Voice 2012

Seven years after our previous collaboration, Maja Ratkje and I got together for a performance in Johanneskirken in Bergen for Festspillene i Bergen this May. I created a setup using LED modules normally used in outdoor video walls which I placed in an arc behind Maja. The arc functioned both as a canvas for low resolution patterns but also a powerful light source affecting the whole church giving me an opportunity to modify the whole space by improvising with these screens.

We have been invited to perform at the Bozar Electronic Arts Festival on september 22nd  (Bozar, Brussels) and later at the Kontraste Festival in Krems in october.

Johanneskirken has probably never looked cooler from the outside:

a very short glimpse of what you might experience:

The full-length performance at the Kontraste Festival in October 2012:

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multimorf 3: a composition for trombone and waterfall

I just finished a new collaboration with composer Knut Vaage, Multimorf 3, a composition for waterfall and trombone.

The image above is a snapshot from each of the nine sections of the piece.

The trombone plays together with recordings of waterfall and layered trombone overtones (also combined with live processing of the trombone).
The composition has an open form:
Vaage has together with sound designer Thorolf Thuestad created nine morphed backgrounds of waterfall recordings and trombone overtones. The trombone player, John Arild Suther, chooses how long each morph section should be played and in which order they should be played, as well as which sections of the composed score he wants to play within each section. This opens for very different performances based on the same material.

The video is conceived in a similar way to the morph backgrounds. The material is based on waterfall recordings and generated material, and each of the nine sections can be viewed as individial motion paintings. My intention was not to create something that followed the music directly, but to create a visual component that responded to the energy contained in a waterfall and to reflect the individual qualities of the nine sections. Since the length and order of each section can vary for each performance, I wanted each section to focus on layers instead of creating linear trajectories: If you see thirty seconds or four minutes of a section you will get more or less the same visual content, it is the combination and length of the different sections that create the linear dynamic of the piece.

The trombone player controls both the playback of video and sound backgrounds, using midi foot pedals, making it relatively easy to tour with the piece without involving too many people.

Multimorf 3 premiered on August 12th at Baroniet in Rosendal (probably one of the most beautiful places in Norway). We played outside in the courtyard of the Manor from 1665 to an enthusiastic audience.

It will also be performed at Bergen Architechture School on September 1st (together with multimorf 2), and at Integra in Copenhagen October 1st.

orgelnatt

hc@orgelnatt. photo © Nils Henrik Aasheim

I was saving this post for an update of VPT, so first things first: There is a minor update to VPT, available at the usual place. I am also working on setting up a simple forum which hopefully will make it easier for people to find information (in contrast to a never ending comments-thread).

Back to Orgelnatt: This was a project that happened in mid-May in Oslo Cathedral (Oslo Domkirke). I was invited by Nils Henrik Aasheim to create a visual framework for a two hour concert with some of Norway´s finest improvisers: Paal Nilssen-Love, Lasse Marhaug, Elisabeth Vatn, Frode Gjerstad, and Aasheim on the organ.

I invited Mattias Arvastsson to join me on the visuals (his projection on the right side in the picture below).

photo © Nils Henrik Aasheim

This was an interesting challenge for VPT, not too different from the concert on the roof of the Opera House the year before: Very little time to map the projections to the church walls as it stays light quite late in Norway at that time of the year, so we had only a few hours for setup. I focused on the window arches.

on top of the opera

An outdoor event on the roof of the opera house in Oslo, with two short concerts using video projection.
This was a projected iniated by electric violinist Victoria Johnson, which is currently a research fellow at the National State Academy of Music in Oslo.

The white marble opera house designed by Snøhetta has become one of the main tourist attractions in Oslo, with a nice view over the harbour and the city. It is almost like a iceberg that you can climb onto.

Standing on the roof, listening to the sounds of sirens and seeing something which could almost be a skyline (actually 90% of the tall buildings in Oslo are just behind the opera house), you could get the impression that Oslo is actually a big city!

opera_snohetta

In short, a quite spectacular setting.
The concert consisted of two compositions by Knut Vaage, Electra and multimorf, performed by Johnson and Thorolf Thuestad. Ellen Røed has made a beautiful volcano timelapse video for Electra, and I did a live impro video for multimorf.


