Soundtransit on NPR

Posted in Announcement on August 4th, 2014 by admin

A soundscape project I worked on in 2005-6 was just featured on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” in the USA last week. Click the player above for the 3 minute feature, or visit Soundtransit to book a journey around the world through sound…

Soundtransit is a collaborative website that features evocative and everyday sounds shared by people around the world. The audio recordists who contributed sounds to this story are (in order): Tim Hayes, N. Ege Gural, Kamen Nedev, Matthias Kispert, Dmitry Urupin, Keith de Mendonca, Laurie Principaud, Arno Peeters and Seb Bassleer.

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Sound+Space Awareness workshop @ Tuned City Nuremberg

Posted in Announcement on March 31st, 2011 by admin

Sound+Space Awareness
an acoustics workshop with Derek Holzer (US/D)
8-12 participants – please register!
(workshop language english)
11.-15.April 2011 daily 12-17

Buildings, urban locations and architecture are traditionally described in visual terms, but it is our sense of hearing that assists us in experiencing and navigating through the spaces we inhabit. Sound is an essential part of social experience, and that should be of the utmost concern to architects, planners and artists alike, yet this is overlooked all too often. When the sound in a space is disruptive or dysfunctional, then the aesthetics, communications and perceptions in that space are likewise disrupted.

Therefore, the first step for anyone wishing to work with sound is learning how to listen. We will spend the first workshop day doing a series of listening exercises, using a collection of field recordings to tune the participants’ ears to the various sounds present in them, to think about what kind of information those sounds transmit and to reflect on the effects they have on the listener.

The following book will provide participants with a list of concepts useful for discussing urban sonic experience:

Jean Francois Augoyard: Sonic Experience–A Guide to Everyday Sounds
http://mqup.mcgill.ca/book.php?bookid=1780

The second day will focus on fieldwork out in the city, using new listening exercises, digital recorders and the observations on the nature of sound from the previous day to experience the city with new ears.

On the third day, we will listen to the recordings gathered by the participants to see what they can tell us about the locations each person visited. And finally, on the fourth day, participants will develop and present a one-sheet concept for a project related to the sonic experience of the locations we have visited.

This workshop is directed towards sound interested laymen as well to architects and planners.

http://macumbista.net/?page_id=499

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Hotels of Northern Europe

Posted in Documentation on March 11th, 2011 by admin

Yes indeed I have been traveling and working almost nonstop since the start of the Year. A quick rundown of my activities:

09-15 Jan 2011 – Mechanical Sound Instruments workshop, TAIK University of Art and Design, Helsinki FI

Workshop = awesome! Design students built Arduino-powered electro-acoustic instruments like this one below. I’ll be editing video docs I made in Helsinki soon.

Electro-Acoustic Musical Instrument from Palash on Vimeo.

Hotel room = passable. Töölö Towers is the University’s home for wandering academics, with a very institutional vibe, spotty wifi coverage and full length mirrors for me to shoot very serious-looking self portraits in…

18-21 Jan 2011 – Tuned City: sound+space workshop, Estonian Academy of Arts Media Dept, Tallinn EE

Workshop = 5.5 out of 10. I’m still figuring out what kind of tools are necessary to crack the shells of the Estonian oysters. After some prodding, most of the students really gave their best in making and discussing the recordings. One girl Facebooked and texted the entire workshop until I pointed out that her computer was “broken” and she’d be better off at home.

Hotel = decent. Maneezi house, guestrooms of the Estonian Arts Academy, has everything you would ever want in a post-Soviet flat…a long flight of stairs, some heavy metal doors, a warm radiator and even running water.

01-05 Feb 2011 — Regenwald2011 workshop+installation, West Germany/Club Transmediale, Berlin DE

Workshop = mostly good. Trying to wrangle seven very different artistic personalities into one piece in only five days is never easy. I have decided that giving them less freedom rather than more is the only solution. The audience response to the piece, on the other hand, was quite positive and enthusiastic.

Hotel = not applicable. One of the longest stretches I’ve been able to sleep in my own bed in ages!!!

07-11 Feb 2011 – Field Recording workshop, Royal Music Conservatory, Aarhus DK

Workshop = one of the best! Very high level of capabilities by these composition students at the Electronic Music department there. I gave them one hour to take three random one-minute field recordings from their neighbor and make a short piece out of them, and they all pulled it off! And that was only one of the exercises. If only every group I taught had their shit so together.

