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Beet Five Shop

An experiment to see how common Photoshop filters might effect a piece of music when applied to its spectrograph.

The first 80 seconds of audio from Beethoven’s Fifth was ripped from YouTube and fed into the ANS synth. This produced a spectrogram which was exported and edited in Photoshop using tools in the Filter menu. The resulting manipulated spectrogram was then played back, and recorded, in the ANS synth.

Original audio

Original in ANS

Crystalised filter

Extrude filter

Find Edges filter

Halftone filter

Pinch filter

Polar Stretch filter

Note 1: Vimeo is my preferred video hosting service but they rejected two of the videos due to copyright infringement. I had assumed a composition by someone who’s been dead for 188 years would be out of copyright, but I forgot that performances are copyrighted too. Thanks, Royal Philharmonic. YouTube is happy to host the videos because it’ll put ads next to them, which is why I pay to use Vimeo because YouTube’s ads are obnoxious and intrusive. So it goes.

But this is actually really interesting. When does my manipulation of the music stop it being recognised, and how far after that point does it continue to be recognisable? The Crystalised filter is probably in that zone.

I think the next stage would be to repeat this for a massive number of effects and chop and slice between them somehow. And to not use a recording in the copyright ID database…

Note 2: Yes, very Wendy Carlos…

Presenting Live Sonification of Photography at If Wet

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On Sunday I was one of the artists presenting their work at If Wet, a salon-style gathering of sound artists and experimental musicians in a village hall in deepest Worcestershire. This was the culmination of a year or so’s work exploring slit-scan photography, performance photography, sonification of images and many other disparate things that I’ve been able to bring together through the framework of “being an artist”. You would not believe the freedom that gives you.

It’s also the start of something and is very much at the prototyping stage. One of the purposes of presenting at If Wet was to put a call out for collaborators who would like to work with the sounds I’m producing to make something nice, or at least interesting, out of them. I’m very aware that it currently sounds like a sonogram but, as I say repeatedly, I am not a musician and this is way out of my comfort zone. Collaboration is the way forward.

The presentation is about 25 minutes long with 10 minutes of intro, 10 minutes of demo and 5 minutes of Q&A. Thanks to Sam Underwood and David Morton for hosting.

References

Introduction
Slit-scan PhotographyExamples
ANS Synthesizer
Eduard Artemyev, composer of Solaris soundtrack.
Coil’s ANS albumSamplesDownload
Spectral Songs of the Slitscanned Selfies
Virtual ANS synth software (Mac / Win / Linux / iOS / Android)
Arduino Camera Shield

Demonstration
PhonoPaper app (iOS / Android)

Questions
Sarah Angliss
Steve Symons, Owl Project
Graham Dunning

Some images made during the presentation

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Somewhat annoyingly I won’t have any time to develop this over the next 6-9 months because the Camera Obscura project is stepping up a gear very shortly, but I hope to come back to it in the autumn of 2015 and am really interested in finding a collaborator along the way. In the meanwhile I hope it’s inspiring and enjoyable!

Pic at top by George Benson

More photos on the If Wet blog.

Collective Photography – The Book

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Over the last few months I’ve been slowly getting my head around what happened last year when I applied for, and received, my first Arts Council grant to run some photo walks in Birmingham. I went in to the process as someone who was probably capable of being an artist but didn’t have the confidence to call themselves an artist. I came out of the process as someone who, when asked by the registrar what to put in the occupation box on his wedding certificate last month, said Artist.

In March I half-joked that I’d got so much stuff in my head that I needed to write a book to get it straight. And then I looked at the sketchy notes I’d written and realised there was a book there. So I wrote it.

The book is called Collective Photography and it’s free to read/download in various ebook formats from Leanpub. (You can pay for it if you like but there’s no obligation).

The meat of the book is 10,000 words long, which isn’t that bad, and I’ve tried to keep it light and readable. It’s not the evaluation report, though I did need to write the book to get my thoughts straight for it.

The rest is a huge slab of appendices including blog posts, the funding application, questionnaire answers and a couple of interviews. You don’t need to read these unless they’re of interest.

Amongst other things I’m hoping this book is useful to other people like me who might not come from an art-school background and want to see how the Grant for the Arts process could work for them.

Please note that it isn’t 100% finished. I will be taking on board some feedback and tweaking the text in places, as well as adding some images and the evaluation over the next few weeks. I might even ask someone to do a not-shite cover! But if you go through the Leanpub process you’ll be notified when updates are available. I’ll also extract some of the newer pieces for this blog.

Please do let me know what you think of it and, for the next few weeks anyway, any comments on improving bits.

Download / read it here

Experimenting with repeatedly photographing projections

I had this idea a couple of months ago and have been itching to try it out. The idea is simple, and once again plays on Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting In A Room, a work I’ve been referencing for what seems like years now. The text rather nicely explains the work.

I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.

Here it is on YouTube:

The key thing that interests me here is something to do with slow entropy and finding, or not being able to find, the point at which the “pixels” (or their equivalent) no longer form a representation of the original thing, and then what the remaining void means in itself. Slow entropy is fascinating wherever you find it, from the You Are Here point on a poster map where repeated touching has worn a hole to desire lines worn in grass verges that weren’t meant to be walked across.

But I digress. This current experiment is slightly different to the strict Lucier and I think it’s going to take a few goes to get right. The basic idea is to photograph a portion of a room and then project that photograph back, aligning it as closely as possible with the room. Then I take another photograph of the projection in the room and so on.

This has involved me investigating projection mapping, something all the cool digital artists are poking at, specifically the demo version of MadMapper which is fairly easy to use.

Anyway, here’s the first attempt, three photos starting with a clean shot and then two projections.

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A failure, to be sure, but if we don’t record our failures… Next I think I’ll try something simpler.

Revisiting the Outer Circle Bus Stop photos

On Sunday at the special Magic Cinema for Still Walking I showed a film I made in 2009 for Jon Bounds’ 11 Bus project where he invited people to travel on Birmingham’s Outer Circle bus route on November 11th to see what happened. I decided to do it on my bike with the task of photographing every other bus stop in the clockwise direction with the TTV contraption attached to my camera. While liking a few shots I remember being slightly disapointed with the the photos as a whole and this film was an attempt to make sense of them.

The film takes the fortuitously titled song Outer Circle by local band Woodbine and runs through the photos in sequence, starting by my house in Stirchley and going all the way around through the afternoon into the winter evening.

Watching it again projected on a screen in a room full of people forced me to see it with fresh eyes and I was rather pleased with how it stood up. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially when explaining your art process, and I could see some really interesting themes in there.

The main one was this idea that street furniture like bus stops is a design constant. The 11 bus goes through a wide variety of districts and communities in Birmingham (I recommend it to all newcomers to get a sense of the diversity of Birmingham) but the bus stops are all the same. The repetition of this sameness emphasises the differences and turned out to be a rather neat device.

Of course it helps that the music is great. I love the “11a, 11b” refrain towards the end.

Thanks to Andy of The Magic Cinema for recognising it was interesting and forcing me to make a higher quality version for screening.