ANNO: 2017 remix

Back in 2015 I recorded an EP as a special release for Christmas. I’m quite fond of this release, but I always thought that the four tracks comprising the EP should have been presented as one continuous track.

I’ve now gone back and remixed this release as one continuous track. It’s now available as a free download over at soundcloud.

Original 2015 liner notes:

As of last year, I reinstated my earlier tradition of issuing aChristmas or End of Year single/EP. This occurred in 2008 (“Enlaced”), 2009 (“Spool”), 2010 (“Parlour”) and last year (“Red Eyes”).

This year I’ve decided to expand the offering to an exclusive four-track suite which has been composed at my studio during November 2015.

Recorded at Maurilia Sound Studio: November 2015.
TLR: Synthesisers, turntable, bass guitar, samples and effects modules.

“Invisible al cuore” contains a sample from Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 film, “L’Avventura”.

Flashback 2014: Mulberry Farm dam recording with hydrophones

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Back in September 2014, L and I spent a weekend at a family friends farm near Yankalilla. One morning a went out to make some recordings across the property – exploring the surrounding scrub, hills, gullies and creeks. Near the homestead there’s a dam where I made some hydrophone recordings. Though I’d listened back to some of my above-grond recordings made around the farm, I never got around to properly examining these hydrophone recordings.

I was going through some Fleurieu-centric recordings, scouring my archive for some material to put on the Fleurieu Sound Map when this one came up and it piqued my interest. I imported it into RX, tweaked the EQ and gain slightly and it came to life. What is revealed is an underwater environment teeming with life and activity – everywhere. The spatial quality that I captured in this recording is very impressive. I thought I’d mislabelled this with one of Rolf Julius’ dense polytextured installation pieces. There’s a lot going on here.

The recording consists of three primary sound elements:

  1. A high-pitched cloud of incessant activity – micro-gestures, metallic flutters, sibilent voices and crackles.
  2. Distinctive scratching and rhythmic activity of (what I presume are) yabbies. There’s some really nice foregrounded polyrhythmic activity that can be heard distinctly on the left and right channels.
  3. A myriad of other voices – some weaved into the texture of dense sonic clouds, others emerging occasionally into the foreground. A variety of squeaks, flutters, gurgles and other related verbs and adjectives that currently elude me.

Enjoy!

What’s Happening #3: Distance and decay – Revisiting journeys south of Lady Bay and the construction of the land sculpture, Nude (2011-2016)

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South of Lady Bay – July 2011.

Sometimes being alone in the wilderness can do strange things to me. I love being alone and some of the happiest times during my childhood was when I was left to my own devices and my imagination. A child is expected to do weird things – after all, they’re preoccupied with exploring the world and observing how it gives way or pushes back to their whim. When you’re a fully grown adult such curiosities are less permissible, largely by virtue of bodies that don’t readily recover as quickly as that of a younger human.

It was mid-winter in 2011.  I had set off before dawn from Normanville caravan park and had made my way down south along the coastline. A gloomy light had emerged as a approached Lady Bay with the roar of the ocean in my ears and breeze chilling my face. I was on a field recording trip, starting what would eventually become the The Fleurieu Sound Map – documenting sites along the coastline. Lady Bay was my primary destination. Having arrived there by around 7am, I made some recordings of the water gently ebbing over the reef at low tide, the ambience occasionally punctuated by the cry of a distant crow. As I sat on a compacted lump of seaweed drinking coffee from a thermos I looked further south down along the coastline. It has been a long time since I’d ventured beyond Lady Bay on foot. I recalled a trek south of Lady Bay sometime in during high school with my brother and a friend. We’d almost made it down to some caves before the failing light made us wary and we decided to turn back. Slightly intoxicated by that bit of sudden nostalgia, I ate a couple of mandarins, packed up my recording gear and set off for the caves.

By the time I’d reached my destination an hour or so later, the allure of discovery and trekking through a fog of mild exhaustion had firmly established itself and the caves weren’t good enough for me – I wanted to go further. This involved scaling a steep two-metre  incline comprised of brittle slate and sandy soil. The destination in mind was frankly ridiculous since all that lay beyond this impasse was the breakwater of Wirrina Cove – not an awe-inspiring man-made wonder. I got about a metre up the incline and was focused on securing my foothold when a lump of soil gave way in my hand and I embraced nothing but air for about half a second. Hitting the ground thankfully wasn’t too bad (a grazed hand and bruised arm) but the mental admonishment I gave myself was particularly severe. Yes, I do strange things when left alone in the wilderness. Had I seriously injured myself, no-one would find me for days…maybe weeks. In local lore it is mentioned that only weirdos venture as far as the caves. So on the remote chance I been found I might have had my kidneys harvested and been subsequently tortured to death.

