“It sometimes happens that first the piece is born, and only after this you suddenly realize what it is about and how it should be used. Last summer (2018) I very quickly produced an interactive algorithmic object for a small exhibition. This object was producing endless aleatoric compositions using rotating
You can find some of Eric Singer’s work featured in the archives here. Be sure to see Part 2 in 20Objects interview with Eric Singer below.
“I’m pretty sure you know Eric Singer’s work. Some of his most well-known work includes Pat Metheny’s ‘The Orchestrion Project’, but he’s been doing robotic musical instruments for a long time. I remember the first time
“Shake it like a servo motor!
I’ve been playing with the idea of controlling Percussion instruments with servo motors as part of my modular setup.
I failed to build my own voltage to PWM circuit but finally found on EBay a cheap three channel voltage-to-PWM board, designed for RC models.
I built a small module around it.
I bought a few kinds
What if music were made mechanically, with giant wheels and bellows and valves? The Mammoth Beat Organ makes that happen, using parts from toilets, a hearse, and a treadmill.
Yes, it has balloons connected by tubes and something called a “wind sequencer” with pegs and … it sounds like a calliope that’s gone a bit mental. And it comes with roll-on “modules” so you can add different layers of sound (like mechanically played drums). Watch:
It’s the Dunning Underwood Mammoth Beat Organ, the creation of two wild musical minds – Sam Underwood and Graham Dunning – in their first collaboration. It has the sonic thinking of the Giant Feedback Organ (Underwood) and the mechanical performance approach of Mechanical Techno (Dunning). And accordingly, it’s even meant to be a two-player contraction, involving both artists.
That performance spectacle is really part of the magic, as components are wheeled around and bits and bobs added and subtracted. Having seen Graham’s live show, that performance energy drives things in a way different than you’d get from just an installation – it has improvisation in it.
More on how this works – in particular, still more deep research into historical instruments and the alternative histories it suggests, and how they incorporated the back of a hearse and a treadmill into construction:
This project is just getting going, so it’ll be fun to watch it evolve – especially if we get to see it in person.
It’s worth noting that they talk about the need to have years and years to continue building and rehearsing with the invention. We of course value novelty in tech, but that’s telling, whatever your fantasies are (whether large and mechanical or compact and digital or anything else). So I do hope they’ll keep us posted as they continue developing, and as they use this instrument to spark new creative directions in their own imaginations.
The video at top is shot and explained by Michael Forrest of Michael & Ivanka’s Grand Podcast – well worth a listen: http://grandpodcast.com
I’m not a fan of YouTube and the next videos it plays, but following this with Sir Simon Rattle conducting Chariots of Fire with Mr. Bean sure as hell works. In case you need some motivation for today’s soldering / hammering DIY instruments, have at it.
Deep in the Arctic Circle, the USSR was drilling deeper into the Earth than anyone before. One artist has combined archaeology and invention to bring its spirit back in sound.
Meet SG-3 (СГ-3) — the Kola Superdeep Borehole. You know when kids would joke about digging a hole to China? Well, the USSR’s borehole got to substantial depths – 12,262 m (over 40,000 ft) at the time of the USSR’s collapse.
The borehole was so epic – and the Soviets so secretive – that it has inspired legends of seismic weapons and even demonic drilling. (A YouTube search gets really interesting – like some people who think the Soviets actually drilled into the gates to Hell.)
Artist Dmitry Morozv – ::vtol:: – evokes some of that quality while returning to the actual evidence of what this thing really did. And what it did is already spectacular – he compares the scale of the project to launching humans into space (well, sort of in the opposite direction).
vtol’s installation 12262 is the perfect example of how sound can be made material, and how digging into history can produce futuristic, post-contemporary speculative objects.
The two stages:
Archaeology. Dima absorbed SG-3’s history and lore, and spent years buying up sample cores at auctions as they were sold off. And twice he visited the remote, ruined site himself – once in 2016, and then back in July with his drilling machine. He even located a punched data tape from the site, though of course it’s difficult to know what it contains. (The investigation began with the Dark Ecology project, a three-year curatorial/research/art project bringing together partners from Norway, Russia, and across Europe, and still bearing this sort of fascinating fruit.)
Invention: The installation itself is a kinetic sound instrument, reading the coded information from the punch tape and operating miniature drilling operations, working on actual core samples. The sounds you hear are produced mechanically and acoustically by those drills.
