Sonic Arts Forum 2014 – a look back.

21st May 2015

Sonic Arts Forum 2014 – a look back.

Looking back – Asha Blatherwick details her experience at the Sonic Arts Forum which took place in October 2014.

Sonic Arts Forum 2014 – Friday October 24th, 10am-7pm

Review of the day

The Sonic Arts Forum is a very active group headed by Coryn Smethurst that regularly updates its Facebook group with events and calls for works for anything to do with audio. I attended the yearly forum meeting at the Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln. This is a rundown of the excellent and eclectic performers and their presentations. Each presenter had 30 minutes with the first 10 for presentation, the middle 10 for performance, and the last 10 for Q and A’s;

Peter K Rollins – Experimental Sonic Machines

Peter creates new musical instruments using DIY mechanical systems combined with electronics. He started the performance laying a beat using his ‘disk player’, wooden disks with holes and mechanical switches that create contact points to give bursts of sequenced sounds. This was then tuned using potentiometers. The disk featured different rings for different tracks and could be individually turned on and off. There was also an updated version of the disc as seen in the picture that used black-and-white patterns and a light-dependent resistor to create cyclical sounds. To this Peter added a couple of handheld instruments that he had constructed to complete his DIY aesthetic, along with a handmade light-up helmet, and several children’s toy instruments. He focused on being able to carry everything in one bag and ‘unfurl’ his wares like it was a ‘space-probe’. There was a high level of theatrically in his act, often he wielded the instruments like weapons and span with cape flailing behind.

Magda Stawarska-Beavan – Soundscape Installation

Magda spoke about her Arts Council-funded project called Krakow to Venice featured on the interactive website Which looked at the sonic identities of 12 locations over the course of 12 hours. Binaural recordings were taken as Magda travelled in locations that featured clocks, or transport, to give a real sense of geographical position, as well as a sense of language throughout locations in Eastern Europe. The piece was then used for several installations in various forms. The most notable being in Berlin using a 5 channels speaker system in an archway with playback matching the time of recorded capture.

Magdas second project looked at changing soundscapes in Istanbul from the East to the West side. There was interesting talk of recording areas and then rerecording after major building works, to see how the sonic landscape is shaped and changed by developments and city growth. There was also a lively discussion on interpreting a city sonically and whether multi-tracking represents the area, or disperses the illusion.

Ian J Cole– Field Recording

Ian J Cole spoke about his recording techniques and sonic adventures he had had. His performance focused on using his music production controller (MPC) as a tool to make an interesting performance, instead of just sitting at a laptop and appearing mysterious. He improvised by playing a piece featuring field recordings of a thunderstorm layered with lush padded synth sounds that followed the dynamic of the storm. He also played 2 other pieces from his released albums.

Charles Matthews – Transducers and Gamelan

Charles showed his electric Gamelan on which he had written his PhD thesis. He created an augmented Gamelan to explore textural elaborations and use pitch and tone to create rhythms. Transducers and piezos were used to create feedback loops between the capture and playback, directly attaching the mechanisms to the Gamelan drums. This was then ran through his Max/MSP based program called Mipilan, which was controlled using Mira via an iPad to further manipulate the sound.

Lunch followed by improvisation performance. Everyone was invited to play pots and pans that were tuned to the same key by a persuading device (hammer).

Aiste NoreikaitExperience Helmet

Aiste’s ‘experience helmet’ used a Neurosky brainwave device alongside BrainwaveOSC to turn relaxed, focused, and unfocused brain states into sound. Using Max/MSP and this awesome-looking helmet. Aiste’s vision was to use this helmet to hear how people were feeling.

Coryn Smethurst- Acousmatic Industrial

Coryn presented one of his amazing pieces created using a large resonant bath and water. The piece took the audience to the edge of their teeth and stopped just short of tearing them out. It felt like giant brass animals were crashing and conversing as the sounds moved from near-silent, intricate, water droplets to crescendos of bone-shaking, bowed rumblings. There was then a discussion on the piece which Coryn had confessed had become like marmite with people loving or hating it. I thought it was pretty genius.

In the afternoon there were also presentations from Kamil Kowalczyk who presented us with visuals and improvised drone music, and Marco Mellis with discussion on a system he had developed in Max/MSP using a graphics tablet to translate movement into modulations for parameters in granular synthesis.

Luca Nasciuiti discussed location-specific acousmatics and his journey to Scotland focusing on the representation of sparse sonic landscapes, as well as presentation of a short film, based on a poem by Vicki Feaver, which he had developed the sound on with a strong sound design emphasis.

Chrissie Caulfield presented the piece of software she had created in Max/MSP. Ambient DJ enables mixing of field recording and audio samples, in the style of the traditional DJ using a MIDI turntable controller.

The final presenter was Mari Ohno who presented some of her sound installations featuring physical and digital elements. One piece entitled ‘Bio Effector‘ featured a large membrane that was affected by the user touching a bio-sensor underneath the membrane, this was then translated into sound via motors controlling the tension of the membrane.

The day was very informative and inspirational in its variety of sound-based works. The mix of people led to some great discussion on sound and its uses for representing ourselves, spaces, and emotions.

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