Hotel = comical. The Cabinn is a concept hotel, they told me. As near as I can figure, the concept was to make the hotel room itself as much like the sleeping couchette on an overnight train as possible.

A few weeks later I saw an exhibition of living/working spaces by French-Israeli artist Absalon at the KW Berlin. Made to the measure of his own body, and likely inspired by the fact that most of the artist’s short life was spent in the Israeli military, the constructions impressed me as the ideal prototype of future dehumanizing architecture for the 21st Century.

12-14 Feb 2011 – Tuned City:sound+space, Estonian Academy of Arts Architecture Dept, Tallinn EE

Workshop: another five and a half. The concept here was to teach architects to experience urban space through sound, and this worked pretty well. The students brought in recordings of various spaces around Tallinn for us to listen to and analyze. My mistake was in giving them “homework” for the last day. Despite assurances from everyone that they had time and energy to do it, only two came back the next day.

Also during this week I braved the -25C weather to investigate some locations for next summer’s Tuned City event, such as the lobby of the Linnahall, a disused auditorium/ice rink constructed for the 1980 Olympic games.

Hotel: deceptively posh. Somehow I was taken in by the spacious rooms, tall windows, tacky wallpaper and inoffensive framed prints of the Old Town Maestro. Until I realized that the strip-club-disco downstairs wouldn’t stop the party until 7am.

23-27 Feb 2011 – Neanderthal Electronics, NK Project, Berlin DE

Workshop = can I call this an 8? What should have been a warm homecoming was dampened by some kind of breakdown in publicity. The three guys that did show up for the workshop kicked some serious ass though, and made really nice boxes which they played the following Monday for the Experimontag at Madame Claude. Photos and such soon.

Hotel = forget it! I locked the door to my flat and stayed in bed for three whole days when all this was over.

Now Playing

ben frost-live at berghain, berlin 24.02.11
earth-angels of darkness, demons of light I[2011 southern lord]
eleh-radiant intervals[2011 important]
flower travellin’ band-anywhere[1970 philips]
tim hecker-ravedeath 1972[2011 kranky]

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The End of Soundtransit

Posted in Announcement on December 4th, 2010 by admin

After 5 years, the end of an era has come. On the last day of 2010, the Soundtransit.nl site will officially close. The Waag Society in Amsterdam, who physically hosts our server, has more than quadrupled the rent in the past year. Relocating to a cheap commercial host is simply not possible based on the unique technical needs of the site, so we are forced to shut the project down. The archived field recordings will hopefully be relocated through the kind support of Soundcloud.com, however the ability to make and send transits will be lost.

I would personally like to thank each and every one of the contributors and users for their support, interest and enthusiasm over the last years, and I wish them all the best of luck with their future projects.

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TONEWHEELS 2010 USA Tour

Posted in Announcement on April 8th, 2010 by admin

DATES

FRI 16 April: Buffalo NY–SoundLab, 110 Pearl Street: TONEWHEELS performance + Affecting Animate Nerve Organs (16 artist multi-media installation) [8pm]

(UPDATE!!!!) SUN18 April: Syracuse NY–Spark Contemporary Art Space: TONEWHEELS performance + Heavy Hymns [8pm]

TUE 20 April: NYC, NY–Electronic Music Foundation, 307 7th avenue ste 1402: “A Brief History of Optical Synthesis” lecture [7pm]

WED 21 April-THU 22 April: NYC, NY–Harvestworks: Soundtransit-The Art of Field Recording workshop [6:30pm each night] SOLD OUT!!!

