Work

'   Œ u v r e   '

This page documents some of my compositions, installations and creations.



Cloches de Pentecôte (Bells of Pentecost)

Jeanne, Rouen Cathedral's great bell. April - May 2009

Genre : Sound Art
Requirements : CD player and PA system
Playings :
4 April to 4 May, three times daily in the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Rouen for the duration of the "Courant d'Art" festival.

"Cloches de Pentecôte" (Bells of Pentecost) is a sound art piece created for the "Courant d'art" festival 2009 to which I was invited as one of two guest composers. It is now available to buy as a download at seventhings.co.uk. The Cathedral bells were rung and the sound was recorded from opposite the 'tour de beurre' on the first floor of the tourist office, the same vantage point from where Monet painted his famous paintings of the Cathedral facade. The sound was then digitally analysed in order to find the most important sinusoidal components. Using these data, the sound was recreated from simple sine waves and slowed down by a factor of six, such that the piece lasts just over an hour. The recording no longer sounds like bells but retains the essential frequency characteristics of a bell sound. The result is a creation in harmony with the building which lets the listener pass a moment of prayerful reflection and meditation in the beautiful surroundings of the cathedral and to hear the bells in a different way.

The bell is an ancient instrument, existing in various forms in many different cultures. Unlike other types of instrument such as strings and wind - whose harmonics are all at simple multiples of a common fundamental frequency - bells are rich in harmonics with no simple frequency relation. Occidental bells are carefully shaped such that three of its prominent modes of vibration produce a minor chord from which its perceived pitch is derived. The following link contains some information about the seven bells as well as the large though sadly not fully-functional fifty-six bell carillon de la Cathédrale de Rouen.

"Cloches de Pentecôte" est une création sonore, faite pour le festival "Courant d'Art" pour lequel j'ai été un des deux Compositeurs invités. Elle est maintenant disponible à télécharger chez le label Seven Things I Daren't Express. J'ai enregistré les cloches à partir du premier étage de l'Office de Tourisme en face de la Tour de Beurre, le même endroit où Monet a peint ses toiles célèbres de la façade de la Cathédrale. Ensuite, le son a été analysé afin de trouver les composants sinusoïdaux les plus importants. Utilisant ces données, le son a été recréé à partir des ondes sinus simples et ralenti six fois, pour que la pièce dure une heure. Les attaques sont adoucies et il ne reste que les résonances. Le son n'est plus le son des cloches mais possède les fréquences essentielles à un son de cloche. Le résultat est une production en harmonie avec l'édifice qui laisse l'auditeur passer un moment de contemplation et méditation paisible, et qui offre une nouvelle écoute des cloches.

La cloche est un instrument de musique ancien, existant sous diverses formes dans beaucoup de cultures différentes. Au contraire d'autres types d'instruments tels que les cordes et les vents, dont les harmoniques sont toutes des multiples simples d'une fondamentale commune, la cloche est riche en harmoniques qui n'ont pas forcément de rapport simple avec les autres. Cela contribue à sa sonorité mystérieuse. La forme des cloches occidentales est raffinée pour qu'il y ait trois modes de vibration importants qui produisent un accord mineur dont la note perçue est dérivée. Le lien suivant donne accès à des informations sur les sept cloches ainsi que le grand carillon de la Cathédrale de Rouen, qui comporte cinquante-six cloches mais qui malheureusement ne fonctionne que partiellement.


Correspondances (Correspondences)

December 2008

Genre : Interactive Audiovisual Installation
Collaborator : Damien Lefebvre
Requirements : computer, large screen or projector, video camera.
Exhibitions :
10 and 12 December at the Ecole Régionale des Beaux Arts (ERBA) in Rouen.

Correspondances is an interactive installation created as part of a collaboration between the Conservatoire and the Ecole des Beaux Arts de Rouen for the 'Semaine Messiaen', a week of events celebrating the centenary of the birth of the composer Olivier Messiaen. Messiaen was a syneasthete and he would perceive colours when he heard certain chords, and so the aim of the installation was to explore this link between colour and sound.

In Messiaen's piece 'Couleurs de la Cité Céleste' (Coulours of the Celestial City), he annotates a number of sustained chords with the coulours he would perceive on hearing them. Four of these chords were chosen to serve as the basis for the installation. Their sound has been sampled, treated and looped while the corresponding colours worked into four corners of a looping video. A visitor to the installation activates the sound and colour using their onscreen reflection as captured by a video camera. When they move in the top left quadrant, they activate the sound and the video of 'blue violet'; in the top right, 'emerald green, amethyst, violet'; in the bottom left corner 'pink, mauve and grey'; and in the bottom right, 'red, orange and gold'.

For more information, please take a look at the associated page on the Semaine Messiaen website (French language only).