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Maybe it’s the fault of an adult imagination, untethered and unencumbered from its real-world responsibilities. In this scenario your guard is let down; the natural world soaks into the consciousness, full of allure and curiosities: C‘mon! Climb this! Look under that rock! Eat this! You’re only atoms, it doesn’t matter! Everything’s in a perpetual state of entropy!

Maybe nature’s a similar enabler to alcohol and drugs – unlocking an index of escapism. Nature won’t necessarily inspire you to climb onto the roof of a train at high-speed, but it still may lead you to do a myriad of dangerous shit which might lead to – maybe – perishing on a remote beach with a twisted ankle.

I started my long trek back to Normanville, but shortly after leaving the caves I decided to rest on a grassy rise which overlooked a stony beach. I went down to investigate the beach, which consisted of an even stretch of covered in large rocks and stones; and a slope consisting of small pebbles and shells which fell away into the shore. At one end of upper section of the beach a surfeit of driftwood had accumulated from a recent storm. Without thinking about it too much, I gathered some large pieces of driftwood and began constructing a sculpture. My intention was to construct this sculpture as a personal landmark of sorts – something relatively innocuous, but which distinguished itself enough from the surrounding landscape to be recognisable to the wandering eye. I also thought it would be interesting to have a work in a remote location that I could return to from time to time.

***

My hometown of Normanville is full of personal landmarks which I didn’t happen to construct. One such landmark was a small house on the corner of Field Street. I wrote about this house quite recently since I had been  informed by my mum that it had been demolished and sent through a photo of the vacant lot.

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October 2016

I was fairly rattled by this image; it was as though a chunk of my memory had been erased. Houses and buildings are routinely demolished, but this is the first time it had ever occurred so close to home – so close to an actual past home since the property pictured on the left is my childhood home. The only trace of this property which remains is the concrete dome-shaped enclosure for what I believe is a septic tank below the ground. Everything else is gone: the cream coloured exterior, thick wire fence and a corrugated tin shed with a cross painted on it.

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Corner of Cheeseman and Field Street – January 2011

Demolition is such a radical, immediate way of demarcating the present from the past. Rather than following a linear trajectory of transformation and/or decay, within a matter of hours visible histories are wiped out and can now only be experienced through reproduced images and memory.

***

The sculpture that I was constructing on the beach some five years earlier would never be demolished per se, but rather would be subject to the transformative (and occasionally destructive) whim of the elements.

I called the sculpture Nude, owing to its raw materials and exposed proximity to a body of water and surrounding environment.

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Nude – July 2011

2012-2015:

In order to get to the Nude sculpture, you’ll need a sturdy pair of shoes, some water, maybe a snack, plus surveying the state of the weather is always a good idea. Between 2012-2016 I would park at a lookout point off the main road, a couple of kilometers south of Lady Bay. From here, there’s an excellent view of the southern coastline – the impressive cliffs, rocky beaches and procession of coves and bluffs from Wirrina down to Rapid Bay. Nude‘s location is a couple of kilometers from this point and the beach that hosts the sculpture is obscured from view. It takes roughly about 45 minutes to get there on foot.

I’ve visited the site five times between 2012 to 2016, managing to get there once a year – mostly in Autumn when the weather is less prone to arctic-style wind chill and dumping buckets of rain. On a couple of occasions my partner Lauren has joined me on the trip and I’ve been frequently surprised how much further the journey actually is compared to the idea I have in my head..much to Lauren’s chagrin.

The steep hills on one side, the ocean on the other. I’ve always found these hills impressive. Whilst not necessarily cliffs, they convey such a strong physical dominance over the surrounding environment – gentle grassy slopes graduating into steep cliffs of clay and rock.  On clear days I’ve spotted hawks gliding gracefully on thermals against the blue sky. On one occasion, Lauren and I watched a fox make momentary eye contact with us before darting up the hillface with incredible speed and precision. When walking south toward the site, I cant help but spend some time looking up at the summit of the hills and scanning the rock outcrops for signs of life – expecting to see something indistinct move from one point to another, casting a curious gaze downwards at me/us. When I’m alone on this trip, occasionally I feel this overwhelming feeling of contentment couple with a deep sense of insignificance. As the trip progresses the bars denoting reception of my mobile phone ebb away – I’m at the mercy of nature here. The ideal tonic for doing stupid shit, perhaps?

Further along, the remnants of a man-made boundary appear.

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Following the boundary up the hillside, lopsided fenceposts and a tangle of rusty fence wire disappear into the hillside. At the summit, a couple of lonely posts lean out along with a small bare tree bent by the wind.

In May 2015 I attached a couple of contact mics to the fenceline as it rattled in the wind. Thanks to the wonderful Kate Carr for the inspiration on that one.

After rounding a couple of coves that involve climbing over large boulders, the beach that hosts Nude comes into sight. It always takes me a while to locate it from this point, but my reference is a small thorny shrub that sits alongside the sculpture. Approaching it is always a new experience – observing the way it’s altered its appearance in between each visit (roughly a year each time) – being collapsed to one side, its wooden planks on the top bent by the weight of rocks, or its regular inundation of sour sobs and the occasional weed.