FRI 23 April: NYC, NY–Bent Festival, Dumbo, 81 Front Street: TONEWHEELS workshop [12pm] performance [8pm]

TUES 27 April: NYC, NY–Electronic Music Foundation, 307 7th avenue ste 1402: Tuned City lecture [7pm]

THU 29 April: Providence, RI–Rhode Island School of Design: TONEWHEELS workshop

FRI 30 April: Providence, RI-AS220: TONEWHEELS performance + Black Pus (1/2 Lightning Bolt), Humanbeast and Shawn Greenlee [9pm]

(UPDATE!!! NEW LOCATION!!!) SAT 1 May: Cambridge, MA: Existence Establishment @ MIT Building N52, 265 Massachusetts Ave: TONEWHEELS performance + Karlheinz, Shawn Greenlee, Animal Steel, Brandon Terzakis, Benjamin Nelson, Bombings [8pm]

FLIERS


DETAILS

TONEWHEELS PERFORMANCE

TONEWHEELS is an experiment in converting graphical imagery to sound, inspired by some of the pioneering 20th Century electronic music inventions. Transparent tonewheels with repeating patterns are spun over light-sensitive electronic circuitry to produce sound and light pulsations and textures. This all-analog set is performed entirely live without the use of computers, using only overhead projectors as light source, performance interface and audience display. In this way, TONEWHEELS aims to open up the “black box” of electronic music and video by exposing the working processes of the performance for the audience to see.

TONEWHEELS WORKSHOP

TONEWHEELS is an experiment in converting graphical imagery to sound, inspired by some of the pioneering 20th Century electronic music inventions such as the ANS Synthesizer (Murzin USSR 1937-57), the Variophone (Sholpo USSR 1930) and the Oramics system (Oram UK 1957). In this workshop, participants will learn to construct their own optoelectronic synthesizer using two different circuits: a simple light-to-sound converter and a variable motor speed controller, as well as how to design and print their own tonewheel patterns using the FLOSS software Inkscape.

“A BRIEF HISTORY OF OPTICAL SYNTHESIS”

The technology of synthesizing sound from light is a curious combination of research from the realms of mathematics, physics, electronics and communications theory which found realization in the industries of motion picture films, electronic music, surveillance technology and finally digital communications.

This lecture will touch on various points in the development of optical sound synthesis in these various contexts, referencing the work of Joseph Fourier, Hermann von Helmholtz, Rudolph Koenig, Arseny Avraamov, Thomas Wilfred, Evgeny Scholpo, Nikolai Voinov, Oskar Fischinger, Boris Yankovsky, Edwin Emil Welte, Evgeny Murzin, Norman McLaren, Lev Theremin, Daphne Oram, Jacques Dudon and Iannis Xenakis, among others.

This lecture is given in the context of the opto-electronic performance TONEWHEELS, by Derek Holzer at the Bent Festival the following Friday.

Soundtransit-The Art of Field Recording

Wednesday & Thursday, April 21 & 22 6:30 – 9:30pm $100
Field recording, or phonography, is the art of recording sounds as they are found “in situ”, rather than those created in a studio or concert hall. There are as many ways of approaching field recording as there are field recordists, with interests ranging from recordings of natural or urban environments to improvised situations or soundwalks to the resonance of solid objects or the Earth’s atmosphere.

The first session of this workshop provides a theoretical introduction to the various microphone techniques and recording strategies used for field recording, as well as special tools which allow phenomenon such as physical motion, electromagnetic waves and light can also be converted into sound. This will be followed by a night-time recording excursion into the city.

The second session consists of a critical listening session of the sounds gathered the night before. Key concepts to be explored include musical and cinematic metaphors of sound, composing the cityscape and communicating senses of place and space through sound.

Participants may wish to upload their finished recordings to the Soundtransit.nl website, where they can be used to plan sonic journeys between hundreds of locations around the world.

While the instructor can provide one shared recorder and microphone, participants should bring their own recording equipment when possible. Derek Holzer can provide a simple pair of binaural microphones for sale at a cost of approx $35. They terminate in a right-angle stereo minijack plug, and use the plugin power from the stereo microphone input of the recorder. Please indicate before the workshop date if you would like to buy a pair, and please check that your recorder provides this plugin power (most with minijack stereo mic inputs do) before requesting them.

“Tuned City – Between sound and space speculation”

“Tuned City – Between sound and space speculation” was an exhibition and conference project taking place from July 01.-05. 2008 in Berlin which proposed a new evaluation of architectural spaces from the perspective of the acoustic. It’s next edition is scheduled to take place during the Cultural Capital summer of 2011 in Tallinn, Estonia.

