Stille Lyd – Part II on Canadian Radio, CKUC 93.1 FM

Stille Lyd – Part II was selected as part of the ‘Acoustic Frontiers’ playlist for September, broadcast on CKCU-FM () 93.1, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

This is a fantastic programme featuring the latest electroacoustic sounds from around the world. It’s really great to have been selected for the playlist and to be able to share the work from this project with listeners of CKUC.

The programme featuring my works is available ON DEMAND here.

Concert Two – Greenwich, London. 6th January 2015

In January 2015 I hosted another iteration of the project concert, this time in Greenwich.

Click the image below for a copy of the concert programme:
GRE concert Flyer

I recently started work at the University of Greenwich and as an introduction to my work and a statement of intention (we are launching Sound as a significant academic / research area here) the ‘Stille Lyd’ concert would be perfect.

The Concert

Jøran Rudi and Magnus Bugge flew across for the event and to present their works (as well as to present to students on their own work).

We had a great turn out, filling the “Crit Pit” of our building in Stockwell Street.

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The Drinks Reception

The concert was followed by an excellent drinks reception which gave everyone the chance to meet and discuss, and also to enjoy the Brunøst which Magnus had kindly brought over with him!

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Special thanks to everyone who came, to Jøran and Magnus and to students and colleagues at the University of Greenwich who have supported the Sound area to make this concert possible.

Stille Lyd: A concert of electroacoustic works from Norway.

Friday 28th March will mark the formal end of this project with a final concert event presenting the works that I have developed, alongside those of my friends at NOTAM and a piece by Arne Nordheim.

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I’ll be giving a short talk about the project and cracking open some cheese and wine, so it’d be great to see you if you are anywhere nearby.

The event is free and takes place in Leicester, at the PACE building, Richmond Street, LE1 9BH

Composition Titles

I also decided that it was more appropriate that my pieces had Norwegian titles. Not only does it look and sound cooler, but it instantly links the work with the project and its place of inspiration and creation.

My ‘Norsk’ Form

Following my reflections on the first piece (though kind comments and feedback indicate that I was, perhaps, over critical) I have endeavoured to further develop and fully elaborate on each section of the work, so as to fully realise an effective structural form.

Half way through this process I realised that the form of this second piece is rather similar to the first piece. With a slow building open and close form, and an exploration of dry montaged materials in the middle section (this is perhaps also similar to the structure of my audio-visual piece Perpetual Motion). Such similarity gave me cause for concern, especially since I was troubled about the structure of the first piece.

Exactly as with the Mouse squeaks in the first piece, the second work made a quick transition from pitched ambient drones and granular clouds above to dry gestural material. I must find a solution to this predicament and perhaps further elaboration of this middle section is all that is required?

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The sound materials themselves are wonderful. The close recordings of the creaking and crunching of snow need very little processing, and would be spoiled by too much interference. But they must sit cohesively with the other sections of the work.

Perhaps I am to attached to these dry sounds?

Perhaps I should let go of their purity and clarity and introduce some subtle processing?

But I am scared to do too much. If Abstracted Journeys has taught me anything, it is that subtly montage and edited sound prove to be a successful tonic to the vast array of processed materials around.

Perhaps I should just live with my ‘Norsk’ form?

“Quiet” Composition Two

Getting off the Ground

The development of this piece has taken longer than initially anticipated but is finally being realised. This delay is partly due to the extension of the initial piece from a miniature into a more extended work. Indeed, that work (“Quiet”- Part One) could still be expanded upon and developed and I shall perhaps have to go back to NOTAM in order to realise it properly.

But, with the closing date of this project edging ever closer, and despite a multitude of potential compositional concepts, I struggled to actually get on and develop anything for the second work that I was happy with.

While in Oslo I’d read an article about procrastination:

Why are writers such exceptional procrastinators? They fear being confronted with a simple truth: They’re not as good as they think they are…

Perhaps it was fear. But it also might have been that the sound materials which I collected had not been as I initially imagined.

A combination of the weather conditions and a creaky Rycote (apparently a recognised issue when recording at low temperatures) meant that I had very few extended and uninterrupted recordings. Initially I had panned to layer and mix between extended recordings of the mountain soundscape with subtle filtering and little technological intervention, but the reality of the recordings made this impossible.

Therefore, I was holding onto a creative concept that could not be realised in the way I had initially intended / hoped.

Forging a Piece

SO, I finally locked myself in my studio for a whole day and began to transform some of the sounds that I had recorded. One that was especially nice (and which I was happy with) was the recording of the frozen river.

Dushume had also encouraged me to work with this sound, and so I took the file extracted the loudest bins and applied the impulse response of the Vigeland mausoleum to create a rich mixture of bubbling pitches.

