Albert Einstein once claimed, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man,”. With this in mind, the recent decline of the honey bee is especially alarming. Luckily artists like Troels Folmann are trying to raise awareness about the true impact of the humble bumble bee. In this case, by making music from bees.
'4"33" by John Cage' - Photo by Steve Rhodes (CCSA)
Over at the New Yorker there’s a great piece about John Cage, one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century, and one who had a very real impact on the progression of experimental sound art and music. Check it out while it’s free here.
Sculptural Musical Scores - Photo By Nathalie Miebach
I’ve written a few previous posts about my Masters thesis project which parallels and ties in with the content of this blog. Im currently investigating several areas to focus my research but at the moment I’m broadly looking into the intersection between sound art and sound science.
There are many ways that the two realms can become intertwined. Alvin Lucier’s pioneering sound works, including his most famous piece “I Am Sitting In a Room“, are meditations on the physical properties of sound (and well worth a listen). Modern sound sculptures like the Panopticons and the “tree horn” utilise natural phenomenon to create sculptures that breathe with movement and life.
Then there is the growing trend among sound artists to make use of environmental data (seismic, meteorological etc etc.) to create works of art whose design reflect natural processes. In a previous post I wrote about Trimpin, a zany and eclectic sound artist who employs such techniques. Another such artist is sculptor Nathalie Miebach. She creates wonderfully colourful woven sculptures based upon weather data she collects. Her artistic statement provides a fascinating overview of her ideas and a clear summation of many of the themes being explored in this explosion of science themed art (or art themed science?).
But it is her so called “sculptural musical scores” that interest me the most. Nathalie explains the process of their creation:
“Recently, I have begun translating weather data collected in cities into musical scores, which are then translated into sculptures as well as being a source for collaboration with musicians. These pieces are not only devices that map meteorological conditions of a specific time and place, but are also functional musical scores to be played by musicians. While musicians have freedom to interpret, they are asked not to change the essential relationship of the notes to ensure that what is still heard is indeed the meteorological relationship of weather data.”
As well as being semi-functional and fascinating as an experiment in mixed media science communication, they are also wonderful to look at. I’ll be looking into writing more about Nathalie in future and incorporating her ideas into my Masters thesis.
Earthquake Aftermath - Photo by Richard Walker (CCBY)
Well, not quite art. It’s a rather simple conversion of raw scientific data into music. But boy is it effective in making the data more comprehensible, more emotional.
Tim Prebble set about converting the numerical information describing the magnitude of the recent Christchurch earthquake and subsequent aftershocks into musical form. Check out the fascinating results here. They really help to put the sheer frequency of aftershocks in perspective.
Check out this wonderfully vibrant short featuring some pretty incredible visual and sonic effects.
A few months ago a video did the rounds that featured sound designer and composer Diego Stocco creating a musical instrument out of a tree. He carved away the branches to achieve a complementary set of pitches then proceeded to tap and bow away at them. It was a fascinating process to watch, regardless of the results, and now he’s done it again. But this time the whole affair is a little, well, smaller.
He has applied the same technique to a bonsai tree, to great effect. Stocco explains his processs:
“To determine the key I used the lowest note I could play and recorded the rest around it. Besides playing the leaves, I used bows of different sizes, a piano hammer and a paint brush.”
An interesting example of the intersection between art and nature! Check it out for yourself.
Here‘s a link with some more pictures and vids.
Here is Stocco’s official web page.
I recently discovered the work of Kim Kichul and boy am I impressed. This piece is a particularly good (and hypnotising) visualisation of sound energy
Check out Kim’s website for more incredible stuff in the same vein.