So what’s this knitting business you’re going on about like forever? Are you a knitter?
I’m someone who often is so disappointed in re-listening to a field recording I took from a place which I thought sounded gorgeous. The recording would sound like a document from the past, much like a photograph. Not the alive and kicking thing I was witnessing, with lots of sound coincidences that make a moment.
I started to dissect the soundscape sounds into little separate pieces. As if Wind, Oystercatchers, Dry Grasses all walked into the recording studio to have their take recorded. If you throw these recordings in a sampling machine or sequencer they will make a nice cheesy house tune.
Hmmm – how to trigger them in their natural-ish timing so they start to sound like the actual thing. It would need very many random little trigger points. A swarm of them. That’s what the needles do.
Imagine listening to the dense ticking sound knitting needles make when many people are knitting at the same time. That’s how many times a sample from my recording can get triggered, that’s what I needed. Record one leaf of a tree, play it back as the rustling of an entire tree.
I had my soundscape in my pocket.
Below is a recording of the soundscape sounds we used in the Millennium Centre workshop of last Saturday. They are sounds you can hear on Strumble Head, close to where I live. Or my sonic translation of them.
You can hear the soundscape change from a subtle wind which rustles the grasses, to breezier weather with the sea in the distant. The sea closer. Closer to hear a flock of Arctic Terns on a rock in the middle of the sea. Walking along the coastal path, you pass a rock and the terns sound further away and other coastal birds come in earshot. The ever-turning Lighthouse is always present. Then it’s early April and the temperature changes between land and sea causes sea fog and the foghorn will sound. Slowly it turns night and the wind, the sea, the lighthouse, the dolphins and sirens all make for a good folk tale.
I need help of my friends with the knitted music project, as I’m not much of a knitter myself.
Fiona has been a star, we’ve been trying out several stitches and what different kind of timing they would generate.
“What’s the most awkward thing to knit, Fiona? The light house knitting need to have pauses in, just as the light shines. Every lighthouse has their own light code.”
“Vertical stripes in different colours, because you have to tidy up the wool in the back, as well, to avoid big loops.”
And we struck upon a great pattern idea that would match the light code beams of the light house visually, in the shape of the vertical stripes, which in turn correspond with the timing to trigger the sound samples of the light house. The whole concept becomes one. To be continued.
The Knitting Music workshop is going to be awesome. You’ll be sitting in a Strumble Head soundscape, which can change from stormy to foggy. From chirping daytime to the a nightime folk tales are made of. All by people triggering these textural field recordings using their knitting needles.
As Bernie Krause said, whilst listening to a recording of nature sounds: “The texture of the recording is as delicate and lovely as a piece of fine Irish lace – an expansive sonic fabric that sucks me deep into the time and space of the original moment, as only sound can do.”
Somebody will be knitting wind and the more regular you knit the gustier it gets. Someone else will be knitting the Lighthouse and has to keep the chirping cog wheels running by trying not to drop too many stitches.
Wind and Light house in place, flock of arctic terns, check, fog horn, grasses, check – just the sea. The sea. Hope I’ll have the sea done in time.
How my music evolves over time often relates to how my eyes wander over a landscape, architecture or an object. In my mind this little nothing piano snippet – which reminds me of another piece, but in this case that doesn’t matter – follows how my eyes would follow the rocky surface of a cliff.
A sketch out on paper to show me what it is I like, is what I get from it. It might translate into the next stage of a work. Or not.
Having my own private workshop repairing and fabricating more prepared knitting needles for my Knitting Music workshop in the Millenium Centre in Cardiff this Saturday. Great computer free moment just with the radio and me.
Gwanwyn is a month-long national festival held across Wales in May each year celebrating creativity in older age. The festival began in 2006 and is supported by Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Government.
New Music South Africa magazine republished the Sound And Music article about my MATA commission ‘Killing Time’ with prepared knitting needles in their current issue, alongside other very interesting reads and updates about New Music in this part of the world. Thank you very much Chris van Rhyn for sending this down.