Volière numérique intéractive (Digital Interactive Aviary)

December 2008

Genre : Interactive Tactile Sound Installation
Requirements : Computer, 8-channel sound system, microphone, tactile interface with 8 buttons.
Exhibitions :
8-13 December at the Conservatoire de Rouen

Olivier Messiaen was fascinated by birds, and particularly loved their songs which he would transcribe and integrate into his musical compositions. The 'Volière numérique intéractive' is an interactive sound installation project which turned the hall of Rouen conservatoire into a homage to Messiaen's winged friends for the 'Semaine Messiaen'.

All day long, recordings of bird song are diffused over eight loudspeakers spread out around the entrance hall. Tucked away under the stairs, with a view out into the little glass-encircled garden, is the 'Studio d'Oiseaux' (Bird Studio) where participants can listen to a selection of slowed down bird songs and try to imitate what they hear.

Each song is accompanied by a photo of the bird, Messiaen's transcription in musical notation, and its spectrogram. As Messiaen did to the bird songs he incorporated into his works, the recordings have been slowed down to render them comprehensible to the human ear.

The participant can then imitate the slowed down birdsong or invent their own by singing or whistling into a microphone. This sound is automatically recorded and then played back three times faster - at "bird speed" - then randomly diffused around the hall at the same time as the real recorded birdsong.

For similar information in French, please take a look at the associated page on the Semaine Messiaen website.

Messiaen s'intéressait beaucoup aux chants des oiseaux comme en témoigne son "Catalogue d'oiseaux". La "Volière numérique interactive" consiste à transformer le hall d'entrée du conservatoire en hommage aux sujets ailés préférés du compositeur, et permet au public de découvrir sa passion pour les oiseaux et d'imiter leurs chants.

Toute la journée, des chants d'oiseaux sont diffusés dans le hall grâce à huit enceintes réparties dans l'espace. Sur une borne interactive, appelée "studio d'oiseaux", abritée sous l'escalier, avec une vue sur le jardin vitré, les participants peuvent écouter une sélection de chants d'oiseau rallentis et essayer de les imiter.

Chaque chant est accompagné par une image de l'oiseau, de sa transcription en notation musicale, et de son sonogram (image de spectre sonore).

Pour les rendre comprehensibles, les chants sont ralentis 10 fois. Le participant peut ensuite essayer d'enregistrer son propre chant d'oiseau avec sa voix, un sifflet, ou un instrument de musique qui est ensuite acceléré dix fois et diffusé dans le hall. A coté de la borne, il y a une fiche de renseignements sur les chants et sur Messiaen.


Etudes in Human Computer Musical Interface

July-August 2006

Genre : Suite of Compositions
Performances: August 28 and 29, in the MSc Atrium space, Alison House, 12 Nicolson Square, at the 2006 MSc final degree show.
September 13, at St Cecilia's Hall, Edinburgh at M1Sc. Mus1c, an evening of electroacoustic performance.

These studies were written as part of my final MSc project, and comprise three separate pieces investigating different possibilities for musical control of the computer.

Prelude and Palindrome for Piano and Reversing Pedal

Composition
Requirements : Piano or other keyboard instrument, microphone, MIDI pedal, computer to run reversing algorithm, PA system.

This piece employs an augmented piano instrument. The abilities of the piano are augmented by the addition of what I would like to call a reversing pedal. The pedal allows reverse playback of the live sound of the piano and uses internal feedback to build up layers of harmony. The palindrome as it's name suggests, sounds the same forwards as backwards. This effect is achieved thanks to the reversing pedal which is held down throughout the second half of the piece in order to replay the first half in reverse.

For more information, please take a look at the Documentation and the scores.

Prelude and Games for Bubble and Squeak Interface

Composition
Requirements : singer and bubble popper, microphone, DV camera, video projector, computer with Bubble and Squeak software.

This piece uses the Bubble and Squeak interface (from the installation as described below) as a musical instrument. The singer's voice is caught in on-screen soap bubbles which they then pop using their movement.

For more information about this piece, please take a look at the documentation, performance instructions and score.

Etude for Physical Controllers

Composition
Requirements : At least three sensors, a dual-axis accelerometer, a dance mat, a game-pad with two analogue joysticks, computer, amplification.

This piece utilises four kinds of control method: sensors, triggers, dual axis accelerometer and game pad. It is divided in two parts: in the first part the triggers are used to play back preprepared sounds and the sensors control how the sound is processed and the whole section is recorded; the second part uses the dual axis accellerometer to control the movement through the recorded sound of the first part and the game pad is used to control how the sound is processed. This étude sets out to demonstrate suitable ways to map the parameters of these controllers onto musical parameters. The sounds used as a basis come from resonant metallic objects but other sounds could be used.


