Lecture notes, Jan 2018

Hugh Davies, Audio Art: Notes Towards a Definition, 1992
from Hugh Davies, Sounds Heard, Soundworld Publishers 2002

Defining this new type of performance, involving a performer and instrument of some kind, generally presented in an “art context” – visual or theatrical aspect to it.

“The work of an audio artist combines three elements that are normally carried out by three very different people:
The craftsperson: musical instrument builder or electronic designer (hardware or software)
the composer
the performer or interpreter.”

Contextualising what we mean by noise; different definitions, fuzzy edges. “Noise” as a noisy thing to define.

Dr Marie Thompson, Beyond Unwanted Sound: Noise, Affect and Aesthetic Moralism. Bloomsbury, 2017

Three types of recorded sound

Paul DeMarinis: On Sonic Spaces (1997)
Caleb Kelly (ed), Documents of Contemporary Art: Sound, Whitechapel Gallery/MIT, 2001

“The earliest phonographers discovered that when they recorded a sound, upon playback three sounds were heard. The first sound they heard was of course the sound they intended to record, perhaps with some distortions but always faithful and accurate enough to satisfy, for a while. […]
“ The second set of sounds heard coming from the horn of the phonograph were the inadvertent sounds of the environment, which rode along unnoticed during the recording process. […]
“But a third sound was heard as well – the sound of the recording apparatus itself – and this presented both a subtler set of problems and a new and paradoxical kind of territory of its own. The rumblings of the mechanism, too, register upon the wax, and the texture and grain of the wax has its own raspy voice, a voice that sang along with every diva and accompanied every chance sound passing the microphone.”

The “Edison defect

Drew Hemment, Affect and Individuation in Popular Electronic Music,
in Ian Buchanan and Marcel Swiboda (eds), Deleuze and Music, Edinborough University Press, 2004

“Listen to one of Edison’s early recordings and what strikes you is not so much the words transported from another age, as the surface noise that obscures them, a surface of static over which recognisable shapes – a human voice, the words to a poem – flicker like shadows. Edison intended his phonograph to offer a transparent window onto past events, to record for posterity business transactions or the last words of a dying relative. But within the inconvenient cloud of interference can be heard the first of the subsequent century of sound waiting to unfold, for this inherent imperfection contained within itself a musical potential that would come to be explored during the course of the twentieth century within electronic music, in a counter-history marked by accident, manipulation and reuse that detached itself from the telos of representational technologies.”

Deleuze and Guattari on stratification, how layers of sandstone can form from sand suspended in water. Form and substance, content and expression.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia part 2.
Chapter: 10,000BC: the Geology of Morals

Referring to diagram from:

Brent Adkins, Deleuze & Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus: A critical introduction and guide, Edinburgh University Press, 2015

Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio’s Industrial Painting

“Whereas Jorn’s response to the commodification of art resulted in modification, Pinot-Gallizio’s response was to create work that could be sold only by the metre. His “industrial painting” – rolls of canvas up to 145 metres in length – were produced mainly by hand but with the aid of special painting machines with resins made by Gallizio himself and could be draped along the walls of a gallery or stored in rolls. Theoretically these industrial paintings could engulf entire cities.”

On the Passage of a few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International 1956-1972
Watch on Youtube

Description of King Tubby’s mixing as improvisation.

“All of his associates attest to King Tubby’s deep love of jazz, and it seems plausible that his sensitivity to jazz’s labyrinth of split-second creative decisions was reflected in his refashioning of the multitrack mixing board as an improvisational instrument, as well as his pioneering of the dub remix as an act of real-time improvisation.”

Michael E Veal, Dub: Soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae, Weslean University Press, 2007 p117

Lee Scratch Perry has described dub music as “the ghost in me coming out”
David Toop, Ocean of Sound. 1995 London: Serpent’s Tail.

The Ghost In The Machine

First made popular by Gilbert Ryle in The Concept of Mind (1949), in which the author argues against Descarte’s assertion that the mind and body are entirely separate entities: in effect that the body is a machine, controlled by the mind – a ghost.

“My destructive purpose is to show that a family of radical category mistakes is the source of this double-life theory. The representation of a person as a ghost mysteriously ensconced in a machine derives from this argument.”

The term was picked up later by Arthur Koestler in his book Ghost in the Machine, which argues that humans have at their core a tension between an animalistic, individualistic drive and a community driven intellectual drive: and that this tension causes a predisposition towards self destruction in both individuals and societies.

Arthur Koestler, Ghost in the Machine, Hutchinson 1967

On not planning to an end result, and innovation through restriction

Mark Fell: Collateral Damage, Wire Magazine January 2013

“Back in the early 1980s, the synth pop guru Thomas Dolby was asked on British television to describe his ideal synthesizer. Although I can’t find any evidence of this on YouTube, I have a vague recollection that his reply was something like: “I sit at the synthesizer, I imagine any sound, the synthesizer makes the sound and then I play it.””

“According to Dolby’s model, the sound begins its life in his head, the technology then converts that imagined sound, as accurately as possible, into a tangible form. This method sounds quite appealing, and I know of at least one university that set up a research programme to do just that. It is, however, entirely unlike any synthesizer I have encountered. Furthermore, it’s an ideal I find very problematic.”

Tidal Cycles

Live coding programme: