A circle in 12 parts: Taurus

A live audio visual improvisation with images, video and vinyl selection from this years guest Taurus, Maura Hazelden:

An aural & visual dance duet, a reminder of birthdays past, I so enjoyed the immersion in apple blossom. 

It was great to feel a bit creative and to be creative in collaboration. I had thought I might use some of my work in terms of images but somehow it became a personal journey of images from birthdays & my life, some friends…photos of me (I’m not always fond of having my photo taken except in my work!), of a place close to my heart now gone, food and bluebell wood walks for my birthday, and … apple blossom.
 
How have I never made a link between Lily the Pink and my series of works with pink lilies?

I would like to apologise for both of us not realising that soundcloud advertising would slip in, and my lack of speed in silencing it! I might be a Quaker but I don’t endorse Franklin Graham…this is not a love song…

Thank you Jake for the invitation and a creative afternoon with plenty of joy! I am inspired to relook at some of my language/sound work and do some re-creation.

Are baby be beeping…postman puppy rabbits

64k RAM – Fragmented memories

Sometime in the 1980s we got our first family computer, a Commodore 64.
I think at the time it was the market leader in the UK and shipped with the game ‘Purple Turtles’ and possibly another, but the main reason for going with the C64 was the fact that a guy in my Dad’s office had one and we could get copied games from him! It was easy in those days, a simple double tape deck could copy a cassette in real time and would work most of the time, so we quickly had a huge choice of games to play. I guess it was through doing this that I first heard the sound of the data stream on the cassettes. Normally C64 cassettes were loaded using a specific cassette player with an output/input designed for it and the sound was inaudible while it played into the computer. I picked up a Datassette unit in a charity shop a little while ago, I had no memory of what I assume is an earthing cable attached to the plug, interestingly it isn’t pictured or mentioned anywhere in the manual either!

For years we were awed by the impressive graphics in “Way of the Exploding Fist”, would become immersed in the “Zork” series of text only adventure games and frustrated by long loading times and the increasing difficulty in copying games!

By the early 90s we had hundreds of cassettes, many thanks to an Action Replay/Freeze Frame cartridge device that helped copy games. The C64 not only had the now legendary SID chip for generating pioneering computer sound FX and music but had a graphics chip that could produce 16 different colours.

As games design developed with more sophisticated programming we started to see mini games appear during the loading screens, some were even judged better than the game we were waiting to play! I have a memory of a loading screen for the Thalamus Ltd game “Delta” which presented a set of instrument choices allowing us to mix different elements to creat our own loading music mix! Both that and the in-game music (a rework of Koyaanisqatsi by Philip Glass) were by master C64 composer Rob Hubbard.

The cassettes were still found in charity and second hand junk shops here in the UK for many years after the C64 was discontinued and superseded by 16bit systems like the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST and subsequent Sega and Nintendo games consoles.

I sometimes like to use a cassette in my experimental sound works so keep an eye out for them, but they rarely appear.

Make Noise

In late February/early march 2022 I bought a Make Noise Strega synthesiser and a 0-Control sequencer. Described by the makers as an ‘audio alchemical experiment’, the Strega is deliberately unusual and unpredictable. I found out after buying that Strega is the Italian word for witch and is also the name of an Italian liqueur which I managed to get in a local Italian deli! Bright yellow, sweet and herby it’s a great combination for noise making!

Here are a couple of early streams trying to work out what it does!

Virtual Synthesis

A circle in 12 parts is a way of bringing together all the different strands of my practice, a way to include all kinds of material and processes, ideas and influences.

Back in 2002, when I first started to find and collect audio objects and make experimental sound works with them, I tried a few software synths – Rebirth and Reason were the go to programs at the time and I can remember using a block sequencer in Reason to make and hear visual patterns but I struggled to get past the limited steps and regular tempos. Not only that but I was trying to develop a practice with minimal cost and the expense of the software was significant! The found objects and their physicality and unpredictable nature of interaction possible with turntables and vinyl became far more interesting and accessible.

20 years on I found myself experimenting with virtual modular synthesis having discovered the amazing free software VCV Rack. I started playing with the synth app as an alternative to playing a dreadful mobile computer game called Marvel Strike Force. Why I got so absorbed in that game I’m not sure but over 3 years it took hours, if not days, of my time, steadily increasing the need to pay for things to stay up to date. I never paid for anything. Finding VCV Rack and it replacing my Marvel habit puts in in a curious place, is it part of my art practice? is it a hobby? entertainment? maybe all three? Perhaps it doesn’t matter.. whatever it is, it feels a lot more wholesome than Marvel US military propaganda!

Almost immediately after starting using VCV Rack I was considering its visual quality and trying to establish a way to make that a more interesting experience. Initially I was recording the sessions locally and trying different visual treatments with the recordings in post. In mid October 2021 I posted this video of a processed recording of a VCV Rack session. I used some databending techniques on the original improvised synth session recording and then further corrupted the recording live while streaming to Youtube.