Bubble and Squeak

March - April 2006

Interactive Audiovisual Installation
Collaborator : Mansie Verma
Requirements : computer, large screen or projector, video camera, microphone.
Exhibitions :
24-31 March 2006 at the Total Kunst Gallery based in The Forest Cafe.
29 April 2006 at the Matthew Gallery as part of the Gallery Aloud event.

Bubble n Squeak is an interface wherein people use movement and sound to manipulate digitally animated 'bubbles'. A live set, whereby people are no longer passive receptors of information, but are engaged, connected and immersed in the performance that is driven by their own actions. It is located where members of the public could come across it unintentionally. People will be stimulated to explore their voice and physicality, providing recreation and entertainment for themselves and others.

Members of the public blow virtual soap bubbles on a video screen by singing,shouting, clapping, stamping their feet or making whatever sound they like. When a bubble is blown, their sound is captured inside. The participants can then pop the bubble using their onscreen reflection to free the sound.

For more information please take a look at the Bubble and Squeak documentation (external link).


Fantom of the Ventilation Shaft.

April 2006

Genre : Electroacoustic Composition
Eight channels
Performed : Friday 12 May 2006, at the Reid concert hall, Bristo Place, Edinburgh.

Fantom of the Ventilation Shaft is a seven-and-a-half minute electroacoustic piece for eight speakers arranged in a double diamond configuration. The main sounds in this piece come from a ventilation fan, a circuit-bent guitar toy, a baby's bottle, and a handful of coins. The sounds were spatialised using a dual joystick controlled eight channel spatialisation environment created for the project. Please consult the Fantom documentation for more information about the piece.

Secretly circumnavigating the pipes and air conduits that burrow through suburban structures, the restless Fantom of the ventilation shaft darts from one pipe to the next, humming and buzzing, hissing and spitting, blowing and sucking. Flowing all around us, the presence of the Fantom is heard by all, felt by many, known by some and seen by none. The Fantom is mischievous, creeping up and making people uneasy, sneaking inside machines, traversing pipes, riding currents, lurking in eddys, manifesting briefly then vanishing.

Featured below is a two-channel version of the piece constructed from channels two and seven of the original piece.



What it Feels Like to be a Lamppost

April 2005

Genre : Electroacoustic Composition
Two channels
Help with location recording : Gareth Annable
Performed : Saturday 10 December 2005 at the Reid Concert Hall, Bristo Place, Edinburgh, as part of the Soundings festival.

What it feels like to be a Lamppost is composed using sounds made by interacting with different parts of Edinburgh. The composer finds that the rings of Edinburgh's sign and lamposts are very bright and resonant compared with those in other cities and obsesses about striking all such things with fingertips whenever passing. The sounds were recorded late at night when the city falls quiet. They were then edited, cleaned, and loaded into a sampler to be triggered from a MIDI keyboard. Various clapping sounds were recorded during the course of the sound walk to capture the echo in different spaces. These claps were used throughout the piece as impulse resposes in a convolution reverb plugin to place the sounds in a stairwell or in a subway or between two parallel walls.

The piece grabs the listener's attention with a loud and dramatic opening section with a mess of cluttered unpitched sounds, followed by a rhythmic section to hypnotise with its repetitive pattern interrupted by a sudden clap to send them into a trance. A texture made up of the beautiful ringing sounds of streetsigns, lamppost and magic drain pipe then emerges from a brief period of silence. The piece builds in intensity creating a more sinister atmosphere. Mains hum from an electricity box is overdriven to extremes with sweeping high decibel q-factor cuts and sharp hi and low pass filtering. The piece reaches the midpoint with a deep metallic ringing sound and begins the journey back, waking the listener up from their trance and returning them to where they started.

Attention! Please listen to the piece before reading the following notes on the pieces construction!

'What it Feels Like to be a Lampost' was constructed in a palindromic form starting from the middle of the piece and working outwards. The long deep ring of a red panel outside the museum of Scotland was placed just before the middle of the piece so that the tail of its decay just overlapped the midpoint. The sound was duplicated and reversed about the midpoint. Dramatic noisy scraping sounds follow it. These were again duplicated and reversed about the midpoint of the piece. By adding sounds to lead into that part, duplicating and reversing them about the midpoint, placing sounds to lead out of the resulting reversed material and repeating the process in reverse the piece was built up so that it was half forwards and half backwards with the forward and reverse parts reacting to each other. At the end of this process I had a ten minute palindromic piece. At this point I discarded the second half and worked on further processing the first half, reversing little sections and adding eq and volume curves. To then produce a practically perfect sample for sample palindrome, the half was bounced, duplicated and reversed and placed end to end and slightly overlapping with the original.