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Nude in 2013.

Photos are taken of its current state for documentation and then I search for a plastic bottle concealed under a plank of wood and several rocks:

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And within the bottle:

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A series of notes – starting at the time of construction in July 2011 through to (currently) August 2016. Each of the notes details the date of the visit and the current state of the sculpture.

2016 – an ending of sorts:

As Lauren and I made our way down to the site in August 2016 I had reservations about this visit. In the previous month, the metropolitan area of Adelaide and Fleurieu Peninsula had been hit by severe storms. Torrential rains led to flooding in many areas whilst wild winds and powerful tidal activity wreaked havoc along the coastline, washing away dunes and completely destroying a couple of jetties. The Bungala River – with its estuary at Normanville beach surged with volumes rarely seen in living memory. It seemed as though no area along the coastline had been spared. With this in mind, I expected the worst for my sculpture to the south.

Obviously, part of the intention of constructing the work was to observe its gradual degradation and ultimate return to the natural environment as its materials decayed and are pulled away by winds, gravity and the tides. All original intentions and recent knowledge of the storms aside, I was still suprised and strangely moved by what I encountered.

 

The sculpture, which on my previous visit in May 2015 had retained a degree of its original semblance was now practically obliterated, save for a square of planks and rocks on the ground. The array of wood and stones that been torn from the sculpture now lay scattered around its foundations with the ever-present sour sobs poking out through the vacant spaces.

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August 2016

In spite of this destruction, the bottle was still there and I added a new note to it before concealing the bottle amongst the remaining wooden planks and stones:

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I was feeling slightly melancholy at this time, but wasn’t exactly sure why. Lauren and I commenced our journey back to the car and I wondered if I would return to the sculpture the following year.

Looking back now, I can see a correlation between this event and my more recent reaction to the demolition of the house on the corner of Field Street that had prefigured so strongly during my childhood. Perhaps in the case of Nude, its decay from one iteration (2015) to the next (2016) had occurred too rapidly? Over the past four years I had grown accustomed to the sculpture’s elegant collapse against the elements, yet I hadn’t anticipated a shift as dramatic as this. Its appearance on this visit had given the impression it had been demolished much like the house – albeit by nature.

When I originally constructed the work in 2011, I knew (at the very least subconsciously) that I would grow attached to it and documenting the work through photos and notes would only reinforce this feeling. I had suspected that one day it would be wiped out, but I always thought that its position on an elevated section of the beach would protect it from the most monstrous storm and tides imaginable. In August 2016, I stood at the wreckage of the work imagining that destruction by natural forces. It must have been extraordinary – with gale force winds belting the landmass and huge waves thundering into the rocks, waters surging upwards and penetrating the sanctity of a structure laid bare.

That’s something that I can certainly appreciate now: how one can ascribe such intense feelings of possession, protection and expectation over an object regardless of its form – a body of work that represents (initially and/or over time) something deeply meaningful and personal. That its destruction occurred in isolation has heightened this appreciation: I wasn’t there to protect it, I couldn’t protect it, and yet I never intended to protect it.

***

It’s late in the evening. I’ve spent the last three days coming and going from this post. Whilst fairly certain of the direction this writing would take, the work itself has come to mind with increasingly intensity; insofar that I’m very tempted to make the trip this weekend, just to see…what’s there? An array of memories are down there – my clumsy fall from the incline near the caves, Lauren’s little rock towers by the sculpture, the inclement weather – but there’s still a spot by that thorny little bush, where in 2011 I marked a spot for myself to return to. It’s still there, it’s changed…but it’s still there.

 

 

What’s happening #2: Composing ‘Goyder’s Line’ (2014-2017)

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With a Goyder’s Line mapping sketch from 2015.

A tiring week is behind me. Following on from the previous blog post, Adelaide (and the rest of Australia) was plunged into an intense heatwave. Whilst Adelaide only copped a string of three days above 40C, other parts of the interior and Eastern centres were hit with ridiculously scary highs of 46-47C, smashing all kinds of Summer climate records. The planet’s getting crankier with us. Meanwhile during the same week – as cities and regional centres sweltered and bushfires sprung up all over the place – the federal government mocked renewable energy again and taunted the Opposition in the House Of Representative with an actual lump of coal, espousing the virtues of ‘clean coal’. Wind turbines and solar farms be damned, this is apparently part of the ‘Australian energy mix’ for the next fifty years or so.

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2017 – The Age Of Coal: Federal Treasurer, Scott Morrison brings a lump of coal into Parliament. Not satire.

It seemed remarkable that our own government could beat out Trump this week in terms of demoralising me and our tenuous existence, but this was like a kick to the brain of any sensible, educated person. Oof.

