation have also kindly arranged for me to meet a number of local artists and organisations online, and I met the first on Wednesday, artist Dyane Donck.
We talked for some time about the project I will work on during the residency, but also our backgrounds and ideas, and various other projects. I recorded the conversation in order to make notes and transcribe a little afterwards - although I may see how the recording of our voices is affected by playing it through motor devices.
The notes of the conversation can be found below in a PDF viewer.
And now during the weekend I have taken a trip out to La Fourragère, the last stop on Metro line 1, and walked from there back into the city with the aim of recording sound but also to find materials to work with, however I found almost none. Tomorrow I'll go to the Luminy area of Marseille, which is really on the outskirts of the city and close to a National Park that includes the renowned calanques here (french fjords).
I'll go for a concert but will go there earlier to explore the area for a few hours.
Notes from meeting with Dyane Donck:
Week two (23-30 May 2021)
Location: Marseille, France
This week started with a trip out to the Piscine de Luminy to see a performance by Ed Williams, a composer I met here a few years ago.
On arrival I was not sure I was in the right location as I passed tennis courts and tourists heading to the calanques... but on passing through an abandoned office I found myself in an old swimming pool complex with many empty pools and graffiti everywhere.
I recorded the concert, as well as the metro and bus rides to get out there and very much enjoyed being able to attend a performance in such a great location.
For the rest of the week I stayed very central, wandering around the Joliette area and the ferry port, then around St. Mauront and back into the centre, recording sounds within my studio and Le Panier, although I did head out to the Parc de la Maison Blanche (White House Park) to visit artist friend Delphine Mogarra and the open air exhibition where she is showing two works, one solo and one community collaboration.
This was a completely new area to me, even though I have passed the nearby Orange Vélodrome on numerous occasions, however I did not discover any particularly interesting sounds there. One piece in particular in the exhibition piqued my interest, which was credited to Hélène Bellenger but seems to be the collaborative work of many people! The flowers make suggestive groans and moans when you are near them.
During the final recording session of the week I attempted to record the physical low rumbling that you feel through the ground in some locations where trams run. You don't feel it everywhere and the surprising thing I discovered when recording is you also don't hear the sound slowly getting louder through the ground, as you do through the air. It is quite sudden, and very powerful! I made many adjustments to the volume levels of the recorder before I managed to record the sounds of the trams passing without them peaking (causing the sound to clip and distort).
I have put together a chronological 'mix' of recordings from the last week and uploaded them to Soundcloud for your listening pleasure.
As well as making new work, the other aim of the residency is for me to connect with other artists in the Netherlands, meeting online during this remote period, with a view meeting in person when I am in Breda in July. This is also to find out more about the creative community there and possibly find further opportunities to present my project.
This week I met Bart van Dongen (https://www.bartvandongen.com/) who runs POM (https://www.pomeindhoven.nl/) in Eindhoven. We chatted for around an hour about many different topics and he informed me of some sound art opportunities in Netherlands, as well as some relevant events. I have transcribed the conversation once again and will share below.
I also met with Ruth de Vos, who as well as being one of the team of Witte Rook is also artist-in-residence there for three weeks. We arranged a meeting as we would be no doubt bumping into each other and sharing ideas and thoughts if I was there onsite. We talked about the residency experience so far and what has already changed or altered since we began.
It was also great to get an insight into her working process and the various influences she channels through her paintings.
Something that came up when Bart and I were talking was the thought that (in general!) artists with a musical or performative background tend to collaborate more to create work, whereas visual artists tend to work alone or if they work with a group it is usually as a kind of project manager. This is a very broad generalisation of course!
However when I brought this up with Ruth, she disagreed strongly and told me how she is including Lise and Jorieke of the team in her process while in the residency.
While writing this I realise I am doing the opposite. I am recording, editing and making work in complete solitude currently! Once I begin working with the devices, this collaboration will begin, but these early stages need to be carried out alone.
Below I will also share some of the notes from our meeting.
An indoor pool that for some reason has collected many tyres... Piscine de Luminy
Recording the low frequencies emanating from a ferry bound for Corsica
Sounding sculpture by Hélène Bellenger, Arts Éphémères, Parc de la Maison Blanche
Hydrophone as geophone to record passing trams through the ground
Week three (31 May-6 June 2021)
Location: Marseille, France
I had decided that week three would be devoted to documenting the current live performance setup I presented at Ferme-Asile, Sion, CH and Data, Marseille, FR to illustrate more the approach of the project and to then show how it develops through the residency.
This process began and for most of the day I recorded the first couple of sections of the piece from different angles with video and sound. The piece begins with the belt mechanism you see to the right, now activated by the sound of the Corsica ferry I recorded the previous week. Prior to this I was sending a 5 volt supply to the device as the sound is quite erratic anyway but the recording makes it more so.
When editing the video and recorded sound a little, I realised that some shots were out of focus or too dark, so would need to be reshot - part of the process allowed to me by the residency!