This is a sketch true to the background photo you see on this website, all sounds are by the ARP2500. Apart from a bird called William. I was interested in mixing the textures of the tweeting ARP sounds with actual chirping.
I made this music with a laboratory set in space in mind, for my sonic comic book DR.NAUT
This is a sketchbook, right? No sketchbook can be complete without cut outs of some sort. A scrap of newspaper, a photograph, a paper wrapping.
Field recordings like these are my main inspiration, clippings from the ongoing soundtrack I’m subscribed to, called Life – I find them fascinating and abstract and often also witty. About what we Would Like to hear and what life Actually sounds like.
My phone is full of these little recordings, and I don’t care about poor quality, coat rustling, volumes. It all adds to what the sketch will spark in my imagination.
I was looking for a certain recording and stumbled upon these two little gems – we’re in the NYC subway.
Easter holidays have been lovely – glorious sunshine, fabulous company. So much so I felt like writing a love song. I thought “no bells and whistles, be a purist Bard, for god sake stick to a genre”.
There was júst this little break I wanted to fit it…….
…..an entire Sunday later I found myself here, on this musical spot – let’s see if Love can agree on my deafening take on Love. It’s more of a sonic representation what happens neurologically, I suppose. Yet not entirely sure whether it’s going to fit in into the song as the break I was after.
Picture: CD Howe’s Neural Network was created using EEG recordings of the artist’s brain activity in a variety of states. This data was assigned numeric color values and projected onto a standing wave of water which corresponded to the dominant recorded brain wave. http://miascreen.com/archives/419
A study of concrète and instrument sounds – and quite cheerful.
I was sitting in my room in Hotel Monopol in full appreciation of their choice of leather chair. It’s only slightly present in this sketch. I’m sure there will be more celebration of it at some point. In a lead role.
Oh glory! Ha! I was wondering how to print a score on delicate tissue paper, as relatively thin newspaper paper still seems to be a bit too heavy for the sound that I’m after…. the answer came through the letterbox in the shape of a (new) phonebook, today. Put straight into good use.
It sounds particularly nice pre-crinkled. #turnerpiece
I’m scoring out the page turns for my new work which features the sound of various qualities of paper page turning. It’s not only about its timing and paper type, but I’m also scoring the stereo panning.
Last few days the tide has been very far out, a Spring spring tide. It creates a great opportunity to collect seaweed. While I was clumsily vacuum packing some sun dried crispy Irish Moss, one package wasn’t air tight and starting to refill with oxygen, which created a fabulous sound. I shot up with the faulty package to a mic and recorder, before it finished refilling, and captured it.
This particular sonic texture is something I have a fascination with lately, as such this recording made my day. Tried some effects processing on it. It’s interesting how clearly and metally the bell sound effect rings – using only a filterbank – which is all to do with the versatility of the raw sound.
Often when you want to make a field recording, it’s like the entire world sets out to make sure your recording efforts will fail. At that very illusive moment suprème the neighbour’s dog will bark, an aircraft will rumble, batteries will die, some far too cheerful hikers will laugh right through it, the wind decides to participate – all to obscure my delicate subject in ear shot. Many of us types will recognise this.
Yesterday was different.
I wanted to record the Stenaline ferry hoot. It echoes superbly through a vast area. Firstly, its sound reflection get smashed to pieces at Lower Fishguard harbour, then will reflect back from Dinas Head, followed by Cat Rock in Newport, to a far reflection all the way from Cardigan Bay.
There I was – in time for the Ferry departure, perfect recording location, no sigh of wind, all dogs were on a break, battery was charged, no air traffic. Just utterly utterly perfect.
And then the Ferry didn’t hoot.
This is what it sounds like when the ferry doesn’t hoot.
This is an introduction to a further collaboration with Vogue Knitting at their next VK Live NYC event in January ’16.
I’m very pleased this composition is welcomed outside of the contemporary music scene. The piece resonates the natural soundscape that surrounds me in Pembrokeshire, where many sheep graze, growing their wool for knitting ….music.