Oh well, we’ll face the music and dance.

Or in my particular case, I’ll sit down at my desk with various notes, a Max/MSP patch, vocoder, effects and resume working on a project I’ve been nurturing since 2014 – Goyder’s Line. Heatwaves, drought and more recently climate change have prefigured strongly in the inspiration and development of this work since 2014. So in that sense, my introduction was less of a political rant and more of a providing a prelude to this very long post.

Goyder’s Line has been mentioned at regular intervals on this blog as it’s gone through various stages of development. The work is unique in the sense that this is the first work that I’ve regularily returned to over the years, making numerous refinements to its technical process whilst further investigating the broader contextual aspects of the work.

What is ‘Goyder’s Line’?

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‘Goyder’s Line’ is an isopleth[1] starting near the Ceduna region then extending across South Australia and terminating at the SA-Victorian border north of Pinnaroo. This boundary was developed during 1865 by Surveyor-General of the South Australian colony, George Goyder. Goyder had been asked to map the boundary between areas which received good rainfall and those that experienced drought. This would allow settlers to determine where the best climate and growing conditions were to the north of Adelaide and beyond. Goyder traversed over 3000km on horseback surveying the region and submitted his detailed report consisting of a line of demarcation. The areas above the line were deemed liable to drought whilst areas to the south being predominantly  arable.

[1] Used specifically in meteorological and cartographic fields, an isopleth is a noun used to define a line on a map connecting points.

Background of the Goyder’s Line work (2013-14):

My first encounter with the concept of Goyder’s Line occured early in 2013 upon a visit to Peterborough – located approximately 300km north of Adelaide. If you travel to this region, by the time you reach Peterborough the climate and terrain is arid and crop based argiculture is virtually non-existent. The region of Peterborough situated closely to Goyder’s Line and heading further north reveals an increasingly arid, dry and inhospitable environment. One day during my stay in Peterborough, I made a trip with a couple of family members to the abandoned town of Dawson.

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North of Goyder’s Line: The abandoned town of Dawson – located approximately 30km north of Peterborough. April 2013

The town of Dawson (est. 1881) is located about 30km north of Peterborough. A dirt road stretches between empty grazing paddocks then winds through shallow gullies of hardened red earth, rocks and sparse vegetation. Following the road over a steep hill, the town comes into view below: a church and school on the left, whilst a ruin of the town’s hotel and an occupied residence[2] sits on the right.

[2] This residence, with its own off-grid solar power unit appeared to be the homestead of a local family. I believe that they are also the caretaker of the town, managing the schoolhouse and church.

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A paddock and ruin in Dawson. April 2013

The terrain across the township area is rust coloured, hardened and cracked. Drought tolerant vegetation propagates unevenly across the ground – scattered across empty paddocks, through dry creek beds and beneath the few trees that are around. My visit to Dawson was in late April (mid-Autumn in Australia) – a relatively mild climate. It was clearly evident that this was a region that scarcely receives any consistent rainfall year round.

The town’s existence was essentially doomed by two factors – firstly, that of ignoring George Goyder’s advice and establishing a town north of Goyder’s Line; secondly, Dawson was originally intended to form part of a rail network, situated between the rail hub of Peterborough and Broken Hill. However the rail line was redirected to Ucolta instead, depreiving Dawson of a vital trade route for essential supplies. In spite of this, remarkably the town existed until 1981.

It was this visit to Dawson that got me interested in Goyder’s Line, what it repesented geographically, its historical importance and its relationship to the environment – both past and present. I became interested in creating a work based upon the Line and finding a way I might be able to contextualise it in a composition. Following on from my visit to the region, early in 2014 I came across a couple of published articles highlighting the remarkable accuracy of Goyder’s Line, although speculating that as a consequence of frequent drought conditions and the prevelant impact of climate change that the Line is trending southward [3].

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2006-05-02/climate-change-may-shift-goyders-line/1743886?pfmredir=sm

After finding a graphical representation of the modern-day Goyder’s Line and considering this with the original Line, I now had two lines to work with which presented themselves as a graphic score of sorts. I just had to find the right application and process.

Discovering the Vocoder:

In early 2014 I was exploring the sonic possibilities of a Korg Microkorg synthesiser. One afternoon I was curious about the vocoder so I gave the manual a cursory read and started plugging in audio sources to serve as  the vocoder’s carrier and modulation signals. It was when I routed two sawtooth waves of differing frequencies into the vocoder that things became very interesting. A sawtooth wave – as I reminded myself – contains all of the integer harmonics – so if you start sending sawtooth signals into a vocoder it’s going to start responding in a colourful and slightly unweilding manner.