We decided to do the concert in front of one of the walls of the stage tower, which is about 30x15m. We managed to cover one half of the wall, using a 15000 ansilumen projector.

We have performed multimorf twice before, in very different contexts: First with a big brassband at a concert venue in Bergen, then a stripped down version for electric violin,electronics and live video at the Concert Hall in Oslo. My video has changed from venue to venue, trying to adopt to the setting. The only connection between the three performances is a series of microscope images from brass instruments, which I made for the original version.
For the outdoor concert on the opera roof I wanted to have a more direct relation to the surface we projected onto, a beautiful aluminum wall with a relief pattern made by the artists Løvaas & Wagle.
The 30x15m wall consists of panels of the relief patterns and I decided to use my videoprojection tools software to mask rows and columns of these panels.

Working outside with a short timeframe means a lot of practical issues needs to be solved, and this left very little time for my slightly ambitious masking project.
It gets dark quite late in Norway in the spring, so the concert was to start at ten in the evening. Only at around nine was I able to see enough of the projection to actually start masking the image, so everything needed to be done in less than an hour. On top of this it was freezing, so I was literally shaking while I was trying to do very precise masking.

In the end, it turned out quite nice, and triggered some ideas for a project I am planning to do next year.

All photos from multimorf and of me is taken by Ellen Røed, thanks!

more images from the event.

The space between my ears

Perceptual meltdown after Granular Synthesis retrospective at the STRP festival in Eindhoven, in the old Philips facilities in the Strijp area.

The festival´s focus this year was a retrospective on maximalists austrian media art group Granular Synthesis. It was a unique opportunity to see a lot of the group´s work as well as newer work by the two members Ulf Langheinrich and Kurt Hentschläger. If you have ever seen any of their work before you would guess that this would be an overkill event, and you are right. The works are intense audiovisual bombardements, they physically attack your senses and that does something with your body and mind.
The Granular Synthesis performance installations POL and modell 5 are large scale multiple projections with a corresponding large sound system, which worked well in their monumental way in the factory space.
The solo works are not that large-scale, but more intense. Ulf Langheinrich showed Hemisphere (which I mentioned earlier from the exhibition “from spark to pixel”) and Drifter. Kurt Hentschläger showed Cluster and Zee, which could be seen as offsprings from his ARS electronica performance Feed in 2007. Zee is basically a room filled with smoke, with stroboscopic images projected into the smoke. You loose all reference to the physical space and experience psychedelic visions.

All their works relate to perception, and it was an interesting coincidence that I was reading The Space between our Ears while I was at the festival.

It was a bit strange to experience Granular Synthesis at STRP, since the audience is mainly a quite young techno crowd, and the difference between a trippy techno party and an installation like Zee is pretty vague.

Apart from the retro media artists there wasn´t so much of interest at the festival, the exhibition was a mix of two trends in the media art scene: The commodification of media art on the one side: beautiful objects in perfect collector size, and the technology fascination on the other side.

The Strijp area contains more than the festival. It is the site of the former Philips research lab Natlab, in the art world probably best known for the creation of le poéme electronique, a collaboration between LeCorbusier, Varese and Xenakis for the World Expo in Brussels in 1958 (I will probably write a bit more about this in a separate post).

The old Natlab is now dead, but last fall Baltan laboratories emerged in another part of the Strijp complex, a media lab with a fantastic space and with interesting artists like Telcosystems and Geert Muul involved. I will give a presentation there in the end of may as part of their monthly public Natlab sessions.

Machine Music

Currently at Lydgalleriet in Bergen there is an exhibition by young british artist Felix Thorn.

Felix´s machines are music making sculptures, creating acoustic counterparts to electronic music. Check out the interview made in relation to his exhibition at Gasworks.

