I recently completed a two week residency at STEIM along with Bonnie Jones and Alessandro Bossetti. Bonnie and I shared Studio 1 while Alessandro used Studio 2. We worked together and individually.
When I arrived at STEIM I had been using a system that involved a snare drum, using a small speaker driver and a contact mic to pass physical feedback through the drum head. Before I left for STEIM I had been frantically trying to build small amplifiers that I had taken from computer speakers. I didn’t have time to complete everything, so I threw all of the parts in my equipment box and flew over.
I spent the first few days of the residency trying to get everything to work. First I had to complete the construction of my amplifiers. One worked, but only in the high frequencies. The other would work for a short period of time before shutting off. It would also get extremely hot, which led me to realize that the thermal protection circuit inside the amplifer was turning it off. I was able to use the workshop upstairs to drill holes in the amplifier box to allow for ventilation, and it worked perfectly after that! I was also provided with a portable electronic toolkit that I used to solder a few jacks and plugs.
I used two different feedback chains. One was a contact mic, feeding into a mixer, which went to an amplifier, which powered the speaker. Some of the different parameters to control were: fader volume on the mixer, speaker position on the drum head, and positon of the contact mic on the drum head. I had different objects that I used to hold the contact mic in position, each object had a different effect.
The other feedback chain was a contact mic into a battery powered preamp, which went into a Powerbook running Supercollider, which filtered the signal in different ways, then fed the mixer, combining with the other feedback chain. I also used the computer to send in signals that were produced by internal digital feedback.
My usual schedule was to work with Bonnie for a few hours in the afternoon, and then return at night to work until the wee hours of the morning. Much of what I am interested in is the transition zones between different states of feedback. I like how the sounds can teeter on the edge of chaos, usually while cycling through different timbres. Because I could work uninterupted for hours, I was able to learn a lot about how the feedback operated, to learn how to play it.
I recorded several compositonal and improvisational ideas. Several were with Bonnie, as part of our duet. These involved using speech, voice and text. I was able to send voice sounds into the feedback loops, whereby voice and feedback would modulate eachother. On my final night I recorded several solo pieces of my own.
During my two week stay in Amsterdam I also found time to make field recordings around the city. I used a hydrophone to record the canals at different points, and used a contact mic to record a metal fence, a pedestrian bridge and a weird group of flexible tubes that went from land into the water.