The following day was somewhat overcast which allowed me to visit Prado beach, an area I used to run to and know that the coastline is quite varied there, with sand beaches, rocks and jetties. My intention has been to record waves in some way, without attracting too much attention, and I found the perfect location.
The sound recorded is wave action, but altered by the water passing between rocks. I recorded both above and below the surface and you can hear a chronological mix of the two below.
Just as I was becoming a little despondent about finding abandoned products to adapt for this stage of the project, local artist Liam Witter sent a message asking if I could use a DVD player and subwoofer speaker he had no use for... I immediately said of course! So took a trip across town (after meeting calligraphy artist Lo Wen-Hsin to chat about a future collaboration) to collect the goodies. He also gave me a small speaker that was part of a surround sound system set - merci beaucoup Liam!
And strangely, that evening when arriving back to my studio after buying some supplies, I stumbled across a discarded scanner/printer just around the corner!
The photo below the water recording shots to the right shows the collection still intact.
The photo below shows the components I managed to salvage from them.
I would prefer to use more of the materials from the products, but for this project I know that I will have to travel to the Netherlands with the resulting pieces and need to keep weight to a minimum. Fortunately, leaving any metal or plastic objects next to any refuse deposit site in Marseille means they are collected and sold or recycled in some way.
Documentation continued throughout the week when possible.
On Tuesday 1st June I met online with one of the artists Witte Rook have put me in contact with. Rogier Telderman is a pianist and artist who also runs the Dock Zuid space in Tilberg. The notes from the meeting are below in a PDF and I am hoping to visit the space to make some documentation of my project and also to present the results of the residency (at whatever stage it is at by then) there.
Unfortunately I missed a meeting with Mark Ijzerman on Thursday and I am hoping I can reschedule soon.
And on Saturday I had a full day of meetings, beginning by catching up with Lise Sore of the Witte Rook team in the morning, then around the middle of the day with Dewi de Vree, an artist whose work I have admired for many years, and then with Tanja Isbarn, who I will be collaborating with in the near future in her project Transtonations.
Dewi was very helpful in suggesting a number of organisations and artists working in somewhat similar ways in the Netherlands, and also managed to obtain the text "The Art of Reading Machines" by Dutch forefather of ArtScience school and general genius Dirk Raaijmakers, but in English! Shared by Matteo Marangoni, who I am also hoping to meet with soon. She will also help me organise a presentation in The Hague if I am unable to find another opportunity.
And with Tanja we chatted about the possibility of me going to present the project in Groningen (which I also learned how to pronounce). We also caught up on life and art as we actually met in Bristol, UK around 20 years ago!
Please find each of the meetings transcribed as notes below:
Belt device that begins the live performance piece, studio, Marseille
Recording water rushing in and out between rocks, Plage du Prado, Marseille
Recording water moving between rocks with hydrophone, Plage du Prado, Marseille
Products donated and found in Marseille, intact above and the useful parts below
Week four (7-13 June 2021)
Location: Marseille, France
You may recall that in the last update I had decided that week three would be devoted to documenting the current live performance setup I presented at Ferme-Asile, Sion, CH and Data, Marseille, FR to illustrate more the approach of the project and to then show how it develops through the residency.
Well the documentation continued throughout week four also, as I had to reshoot quite a few scenes (some are still too dark even now but this video is more for reference than a final presentation).
So I slowly set up and recorded the sections of the performance, videoing from as many angles as possible, then syncronising sound to video for each clip as I record separately rather than directly into the camera. Previous attempts resulted in rather noisy sound, so I would rather take my time by recording with preamps and synchronising after.
These recordings will also be recomposed as a future album and I prefer them to be separate from the video for this also.
The video can be watched using the link below - but in watching it once again I have noticed a strange glitching effect that seems to divide the picture into quarters. The original footage doesn't have this so I am not sure at what stage this occurred but I will now have to return to it and replace the affected sections.
There were no meetings with artists based in the Netherlands this week. However I did get to meet Signe Lidén, a Norwegian artist who was involved in the Resonance - European Sound Art Network event that Bart van Dongen informed me of back in week two.
I found that Signe's work has some parallels with my own - not the projects involving obsolete technology but my Traceable Echoes projects. Her project Writings uses a number of syluses to draw circles in mounds of earth taken from a riverbed. The sound of the stylus moving through the dirt, stirring up the past, can be heard through the use of contact mics. But significantly, she used what she described as a huge clockwork-like mechanism attached to the ceiling of the exhibition space to cause the styluses to move.
Device affectionately known to me as 'the clunker' mic'd in various ways
Picking up friction from a rusty washer first seen in (R)ASSEMBLE with Yarmonics
Thanks to a tip from Nicholas Collins I have crackling sounds triggered by a spring being hit by parts of this flywheel, amplified using a telephone pickup coil
Week five (14-20 June 2021)
Location: Marseille, France
If you are reading these chronologically, you'll know that the video I completed and uploaded that demonstrates the live performance idea I am currently developing has some issues and I am slowly replacing the affected sections. This is extremely time consuming and also very tedious!