It was around then that I started streaming most of my experiments with VCV Rack, sharing my screen to Youtube as a way of recording the sessions without filling up my HDD. In hindsight I can see it is in part the uncertainty around what these experiments are and how they relate to my practice that led to my decision to stream them privately, a decision I regret somewhat as my work is very much about process, embracing the failures and getting away from value judgements and hierarchies..oh well. Perhaps they are more interesting in retrospect anyway (perhaps not) as we can see some sort of progression and understanding of the software develop (hopefully).

A fortnight later I posted this glitch video with a bit of improvised synth sound.

Another fortnight later I streamed this next video with a longer bit of live synth sound. The MP4/HEVC glitching process usually gives me a file that just about plays in my streaming software but this file refused. It did play in VLC player so I was able to stream it.

In the following week I started using Vmix to alter colours, add visual. With the exception of 22022022022022 I haven’t posted any more synth videos since mid November but I have been playing a lot and continued experimenting with visual material too, streaming regularly to youtube to record. There is now over 70hrs of recordings of my learning the software and developing a live process with visual material, overlays, circle drawings, animations and extra software to offer more live interactions. I’ll start looking through and posting some soon probably..

22022022022022

Once in a lifetime. The precise second where the palindromic time and date hit last night.

It was 20 years ago in 2002 that I first started playing with virtual synthesisers. I rediscovered them recently and have been finding my way around the amazing free VCV Rack since last September, finding ways to apply live visual effects and overlays to live captured synth improvisations.

This fairly minimal droney one started at 22:00 on 22/02/2022 and lasted 22min. Annoyingly Youtube seems to have cropped a second off to spoil my Twosday!

A circle in 12 parts: Cancer

This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Cancer is Kathryn Campbell Dodd:

Home is where the haunt is

These days I’m pretty sceptical about astrology, but, in my younger years, I enthusiastically learned and absorbed the traits of my star sign. I think, perhaps, the quasi-scientific nature of astrology satisfies a deep desire within us to see ourselves objectively reflected and to catch a glimpse of our ‘true’ self. Sometimes I wonder whether we are so taken with this mirror to our character that we accept the reflection as the real. We confuse the given traits of our star sign with our own, ’Well, I’m a Cancer so of course I’m a nurturing, slightly over sensitive home lover’.

As above, so below is the credo of astrology. My celestial companion is the moon and I’ve been looking for her reflection in the stuff of my every day.

The ‘typical’ Cancerian feature that seems to have chimed with me consistently throughout my life is a preoccupation with home, and the things of the home. I’m particularly interested in the unhomely and the haunted home, the disturbance of the unfamiliar becoming manifest within our most intimate environment; the way that small disruptions in atmosphere and perception can make the familiar suddenly uncomfortable and alien.

I decided to choose just one record from Jacob’s collection to build sound for the piece, Ghosts by Japan, a piece that cultural theorist Mark Fisher cites in the title of his book Ghosts of My Life: writings on depression, hauntology and lost futures in which he describes its “…sense of enervated foreboding…”:

When the room is quiet, the daylight almost gone, it seems there’s something I should know….

Whilst I’ve been thinking about the work I wanted to make for this project, there have been disturbances at the threshold of my home. For a couple of months, a crow has been coming to knock the windows with its beak and ‘caw’ on the windowsills. Sometimes it comes with a companion who sits on the roof, sometimes it comes alone, but it always follows the same routine, four or five times a day, landing on the same two windowsills and performing specific routines. It’s the kind of encounter that is freighted with folklore and superstition. Whatever its intention, it feels portentous and significant.

During the timeframe of these avian encounters, I’ve also stepped into the last year of my fifth decade. I’m adjusting to a new sense of identity. What does it mean to be an old(er) woman in our culture? The hag, the wise woman, the grandmother, the elder…the overlooked, the unheard, the vulnerable, the marginalised. Where do I fit and who are my allies?

When the room is quiet, the crow and the crone are tapping at my windows in the moonlight.

“The word ‘haunt’ and all the derivations thereof may be one of the closest English words to the German ‘unheimlich’, whose polysemic connotations and etymological echoes Freud so assiduously, and so famously, unravelled in his essay on ‘The Uncanny’. Just as ‘German usage allows the familiar (das Heimliche, the’ homely’) to switch to its opposite, the uncanny (das Unheimliche, the ‘unhomely’)’ (Freud), so ‘haunt’ signifies both the dwelling-place, the domestic scene and that which invades or disturbs it. The OED lists one of the earliest meanings of the word ‘haunt’ as ‘to provide with a home, house.” Mark Fisher, k-punk.abstractdynamics.org

KCD July 2021