In this lecture, we will see and hear some of the projects from the Tuned City event by Mark Bain, Raviv Ganchrow, Will Schrimshaw, John Grzinich, James Beckett, Akio Suzuki, Barry Blesser, Randy H.Y. Yau + Scott Arford, Thomas Ankersmit + Antoine Chessex, Bernhard Leitner, CRESSON, Farmers Manual, AGF, Chris Watson + BJ Nilsen, Jacob Kirkegaard, Martin Howse, Ralf Schreiber + Martin Kuentz and Staalplaat Sound System will be discussed, among others, as well as related projects covering the themes of Temporary Architecture for Sound, Buildings as Instruments and Composing the Cityscape. A limited number of catalogs and program guides will also be available.

Thanks!

Huge thanks go to Alexis Bhagat of ((audience)) and Shawn Greenlee of RISD for their monumental efforts to get this thing off the ground! Thanks also to Brendan Byrne of Bent, Joel Chadabe of EMF, Hans Tammen of Harvestworks, Egan Budd of Existence Establishment, Natalia Mount of Red House, Michael Baumann of Soundlab and Sean Donaher of CEPA for actually booking me, and to Gill Arno, Raphael Lyon and Tristan Perich for putting up crash space in NYC.

Now Playing

Carl Gustav Jung-Dreams[book 1910-1952]
Pierre Klossowski-Roberte Ce Soir & The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes[book 1953]

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4 tracks from the past

Posted in Documentation on January 24th, 2010 by admin

I moved the following tracks over to my Soundcloud account this morning. These four are ones that I’m particularly interested in, as they (mostly) combine electronics and field recordings. Gongs and bells as well, although I never realized I was so obsessed with them before! I’ll try to get some takes from the new DIY synth up soon. Until then, enjoy…

Derek Holzer-Untitled [boiler room] by macumbista

Multichannel recording of furnace in Karosta, Latvia (January 2003), processed shortwave radio in Mooste, Estonia (September 2004). Released as part of Untitled Songs: 49 Years from Gesang der Jünglinge 2005-1956 2xCD compilation by Sirr.ecords in 2005.

Derek holzer-metallophone drift by macumbista

Burmese gongs, ice field recording, mixer feedback. Recorded 30 July 2005, Utrecht, the Netherlands. Released as part of the Connected Dots.Connected Ideas compilation CD on the Frozen Elephants Music label, 2007.

Macumbista-hollow space capacitance discharge by macumbista

Japanese temple bell belonging to Jeroen Beets recorded 19 December 2006 @ STEIM, Amsterdam. Analog synthesizer recorded 2006-7, Berlin. Mixed 11-14 November 2007 @ RSS82, Berlin. Released as part of the {Autumn Soundscapes} collection on the Madorla netlabel, 2008.

Derek holzer-matrix events(skinned teeth) by macumbista

Self-made 8×8 matrix mixer, Cwejman/Analogue Systems/Doepfer oscillators, digital delay, joystick control voltage, mixer feedback. Recorded with a case of mild food poisoning (thus the “skinned teeth” feeling) January 25th, 2009. Unreleased.

Now Playing

bj nilsen-the invisible city[2010 touch](thx benny!!!!)
elias canetti-auto da fe[1935 book]

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Sveta Troitsa, Bansko, Bulgaria

Posted in Announcement on January 3rd, 2010 by admin

Sveta Troitsa (or the Church of the Holy Trinity) was built in Bansko, Bulgaria, between 1810 and 1850. During this time, the Blagoevgrad Province remained under Turkish rule, and the founders of the church could only build it through a combination of diplomacy and heavy fees payed to the Turks. The four bells heard in these recordings were cast in 1855 by the Veleganovi brothers, who inscribed the name of the Turkish sultan on them so that they would not be thrown from the tower.

Reading through R. Murray Schafer’s The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (1977, Destiny Books) the other night, I came across his discussion of church bells. He describes the church bell as a signal delineating the boundaries of a human habitation, as well as bringing its occupants together:

The most salient sound in the Christian community is the church bell. In a very real sense it defines the community, for the parish is an acoustic space, circumscribed by the range of the church bell. The church bell is a centripetal sound; it attracts and unifies the community in a social sense…

These bells were recorded on the rainy morning of 27 December, 2009–a setting which somehow reminds me of Yasushi Utsunomia’s incredible recordings of the concerts he organized in the Koukiji temple in Japan during a damp summer afternoon (Kougezan Koukiji – The Live [11th] Final Hyakusenmansyuuraku, 2002 Horen Records). And true to Schafer’s words, these bells reside directly in the middle of the acoustic space of the town–no efforts were made (or were even possible) to separate the sounds of the bells from the life both within the church and outside its walls. Why should life stop just because I want to record something?

