Friday, August 29, 2008

Interview: Chris Watson

music and sound through the landscape

[photo by Valentina Musmeci]

Through performances, sound installations and field recordings, Sound Threshold explores the visual, natural, literary and acoustic landscape of the Trentino (Italy) region in conjunction with the latest research in the fields of ecology, technology and archaeology. Sound Threshold is informed by the multi-faceted relationship between music, sound and landscape outside the gallery and museum contexts.
Through a residency at Monte Bondone and Paneveggio Park, Chris Watson has been invited to explore the acoustic phenomena of Trentino and capture the atmospheres and sounds of the alpine environment. A series of sound recordings made in situ, resulting in the CD Cima Verde, present the soundscapes uncovered by Watson, which capture the change in seasons from winter to spring, the different degrees of altitude, the reawakening of sounds on the cusp between night and day and the alternating and mixing of audio signals that characterise different natural habitats.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An interview with Valerio Adami

I had the pleasure of interviewing Valerio Adami in Meina (20th July 2008).

Valerio Adami (b. March 17, 1935) is an Italian painter. Educated at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, he has since worked in both London and Paris. His art carries obvious influence from Pop Art.

[source: Wikipedia]

MM: Can you talk about the relationship with the music in your painting research?

VA: When I was a child my mother told me: "Singing will help you forget." I come basically from an uneducated family, where however music was part of daily and social life. My mother was an amateur piano player, my father was an amateur violin player, my grandmother played the mandolin and my grandfather played the guitar. During the days before the war, we were accompanied by these musical rites.
In my studio in Monte Carlo I have an old Erard piano, which unfortunately was destroyed by a craftsman who tuned the strings with a modern tension; it was an instrument of 1830 and the strings had a lower tension. The grand pianos at that time entered into mass production, an impressive number.
For example, during the war, we spent days and nights in a cellar in Milan, in Via del Caravaggio, and one of the strongest memories of my youth was the descent of a grand piano from the third floor into the cellar, under the bombing. In fact my mother thought that if we could have music in the cellar, it would have protected us from fear.
In the nearby house there was the Wermacht's control station and when the officers knew that in our cellar there were amateur concerts, they invited us to go in their cellar during the air raids - it was much deeper and more protective.
I remember my brother at the piano, playing Chopin without ever having studied a note. While I'm not having any musical ear and ability, this musical passion, this need to bring the music in my life was very strong and has continued until today.
At the end of the fifties, which musicology's models could be inspirational for a boy? Theodor Adorno, for example. Musically speaking, he had an enemy, who was Jean Sibelius.
Staying for a long period in Finland, one day I listened to Sibelius and fell in love with his music. What do I have to do to take off the guilt of having refused without having ever heard him? Therefore, I did a large painting entitled "Finland", a tribute to his symphony Finland.
When one boy is desperately searching for a style, a painting thought, a form of representation, as was the entire search of my work, the objective is to find the most free and more traditional metaphor, allegory (that today is lost), which are key parts of the whole Western culture and art.
It was important for me to seek the shape and structure in dodecaphonic music by Anton Webern. From then on I developed a musical affinity and an unconditional love for all that is a difficult to listen to.

MM: How was your friendship with Luciano Berio and how did you meet him?

VA: I remember that my encounter with Luciano Berio date back to the creation of the magazine "Incontri Musicali", in 1956. This led me afterwards to Bruno Maderna and Cathy Berberian.
Luciano was one of my greatest friends, a musical genius. He brought with him an extraordinary wealth and talent. The absolute space of his life was music, without being an intellectual space, although it was a great expert (see, for example, all the Mahler's inserts in Sinfonia).
Luciano had what the Greeks called the Daemon, a genius that he brought with himself. I have loved Luigi Nono and Pierre Boulez (Mitterand himself asked me to do a portrait of Boulez), they are great composers, but perhaps they lack Luciano's continuous artistic expression.
We lived together when he was in Paris, he was always with me before he married Talia Pecker. Well, each time he departed from his home from Ventimiglia and once aboard the airplane, he began to write music. He got off the airplane, took a taxi, came to my house and immediately continued to write until late evening, to resume early the following day. Luciano was a kind of absolute consumer of what was his musical demand, his life and his nature. He fed himself from writing music.

MM: What do you think about the abstractness of sound phenomenon, the desire to transcend from reality?

