While preparing my Senior Thesis, I’ve been researching many sonic artists for inspiration. I feel as though looking into these artists will help to lend me some inspiration, as well as expand my thinking as to what lies within the realm of possibility for my project. The works of Ei Wada, Mileece, and Adriano Clemente have been very inspiring and help me to want to push my work to the next level.
Probably the most inspiring of these artists to me is the Japanese Artist Ei Wada. He transforms old, dying technologies into innovative and interesting musical instruments. Two of his works really spoke to me and particularly inspired me. The first of these pieces is one in which he converts old CRT monitors into interesting, percussive instruments and proceeds to play them. The piece can be viewed here. There is a video which explains how he created it, but unfortunately, it is in Japanese and I can’t understand what he is saying. From what I gathered, he discovered this strange method by accident one day, he hooks the tv up to guitar amps with distortion, and there is one other component that I don’t yet understand. It really speaks to me that he was able to transform these televisions into unique pieces of art that create interesting and diverse sounds. Another piece that really spoke to me was a piece in which he turns an old fan into an instrument. This piece can be viewed here. Again, I am still trying to figure out how exactly he was able to accomplish this, but at the very least, it seems as though there is light beaming from one side of the fan that is shining through the other side. attached to the blades of the fan in a circular piece that limits the amount of light that is able to pass through. Toward the outside of the fan there are fewer holes in this piece which allows less light to come through and as it moves more toward the center of the fan, the number of holes increases, thus allowing more light to come through. In his hand I believe he is holding a light sensor and based on what part of the fan he is holding it over, it will produce a higher or lower pitch. This is really interesting and very innovative.
The second artist that really inspired me is Mileece, from London. She makes a lot of work in which she takes the natural frequencies of plants and uses them to make music. Much of her work can be seen here. She accomplishes this by attaching electrodes to plants. In previous experiments in which people have connected electrodes to plants, it has been noted that plants respond to different conditions such as when they are being watered or if they are in the sun, and their frequencies change. This leads us to believe that plants are more intelligent than we may have previously conceived. Mileece takes these frequencies given off by the plants and runs it through software on her computer and shares the sounds with the world. She often builds giant plant sanctuaries and hooks up all of the plants to a big system and allows viewers to hear all of the plants in a way that they never have before. It looks like a surreal experience and I’m jealous of everyone who has gotten the chance to experience it. He work is the perfect marriage of nature and machine. She says that her works aren’t paradoxical, but symbiotic in that the plants and the machines work together to make something that is both harmonious and beautiful. The sounds that Mileece obtains is very soft and ambient with a very high attack. The pitches of the plant’s drone and the pitch modulates slightly based on whatever the plant is “thinking”. Seeing her work was very inspiring to me and made me realize the kinds of things that are possible if you expand your mind.
The third artist that really inspired me is Adriano Clemente. He is an artist that uses Ableton and various strange input devices to trigger MIDI events in Ableton. This can be seen here. He uses contact microphones, medical sensors, lasers among MANY other things to create a variety of different interesting input devices. In the video, he uses sensors to measure muscle contractions on somebody’s arm which he inputs into the computer. His work is different compared to the other artists in that it is more digital, while the other artists were strictly analog. His work expanded my imagination for what objects I could possibly use as input devices. Overall, seeing his multitude of devices and his work space inspires me to create things and build some sonic art.
Originally, I was going to build a couple of MIDI controllers and mount some potentiometers to a few objects, but after seeing these artists it makes me want to take it a step further and do something that is truly one of a kind, that has never been done before. I currently have ordered and am starting to use some Arduino boards, servos, contact microphones and probes in an effort to create something interesting. I intend on having some of my project rely on digital software, and I also intend on other parts of my project being completely analog. I think the marriage of these two sides of the coin could prove to be both very interesting and refreshing. So far I’ve managed to figure out how to control a servo using Ableton Live.
I am able to control the servo from Ableton Live by hooking it up to an Arduino board. From there I hook up my Arduino board to the computer and install the software on it that allows it to easily control a servo. From there I open up Ableton Live and establish the connection to the Arduino. I then map the servo to a potentiometer in Ableton. At that point, when I turn the potentiometer with my mouse, the servo mirrors that motion perfectly. After that, I create a midi track and assign a sample to it. From there I run the signal of the sample through an envelope which measures the gain as it is being played. I then mute the track and map the gain level to the potentiometer which is controlling the servo and the servo copies the rhythm that I’ve created from the MIDI track.
So far I’ve managed to figure out how to control a servo using Ableton Live. For part of my project I intend to have multiple servos attached to Ableton live that hit different objects based on MIDI data that I feed it. The objects that the servos make contact with will have contact microphones attached to them, and that data will then be fed back to the computer as audio data. Essentially I’m converting MIDI data into analog motion, into a digital audio signal, and processing it with digital effects. At this point, I’m entirely capable of doing this, I simply have to buy more powerful servos, that are capable of hitting things harder. I didn’t realize that the ones I bought were so small and weak. That section of the project will be done very soon.
I’ve also started to experiment with the vintage analog technology at my disposal in an effort to bring another element to the piece and add more sonic colors. Yesterday I started to modulate radio static in real time in an effort to see if I could turn something noisy and otherwise boring into something rhythmic and sonically interesting. I had moderate success and I intend on pushing this much further and buying more equipment to experiment with. I have also ordered electrodes in an effort to see if I can use these to acquire frequencies from various objects, that I can also attempt to modulate and make sonically interesting. My piece is going to be interesting, and hopefully, one that people haven’t seen before.I’m excited to share the finished product with the world.