In the first track, we hear two klepalo (solid idiophones) played by Ivan Todorov Hadjipopov (wood) and George Lazarov Pitsin (metal). Ivan Hadjipopov then plays a solo on the four church bells in the second track, followed by George Pitsin in the third. The overtones heard during these solos defy description, and only the sounds of the town and the church-goers sporadically remind you that what you are listening to actually occurred on Earth. The final track is a solo played by Boris Ivanov Hadjipopov, and then we return to the rain…

The entire session was recorded in a single, continuous take, using two DPA 4060 capsules (mounted in my trusty Latvian mink-fur ushanka) and a Sound Devices 722 recorder, standing in the courtyard below the bell tower. My gratitude goes to Boris “Bobi” Hadjipopov, who organized the occasion, and to Elena Kaludova for her translation (and so much more). Photo by lite.

The entire collection can be downloaded as high-quality MP3s at: http://macumbista.net/files/sveta_troitsa.zip

These recordings can be shared and reused under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

The Bells of Sveta Troitsa

01.i.hadjipopov+g.pitsin-klepalo by macumbista

02.i.hadjipopov-bells by macumbista

03.g.pitsin-bells by macumbista

04.b.hadjipopov-bells by macumbista

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self-education

Posted in Announcement on December 30th, 2009 by admin

Just back from the beautiful (and internet-less) mountains of southern Bulgaria, loved every second of it. Found some small sound treasures there that I will post later on. In the meantime, I decided to pimp my Schoolofeverything.com page to see if it can generate some new interest in the workshops that I do.

For those who don’t know, the School of Everything is a website that got started a couple years ago in the UK as an alternative educational resource. The idea is simply to use the same kinds of social networking platform that others use to…um, well, uh, “tweet” and whatever it is they do with it, to hook up people who want to learn specific skills with those who can teach them.

In general, I find this self-education idea much closer to my own way of thinking than the traditional academic model. In fact, I’ve always maintained that the only thing that separates artists using technology now from David Tudor and the other electronic art pioneers of the 60s and 70s is the internet. Whereas Tudor, the Vasulkas, Buchla, Paik, Sandin and the rest had much more limited channels to find the information they needed, we have an almost limitless supply. Which is of course the other half of the problem–trying to get the signal out of the noise.

As a result of all this, the models of teaching and learning that I use have become quite tuned towards self-initiation and self-discovery. Having someone hand over all the answers to you doesn’t really stimulate the brain, and in fact could hardly be called learning at all. So most every lesson or workshop that I do is project-oriented, to encourage that process of teaching people to teach themselves.

You can check my teacher profile at:

http://schoolofeverything.com/teacher/derekholzer

And I have listed the following as one-on-one lessons:

Circuit Bending & DIY Electronics
Circuit Bending & DIY Electronics
Field Recording Techniques
Field Recording Techniques
Audio Recording & Post-Production with Ardour
Audio Recording & Post-Production with Ardour
Introduction to Pure Data
Introduction to Pure Data
Sound Art Technologies
Sound Art Technologies
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after ice comes fire

Posted in Documentation on December 12th, 2008 by admin


Photos by Kees (km-fotografie.nl)

Olympus E-510, Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5~5.6
Site2F7 Festival, Almere, the Netherlands
21th August 2008

Amazing photos from this bonfire action by L.A. Urban Rangers for the festival opening night. The recording is also pretty wild, filled with roars and crackles, screaming/laughing children and local Dutch loudmouths. Pity, though, that I just had to sell that microphone set. Somebody find me a J.O.B. quick!!!!!

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Binaural Media Interview, 2006

Posted in Text on October 12th, 2008 by admin

The following interview was made by Mark McLaren of Binaural Media in January 2006, when I was very deeply involved with field recording and Pure Data programming. Others interviewed for the series include Chris Watson, Yannick Dauby, Julian Weaver, Francisco López and Marc Behrens. Interestingly enough, many of the same threads I’ve been writing about lately, namely the deterministic nature of technology on art, are present here as well.