VA: Music has helped me a lot during my working time. In order to listen, you must think note for note. At the same time there is a body listening. The Egyptians said that every part of your body thinks, I would say that every part of the body 'listens'.
I am very tied to a definition of painting given by the writer and philosopher Hermann Broch. The birth of painting and image, according to the greek-Roman mythology, occurred when the love of a potter in Corinth, saw the shadow of the face of his beloved, projected on the wall and drew the profile on the wall.
Hermann Broch upset all this by saying that the image was born from music: the rhythm of a primitive music is the shape of the tattoo, as a dance that is on your body. One day the tattoo came out from the body, became representation, and becoming representation, gave birth to painting.
Creativity is something that happens by an abandonment of ourselves, entering into a sort of expectation of revelation. I could define this only turning 60 years old. When you see what you draw and what you do, you say, "It's not me that I thought of it, that I did it." A revelation is happening in the creative process, especially when you realize and better define the creative process, like a musical revelation, a form, a color. We must abandon ourselves and find this moment of great expectation, where something appears and takes place. A mystical without God, but at the same time a revelation of a divine. The path of poetical sentiment comes from the heart, as well as the feeling of love, of truth and piety.

MM: Can you explain us the application of musical principles contained in painting to the design and structuring of space?

VA: At the Teatro di San Carlo (Naples), in 2004, after an absolute study of the global concept of Wagner, I realized the scenes for The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegende Holländer), an extraordinary and unforgettable experience. Wagner is perhaps the only composer for whom the image and music are becoming the same thing, a pictorial-polyphonic concert of colors and notes.
Stravinsky spoke clearly about the envy by the musician to imagine that a painter has in front a model, something to which he refers constantly. On the other hand, the painting is faced with this sort of non-model that is music. Michelangelo said that to be a good painter, you must have knowledge of music.

MM: Today The electronic music composer can build sound worlds without the need of a score. Is it necessary to codify the auditory experience?

VA: The Bible was handed down from memory. They have begun to change it when the Bible was transcribed. Before, the memory corresponded to a biblical truth much less exposed to transformation.
Those complex immense symbolic representations of the sounds escape me. An affinity between painting and music are the Ragas, which in Sanskrit means "what colors your mind". The Indian music, for example, is an unwritten music. The Indian musician must live 25 years in absolute symbiosis with his Guru. To hand down a musical memory is a complex structure, much more of our western music and it's stronger then the writing itself.
In Indian music there is a part that gives you headroom to the interpretation, but always within fixed schemes. It gives qualities to music and sound that are beyond us and that we can't assign to our music.

Interview by Matteo Milani for Unidentified Sound Object.

[original italian version - pdf]

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sound like...

Matt Wood and David Acord in studio talking about 'The Clone Wars'.
Test your knowledge and identify those sound effects from Star Wars movies (too easy)!

[watch it via]

Announcement: OSCulator 2.6

My french friend Camille Troillard has released OSCulator 2.6 (Cam, thanks for thinking of me for the Italian translations, it was a pleasure to work with you). And with the help of Ramirez Mora, OSCulator is now available in Spanish (and obviously French) as well.

Here's a selection of new features:
  • added the possibility to generate a single MIDI note
  • preset management system (also preset changing from osc, and wiimote led follows preset #)
  • OSC routing editor: forge custom messages or change incoming OSC messages with a graphical editor
  • added support for two virtual HID joysticks
  • input lock: avoid to make any changes to the document when the lock is on
  • added preliminary support for the TUIO protocol
  • wii guitar hero preliminary support
  • added the ability to "split" an input in two (from 0 to 0.5 and 0.5 to 1) in order to get two events from that range from 0 to 1
  • upgraded max count of connected Wiimotes to 8
  • added smoothing to Raw IR
  • added double and triple clicks to mouse events
  • simplified keyboard combo creation (now you just have to strike the combo)
If you would like to know more about Camille Troillard and his vision on the future of OSCulator, please read this nice article written by Kenneth Stewart for the SEAMUS newsletter from the Conservatory of Rice University, Houston.

If you are an iPhone user, please take a look at OSCemote. This simple application, written by Josh Minor, turns your iPhone into a clever tangible user interface with sliders, buttons, accelerometer information, and a multi-touch surface.
Are three iPhones a better choice then my brand new lonely Lemur? ;-)

[Lemur, the renowned multi-touch control surface for audio and media applications, was launched in 2005 by Stantum, formerly known as JazzMutant, the brand name of the company’s music product division. In the December 2007 issue of Information Display magazine, Stantum’s CEO tells the development story of PMatrix technology: Developing the First Commercial Product that Uses Multi-Touch Technology. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Multitouch (But Were Afraid to Ask)]

P.S. Many thanks to W. Brent Latta and Peter Kirn for the consideration on the CDM pages! Peter, you've been one of my first subscriptions in Google Reader.

Matteo Milani

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Spectacular Suburb: A Concert from Another Place

Hive Twilight City 3: The Spectacular Suburb

Saturday 13 September 2008

Matthew Herbert

Chris Watson

Hive DJs + VJs

the Bluecoat
School Lane
Liverpool L1 3BX
8pm - 11pm

The Hive Collective has commissioned to sonic pioneers Matthew Herbert and Chris Watson, to collaborate on a unique composition constructed entirely out of recordings from Crosby Beach – the site of Antony Gormley’s Another Place installation.

