John Akomfrah

November 22nd, 2012

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Electric Fields 2012

October 2nd, 2012

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This year’s Surrounding Sound Symposium brings together artists, muscians, academics, and critics from across North America.  Panelists include: Matthew Edwards, Barry Blesser, Gordon Monahan, Jesse Stewart, Dipna Horra, David Lieberman, Brendan Fernandes, Linda-Ruth Salter, Paul Jasen, Jennifer Heuson, Donna Legault, John Shiga, Greg J. Smith, Geeta Dayal, Darsha Hewitt,and Mitchell Akiyama.

Saturday and Sunday, October 13-14
Arts Court Theater / 2 Daly Ave / Ottawa

Other events include a Pecha Kucha, performances, installations. See the website for details

Critical blogging gig @ Artengine/Vague Terrain

March 2nd, 2011

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Ottawa-Gatineau crew: Paid gigs at digital arts blogs don’t come along everyday.  I’d love to give it a go myself but time is in short supply these days. Deadline Friday!

This residency is for an emerging critic or cultural journalist from the Ottawa-Gatineau area, who will pen a monthly cross-post for the Vague Terrain and Artengine blogs.

Conceived as a creative space for expression and research into culture and technology the content and direction will be developed in partnership with the editors of both publications. The resident will also travel to Montréal for the 2011 Elektra Festival to post reviews and more from one of North America’s premiere digital culture events. The resident will also receive critical feedback and professional development through the Articulation series at The Ottawa Art Gallery.

Details http://artengine.ca/news/2011/blogging-residency-en.php

Bass talk @ Electric Fields

November 5th, 2010

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I’ll be giving a talk called “Bass: a myth-science of the sonic body” this Saturday at the Electric Fields festival here in Ottawa.  Come down if you’re in the area.  It’s free.  I’ll be walking the walk with the help of the festival’s 4000-watt sound system – audio examples from the dancefloor, the studio, the cathedral and the lab.

(sub)Mix: Vibration Sympathique

October 18th, 2010

Reposted from ElectricFields.ca

Not sympathy in the sentimental sense.  Sympathetic vibration has nothing to do with the personal or emotional. For Helmholtz, it meant transduction of energy and resonance induced in a body – a room, a building, a glass, an eyeball – by an external force.  At its natural, or resonant frequency, a body ceases to dampen energy and begins to oscillate with it, amplifying it, even to the point of self destruction.

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A 40-minute, sub-centric mix, ahead of my talk at this year’s Electric Fields / Champs Électriques festival (more on that soon).  So much discussion about bass focuses on dancefloor material, so this mix goes the other direction, collecting a series of low-frequency investigations into industrial and earthly hum, pure tones, pipe organs, peculiarities of bodily resonance, and overlapping fictions of sound and signal.  Listen loud.  To borrow Eleh’s instruction: Volume reveals detail.

» mp3: DOWNLOAD (320kbps / 95Mb)

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Demdike Stare ‘Suspicious Drone’ (Modern Love)
“…a dense 6 minute opening that chugs along like a malfunctioning mechanical beast, honing in on Lancashire’s dark industrial landscapes.”  Following on the heels of labels like Mordant Music, Skull Disco and Ghost Box, Demdike Stare wed body-humming sound system sensibilities and (occasional) frenzied percussion, with smatterings of occulture and Radiophonic hauntology.

Bass Communion ‘Ghosts on Magnetic Tape III’ Original and Reconstruction (Headphone Dust)
Unsettling vibrations, voices in the ether.  Bass Communion looks for spectral encounters in the crackle and grooves of manipulated 78rpm shellacs, drawing equally on theories of the infrasonic uncanny and the peculiar phenomenon of EVP.  Supplemented here with excerpts and Raymond Cass commentary from The Ghost Orchid: An Introduction to EVP (Parapsychic Acoustic Research Cooperative/Ash International)

Thomas Köner ‘Permafrost’ and ‘Nieve Penitentes 2′ (Barooni/Type)
More of the ice than about it, Köner’s geologic drone work would sit well alongside John Duncan’s Infrasound-Tidal, NASA’s Voice of Earth, and the tremor tones of Mark Bain.  The theme is The North, but these aren’t field recordings.  Instead, Köner builds his glacial terrain from the shimmer of pitch-shifted gongs.  Augmented here by a dark piece from Ruth White, the little acknowledged American electronic composer who’d have made good company for Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  ‘Mists and Rains,’ from the 1969 album Flowers of Evil, sets the Baudelaire poem to an electronic windscape.

Eleh ‘Together We Are One’ (Taiga)
Anonymous and secretive, Eleh is a minor sonic fiction unto itself, its album art drawing on the retina-skewing experiments of Op Art while minimal sleeve notes give faint clues to method and aims.   Titles of the first three releases – Floating Frequencies/Intuitive Synthesis volumes I-III – would seem to sum up the project, reputedly based on the layering of outputs from aging audio test oscillators.  Subsequent releases Homage to the Square Wave and Homage to the Sine Wave, along with track names like ‘Pulsing Study Of 7 Sine Waves’ (parts 1 & 2),  ‘Phase Two: Bass Pulse In Open Air,’ and ‘Linear To Circular / Vertical Axis,’ are nods to both the minimalist tradition and a clinically empiricist attitude toward sonic investigation.  But others – ‘In The Ear Of The Gods,’ ‘Phase One: Sleeps Golden Drones Again’ – show a mystical side that revels in the autopoietic strangeness of the subbass encounter.

Nate Young ‘Under the Skin’ (iDeal Recordings)
If Eleh finds the mystical in impersonal vibration, Nate Young’s Regression is the sound of signal possessed, angry, and on the move.  ‘Under the Skin’ is a churning slog – submerged in a liquid-matter mush, broken occasionally by a taught screech, before resuming its subcutaneous march.

Sunn o))) ‘Sin Nanna’ (Southern Lord)
Metal with bass weight, indebted to the gravity-enhancing sounds of Earth.  ‘Sin Nanna’ is a largely guitar-free interlude, gutteral chanting like the nightmare version of new-agey Gregorian revival.  Elsewhere, 2008′s Dømkirke had the band pulling ungodly rumbles from the massive 16th century organ at Rokslide Cathedral, Norway.

Christian Fennesz plays Charles Matthews ‘Amoroso’ (Touch)
And into the light…  A 7″ offshoot of Touch Record’s ongoing Spire project (below) which focuses on organ-based and organ-inspired works.  2300 years on, the pipe organ still mystifies.  An acoustic synthesizer, one of the earliest machines, it’s clearly been designed to direct force at the body as well as emit musical notes.  “Audible at five miles, offensive at two, and lethal at one,” was the contemporary description of the 10th century organ at Winchester said to require 70 men to operate its bellows.  Note the mastering credit on this release: Jason Goz at Transition Studios – the name attached to virtually every foundational dubstep release between 2003 and 2006; dubcutter for Jah Shaka, Mickey Finn, Grooverider, DJ EZ, Mala, Loefah, kode9…  London bass flows through Transition.

BJNilsen ‘La Petite Chapelle – Rue Basses’ (Touch)
An excerpt from Spire: Live in Geneva Cathedral, Saint Pierre (2005).  From the notes: “In a duet with himself, BJNilsen moved back and forth between organ and electronics.  He established a link between the old sound inherited from centuries past and a new one being instantly generated.  The organ sound was decomposed and in a way, tortured, in order to get at the core of the sound… BJNilsen’s piece ended with a background organ sound, as if to remind us that after all, even if altered, the organ had remained the core of the entire concept.”

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