Survey on Location and Context Based Media
1
Conducted by Mark Mclaren
January 2006

Many people are currently recording and working with environmental sounds. In recent years with the development of relativity cheap and portable equipment has enabled a wide variety of people to record and make use of the sounds around us.

From the more traditional idea of recording nature, to the ideas of amplifying the inaudible; from sound artists to architectural theorists all are becoming involved with an inter-disciplinary practice that has yet to fully investigated.

Binaural decided to commission a wide set of interviews with the aim of creating a contemporary overview of both the artists and their work. Many of these interviews are ongoing and Binaural though it important to make these texts available as they grow, so that hopefully the interviews link and learn from each other and develop into a variable resource for both those how are simply interesting in finding out more about the artists working in environmental sound, to those who wish to develop and deepen their understanding and practice.

By asking questions we are trying to move away from the untestable world of intuition of unspoken trial and error, to a create a dialogue where both listeners and composers can utilise some of the many techniques for listening that have long been available for written music. This survey hopes to develop into a comprehensive and open-ended meditation on the sounds that surround us and how the individuals that work with these sounds are creating their own rules, grammar and vocabulary.

Mark McLaren (MM): Tell me about the way you perform, specifically about the way you manipulate objects live to create sound?

Derek Holzer (DH): I got into working with sound objects and also with field recording a couple of years ago when I was in a Karosta, Latvia. I spent a very a long, cold month of December to January there. Everything was frozen, but everything was so still you could really pulls sounds out of the environment—sounds of water and ice. And I started to find things, all kinds of things—a lot of bones actually—and other strange objects, shells, chunks of metal. Things that seemed like they had history behind them, because I was in this place that was steeped in history—the history of the Tsarist era, the history of the Second World War, the history of the Soviet occupation and now the history of this handover to the EU and NATO regime. Everything I picked up seemed significant for some reason, so I began to stroke them and move them around and bang them together and see what kind of sounds would come out. And then I started to build up patches in the computer that would build up textures out of these sounds, and I thought these were very interesting sounds and I liked working with them a lot. At the same time, I was working with a group from Riga called Oloolo, and they came out to Karosta one day. We sat down and recorded this massive three hour jam session where I was working only with these objects and delays and filters and the ways of building up textures that I’d been creating, and they were playing some of their own work. They wound up taking the recordings and producing this album “Kosta”, that was released on Nexsound. I kind of forgot about it for a while, and then they wrote me almost a year later saying ‘oh, well we produced this album out of this jam and it’s going to be released’ and so I was really happy about this.

It was really a way of learning how to pick up objects and assess them for their sonic potential. I wound up using a lot of contact microphones, because that is a way to isolate an object from the surrounding acoustics ,but I also use a lot of close up miking, dynamic microphones to pick up the sound of them clinking together or the acoustics introduced inside of an object. If you have a shell or a bottle or something like that, I wanted to pick up how it transforms the sound inside of it. I also do a lot of field recording. I work as many people do, with binaural microphones that I wear in my ears so that I become a walking sound receiver, and I use a lot of those recordings as well.

Sometimes I use a lot more of those recordings than I use objects, it really depends on the circumstances. Setting up to do a live show where you’re really working with sound objects in this time honored electroacoustic manner actually takes a lot of preparation time, and sometimes you get a gig when you’re playing with five other people and they all want their set up time, so you’ve just got to do something very quickly. But given the time to set up, I like to work in this way—just finding objects from that place. I have some objects which I carry with me, some objects from Karosta and quite a few objects that I picked up during some travels in Brazil from the Amazonas regions, parts of fishes and shells and unidentifiable objects which are quite unique in the way that they look and the way that they sound. So they’re my lucky charms, and if I don’t find anything interesting in a place I can always pull these out and get something very interesting out of them.

MM: You mention that objects felt significant. Could you elaborate on this point? I notice a lot of works especially, location recording compositions, rely on this significance to almost create a false strength, to use the context as a crutch to composition.