But this sound was far too active. So I loaded it into CDP (version 7 free to download) and used the time stretch functions, both the ‘analogue’ speed/transposition tool and the FFT time stretch. By drawing these out I created rich pitched and evolving textures with organic morphologies (that is my interpretation).

These will form the foundation for my piece, with their morphologies being articulated with more granular and crunchy textures such as the falling snow striking our ski jackets and the stepping or skiing through snow. I shall also seek to use any ambiences where possible.

Here is a very rough sketch of the introduction to the new piece:

Other options

The kind folk at NOTAM give me their ‘Vinterlyder’ library of winter recordings, and I may dig into these to find some ambiences but I would like if possible to use my own recordings.

Trip Three: Recording Part Four

For the final full day of my time in Norway I headed to the centre of town and the waterfront.

It is in this area that the river Akerselva meets the Oslofjord, finally completing its journey weaving down through the centre of the city. The river actually disappears underground at this point, entirely consumed by the city.

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This area along the waterfront is home to extensive redevelopment. I walked around on the roof of the Opera house and captured some excellent construction sounds as these large diggers forced metal pylons into the ground. With the direct sound and the reflections off of the surfaces of the opera house and other nearby buildings it presented a very appealing soundscape.

Following this I walked back up towards the palace and my hotel. En route I was able to capture a rich and complex soundscape along Karl Johans gate.

After this I walked back to the hotel, grabbed my laptop and headed across to the studios for my last session booked in studio Nordheim.

Trip Three: Recordings Part Three

Vigeland Mausoleum

Today I visited the Vigeland Mausoleum, a building with one of the longest reverberations in the world, around 20s in total, but actually you only get to hear about 8s on my recording due to the movement and actions of the other persons within the space.

Interestingly, upon entering the space we were given instructions not to speak. This engendered a rather interesting reaction, in that everyone really wanted to make sound but were too polite to do so. So, there was a lot of loud stepping, coughing (I may have started the trend for this!) and occasional whistling. As such the recording of this space alone could serve as an interesting document for exploring the human reaction to spaces and in pushing the boundaries of quiet. What is socially acceptable, what sounds can you get away with while still being ‘quiet’?

One other sound that I was able to record was the excellent squeak/screech of the chairs against the floor of the mausoleum. This created a very nice pitched decay which at one point even had the interesting social effect of causing all other persons in the space to stop moving, I think that everyone was listening to this sound, engaging in a shared appreciation of this forbidden noise.

Metro and NationalTheatret station.

After the mausoleum I headed back into town on the metro. I was travelling with Magnus Brugge who had kindly offered to visit mausoleum with me. It’s a good thing he did because it was a little out of the way, with no real signs providing direction to the place. But I would very much recommend the trip to anyone interested in sound.

We headed over to the NationalTheatret station to the circular room that Anders T had mentioned in December. On the way we passed down some excellent escalators which made a wonderful clanking sound and onto one of the platforms which was a giant concrete tube. I captured the sound of a train in this space, though was perhaps a little too far along the platform when the train arrived to capture the full sense of the space.

Passing back out from the other end of the platform we travelled back up some escalators (not such a cool sound) along a corridor and into the circular space. This room had a stepped ceiling, with sections gradually reducing in diameter. The space created a very present flutter reverb, with a small metal disk at the centre of the floor that served as a sounding object (rocking back and forth when stepped on). The space was interesting and perhaps effective as a piece of sonic architecture but I’m not sure if I’ll end up using this sound in my piece.

Trip Three: An evening of amazing sounds! And a completed composition.

Obviously I no longer had the recording kit. Oh cruel fate. Damn you!

  • There was a low flying helicopter with its sound being reflected of the buildings in the street.
  • A ridiculous car that struggled its way up the hill sounding like it’d lost its exhaust and possibly a few cylinders too.
  • Some great tram noises – clacking overhead wires, screeching across points etc.
  • And all to a calm and quiet backdrop of Torshov at 10:30pm.

This was my last night in Oslo with an early flight the next day so I was heading back to my hotel to pack and prepare for the trip home.

Is there any GOOD news?

Yes. A completed piece! This evening I tweaked and finalised the initial NOTAM piece, the one that I began on my first visit.

Conversation this afternoon with Gyrid was very good, she told me not to listen to everything that Anders said (he encouraged me to make all of my sounds louder and more assertive*) but comments from both of them about my aesthetic design were very useful and these combined with the time away from the piece enabled me to crack on and make some very important final tweaks to the piece.

