Exploring and Experimenting with Sound

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Flo)(ps : between habitual and explorative gestures by Karmen Franinovic/ Vibrations and Waves by Peter Flemming/ Touched Echo – the sound of a Ghost by Morten Breinbjerg/ CONCEPTUAL RELATIONS: Musical representations do not need music theory by Sebastian Schmidt, Thomas Alexander Troge, and Denis Lorrain
Monday, 19 September, 2011 - 17:00 - 18:20
Chair Person: 
Cara-Ann Simpson
Karmen Franinovic
Peter Flemming
Morten Breinbjerg
Sebastian Schmidt
Thomas Alexander Troge
Denis Lorrain

Flo)(ps : between habitual and explorative gestures

by Karmen Franinovic

Design affordances of an everyday object guide us towards habitual behaviors. Physical actions that are not immediately associated with established body techniques are often neglected by the user. Can sound activate those interactions that remain latent in the physicality of an interface? How can it encourage underused, unusual bodily movements? 

In this paper I describe the Flo)(ps project, a series of interactive glasses which were designed to study the use of habitual and explorative sonic gestures. I present the design, qualitative evaluation study and the insights into the effect of the habitual and unusual sonic gestures on individual and social interaction. These have shown that explorative play can be encouraged through sonic interaction, but that the complexity of real-time composition affects the users emotions and behavior. Finally, I identify future steps in developing and studying different types gestural interaction with everyday sounding artifacts. 

Video is available at http://www.interstices.uqam.ca/en/projects/item/48-flops.html

The interface was used in psychological experiments exploring emotion, sound and gesture presented in the Sound and Music Computing Conference. See paper http://smc2009.smcnetwork.org/programme/pdfs/281.pdf

The project was supported by the European Commission project CLOSED FP6- NEST-PATH no. 29085. and the Hexagram research Interstices Lab, Montreal.


Concept, development (electronics, product design, fabrication) and direction: Karmen Franinovic 
Software development: Yon Visell Thanks to Martin Peach for electronics advice and Fabienne Meyer and Thomas Tobler for fabrication support.

Vibrations and Waves

by Peter Flemming

Vibrations and Waves

I propose to discuss ideas explored in a current research project tentatively entitled Vibrations and Waves. The presentation will take the form of an artist talk with audio-visual documentation of work in the studio, residencies and exhibitions.

Vibrations and Waves considers:

  • sound as a natural byproduct of all machine activity

  • sound as a physical and mechanical phenomena

  • that all materials have resonant frequencies at which they most naturally vibrate

Vibrations and Waves is compendium of recent experiments in electromagnetism, mechanical resonance and acoustic vibration inspired by the simple physics of oscillatory phenomena. They originate in an accidental discovery in the studio and form the basis for future artworks involving mechanically produced and amplified sound, as opposed to recorded or electrically amplified sound.

Vibrations, and sound, occur when machines do what they do: wires hum, motors whirr, gears grind, metal clangs. In general, this is not the intention. It tends to be ignored, actively suppressed or even considered dangerous. A notable exception to this is in the field of certain types of sound based artwork.

Vibrations and Waves contributes to this tradition with swinging pendulums, vibrating wires, singing motors, spinning glass sheets, rusted resonators, oscillating electromagnets, mechanically produced and altered sound.

General Artist Statement

I see what I make as the electro-mechanical equivalents of short stories. Instead of words, sentences and paragraphs, I use bolts, batteries, metal and custom electronics. These machinic texts create tension by mixing natural and technological systems.

My work is rooted in hands-on experimentation. In constructing automata that make use of subtle and/or repetitive actions I hope to open a small space for contemplation in which the audience can become temporarily absorbed.

Touched Echo – the sound of a Ghost

by Morten Breinbjerg

Sound unfolds in time and disperses in space. It arrives from a distance and resonates in the body of the listener. As an ephemeral phenomenon it disappears again, but comes back as an echo. Hereby sound represents the presence of an absence, something that is and is not. In short a ghost.

Touched Eco by German artist Markus Kison is a public sound installation shown at “Brühlsche Terrasse” in the city of Dresden in 2007.

The installation presents the sound of the allied bombing of Dresden on the 13th February 1945 from original recordings. The sounds are hidden as vibrations in the railing running the length of the terrace. The listener has to place his/her elbows on the railing and wrists at the skull, in order to hear the sound, which is then led into the cranium through the bones of the forearm.  The posture of the listener resembles the posture one normally takes in order to avoid listening. This is a feature of the artwork, since it is a posture one can imagine the victims of the actually bombing took in order to protect themselves from the horrifying noise.

In the paper I will discuss the ghostly nature of sound and how echoing sounds of the past, in this case the sound of the allied bombing of Dresden in February 1945, interferes with reality as history on one side (known, objective and factual) and something lived on the other (remembered, recalled and experienced).  The relationship between the remembered and the known, the subjective experience and the historical fact that “Touched Echo” touches upon, echoes today’s political debate of this incidence as either an act of war or an act of terror; A debate that concerns Dresden as a haunted place, the land of a ghost.

In order to qualify my discussion of “Touched Eco” and the ghostly nature of sound, I will draw upon Jacques Derridas concept of Hauntology and Gaston Bachelard idea of the Miniature. The aim is to unfold a discussion that concerns sound ontology, sound as interface and related perspectives around control, authority and sociality.

CONCEPTUAL RELATIONS: Musical representations do not need music theory

by Sebastian Schmidt, Thomas Alexander Troge, and Denis Lorrain

Background: In the scientific discourse the opinion prevails that music can only be understood, if listeners have learned explicit musical logic. Therefore it is important a musician or a composer study different theories about music, in order to expand abilities and to develop its own practical style.

But which musical representations could attain listeners, which neither have studied music theories, nor play a music instrument? 

Aims: This paper focus to explain that musical representations are constructed as combinations of conceptual relations between classes or categories of sounds. This construction is performed during classification or categorization, caused by unconscious and conscious ratings of possible relations. The second aim is to present an initial draft of a new musical description, based on mixture of conceptual relations, which, in a process of abduction, assign their dynamic identity to acoustical information. 

Main Contribution: In a first step this paper points the working of the nervous system in relation the auditory memory and the underlying principles from the cognitive perspective as well as the process of memorization  from  the  perspective  of  emotion.  In  a  second  step,  we  outline  the  conditions  and functionality of conceptual relations between sounds as a process of abduction.

Conclusion:  With  the  resources  of  modern  science,  we  have  tried  to  shown  in  this  paper  that classification and categorization of information processes is a general mental operation in human beings. Hence, we suggested, non-musicians also have the ability to rate, separate and group individual sound events in relation to musical representations. Those representations can be different from those of trained musicians, as regards their structure, time span, and effect.
Our main point was to sketch an initial draft of a new musical theory, based on mixture of conceptual relations, which, in a process of abduction, assign their dynamic identity to acoustical information. In addition, such relations are responsible for musical concepts and emotional states arisen while listening
to music, and for the musical perception of time.