DH: Hmmmm…. that’s a loaded question if I ever heard one! To start with, I don’t think that referencing signifiers which lay outside the “composition” proper is anything of a crutch. Follow that line of thinking for a while and you end up at the place where people say, “well, who cares as long as it sounds cool”. And I’ve never been comfortable conversing like that. From my first exposures to “experimental music”, I was always fascinated with the process of how sounds were arrived at, the kind of thought processes and backgrounds that a work had even if it were not obviously apparent in the composition, and especially what kind of “non-musical” objects were used and how they were treated. In short, I read liner notes like they were poems. This predates any aspirations of actually *making* sound myself in anything more than a self-satisfying, amateur, bedroom sort of way, so I wouldn’t even chalk it up to trying to bite anyone’s style.

On the other hand, this game of extra-compositional signifiers is exactly that… a game. By this I mean that it’s a situation that the listener enters into consensually with the artist. The listener agrees to accept certain elements which aren’t coming out of the speakers—textual cues, album art and other packaging or even fragments of the artist’s biography—as part of their whole experience of the work. I think this way of listening has deep precedents in the “serious music” world. Listen to classical radio, or open up any established composer’s CD notes, and then tell me that the contextual information about each composer provided doesn’t frame the listening experience. However, because it’s a game, you have to be careful not to strain your credibility, or else the whole suspension of disbelief you have built up in the listener will crash. The Acousmatician would argue that the sounds should stand up by themselves divorced of any reality or source-referent, or even any performative referent in the case of Lopez and co. But even in this case, you are asked to play the suspension game, and accept that the sounds exist as concrete objects disconnected from the world. And once again, you are back to extra-compositional cues which instruct your listening experience.

MM: Do you mean the significance helped you concentrate on playing with the object, or do you feel that there is some way that the historical significance of a place can be transferred to a listener purely by its sound?

DH: In the first place, I draw inspiration from the objects I find, and imagine small stories and sounds hidden inside them, and that, like little tape recorders, these objects have stored up the resonances of their various environments down to the subatomic level. My job then is to coax these resonances out and to make them audible. At times it is a very sonically-motivated approach, but there are times when it is a very historically-motivated one. For the Karosta recordings, I only used sounds and objects from a very specific location, and so I do think that the historical significance can be transferred to an aware listener. Mark Teppo, of Igloo magazine, wrote of the Oloolo collaboration “Kosta”: This is glitch theory being applied to the sound of history, the winds of old battlefields and abandoned cities being cut, spliced, and flung — scattershot — into the air.

MM: You say that you ‘build up textures in the computer’ is this in relation to a live manipulation or an off-line composition method? Please explain a little about the different approaches you have to improvising and to composing and ‘finishing’ pieces?

DH: My compositional process begins before I have picked up a single object or even turned on the microphone. I would say that the bulk of my time in the studio is spent building sound-processing tools in Pure Data. I simply don’t trust common, commercially available plug-ins simply because I feel like I’m working in someone else’s room. They’ve given me a table to sit at, but I can’t move it, and a window to look out, but I can’t open it, and a door to walk through, but only in the manner which they prescribe. I would prefer to build up my own tools, and know inside out how they work, rather than diddle with other people’s knobs and try out their presets. So the tools I build up create a set of improvisational and compositional possibilities that I can explore once I have brought objects or recordings to the situation.

A great many of these tools involve using delays or buffers to build up layers of sound, often from a microphone input or a recording on disk. I am much more interested in texture than strict rhythm or melody, and so I use my tools as a sonic microscope to isolate small sound particles of and magnify them. I took to an improvisational approach because otherwise I am too much of a perfectionist, and doing studio tracks usually takes much longer than I think it should, especially considering the time I’ve already spent programming. So I try to document the possibilities I’ve programmed into my tools, which is where I feel the real compositional work is for me, and then later on I can try to arrange them in a multi-tracker and get all anal-retentive “mastering” them out to highlight the best parts of the sounds I created.

MM: The way you collect sounds interests me. You say you ‘bang objects’ to bring sounds out of them, you make in-ear binaural recordings. These methods do not seems as neutral as say the classic ‘non interventional’ field recording style where the microphone is placed and left to record and then edited later. Your style seems more associated with editing and composition whilst you are collecting source material. How do you think your personal intervention into a space or an object effects both the composition and the way the space/ object is represented by your work?