Final Changes to the Initial Composition

  • I made my quiet sounds quieter again: creaks, reverb-y thuds etc.
  • I reined in the pitched and spinning sounds in the second section of the work, to give them more form, development and a trajectory.
  • I made the keyboard solo start more cohesively, after a mouse gesture. And end at the climax of the mouse section.
  • Major development of the flitting sounds were made (see below).
  • And the tolling resonant bells were also shifted at the end of the piece, so as to tie in more naturally with the subtle ebbs and flows in the ambient field recording made outside NOTAM.

Development of the Flitting Sounds

These had all been developed from a single recording, and were simply transposed / time-stretched versions. This changed their spectral content but meant that they retained similar gestural forms (all be it to different durations).

So I dragged out my old favourite, CDP, and used the ‘Scramble’ function to reorder the original gestures, creating a diversity of new flitting gestures. I edited some of these to smooth out any rough gestures (mainly the loud ‘click’ sound from the original recording) and started to assemble these within the piece.

With the new diversity of flitting gestures I was able to really populate this section of the work much more densely than I had previously, and it quickly became clear that these flitting sounds needed to respond and interact with the resonant tolling of this section.

I didn’t however want them to simply respond slavishly to the envelop of the resonant tolling sound. Instead I tried to construct them in a contrapuntal gesture, somewhat like ivy wrapping itself around another plant or a trellis. This created an interweaving texture which, I think, works quite well. And reflects more appropriately the life and energy that was present in the original ‘flit’ recording.

As the resonant tolling section increases in energy so does the pace and intensity of the ‘flitting sounds’ but they retain their independence gesturally, darting about around the resonant tolling sounds and slowly coming back to rest at the end. So perhaps they acted more like the fake snow in a snow globe? With the resonant sound shaking them up, until it resides, at which point they slowly came back to rest.

Final Mastering

On getting back to my hotel room I realised that the whole piece was lop sided. In the Nordheim studio the computer sits to the right hand side of the room whirring furiously away. This had clearly made me compensate by increasing the levels in the right hand channel.

So in final mastering I had to go back in and reduce the right hand level by 10%, in order to rebalance the channels and make the wide acoustic spaces appear more natural. This did have the knock on effect of interfering with the panning in some of the louder more gestural sections (the introductory gestures and the central ‘mouse’ section of the work).

Reflecting at the End

Time will tell wether the work is any good. I think that the piece is probably quite weak structurally. There was no overarching structural idea for the work, instead it evolved and as exploration of individual spaces and rooms within NOTAM, moving from the Studio, to the Offices, to the Kitchen and finally outside on the river.

The many excellent sounds could very easily be used in the development of another work that is devised in a more ordered and planned fashion. But we shall see, I look forward to peoples comments on this work and any pointers they might give which could highlight the sources of my anxiety.

More work could be done, but I am fairly happy with how the work has developed. And here is an ideal time to leave this work and move on to the next.

“that I could do something more does not mean that I have not finished it.”

John Boler (1964) Habits of thought, p.394 – as quoted in Umberto, Eco’s Limits of Interpretation, p.32.

Trip Three: Recordings Part Two

This quote fills me with confidence:

These three states–the physical (sensual), the aesthetic and the moral-rational, correlate with three phases of man’s relationship to Nature. He first suffers, then emancipates himself, and then attains mastery. 

Friedrich Schiller (1794) On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters.

Recording the Source of the Arkeselva – Maridalsvannet

I headed out to record the sounds of the Arkeselva because of its significance in the history of Oslo (particularly in the way that it powered the industrial revolution here) and decided that I should start at the beginning, its source.

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“First he suffers …”

Of course, this being Norway in a warm winter, it soon began to rain. Which was fine for a short while, and provided some very nice dripping sounds. But though its a ‘warm winter’ this simply means that its wetter, and I soon became rather drenched and chilly. So I cut short my intended plan, which was to walk the whole river back down to Grunneløkka, and hopped back on the tram.

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Both the Rycote and I got pretty wet.

“… then he emancipates himself …”

So once warmed up and in the dry I set about examining the recordings that I had made, and trying to extract some usable and interesting details. One revelation that I had when recording a babbling brook is that I must be careful. The world probably doesn’t need yet another electroacoustic piece made up of “water sounds”.

But luckily, I think I found a few other interesting sounds while I was out and about.

“… then attains mastery.”

That’s the goal anyway. We’ll see.

As I scroll though and listen to these sounds some ideas are stirring. But I don’t want to get carried away with any inflated ideas of “mastery”. Let’s get a sketch for this piece first, then we can talk about making it sound half decent.

It’s nice to dream that “mastery” might be tangible though…….

More Schiller?

If you’re interested in more about where the quote at the top came from then you should check out this blog post championing Schiller’s book, On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters.