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Maelstrom at FutureEverything

The third iteration of sound installation Maelstrom (James Bulley and Daniel Jones, 2012) can be found from now until June 10th at FutureEverything 2012, in the incredible 175-year-old surrounds of Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry.

Maelstrom at FutureEverything

It generates a continuous piece of music purely using audio fragments taken from YouTube and other media-sharing websites, using new material that is constantly being downloaded, fragmented and categorised based on tonal attributes.

The consequence is that it is an extraordinarily strange system to compose for: we score the dynamics, pitch and spatialisation sequences, but the timbral properties of the sound are constantly shifting beneath us. Each repeat of the same section may thus be radically different, rendering it an ever-changing, amorphous hyper-instrument.

Maelstrom at FutureEverything

The whole of the FutureEverybody exhibition revolves around ideas of collective action and participatory technologies, with many other great works. Ollie Palmer's Ant Ballet draws on ideas from cybernetics and self-organised behaviour to create a multimedia showcase of his experiments with artificial pheromones to influence the movements of real ants, symbolically conducted by a robotic arm.

Jeremy Hutchison's Extra! Extra! elevates Facebook wall postings into analogical headlines, using sandwich billboards from the Manchester Evening News. It's one of those pieces where the actual visual impact is quite different to how it sounds on paper, highlighting the different modes that our mind places itself in when absorbing information from different contexts. The absurd ring of importance that the piece gives to the utterly banal ("Emma Russell: Having An Okay Day").

Visualisation is one of those tricky areas where it's easy to fetishise the beautiful over that which gives real insight, but Stefaner, Taraborelli and Ciampaglia's Notabilia is one of the more . In general, the curation of the exhibition (by Glaswegian Deborah Kell) is top-class, avoiding the typical trappings when staging a show that's firmly tech-centred and focusing on works that are asking significant and engaging questions, resonating deeply with Manchester's history of decentralised growth and social sprawl.

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.