r _Web.log

Archives: 2011-11


Photographic print at Stitch art auction

Stitch is a not-for-profit organisation set up by a group of young artists, scientists and environmentalists with the aim of raising environmental awareness through art.

They are holding an art auction tonight in the amazing surrounds of the Old Dairy (WC1N), with all proceeds contributing towards environmental causes. I have a framed photograph in the show, Untitled (Isle of Grain).


Untitled (Isle of Grain), C-type 35mm print, 60cm x 42cm, 2011

I have written a short piece of text explaining the background to the image.

The Isle of Grain is a region of marshland in the north of Kent, at the mouthway of the River Thames. In virtue of its astounding biodiversity and variety of habitats, it is classified by ecologists as an "open mosaic" environment, home to a rich tapestry of wildlife. Thirteen of its native species are endangered with extinction, with a further 34 classified as nationally scarce. It is home to Britain's rarest species of native bee.

Its sparse populous, coastal location and proximity to London also make the Isle of Grain a target for industrial development. Formerly home to a BP oil refinery, it is now occupied by the Thamesport container seaport, an oil-burning power station, a Liquefied Natural Gas import facility, and the landing point of the BritNed high-voltage submarine power cable, linking Kent with Maasklakte, Holland. A further gas-fired power station is planned by the National Grid, who own over 700 acres of the surrounding land.

In November 2011, Lord Norman Foster presented a proposal to develop Grain as the radial point of a new high-tech transport system, the "Thames Hub". This would include a four-runway airport with twice the capacity of Heathrow, a Trade Spine to link utility pipes and cables to the north of England, and a high-speed rail station, forecast to become the UK's busiest.

The auction also includes works by the like of Vivienne Westwood, Richard Long, Marc Quinn and Richard Wentworth. The event runs from 6pm.

Hearing Connections at the Royal Institution

K http://www.rigb.org/contentControl

I'm giving a talk next week as part of the excellent-sounding Hearing Connections, an evening of lectures on sonification and networks. It's part of a series of events at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the 200-year-old establishment that Faraday and Medawar once called home. So, no pressure then.

I'll be discussing the relationships between sound and ecosystems, giving a whistle-stop tour of emergence, nested hierarchies and complexity, via Wolfram and Stockhausen, and hopefully culminating in a demo of some exciting new multi-level simulation work that I've been developing.

Here's the abstract:

What does a concerto have in common with a coral reef? The answer is that both are made up of nested hierarchies, in which an individual on one layer contains a population of the one below. An ecosystem comprises of multiple species, each of which contains multiple communities, made up of multiple individuals -- and an individual is itself an ecosystem of organs, cells and microbes. Likewise, a concerto comprises of movements, which comprise of parts, which comprise of notes and harmonies.

This talk is a brief tour around the relationships between music and ecology, and how their similarity can be used as a fruitful way to illuminate both our scientific and artistic practices.

  • Can translating a real ecosystem into sound reveal hidden properties to us?
  • Can the dynamics of an ecosystem be thought of as creative, or teach us about creativity?
  • Can there be a single set of simple rules that unify all of these levels collectively?

Hearing Connections runs from 7pm on Tuesday 15 November.
More information and tickets on the Royal Institution's website.

Maelstrom (2011) at Barbican Lates

Later this month, James Bulley and I will be debuting a new collaborative work at a Barbican Lates event, curated by Off Modern as part of the OMA/Progress exhibition.

Entitled "Maelstrom", it is a multichannel sound installation that uses real-time YouTube uploads as its raw material, using them to resynthesize morphing banks of chord sequences. These are then spun rapidly around the listener by a multichannel system of repurposed speakers, creating a tornado of audio data.

From the press blurb:

Over 48 hours of user-created audio is uploaded to the internet every minute, a figure that is increasing exponentially. Maelstrom is a sound installation that draws on this material in real time, constructing shifting walls of sound from thousands of audio fragments.

By organising these fragments based on their tonal attributes, they collectively form a vast instrument, whose properties are affected by global internet activity. A score composed specifically for this instrument voices an endless series of chord variations, dynamically generated by an array of live processes.

Maelstrom builds a tornado of tonal cluster chords around its spiral speaker system, engulfing the listener in the swirling mass of information that is now an integral part of our day-to-day lives.

Off Modern Late is on Thursday 24th November, in various spaces around the Barbican Centre, from 6.30pm onwards. Entry is free.

More info: The Barbican, Off Modern.