Sunday, April 26, 2009

Here's the mix

Pending edits, feedback and additions from the Patrick Henry students, here's a stereo mixdown of the 20 channel sound bed for the garden. Remember when it comes out of many widely spaced speakers at ground level it won;t sound so chaotic; more like cicadas, water, wind, geese flying over, and enthusiastic frogs. You get to walk closer to the ones that interest you, so I haven't spent time adjusting the levels here.

Now I have to try exporting the 10 x 2 channel files, stagger them by 5" so they might start all together in synch, and load up my cute Chinese mp3 players (whose batteries wear down after a few hours, so I have to make a backup for each one)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The flowers that spin

Just came back from the Ordway's Community Breakfast pep rally for the festival. Mark, Angie and I got to test out the prototype of the spinning flowers and they should work in grand style (with a few adjustments).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Spinning Flowers

Tests are underway with one of the small prototypes of the spinning flowers, this one with only a 3' radius (the others are 5'). It goes around 6 times per minute on a repurposed softball pitching machine motor.

After dreaming of various mechanisms that could strike a sounding body I settled on the simple golfball on a rope solution. This is about the right impedance match (weight, hardness) for the tone bars to make a decent sound.

There are two types of tones: one a Vietnamese hardwood clapper, the other bamboo tubes from a cannibalized windchime. The two Vietnamese clappers need a hard knock so I made a ramp just before they hit the block to allow gravity to accelerate the ball. Having two such high sharp sounds, one on each machine, should mean they will go out of phase in interesting ways since no two motors are likely to go exactly the same speed all day.

The bamboo tubes are softer and don't need the ramp so are just suspended on old door casings between rubber bands so as not to dampen the vibrations. With a larger flower the edge will travel even more quickly and give a better tone than on this small version. These can be adjusted in height and position to give different rhythms; perhaps they will phase and produce a change-ringing effect like in English campanology.

This is what it sounds like with all seven effects on a single disc (ie no phasing).

Patrick Henry Classes Start

The first session at Patrick Henry High School (Liz Kotek's 9th Grade music class) was an introduction to my work and ideas. Shelley led the discussion at the end of both classes and the students came up with the following responses:


"I noticed"
Slow in beginning then got faster
funny dancing
change in pace of music
sounded like stepping on leaves, crunching,
horns were loud
different horns came together to make music
scraping sound of instrument and bottles sounding like birds
string instruments
old lady clothes
a lot of things can make music, even coconuts
flute sounds
headgear (skullphones)
cups used as amplifiers
marimba benches can be sat on and sound like drums

"What did it remind me of?"
ships like beach movie
wind like in Miami beach, comfy
mom's clothing like dance costume
eerie scary jungle movie and scary face
Pinocchio flute sound

"What questions do you have?"
How come up with such ideas?
was it hard?
Did I get paid?
How many did you make?
How long making instruments?
Was it fun?

"What did Philip want to convey?
Show us something never seen before
New things can make music, surprise
Anything is possible
Fish make sounds; that's how they talk to each other
creativity is GOOD


"I noticed"
see-through person
flipping papers
plastic cups
marimba benches
kids screaming
scratching sounds
half invisible lady
different natural materials for sounds
animal growls
no wires making electronic sounds
people making noises
footsteps in field
saw lost woman spinning and reacting to sound
whistling noises

It reminded me of:
Madagascar movie
zoo birds honking
shark tales

Was that a lady?

What did I get out of it?
a taste of music
pay attention to sounds
music can be made out of any materials
music is around you whether you know it or not

Monday, April 6, 2009

Making sounds with vegetables

As Tom Waits once said, there's a world going on underground. I have been shopping the produce aisle for the Stradivarius potential and been amassing a sound library of veggie voices.

Some of them need a contact mic while others are plenty loud enough to be heard by a regular air mic.

The band so far includes:
Bamboo whirlies
Bok choy creaking
Wooden bull roarer
Cactus needles plucked
Coconut water as picked up by contact mic
Eggplant flapper
Eggplant guiro
Gourd rattles
Melon halves
Millett rattle
Onion skin crackled
Bamboo pan pipes
Pine cone scraped (sounds like mosquitoes being zapped)
Popcorn rattle
Rice Krispies trademark Snap Crackle and Pop
Spaghetti in box rattles (whole wheat, of course)
Water melon tapped by fingers

Next job is to orchestrate their sounds so they complement each other and provide weird and wonderful textures and rhythms that emerge from beneath the whole flower carpet area. There will be 10 parallel mp3 players + speaker systems, totalling 20 channels. The start of each pair will be staggered by 5" so we can get an approximation of synchronization. I am playing with solos and choruses, creating mini dialogs, as well as giant massed textures. Loons, frogs, cicadas, and jungle critters all have different organizations yet live together in the ecosystem in their acoustic niche.

Added to this recorded multi-channel spatial configuration will be the sounds made by the rotating flower beds. I have a couple of bamboo windchimes to deconstruct as well as wooden clappers. Since there will be 5 spinners going around every 10" we will get a constant looping sound from whatever gets placed underneath. Less is more, so I will be experimenting with mechanisms that make clear tones and phase patterns that enliven the space without being too predictable.