Report of an Open Studio

By Stan Wijnans.

In STEIM’s Open Studio on November 4 2009, 3 groups of residency artists presented the progression of their works achieved while working at STEIM. The announcement of the event can be found here: http://www.steim.org/steim/archive.php?id=279.

Composer Dragos Tara started the evening with explaining the compositional concept behind his project ‘Artefact’ that will be released around May 2010. ‘Artefact’ is a performative installation in which the musicians (Anne Gillot, flute and Laurent Estoppey, saxophone) interact with their sound environment and create a live electronics composition with the use of the developed software and sensor configuration. The composition is realized with a Max/MSP patch that processes several voice samples taken from the singer Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944). ?The musicians will be able to manipulate pressure, distance and accelerometer sensors connected to the Arduino board (http://www.arduino.cc/) and junXion (STEIM). The dynamics of the computer mediated sound of flute and saxophone, in combination with the triggering of the sensors, determine the processing of Jenkins’ voice samples that is created by real time manipulation of a range of effects such as reverb, pitch modulation, filtering, resampling, denoizing, delay and degradation. To visually emphasize this ‘technical’ communication between the human performers and the computer elements of the project, the face of the flutist will be projected on the face of the saxophonist and vice versa during performance. ?In the presentation at STEIM, Dragos played 3 sound files as examples of how the composition might develop. He also explained the working of the ‘matrix’ in Max/MSP that enables a quick mapping of the various input elements (see above) to the various effects processes. These manipulations realize a transformation of Jenkin’s voice to the abstract realm of digital sound processing.

Tom Boram & Dan Green from ‘Snacks’ showed a 12-minute try-out excerpt of their digital film project with the provisional title ‘GASA’. As an introduction to ‘Snacks’, Tom tells us that they love cooking and, comparable to this trade, their artistic projects are based on mixing and combining many different (sonic and visual) components. As a welcome to their concept they distribute some snacks amongst the audience. ?The video excerpt starts in a natural environment and moves on to a laboratory setting in which experiments are carried out on the main characters in the piece (played by Tom and Dan). The provisional title ‘GASA’ is derived from the name ‘NASA’ and the project could maybe best be described as a comic fantasy with a futuristic science-fiction-like scenery that is mainly edited in negative imagery. The sound sources are diverse like a synthesizer, a van and other tools from the housekeeping, a guitar, voice and sounds from self-made instruments. Tom and Dan showed two of these instruments built during the STEIM residency that have been constructed from a small base drum, cables, polystyrene foam and are bouncing on a string from the ceiling. The sound score that was developed during their time at STEIM is made with Ableton Live and Cubase. In the project the sound exists as a ‘storytelling narrative’.

Snacks

Truus de Groot & Bosko Hrnjak presented their multi-media art project ‘The Salton Sea’. The Salton Sea is an area in California that used to be a very popular tourist destination but has been turned into a decayed environment of polluted serenity with impoverished ghost towns and deserted beaches. The project presentation started with a narrative from Bosko about the historical and present situation of the Saltic Sea, accompanied by Truus playing the Crackle Synthesizer (by Michel Waisvisz). During the showing the alienated environment is visualized by the slides on the projection screen displaying deserted caravans, toilets in the exterior, dead fish, still water from the lake, the isolated beach, old steel constructions, oil tanks (a small one of these is played by Bosko), graffity from squatters, rundown houses and desert. There are no living beings in the slides … it’s the decay, destruction and desolation due to human enterprise. ?Truus plays ‘The Crackle Synthesizer’ by rhythmically tapping and moving her fingertips on the sensitive board to create a soundscape to the images, sometimes also singing to amplify and accompany the tones of the synthesizer. Bosko sometimes adds samples and plays the small oil tank. The ‘Crackle Synthesizer’ processes unpredictable electronic sounds that are dependent on elements like moisture and temperature of the fingers. In this way, the inorganic-organic contradistinction of the mixture of nature and destruction at the Saltic Sea is emphasized by the organic electronic sounds of the ‘Crackle Synthesizer’: ‘It is uncanny how perfectly it [the Crackle synthesizer] fits into our Salton Sea concept.’

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