I was busy meeting many people who are in some way linked to my project, which I will detail a little more below and include notes from the conversations as has become customary.
But a couple of flashes of inspiration caused me to construct and combine various items from the recent acquisitions, the existing setup and some parts of a computer tower I salvaged from the street last year.
The first is a constructed turntable that utilises a motor and belt procured from the scanner/printer in combination with two plant pot saucers joined base-to-base. This is all supported by the trusty meccano-like kit I found earlier this year.
The second takes a bowl I actually travel with and use a lot in my live work. It comes from Korea and cost less than €1 (or £1 or $1). I created a softer base inside with layers of cardboard and afixed a motor which looks like it also came from a printer. Adding a cable tie to the spindle it now creates sound as it spins inside the bowl. I then clipped a clothes peg to the rim to make it a little more rhythmic/percussive and dampen the ringing sound.
The third is possibly the most obvious in some ways, but it works as a part of the growing setup. The speaker from the subwoofer unit donated by Liam Witter has some bubblewrap added to the inside of the cone to rustle and also to cushion objects inside from striking the cone, and then I added a heatsink taken from the motherboard of the found computer. I have only tested this (and the others) with the low frequency rumbles I recorded emanating from the Corsica ferry, but as the project develops I'll see which others work with each.
I have made short video documentation of each to present the sounds they make with the action caused.
Constructed turntable with plant pot saucers
Metal bowl played by cable tie on printer motor, with added clothes peg
Subwoofer speaker cone treated with bubblewrap fires nuts and bolts upwards to strike a heatsink
Please click on 'vimeo' to view the videos through their portal or the expand symbol to the left to view full screen, and PLEASE use good quality headphones or speakers to listen to the sound produced.
In addition to the twice weekly meetings the team of Witte Rook and I have arranged to keep each other updated regarding the project and the activities in Breda, this week I met Mark Ijzerman, Germaine Sijstermans, Marylou Petot, Helga Jakobson, Christoph De Boeck and Aernoudt Jacobs of Overtoon in Brussels and Wen Chin Fu of iii.
I have made notes from each which are contained in the PDF viewers below.
Week six (21-27 June 2021)
Location: Marseille, France
For various reasons, this week is not so packed with activities...
But I have my first COVID-19 vaccine injection!
Last week I showed the development of three new devices to add to the performance setup. For some reason I developed three more this week, which means that the whole project has changed. Not a bad thing, as I wanted it to evolve organically and without too much planning, more of a surprise.
So the fourth to be developed uses a small fan I kept from the donations in Sion, Switzerland, that I felt had some potential, and is small and light. Initial tests with a metal 'meccano' bracket were good but tended to result in very regular rhythmic sounds...
The fifth takes another computer fan, this time with a found CD attached. I drilled holes in the edge of the disc (so it could actually still be listened to!) and added lengths of dental floss. Using this device I get some nice tonal sounds from another small heat sink I salvaged from a computer tower found in Marseille.
And finally I took one of the objects from the original setup - the small cardboard box - and fixed a motor with a worm drive to the base inside. I then fixed a wire 'stylus' to the inside of the top, adjusting it so it hopefully sits in the groove of the worm drive when closed. As I can't see inside when the box is closed, this has to be done by trial and error.
And then I returned to the fourth device - the small round fan - and tried various other objects. The one that was most satisfactory in sound and unpredictability was a small round stone.
Images of each are to the right but I'll save video documentation for week seven, as I develop the live performance.
Small fan with round stone
CD with added dental floss plays heatsink
I discovered a recording of the first test with the small round fan. As you will hear, the sound becomes very regular at points, which is fine but not for this project.
On Wednesday I met with Julian Edwardes, a Breda native and musician using mostly modular synthesisers.
Below is a transcription of the conversation, but one development since our chat is that Julian will kindly lend me some speakers and a mixer during my time in Breda which will help the development of the live presentation immensely!
Open box shows motor with worm drive in base and stylus in top
Week seven (28 June - 4th July 2021)
Location: Marseille, France
Most of this week has involved creating sections or 'scenes' using the various assemblages I have constructed to begin to work on a loose structure for the performance piece.
I documented them with video and sound as I worked on them in order to demonstrate what I am doing but also to help with the structure, and to figure out how one can lead to another. The sections in the video documentation are in order of development only.
The two devices in the original setup (second double deck and the clunker) are now part of this iteration as I managed to burn out the small fan that made the rock move, and the cardboard box with the worm drive motor inside felt a little too basic to me. However I will keep the idea for another project.
All devices arranged for performance
Combining the subwoofer speaker and metal bowl in one section
Belt of constructed turntable needs adjustment
Having contacted various artists and musicians in The Hague, I spoke to Arvind Ganga on Wednesday. He was introduced to me by Wen Chin Fu as someone who organises live events and is a musician himself.
He liked what he saw of the project from these pages and the video, so we chatted about the possibility of me performing in his Myriads series of events. Below you'll find a brief transcription of our meeting.
I will perform at his studio at Helicopter on 21st July.