“Launched to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee, ‘60 Years in 60 Poems’ was commissioned for The Space in 2012. At the very outset Faber teamed up with Somethin’ Else. Somethin’ Else took what started as a fairly loose brief, explored concepts and considered every essential of accessible user-centered design, and assembled a crack production team.
Carol Ann Duffy’s bestselling anthology Jubilee Lines was interpreted using actors’ recordings, sound-based generative design and archive film footage to create an exciting new way to enjoy poetry.”
Whilst preparing the effects processing for the Shakespeare And Hedgeshear concert in Wroclaw, I got distracted by the fabulous sounds developing in my sacred space being my headphones world. You can hear the pingpong balls creating an entire biome.
I’m working on a Sound And Music ‘Embedded’ commission for the experimental Apartment House ensemble. The page turning sound of the player’s paper score makes part of piece.
I have been trying out whether or not to use sound processing on the paper sounds, resulting in a few hours worth of Paper FX recordings, very soundscape-like – stormy, watery, leafy all the way to actual beats and rhythms. Below is a random sound bite from these recordings for this week’s Sonic Sketchbook. It’s just fascinating how one source of sound can change into so many different guises.
Recipe for a parabolic reflector iPhone windshield: a pair of tights (silver coloured for masculine technical look effect), a round lampshade, two different types of clothes hangers, a sturdy plastic bottle, a long nail and some string. Oh and a parabolic reflector.
Bring it on crows and starlings! I’m quick as a flash getting my gear out…
Currently I’m working on a composition for the exquisite Apartment House ensemble. Turning the pages of it’s paper score is part of the ensemble as an instrument. I’ve been recording several paper qualities the score might be printed on – so far rice paper is my favourite.
This week I picked two studies, one sketch where you can hear something starts to develop, a feeling of the abstract, yet inspired by natural textures, sound I am after. Followed by an earlier attempt that doesn’t work in my opinion.
NB listening to it through my devices without headphones I completely miss out on the quite crucial stereo effect.
Many of my sonic efforts, maybe most of them, are filed in my archive as ‘studies’. Now, when I visit my visual artist friends or a visual arts exhibition, like many, the Sketchbook is often one of my favourite items to have a look in, it often adds to the experience of a finished work. Perhaps bringing some sound studies from the catacombs of my harddisk into the daylight might be an idea.
Having said all this, I didn’t make the connection myself, it’s down to a lovely man who suggested to start a sonic sketchbook, thank you George :)
Thinking back with a smile about finding myself in a passionate conversation about reel tape with especially Brian Hodgson and more members of the original Radiophonic Workshop and EMS in the Science Museum storage rooms about three years ago; both of us recalling enthusiastically trying to splice in a barbaric fashion, drill sacrilegious nail holes into the magnetic tape just to see whether these appalling engineering techniques would generate any very analogue sound effects.
Such an inspiring moment when some people, who had exclusive access to this very expensive new gear in a very prestigious environment in the early days of electronic music and reel tape machines, meet people at the end of the lifecycle of that particular gear, who had fished it out of a smelly skip adjacent to their half burned-down squat somewhere in the mid-nineties when computers started to take over, and they meet on the same sonic grounds.
For that small moment in time, there and then in the storage rooms, 4 decades had seemingly passed unnoticeable.
Some marvellous news about getting new music out there!
* Vogue Knitting Live NYC ’16 Gala Diner concert and Fashion Show music *
My MATA commission ‘Killing Time’ uses prepared knitting needles to trigger software sound samples in an organic way to reproduce Nature sounds. It led to involving performers from outside the field of contemporary art, from the field of knitting, to be part of the ensemble – turning the usually lonely art of composing into a social happening.
I’m very pleased to be working with Vogue on staging this concert on their next VK Live event, plus providing original catwalk music, a mixture of my indie pop and my new music. Hopefully we will be setting up some workshops for attendees to experience knitted sounds and rhythms triggered by various patterns, as well.