As usual, Dima lists his cooking ingredients, though I think the sum is uniquely more than these individual parts. It’s as he describes it, a poetic, kinetic meditation, evocative both intellectually and spiritually. That said, the parts:
Commission by NCCA-ROSIZO (National Centre for Contemporary Arts), special for TECHNE “Prolog” exhibition, Moscow, 2018.
Curators: Natalia Fuchs, Antonio Geusa. Producer: Dmitry Znamenskiy.
The work was also a collaboration with Gallery Ch9 (Ч9) in Murmansk. That’s itself something of an achievement; it’s hard enough to find media art galleries in major cities, let alone remote Russia. (That’s far enough northwest in Russia that most of Finland and all of Sweden are south of it.)
But the alien-looking object also got its own trip to the site, ‘performing’ at the location.
It’s appropriate that would happen in Russia. Cosmism visionary Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov and his ideas about creating immortality by resurrecting ancestors may seem bizarre today. But translate that to media art, which threatens to become stuck in time when not informed by history. (Those who do not learn from history are doomed to make installation art that looks like it came from a mid-1990s Ars Electronica or Transmediale, forever, I mean.) To be truly futuristic, media art has to have a deep understanding of technologies progression, its workings, and all the moments in the past that were themselves ahead of their time. That is, maybe we have to dig deep into the ground beneath us, dig up our ancestors, and construct the future atop that knowledge.
At Spektrum Berlin this weekend, there’s also a “materiality of sound” project. Fellow Moscow-based artist Andrey Smirnov will create an imaginative new performance inspired by Theremin’s infamous KGB listening device of the 1940s – also new art fabricated from Soviet history – joined by a lineup of other artists exploring similar themes making sound material and kinetic. (Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand, Sonolevitation, Camera Lucida, Eleonora Oreggia aka Xname share the bill.)
To me, these two themes – materiality, drawing from kinetic, mechanical, optical, and acoustic techniques (and not just digital and analog), and archaeological futurism, employing deep historical inquiry that is in turn re-contextualized in forward-thinking, speculative work, offer tremendous possibility. They sound like more than just a zeitgeist-friendly buzzword (yeah, I’m looking at you, blockchain). They sound like something to which artists might even be happy to devote lifetimes.
For another virtual trip to the borehole, here’s Rosa Menkman’s film on a soundwalk at the site in 2016.
Related (curator Natalia Fuchs, interviewed before, also curated this work):
Roboticist, composer, and futurist Moritz Simon Geist has made an entire album using robotic machines. It’s stunning to behold – and he tells you all about how it developed. Let’s watch:
This is more than a gimmick: there’s a real difference in approach and process here. Moritz’s work is truly mechanical-acoustical and electro-acoustic, using mechanical, kinetic machines to produce sounds.
And Moritz has been working on this background for some time, including making an entire oversized TR-808 drum machine that replicates sounds not with analog circuitry or digital code, but by actually hitting percussion. (The claps even required a cluster of stuff to clap together.)
An extended making-of video walks through the behind-the-scenes process of how this came about and evolved.
It’s as much an exercise in kinetic sculpture as music, but then the album organizes those raw materials in an eminently listenable, musical manner. It’s quirky grooves, true to its mechanical-robotic nature – that is, even if you didn’t know what this was, you might quickly imagine dancing bots. The materiality comes through, in subtly off rhythms and precisely-placed organic sounds.
Moritz’ ongoing collaborators Mouse on Mars co-produced both an EP (“The Material Turn”, out October 12) and LP (“Robotic Electronic Music”, on November 16). And Moritz extends the musical role here, by being both inventor/builder/maker and musician – not to mention label head.
It’s great to see Moritz starting a new label devoted to this medium – Sonic Robots Records – but also getting the help not only of Mouse on Mars but legendary German label Kompakt to handle global distribution.
You can preorder the EP already, in both digital and vinyl forms:
… with the LP to follow soon.
Here’s our look at how Moritz is working with Mouse on Mars:
“After playing Mutek, CTM and Moogfest, and years of fabrications, tweaks, tests – winning also Visual Music Award 2017 and Initiative Music 2017/18 – robotics engineer and media artist Moritz Simon Geist releases world’s first techno album entirely
::vtol:: modulator from ::vtol:: on Vimeo.
Another fascinating creation by ::vtol::. The sound that you hear is software. The hardware controls the sound.
“I have always perceived the concept of modulation in music as a complex cyclical visual system: the ricochets of the crest of a wave constricted in its own amplitude, rotations within rotations (in particular, if the shape of the wave is