My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

tag: video

Sly + Robbie + Molvaer + Aarset + Vladislav

Five men in a dub

The video is titled “Sly & Robbie meet Nils Petter Molvaer.” Over at Michael Ross’ excellent Guitar Moderne site, where I first learned of the extensive footage, he expands the billing to “Sly & Robbie meet Nils Petter Molvaer & Eivind Aarset,” since Aarset is the guitarist on stage and guitars are Ross’ focus, but that still isn’t the full picture. This hour and a half concert also includes Vladislav Delay, on a variety of trenchantly echoing technology. It’s a formative crew, the sort of dream team that Bill Laswell might have conjured. In one corner you have a Jamaican rhythm duo, drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare, that is renowned for its boundary-pushing dub and reggae. In the opposing corner you have Norwegian ambient-jazz figures Nils Petter Molvaer, he of the deeply muted trumpet, and Eivind Aarset, whose elegant guitar atmospheres have gained him prominence beyond his extensive work as part of Molvaer’s band. And then there’s the prolific and musically gregarious Vladislav Delay, who here goes back and forth between hammering springs and playing live samples. Together they create expansive, delectably slow-paced, and enticingly elemental percussive spaces. It never gets as chaotic or anarchic or pleasurably lost as do Laswell’s own pan-genre meet-up mashups, but it often comes close, and every player has fine moments throughout, even if you also have to make due with a brief, placid Pink Floyd cover toward the end.

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Drones of Drones / Drones by Drones

The unmanned aerial field recordings of Tim Prebble

We already have our jetpacks. We just happen to call them drones. Sure, these drones don’t carry us into the sky the way we were promised in our childhoods, but they carry with them our eyes, our imaginations, and our ambitions. Now that we live so much of our lives online, is it much of a stretch to suggest that drones take us up in the air?

Thanks to Tim Prebble, drones also carry with them our ears. Prebble is an accomplished field recordist who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where he runs Hiss and Roar (hissandaroar.com), a sound design library of everything from fireworks and metal resonance to chimes and tortured pianos. His lengthy sound-design film credits include Antarctica: A Year on Ice, 30 Days of Night, and The World’s Fastest Indian. Prebble this week posted on Facebook a single photo of a small consumer-grade (i.e., non-military) drone carrying an audio recording device (the second still image down below). When I asked him for more details of what he was up to, he sent me a lengthy account, and many more photos, plus the two videos shown here. The video up top is a quick summary of experiments he’s been doing recording with drones, and recording the sound of drones. It’s a Doppler paradise.

Best experienced in headphones, the above video shows various settings for the drone recording, including an opening shot from the drone’s own perspective, while recording the audio effect of it passing by several microphones. Later on in a subsequent clip, the three-dimensional motion can be experienced as three-dimensional sound: stereo manages left and right, while relative volume accounts for foreground and background. Throughout, the primary sound is that of the drones themselves, a sound Prebble likens to that of bees. The results are striking.

In experimental electronic music, the word “drone” is virtually a genre unto itself, one that explores stasis in everything from field recordings to sine waves to layers of ambient textures. Since the word “drone” has come, popularly, to refer to flying devices, jokes are made regularly about “drones of drones.” Prebble has managed to make the joke real, and the result is no joke — it is alternately eerie and warm, anxious and majestic.

Here is Prebble himself, from an email he sent to me with permission to share, on what he is developing:

“The Bees Sound Angry”

While I’d seen plenty of drones & footage shot with them online, I never really appreciated their potential until I worked on a short film project recently where we wanted aerial footage but a helicopter was unaffordable. We ended up hiring an experienced drone pilot and after the first shoot I began dreaming about their potential, for image but also for sound.

DroneTP01

Once the project was finished I decided to get myself a quadcopter, a DJI Phantom 3 Pro. My first experiments were focused on technically learning to fly it, but also learning to deal with the discombobulation of having a set of eyes that can move remotely in three dimensions. I consider a camera drone akin to having a set of tracks & dolly (or a camera crane) which can move in any of the three dimensions without the constraints — the first video I shot was effectively a vertical tracking shot from outside my house…

One aspect of using a drone that can be problematic is that it tends to attract people, and avoiding slack jawed observers in shots can be a challenge. But it is often the sound of the quadcopter that first draws peoples attention – if you haven’t heard one close up, then the best description I can think of is that they sound like a small swarm of angry bees, and when you do fast movements the bees sound very angry! Ever since that first drone shoot I’ve been fascinated by quadcopter sounds, which led me to this experiment:

DroneTP02

From a sound designers perspective I LOVE the idea I can control & perform movements with this swarm of angry bees, so the first idea I am pursuing is to capture a library of sound effects, much as I would for a vehicle for a film. I am capturing a lot of variations of quadcopter start, take off, away, hover, approach and land, as well as doppler passbys & moves at various speeds. While the resulting library will be useful for practical purposes it will also be rich source material for manipulation & processing….