DH: I think most people are aware of the well-known axiom from physics which states that no matter how you observe a phenomenon, your observation has changed it according to the method which you use. We live here in the world, not floating in some academic reverie above it, and I don’t believe any approach to recording sounds is “non-interventional”. I do quite a bit of “set and hide” recording work as well, but by virtue of the fact that I have chosen the direction to point the mike and when to turn it on, I have already engaged in a compositional decision. Hunting for sounds can be very frustrating exactly because we are looking for something specific in all the noisy chaos.

A case in point: I spent a summer in Brazil, with the intention of collecting “nature sounds”. But just about any place a human being can travel in Brazil is filled up with human noises: diesel engines, airplanes, car stereos, chickens, dogs, children… I got really frustrated with this, and only later realized that it was my discriminating mind which caused this frustration—my own value judgments of what a “good” or “bad” sound was, and my attempts to separate the two. I started to think what some ways out of that trap would be, and came up with the idea of an algorithmic portable recorder. I’ll be working on that at STEIM in Amsterdam this spring. It’s called PANdev, and is based on a handheld computer which will essentially make the decisions of when to record. All the user need do is just walk around. (Note: this project never really got off the ground unfortunately…DH)

But when I do record, yes, I am both very active and very specific about what is recorded. My mike techniques are an extension of my improv techniques, and I hope to extract small, unnoticed resonances from locations and objects. I’m reminded of the soundwalks of Dallas Simpson, where he seems to be taking this “objective” recording stance by just letting the tape run, but in fact he’s actively investigating everything he comes across, “interfering” with it to check out its sonic potential.

To me, that’s honest. I don’t want to carry around any academic pretenses of simply “capturing” the acoustic ecology that is out there in some “pure”, raw or unadulterated form. This works for other people who have their own reasons for doing it, but I simply don’t believe that any sonic environment is unchanged by my stepping into it. So what I try to establish is my own personal relationship to that place based .., history, and my own perceptions. If anyone else is ready to take that ride with me through my recordings, my hope is that some of that relationship gets through.

MM: Can you explain a bit more about Pure Data and how it differs from other commercial software?

DH: I used a lot of cracked commercial software for a lot of years when doing sound, and I always got a couple of feelings out of it. One feeling was that you get these fancy programs with these fancy user interfaces, but at the end the more they have created this environment that’s very easy for you to use, the more they’re actually determined the kind of work you can make with it. If you look at a program like Ableton Live, which is used by probably about eighty percent of people making sound and performing out live these days it seems like. It’s good for a very few things—it’s good for working with loops, putting effects on these loops and sequencing them. But it pushes you in one creative direction, it pushes you into making a certain kind of music. Really it pushes you towards German techno more than anything else! So I always felt that the more fancy the software looked, the less choices I had. And the second thing that I felt was that when I was using some kind of cracked software, then I was giving away my rights as a user. Because if there was something wrong with the software or a wanted something to be different about it, I had nobody to turn to. Of course, you can’t turn to the person who cracked the software because they’re invisible, and you can’t turn to the company that manufactured the software because, well, you didn’t pay for it, so you’re really a citizen without rights—a non-entity in the whole thing.

So I started looking for ways around that problem, and I found Pure Data to be a very interesting way of working because when you start up the program, it gives you this big white nothing. It’s sort of like Hemingway’s white elephant, that white page in the typewriter that confronts you with yourself. You have to bring your own knowledge, your own ideas, what you want and want you think you can do to this software, and then it works for you. It’s a bit like learning a language. You start with some vocabulary, you start with some grammar, and maybe the first year you can order beers and say hello to pretty waitresses, the next year you might be speaking like a small school child, and the year after that maybe you’ve writing poetry. Who knows? It’s this kind of way of working that’s building up on a language of metaphor, the same way that a tradition musician would start off by playing “do-re-mi”, and eventually would be writing sonatas or whatever. So I like this approach very much, it’s building up from nothing that is predetermined. Free software in general attracts me, because I teach and I share a lot, and I don’t want any barriers between what I have to say, what I have to show, what I have to share and the people that I want to share all these things with. So the only way I’ve found to do that properly is by using things like free software that have open licenses where, not only the content is free to share, but the means of producing the content is also free and easily shareable.

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