EXHIBITION – fire station building context / field, silence / audiograft artist interview

The opening of an exhibition in the Old Fire Station Oxford featuring New Works by Manfred Werder and Ben Owen with a curatorial intervention by Patrick Farmer, functioned as the private view / opening of the Audiograft festival.

“The three paper based works deal with the intrinsic reality of a situation and question the assumptions we make concerning our reception of space.. Each of these artists is also a musician and a composer, and find a point at which their refinement and understanding of silence and vacuity reaches a balance between material and immateriality.”

We arrived from a car-park beneath the old fire station into a gift shop foyer space where a busy discussion was taking place, separated from the street by a pair of automatic sliding doors. In the market space outside people’s conversations could be deciphered as they walked past, whereas inside, music blared loudly from speakers overhead. The sound of the opening overflowed into the exhibition space below continuously filling it like a bubbly din in an artists’ bathtub.

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1009 gift shop entrance context clip

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1041 public voice

I used an electromagnetic pickup to record someone’s camera taking a picture of the work, and to listen to the work itself by scanning the electric cable and plug that that powered one of the pieces – a speaker linked to a contact mic stuck to the back of a textured surface hung on the wall. In a similar way I then recorded the repeated operation of the sliding entrance doors as people came in and out of the building…

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1014 camera

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1012 installation electric lead a

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1013 installation electric lead plug silence

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1018 electric doors

In the gift shop I spoke to Shirley Pegna about the nature of the exhibition space and about her work at the festival using transducers to play sound through people’s bodies. The artist Patrick Farmer came down to be interviewed, the presence of his voice seeming to wax and wane in the reflective sea of [gentle] cacophonous discussion descending from above where he had been. Recording with two mono shotgun mics enabled me to concentrate on and emphasise this mixing of voices as I tried to focus on and understand what was being said particularly in relation to silence.

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1019 INTV shirley – 2 entrances

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1019 INTV shirley – 2 spaces

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1020 INTV shirley – sound materials

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1021 INTV shirley – conductivity density

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1027 INTV artist – silence

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1027 INTV artist – sound in space

It would be interesting to integrate the recording of the doors and other electric fields with the interview of the artist[s] and think about how the Audiograft festival is at once a singular cultural event in itself which is to some extent consumed at specified times and places, while simultaneously being a complex body of individual artists / voices who’s activity extends independently and infinitely beyond this on many levels – time, space, method, intention / meaning etc.

This post is by Toby O’Connor, who participated in the Documenting Sound workshop held at Audiograft 2012 by Felicity Ford and Valeria Merlini

OXFORD ARRIVAL – motorway / nature / maintenance

Arriving at the edge of Oxford I was struck by the presence of beautiful pockets of nature that lay adjacent to or intersected with the busy main road: quiet, empty allotments; spring enlivened birds; silent crocuses and a stretch of apparently tranquil [I couldn’t hear it from my vantage point on the road bridge] river on whose eastern bank stood a dozen council workers merging all the fences and walls into a continuous green surface – presumably for positive visual effect.

A generator truck that powered the spray tools being used to prepare the fence for painting was resonating deeply in residential cul de sac nearby.

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allotments recorded by Toby O’Connor

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birds over crocuses next to road recoded by Toby O’Connor

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tranquil river recorded by Toby O’Connor

This post is by Toby O’Connor, who participated in the Documenting Sound workshop held at Audiograft 2012 by Felicity Ford and Valeria Merlini

Acoustic recordings vs. Desk recordings

At Audiograft 2012, Felicity Ford and Stavroula Kounadea performed their new work, “Towards an Excellent Finish”. This piece included a sewing machine, a handbuilt Atari Punk Console, and a Dictaphone containing a software cassette for creating “classic knitting patterns” made for the Spectrum 48k computer. A light-sensor attached to the sewing machine, 2 contact microphones, and an electronic coil were also fed into the mixing desk where Ford mixed the sounds, while Kounadea employed scissors, pins, fabric, and her sewing machine to make the piece.

A phono-cable from the main output on the mixing desk to the line-in on a FOSTEX FR-2LE allowed Ford to capture the sounds of the electronic signals of which the piece was ultimately comprised, but Valeria Merlini made some recordings from the point of view of the audience, using a Zoom H4, with an Audio Technica BP4029 stereo shotgun microphone. This set-up allowed Merlini to capture some of the ambience in the room, and also to focus in on specific sounds, such as the sewing machine pedal being put to use, the audience surrounding the performance, and the texture of the cheap amplifier which the duo used to amplify their sonic materials.

Comparing the desk recording with the field-recordings Merlini made during the performance is interesting; the desk sounds have an electronic purity about them and give a very detailed representation in particular of the electronically-generated sounds, such as those produced by the Atari Punk Console. However the desk recording also totally lacks any sense of space, air, or acoustics. Contrastingly, the field-recordings created by Merlini are full of atmosphere, and reveal many of the sounds heard during the performance which the desk recording failed to pick up. Examples include audience sounds; the sound of the sewing-machine pedal being operated; and the resonant sounds of the mechanisms inside the sewing machine reverberating as Kounadea used it. Both are useful for the future development of the work; the desk-recording gives an idea of how well the levels were mixed during the piece, while the field-recording is useful for showing how the performance sounded in a real place.

Roughly one minute of each recording is included here, for comparison and interest. What do you make of the difference?

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Felicity Ford’s electronic desk recording of “Towards an Excellent Finish” (excerpt)

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Valeria Merlini’s field-recording of “Towards an Excellent Finish” (excerpt)