Hang on (some of you may be asking) – 1) what on Earth is a vocoder?; 2) and how does it work? I’ll give myself about a paragraph and attempt to explain the process:

A vocoder consists of three primary elements – a carrier signal, a modulation signal and a bank of bypass filters. The modulation signal uses the filter bank to analyse the harmonic characteristics of the carrier signal and produces a modulated version of the carrier signal. So, let’s say for example that our carrier signal is my voice speaking into a microphone and the modulation signal is produced by a synthesiser tone played on a keyboard. What will happen is that the speaking voice (carrier) will be analysed by the filter bank and subsequently have the modulation signal applied to it, so that the voice will sound like a synthesiser tone, yet maintaining the semblance and characteristics of human speech.

Here’s a good example of the process (play from 2:10 mark):

So, how did my experiment sound with the sawtooth waves? Well, as most of you will probably know, a sawtooth wave has a distinct buzzing sound. When both of the sawtooth signals were sent to the vocoder a messy sonic texture resulted – far removed from the more simple, elegant process previously described of speech being modulated by a synthesiser tone. With two sawtooth waves as carrier and modulator there was a far more complex harmonic process going on and I have to admit that at this stage it didn’t sound very good at all – a bit like two dueling bansaws intimidating each other in a small room.

This experiment was ultimately redeemed when I whimsically pressed a key on the synthesiser’s keyboard. I wasn’t expecting anything to occur since I thought that the keyboard’s oscillator (as modulation signal) would be overridden by the incoming sawtooth signal routed to the modulation input. This wasn’t the case, so I now had two modulation signals – one from a sawtooth wave, the other from the synthesiser’s oscillator. This enhanced process produced a sonic result that was far more interesting  – both sawtooth waves (although perceivably distinct from each other) appeared to have certain harmonics  blur and smear against each other, a result of the  influence of the modulation from the synthesiser affecting the sawtooth waves whilst producing  also a continuous and consistent drone.

The desert appearing right before my ears: 

Aspects of the sound texture reminded be of David Berhman’s On The Other Ocean (1977) and some of Eliane Radigue’s drone works (1980’s Tryptch). These are elegant works where tonalities and sound textures drift and evolve subtly over long durations. Berhman’s work in particular has this knack of evoking spaces and landscapes in a beautiful way. Though my experiment had a long way to go, already it appeared to be recalling the desert environment in and around the town of Dawson – evoking its enveloping stillness and openess with the space and depth to observe discrete changes: subtle breezes, the shadow from clouds drifting across the landscape, slight change in temperature and minute movements of surrounding vegetation and objects (leaves, weeds, fence wires, the rattle of tin roofs, etc). I was on the right track.

 

First version and performance of Goyders Line (July 2014):

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Performance at EMU (Electronic Music Unit, University of Adelaide) in July 2014 supporting Simon Whetham (foreground) and Tarab (background). The Microkorg with additional effects is pictured to the bottom right.

The 2014 winter in Adelaide was an absolute shocker – an arctic barrage of freezing winds, constant drizzle and to heighten the experience further, I ended up with pnumonia for a couple of weeks. When I wasn’t convalesced in bed I crawled into my studio space to rehearse a primitive version of Goyder’s Line as a support act for an upcoming concert by artists Simon Whetham and Tarab.

I no longer have my original notes for this performance, but I believe I had drafted a diagram on graph paper plotting the the two lines over a traced map of South Australia.

I must admit that the sawtooth waves’ respective trajectories were approximations of both Goyder Lines since I didn’t have the appropriate means to map the lines at this point to frequency over a duration of 15 minutes. Goodness, bearing in mind I had pnumonia as well. I recall simply tweaking the frequency knob of an oscillator for each of the ISOs and reading each of the lines in real time. A bit like feeling around a room in the dark. It’s certainly not accurate, more of a poetic interpretation of the Lines, but it worked in its own way at this early stage.

Although sending the sawtooth waves directly into the vocoder produced an interesting result, by this stage I decided to use some extended effects processors as a means of further affecting and warping the harmonic relationship between the two waveforms before they reached the vocoder.

The technical process of Goyder’s Line Version 1 went as follows:

  1. Two pre-recorded sawtooth waves of different frequencies are played back from an iPod simultaneously, their repsecitve frequencies gradually descending until they reach zero Hz. The upper frequency (which we’ll call ISO1) is mixed to the left channel, whilst the lower frequency (ISO2) is mixed to the right channel.
  2. ISO1’s signal is sent to the left input of an Electroharmonix Memory Man (EHX-MM) – which is a stereo delay pedal with additional reverb effects. ISO2 is routed to the Memory Man, but before it reaches the right input of the EHX-MM it is sent via a Moog MF-108M (MF-108M), which is a fancy flanger.
  3. The left and right output of the EHX-MM are then routed to the vocoder inputs of Microkorg – ISO 1 is routed to the Carrier input of the vocoder and ISO2 is routed to the Modulation input of the vocoder.
  4. A customised setting on the Microkorg is selected, which allows a chosen interval (C-E-A) to be sustained over the duration of the performance.
  5. At the beginning of the performance, the sawtooth waves are played back from the iPod, with ISO 1 and 2’s signals subject to discrete modulations before reaching the Microkorg’s vocoder.
  6. The performance concludes one both of the sawtooth waves have reached zero Hz.