A one-off event at a specially prepared performance space within the Bluecoat will see Watson explore Another Place through a series of source recordings, followed by Herbert’s presentation of a brand new musical composition based on those recordings.

About the Artists

Matthew Herbert
Restless innovator, sampling wizard, classically trained pianist and superstar collaborator, Matthew Herbert is one of electronic music's most versatile and prolific figureheads. Herbert has produced and remixed artists as diverse as Björk, REM, John Cale, Roisin Murphy, Yoko Ono and Serge Gainsbourg. An alchemist of avant-garde sound in the tradition stretching from Stockhausen to the Aphex Twin, Herbert combines playful pop sensibility with a strictly imposed experimental agenda.

Chris Watson
Chris Watson is a world renowned sound recordist and one of the pioneers of UK electronic music. Chris has travelled the world exploring the wildlife sounds of animals, habitats and atmospheres for some of the BBC’s most popular natural history programmes, such as Life in the Undergrowth, Talking with Animals, Big Cat Diary and The Life of Birds for which he won a BAFTA . Beginning his career as a musician in the Sheffield band Cabaret Voltaire, he has released three solo CDs through Touch.

[read more - via]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Phadora for the opening of Ars Electronica 2008

U.S.O.'s friend Domenico Sciajno will perform a new piece called Phadora for the opening of the Ars Electronica 2008.

Phadora is an electroacoustic piece designed for a very special 4+4 speaker setup at the open air and it has been specifically composed for this occasion.

SoUNdSET, the work of Italian artists Domenico Sciajno and TeZ (aka Maurizio Martinucci), is a sound performance that was conceived especially for this location: the Pöstlingberg terrace, the perfect spot for panoramic cityscape viewing. This piece works with the natural sunset and features audience interaction. As the sun begins to go down (at 7:38 PM on September 4, 2008), visitors can take a seat on the viewing terrace, focus their attention on the diminishing natural sunlight and simultaneously influence via directional loudspeakers the live soundscape being generated in relation to it. As the natural light increasingly gives way to the darkness of night, the more these acoustic experiences are transformed.

The complete schedule of the opening for the Ars Electronica 2008 Festival is available here.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Audio Restoration for 'The Godfather Trilogy'

Mark Berger, Francis Coppola, and Walter Murch mixing Godfather II (1974).

POP Sound in Santa Monica, Calif. recently completed audio restoration work and 5.1 surround sound mixing for Paramount Home Entertainment’s release of The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration DVD Collection on DVD and Blu-ray.

POP Sound spent nearly eight months on the project, working in concert with Walter Murch, the original re-recording mixer on The Godfather, Parts II & III. For the first two films, POP Sound worked from the films’ original mono stems, as well as the original multitrack recordings of their musical scores. POP Sound had access to the original stereo elements for The Godfather, Part III. The re-recording mixer on the project for POP Sound was the late Ted Hall. Much of Hall's attention was devoted to eliminating artifacts that had affected the soundtrack over the years and addressing audio issues that were impossible to address when the films were made.

“We had a lot of cleanup to do to make these films sound fluid in transitions—the original mono tracks were very rough, with hard transitions,” recalls POP Sound's Director of Home Theater, Moksha Bruno. “There was a massive amount of de-humming, de-clicking, as well as time alignment issues we had to deal with. The original laser disc mix had a constant hum that wasn’t apparent at the time, but with the better home theater systems of today you begin to hear things of that nature."

[read the full article - via]

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Batman's 3-D Sonar System

It seems that, just like a real bat, the The Batman of The Dark Knight uses sound to visualize the world, and Hamilton Sterling is the man behind that sound. Sterling, who is listed in the credits as "Additional Sound Designer" but who also cut hours of sound FX for the film, was in the throes of editing when lead Sound Designer Richard King came into the studio and asked him for a temp sound to go with The Batman's sonar vision device before they sent it off to the picture department. Given fewer than two hours to come up with a unique sound for a crucial plot element, Sterling turned to a library of Kyma Sounds he had designed for his AI Opera (an ongoing composition project that he works on between film gigs). He found an appropriately swirly sonar-ific sound, cut it to the right length, added some additional processing in ProTools, and then he and King sent it off to the picture department. Everyone loved the sound and thus it survived to become the sound of The Batman's sonar vision in the final version of the film.

[via Kyma Tweaky]

[Real-World Counterparts - via]

[don't miss the post 'The Voice Amidst the Noise' - via]

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Pioneers Of Sampling [part 1]

Before digital sampling, sound manipulation was seen as a subversive and avante garde activity. Composers were ostracized for experimenting with found sound sources and a belief that music could exist outside the strict confines of the classical or popular domain.