DroneTP03

DroneTP04

But as with any vehicle recording, exterior recording is only half the story. When recording vehicles I happily capture onboard perspective sound to multitrack; placing mics in the engine bay, near the exhaust, near tyres and inside the cabin. Effectively capturing constant perspective, isolated elements to be rebalanced as per the needs of the film.

So that first photo above was an attempt at recording onboard, constant perspective quadcopter sounds. I’d first thought of using a pair of tiny DPA4060 lavalier mics but the recorder soon became the issue eg my Sound Devices 722 recorder weighs 1.2kg & while the Phantom 3 is powerful it was never going to carry more than its own bodyweight as cargo. So next I tried the Sony PCM D100, rigged to hang below the drone.

The results were surprisingly good – there was some wind noise, a 150Hz HPF got rid of most of that but more layers of Rycote wind protection will achieve that better & at the source. There was also a very small amount of motor whine & electrical interference from the camera gimbal, but once the rotors are working that sound is masked. The next iteration of rigging I suspended the recorder on rubber bungy rather than string, to avoid transmission of any vibrational noise, and I also experimented with different lengths, attempting to place the recorder & mics further from the prop wash.

DroneTP05

A secondary sound recording idea I am pursuing with the drone is purely as a transporter. Imagine placing your mics in the top of a 1000 year old Kauri tree, or on a small island in a lake. Both would potentially provide unique ambience recordings, but getting the mics into place is difficult. So I’ve been thinking about whether there is a way to have the drone carry my recorder to such locations, safely land & power down to allow clean ambience recording, and then fly home. The recorder hanging below the quadcopter means that landing is difficult – I’ve avoided this issue so far by hovering the drone within arms reach & simply grabbing it & powering off. With the extra weight I would want to be VERY confident before risking losing my drone & recorder – if it toppled over while landing then it would be a very tough decision to either abandon it, or risk life & limb to retrieve it!

DroneTP06

Suspect we will be seeing more ads like this in future!

More from Prebble at soundcloud.com/timprebble and hissandaroar.com.

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David Torn, Live (Video)

An early listen to what became Only Sky

The latest David Torn album, Only Sky (ECM), feels like the album he’s been striving for his whole recording career. It manages to find a place at home with his interest in deep, expansive atmospherics, and yet that place is one in which Torn’s pyrotechnic fluency with stringed instruments isn’t entirely put aside. In fact, the intensity of his actions feeds the equal intensity of the ambient foundation, often in the form tiny fragments set on repeat until they merge into a mist. The video follows his manipulation of the sounds, how the automation lets him trade instruments — between electric guitar and oud — without missing a beat. And better yet, at the end he speaks to the audience, apparently back in March 2013, two full years before the album’s release, at a TEDxCaltech event. What he’s playing is what became the album’s title cut.

Video at youtube.com. Found via Michael Ross’ great guitarmoderne.com website. More from Torn at davidtorn.net.

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The Art of the Sound of the Security of Art

The ongoing work of John Kanneberg

Many artists and musicians end up in, strive to be in, museums. Fewer make the museum the subject of their work. One such artist-musician is the prolific John Kannenberg, who in various pursuits has studied the sonic property of the institutions where art is on display. He may make sound art, but more to the point he makes art of the sound of art. He’s been sharing well-edited, studiously sequenced videos of his work, including “A Sound Map of the Art Institute of Chicago: Security (Excerpt),” which combines the voluminous echo of the place with overheard snippets of directives and responses from staff security, such as “No flashes” (as in photography) and “Being told the elevator doesn’t go where I want to go.”

Video originally posted at vimeo.com. More from Kannenberg at johnkannenberg.com.

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Fragments of Serbian-Finnish Sound Design

Belgrade-based Svetlana Maraš posts a work no longer in progress.

20150201-svetlanamaras

Svetlana Maraš, who is based in Belgrade, Serbia, has been filling her SoundCloud account with bits and pieces of film scores and sound design projects, some finished, others from efforts that never reached completion, stalled at unforeseen junctures. Five shared fragments of trumpet soundings and quotidian atmospherics are sourced from one of the uncompleted ones, which Maraš describes as “a beautiful, experimental film by a Finnish director.” She writes, “Unfortunately, the film never went into the post-production and was never finished. However, the soundtrack remains.” These include two “soundscapes” and three three spots of trumpet, the latter of which blur the line between soundscape and sound design by emphasizing tone and the slurry space within notes over melody. The room in which the music was played is as much a part of the recording as is the trumpet itself. She lists the constituent elements as “Trumpet, objects, glitch, noise,” and references Nenad Marković as the trumpeter. Marković plays the trumpet, while Maraš plays the room.

Maraš is quite active and prolific, and a Vimeo page (vimeo.com/svetlanamaras) tracks some of her efforts, such as this short video of a live improvisation on small electronic devices, including a Korg portable and a Buddha Machine, with the ticking of an alarm clock providing the back beat, such as it is:

Set originally posted at soundcloud.com/svetlanamaras. More from Maraš at svetlanamaras.com. More from Marković at nenadmarkovic.net.

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