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Here’s a couple of brief snippets from the performance that night. Captured by Sebastian Tomczak:

Andrew Lord, who was present at the performance offered the following observations on this early version of the work:

This was gentle, still music with a throbbing texture that ebbed and flowed, slowly developing and changing. It seemed to be music more about textures than about events, but Louth-Robins seemed to pull off something of a magic trick – you realized at the end that it had become something completely different from what it was at the start and it happened under your nose and you didn’t know how. The throbbing pulses that were playing off each other gradually disappeared and left purer extended tones before the piece ended. [4]

[4] https://tristanlouthrobins.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/new-sounds-at-emu-18-review-by-andrew-lord/ NOTE: Andrew’s website (aplord.com) appears to be not active as of February 2017. This is a link to a republication of the review on my blog.

Second and Third versions: Max/MSP comes into the mix (early 2015)

 

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Draft mapping for Version 2 of Goyder’s Line (Feb 2015). In this mapping, ISO1 and ISO2 are plotted across basic and coordinates – representing a frequency (a multiple on this instance) and representing duration. Note also the red line which indicates where the work begins in this version.

Following the performance in July 2014, Goyder’s Line was put on ice for the remainder of the year as other projects and activities took priority. By the time I returned to the work in 2015 I was eager to refine the Lines and render them a little more accurately and faithfully. Max/MSP seemed like the most ideal way to realise this.

Max/MSP is patching paradigm software which I’ve used on an infrequent basis since 2002. It can be used and applied in number of ways. Although it is predominantly music and sound based, more recent iterations of the software (Vizzie, Jitter) have provided the ability to design and control aspects of visual media.

I employed Max/MSP for two reasons: to be able program the ISO line mapping and to draw the ISOs as faithful representations of both Goyder Lines. The ISOs would – like the previous version – provide the trajectories for the respective frequencies of the sawtooth waves to follow.

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Goyder’s Line Version 3 in Max/MSP.

Looking back now, with Max/MSP I easily achieved one of these goals (presets) whilst the other (drawing the line) was an arduous process of complex sub-patches, refinement, losing my patience…and further refinement. The line drawing function was particularly laboureous insofar that I can’t believe I subjected myself (or the software for that matter) to such a painful process.

The mapping of the lines to frequencies was derived from the above sketch, whereby the points on the axis (marked 0-14) would represent a multiple of a frequency. So that a point at 11 would be subject to a simple equation (axis point * 100 / 3.5 = frequency) so that a point at 11 would equal 314.28 Hz.

With the extended effects (EXH-MM and MF-108M) still in place, I made several recordings of this set-up in mid-2015, with Version 3 of Goyder’s Line released as part of my self-released Maurilia Sound Studio series.

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Maurilia Sound Studio Volume 4: Goyder’s Line (recorded April 2015, released July 2016)

Each of the three variations on the release are identical in duration (12 minutes) but vary significantly in terms of timbre and harmonic behavior due to the chord position played on the synthesiser. So Variation 1 consists of a C-E-A chord pattern, whereas the other two Variations consists of E-A-G and F-A-D. The influence of the synthesiser as modulating signal radically affects the vocoder’s behavior, resulting in three unique variations of the same process.

An additional feature developed in Max/MSP patch permitted a delay (what I’ve termed as a ‘suspension’) at each of the draw points. This created a wonderful effect, whereby the intervals between the ISOs would be briefly suspended at a given point, allowing harmonic interplay and modulations to develop before the next stage of the line is drawn.

For example:

  • 1) Start point at coordinates x axis 1.0, y axis 11.0.
  • 2) Draw line to coordinates x axis 2.0, y axis 10.8, taking 1000 milliseconds (10 seconds) to perform this process.
  • 3) Once reached 2.0, 10.8 pause (suspend) next line draw for 10000 milliseconds (10 seconds)
  • 4) commence next line draw.
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The sub-patcher which coordinates the line draw of each of the ISOs. There are 24 line draw points for each of the ISOs – each of them defines the and y points, the duration of the draw (in seconds) and the duration of delay (or pause) before the next stage of the line draw commences.
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Revised technical set-up of Goyder’s Line. With Max/MSP patch replacing iPod.

 

You can listen to these three variations below:

Fourth version (late 2016 to early-ish 2017):

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Goyder’s Line Version 4.4 in Max/MSP (February 2017): a faithful rendering of lines with lots of additional features

Although the third version of Goyder’s Line was regarded as a genuine release in July 2016, it still very much represented a work in progress.

In the development of Goyder’s Line version 4 significant refinements were made in Max/MSP to the rendering of the ISO lines whilst the patch design now included an array of features which allowed the control of various parameters. As you can see in the above image, it’s a lot more easy on the eyes.

