Posts Tagged ‘Interactive’

MC/free iOS app Langham Research Centre LRC001

7th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

My last encounter with Langham Research Centre was 2017’s Tape Works Vol 1, an experimental set that evoked the spirit of William Burroughs while also being littered with references to JG Ballard which inevitably piqued my interest. However, on the arrival of Quanta / Signal / Noise, I discover that both a remix of Tape Works Vol 1 as well as Tics and Ampersands and the spectacularly mundane yet dauntingly postmodern-sounding Gateshead Multi-storey Car Park, both released in 2018 had bypassed me.

Quanta / Signal / Noise, a work in four parts seems to offer a fair – and welcome – point at which to reconvene with Langham Research Centre. the press release forewarns of ‘a shift away from the conventional building blocks of music: notes and harmony and rhythms that are mapped onto a grid of steady pulse. Instead, the focus is on a fascination with sound itself; with its unfolding textures, shapes, energies and dynamics’. So far, so much standard avant-garde / experimental fare.

The release contains four tracks, in the form of versions 1 to 4 of ‘Quanta / Signal / Noise’, each of which has a duration of four minutes and thirty-four seconds, two of which were composed by Iain Chambers, and two of which were composed by Robert Worby. ‘Version’ is a misnomer: none of the pieces bear any real resemblance to one another, ranging from heavy discordant clunks and thunks to fizzing circuitry and erratic bleepery, with woozy atmospherics, warped chatter of multiple simultaneous conversations and deep, dark, ominous undercurrents. Explosions shattering plate glass windows behind real-time running documentaries collide simultaneously with birdsong and erratic levels of volume. It’s an interesting sonic collage, but, one might say, largely of its type.

But there’s more to this than immediately meets the ear, as in addition to the standard audio release, there’s an iOS app, ‘Langham Research Centre variPlay: Quanta / Signal / Noise’, produced and developed in collaboration with London College of Music at the University of West London, which presents an interactive version of the release. The pitch is that it may be thought of as ‘experimental cinema for the ear or maybe a tool for dynamic sound painting [which] follows in the musical tradition established by composers, specifically in the middle of the 20th century, when sound recording became widely available… In the app version, by playing with these sonic materials, imaginary auditory landscapes may be created. Sonic narratives, with expressive moods, unfold before the ears and mobile, fluid sound canvases can be brushed and sketched and collaged.’

Such interactivity may not be wholly new, but still, to break the third wall in such a way becomes rare, and inviting the audience to become the artist radically alters the dynamic of the relationship not only between the artist and audience, but also audience and material. The material ceases to be something the audience ‘receives’, but instead repositions the audience as part of the art ad its creation. That breaking down of boundaries utterly transforms the experience of reception. It is quite possible that the concept is more exciting than the reality, but then, playing about with sound can be great fun. Unfortunately, the app only appears to be available for Apple / iPhone users, so I’m unable to confirm or comment either way.

The app version stands in extreme contrast to the physical release, on cassette, a format that was on the brink of obsolescence over twenty years ago, and yet is still going, albeit with a microniche market. The chances are half the interaction with the format involves a hexagonal pencil or a Bic biro.

Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing exercise to witness the evolution of interactive art that strives to question and to redefine the role or artist and audience, as well as the notion of the ‘finished’ or definitive artefact, making this more than just something to listen to, even if only conceptually and for a certain portion of the audience.



Gruenrekorder – Gruen186 – 1st February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

This is perhaps one of the strangest, most far-out and outright strange releases I’ve encountered in quite some time, and that’s certainly saying something. Slotmachine exists as an on-line project run by musician/artist Achim Zepezauer.

The press release explains that ‘online the user can combine three tracks by 13 different artists with different instrumentations, either hand sorted or completely randomized from the 158 recordings. Every artist provides at least ten tracks to generate from, which leads to the theoretical possibility of 1 billion different combinations’.

Curious, I spent some time messing about at the Slotmachine website in an attempt to get a handle on how it actually works. It looks like a slot machine. You can spin each of the three rows to change the track, and you can mute one, two, or even all three – but for best effect, spinning in three random pieces simultaneously is the way to go.

In some respects, Slotmachine offers an extension of Brion Gysin’s permutational poems, which involved the rearranging the words of a single phrase in every possible arrangement or permutation. This could be achieved by systematically moving the first word to the end of the row and moving each subsequent word one place to the left, hence A B C D E becomes first B C D E A, then C D E A B, and continuing until all of the variations had been exhausted. From a five-word phrase, a total of 119 new phrases, plus the original, could be created.

Zepezauer’s approach is less systematic – by which mean it appear to be completely random and arbitrary – but the one-word title attributed to each 45-second composition means each piece which utilises all three ‘rows’ has a three-word title which can be permuted. For example, ‘Cowshed’ by Simon Whetham, running alongside ‘Neck’ by Achim Zepezauer, and ‘Rupture’ by Jérôme Noetinger yields a track entitled ‘Cowshed Neck Rupture’ is a three-way collaboration by Whetham, Zepezauer, and Noetinger. But of course, what Zepezauer adds is the sonic element, which renders these permutational works multisensory, particularly when interacting on-line. Admittedly, touch is limited to mouse-work or keypads and you can’t taste or smell it, but it’s still pretty engaging.

The vinyl release on Gruenrekorder documents the project with a selection from 13 artists and 158 recordings, that offered a possibility of 3,944,312 tracks. Whittled down to just 30 choice cuts, it gives a flavour of the audio aspect of the project, if not of the interactive experience. And these short, snippety pieces are intriguingly varied, the layers forming experimental works spanning ambient, free jazz, hop-hop, dark electronica, and spacey Krautrock – and pretty much everything else in between. At times jarring, jolting, discordant, woozy, with clashing and complimentary sound works merging to create a single piece, it’s not always readily accessible, or even listenable. Then again, when things combine, as they do, to create (fleeting) moments of mystical musical magic, it’s truly wonderful. With each piece being so short, it’s difficult to find a flow or rhythm: instead, you find yourself swept along on a rollercoaster of lo-fi oddball weirdness and unusually eclectic hybrids. This is very much an integral part of the charm, the appeal, and the enjoyment.

And it’s an enjoyment that the record only captures the corner of, since the online-slotmachine has the ability to continuously grow and contains at the date of the vinyl release (February 1st, 2019) four more artists and a total of 225 recordings, providing some 11,390,625 possible titles. Even with audio clips being only 45 seconds long, that’s a lot of hours pissing about online before you’re explored the project fully.