The installation of instruments reminded me of some very different projects, but the connection is the use of digital control systems to control mechanical instruments, so in principle they could be played with the same sequencer but producing very different results:

In 1998 I saw Matt Heckert´s Mechanical Sound Orchestra at the Ultima festival in Oslo. Heckert has background from Survival Research Laboratories and later moved to making music. In a statement about the Mechanical Sound Orchestra he writes about Machine sound: build machines that are playable, being remote controlled via a computer interface, and the performances consist only of sounds produced by the the machines in real time.

In contrast to Felix´s machines which takes up the corner of a room, Heckert´s gigantic instruments filled up a whole factory space. Here is a documentation I made from the performance in Oslo, called Flying at Sound.

David Byrne Play the Building is another type of machine orchestra, where the machines play the building:

“a sound installation in which the infrastructure, the physical plant of the building, is converted into a giant musical instrument. Devices are attached to the building structure — to the metal beams and pillars, the heating pipes, the water pipes — and are used to make these things produce sound. The activations are of three types: wind, vibration, striking. The devices do not produce sound themselves, but they cause the building elements to vibrate, resonate and oscillate so that the building itself becomes a very large musical instrument.”

The devices are controlled by an organ, which made me think of something Charlemagne Palestine said about the organ as instrument in a presentation a few years ago. The organ, with its many pipes, are built specifically for a particular space and stays there for hundreds of years. So playing the organ is a way of playing a building in itself. It also contrasts to the mobility of laptop instruments, an organ is attached to a building.

Finally, I would like to mention Maywa Denki´s Tsukuba series (eventhough they are not controlled digitally as far as I know).  Maywa Denki is a combination of a company that makes gadgets/toys and produces art: Maywa Denki is a art unit produced by Nobumichi Tosa. Each piece of of Maywa Denki´s work is called “a product” and a live performance or exhibition is held as “a product demonstration”.

The Tsukuba series: musical devices played by physical movement of motors and/or electromagnets at 100V: Machine music materially performed by electric powered musical instrument. Here is the “manual” for the tsukuba in typical maywa denki style:

touch-punkt night in Budapest

touchpunkt

Last week I was in Budapest for the first time, a fantastic city!

I was invited to take part of a Touch – Punkt event as part of the Temps d´Images festival. The Touch label came with Mike Harding and Jon Wozencroft which gave a short seminar, and with the artists BJNilsen(laptop)  and Hildur Ingveldardóttir Gudnadóttir (cello).

The concept of Punkt, which is a festival in Kristiansand run by Erik Honoré and Jan Bang is to sample a concert as it is being played, and using that sampled material as the basis of their own concert following straight after. They had invited Sidsel Endresen to join them on vocals, and Andras Halmos from Trafó had invited me to create the visual part of the concert.

I wanted to stick to the concept of using the first concert of BJNilsen and Gudnadóttir as the departure point for my video.

budashortstrip2

I created a very long image buffer, 12000×480 pixels. For recording, I could move sideways through the buffer and add images into the buffer, and eventually adding layers of overlapping images as the two concerts progressed. The image above is a small sample of what the buffer looked like at the end of the concert. For playback I had a very slow horisontal movement, so it would take several minutes to move through the buffer.

I wanted the recording head to move faster than the playback head so the images wouldn´t appear in a chronological order, and which also created some interesting layers of time.

Unfortunately I still don´t have any good images from the concert, the one at the top of the post is taken from my video camera with nightshot on, but you get an idea of the scale, it was a huge image behind the performers.

I was also supposed to do an hour presentation at Kitchen Budapest for maybe 10-15 people, but they convinced me to participate in a tech-pecha kucha event (so 20 slides, each showing for 20 seconds= 6min 40 sec) at the Merlin Theater with 300-400 people in the audience, so that was a strange but interesting experience. My impression was that people were sincerely interested in the content, my previous experiences with pecha kucha events has had a strong focus on entertaining, but superficial presentations.

By a weird coincidence one of the other presenters was Maté Gaspar from the theatre company Krétakör (website in hungarian) who I had been in touch with a year ago, so I got to visit their amazing workspace.

I also got a short tour of the Kitchen Budapest facilities, and finally met Adam Somlai-Fischer, who was supposed to be part of my seminar last fall.