The ISO lines were now plotted using a ‘function’ table which allowed points of the respective lines to be plotted and dragged into place, allowing the composition of lines with more accurate degrees of elevation, descent, trajectory and contour.

The features in Version 4 include the following:

  • A duration function – allows the duration of the line draw to be defined (can be a short and bumpy 30 seconds to an epic 48 minutes)
  • A transpose function – this feature allows the frequency range of the ISOs to be adjusted.
  • A stand-by function – allows the piece to begin as a ‘suspension’ at the ISOs starting point and commence upon deactivating the stand-by.
  • A auto-hold function – this feature sets the frequency of ‘suspensions’ during the line draw. Can currently be set between 2-20 seconds or can be deactivated altogether.
  • Manual hold/resume function – this can be used in place of the ‘auto-hold’, whereby suspensions can be manually performed.
  • An ‘actual time’ counter – this was incorporated to accomodate the duration setting and hold functions, since performing ‘suspensions’ throughout the work will inevitably make the duration longer than the defined duration prior to performance.
  • A spectrograph to visualise the interplay between the two ISOs throughout performance.
  • A low pass filter for the ISOs to attenuate frequency response below 50Hz.

Below is a video clip featuring the latest recording of Goyder’s Line. However, it has been abbriviated to 15 minutes since that’s the maximum length permitted on YouTube:

Where to now?

With this latest version performing beautifully in the studio, it feels as though the design of the system that drives Goyder’s Line is finally complete and is doing what I intended it to do. However work still needs to be done exploring the thematic and contextual aspects of the work.

Currently I’m working on a more academic-styled paper for the upcoming Australasian Computer Music Conference which is being hosted here in Adelaide during September 2017. There’s also a plan to perform the work at ACMC. This should provide an excellent and exciting platform to present and discuss the work further.

***

So that’s it for now. Hopefully this epic blog post (by my standards) has been reasonably informative and understandable.

Thanks for reading.

Peas and larvae,

TLR

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The Path Described reviewed by Field Recording.de

http://fieldrecording.de/2017/02/12/field-recording-review-tristan-louth-robins-the-path-described/

The Path Described” creates moments of reminiscing, which are sometimes very cautious and then again astonishingly impressive.

A lovely suprise today to be informed that my 2013 release, The Path Described has recently been reviewed by the German online magazine, FieldRecording.de. If you check it out, you’ll need to run it through google translate or similar. With kind thanks to Sebastian-Thies Hinrichsen.

What’s happening #1: Therapy

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Feb 2017: Greetings from the newly established SkyLab entity of Maurilia Sound Studio on a Monday afternoon. Perched in the first floor of our townhouse with the balcony door open to the whisper of trees, cry of birds and occasional angle grinder. 

I probably need a haircut. In the interim I’ll curse this highly unseasonable humidity and extra helpings of rain. Adelaide’s normally subject to 2-4 Sydney-esque days of weather per summer; instead, the beautiful yet beguiling La Niña’s working her phenomenological weirdness over South Australia at present. It’s like the Thai climate I was subjected to in December has followed us back to Adelaide.

What’s this post all about? Something new, I suppose. I used to do posts like this many years ago on my old blog – mostly detailing my wayward, unfocused post-graduate studies and musings on self-imposed poverty and why nobody understood me. MySpace was also handy for that kind of thing. Ah, MySpace.

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2006-2007: The era of pointing a microphone at a metal bowl and writing about it on the old blog. 

However, occasionally I’d touch on something that was a little more interesting – such as the creation of my Infuser work in early 2007 or musing on the work of Alvin Lucier. At some point I stopped doing that and in the intervening years I’ve struggled to find any direction or purpose for this blog aside from posting links to music, reviews and Fleurieu Sound Map updates. There have been several occassions I can think of when this blog was nearly shut down and committed to the archive. These notions have been entirely justifiable at times – after all, there’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a dozen other platforms to push our stuff out there, soak up valuable time…and honestly for lengthy patches of time I didn’t really have much to say or put out there.

The last couple of years have been difficult for me artistically. Since 2015 – in spite of regular projects – I’ve been at an impasse of sorts where I’ve been seriously doubting my ability as a creative practitioner, whilst frustrated at my relative level of success and recognition as an artist.

Uh, oh.

Dear reader, hang in there with me before you get thoughts that I’m drifting into self-indulgent word-wanking territory, I’ll do my best to get this scenario across.

Would you like to go and make a cup of tea and come back?

(time elapses)

Right, you’re back.

Let’s address that first issue of doubt before we get onto the more trival matter of success.

When did the doubt kick in? I think a lack of confidence has always been there; buried in the morass of projects I’ve been involved in over the past decade and a bit. Whilst it certainly prevented me from undertaking certain things or communicating things adequately from time to time, there was something still kicking things along; insofar that I kept moving along from one project to idea, from one idea to the next project reasonably undaunted. I reflect on this time, culminating during a period (c. 2009-2010) where  – now looking back – I’m certain this immunity to doubt was largely fuelled by a combination of confidence, arrogance and an increasingly risable ego. I’m frankly suprised I didn’t lose friends or seriously alienate people around this period. I feel very uneasy about this period – I was a real prick.

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2009-10: your Saturn Return period may render you into an arsehole. 

The next couple of years brought on some of the most rewarding work I’ve been involved in to date. 2012 and 2013 were hugely productive years with successful installations (The Roil, Ecocline), work in theatre and the release of The Path Described on 3Leaves. Once 2014 came around things changed and for the first time I remember seriously doubting whether I should continue with my work or take an extended break. It was certainly a quieter year in terms of opportunities coming in; read that as “people offering me work” as opposed to activly seeking work or putting proposals in.

***

I’m going to sidetrack slightly at this point and make reference to that bit in parentheses, which can also be read as: “people approaching me to do x“. I’ve always been a private person and this thing of waiting for people to come to me has – since I was in my teens – extended to socialising with family or friends, going out or looking for work. It’s a built-in bit of programming that’s seriously hindered me at times and occassionally put me across as a person who doesn’t really want to be disturbed or bothered. He’s a serious guy after all.

 ***

So, with that in mind I think I know what was happening around this point. With my ego and arrogance significantly bevelled off and a lack of work put in front of me I had to actively motivate myself to keep making and feel good about my work. This didn’t happen at all and it certainly created a space where deep doubts and insecurities crept in and affected virtually everything I did from that point.

This space can be summed up as follows:

  • Double, triple check everything you do in the studio.
  • Agonise over the slightest details.
  • Start something and abandon it quickly like it was on fire or corrupted by poison.
  • Feel profoundly lonely whilst surrounded by lots of lovely expensive equipment (see below image.)
  • Tell yourself, “I’m going to read Curtis Rhodes Complete Music Tutorial from front-to back.” All 800 pages. Which never happens and you mentally admonish yourself for not commiting.
  • Tell people you are sick of being branded as a ‘sound person’, ‘sound artist’, ‘sound designer’. “I WISH TO BE JUST AN ARTIST.” [bangs fist and promptly kills the life at the party.]
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“As an artist I feel so lonely and confused with all this lovely equipment. Why doesn’t it love me back?” Substitute ‘artist’ and ‘lovely equipment’ with ‘middle-aged balding man’ and ‘sports car/trophy wife/beachside timeshare’ and you get the drift. The struggle is real.

That last point is where the dreaded issue of success, recognition and perception comes in. Fucking hell, dear reader – have you made it this far? Good on you, I owe you a beer.

Success – whatever the hell that is – as we all know is relative to a myriad of things. Obviously, by being incapable of motivating oneself and not actively seeking opportunities will create a cosmic vacuum where you’ll feel directionless and deeply insecure about your your work. On any given day you can spy many a lonesome confused artist wandering around on the beach screaming into the roiling seas, “NOBODY UNDERSTANDS MY ART!”. Also, envy’s also the worst, most poisonous thing to slump into. Thanks to social media platforms, this has the potential to amplify these feelings to an almost unbearable extent on a bad day.

Let’s take a breather, here’s a kitten:

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Dear reader, you’ve been incredibly patient with me. It brings us to the ultimate question: so what the hell am I going to do about this? God forbid they’ll be another post like this detailing my anxieties to such an agonising, vomitous extent (well, at least for the remainder of this year.)

Look! I’ve hauled myself down from the proverbial cross so I can address it. This is what I’m going to do: actually do things – submit proposals; send work to conferences, radio, labels; have conversations with people; get back behind the local Adelaide scene and support artists. The list goes on, but I’ve got an agenda which refreshingly isn’t being driven by a) others generously offering me opportunities; b) an iteration of my ego that I hopefully divorced by the time I turned 30; and c) a moribund fear and self-loathing that I haven’t yet shown any work in Japan.

2017 will be a year of looking after myself a bit better, being much better to those around me whilst being thoughtful, considered and patient.

More posts like this to come, but next time they’ll come far less saddled with therapy sessions like this. I’ll actually show you some of the things I’m working on.

Everything is going to be OK.

Peas & Love,

TLR

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Gesture (2017)

When I was in Thailand in December 2016 I made a series of video captures on a new iPod Touch exploring the novelty of the Slo-Mo function – which in essence shoots video at a high frame rate.

When we were waiting for our ferry to depart the Phi Phi pier I shot a quick little capture of a conversation between several women who were seated next to us on the outside area of the ferry. I’m particularily fond of this short film – the way it capture various gestures and expressions of the women. The slow motion effect affords an opportunity to explore the frame in detail; within and beyond the fields of gesture.