The past few years I have built a number of musical instruments. The goal is to find the perfect position between the acoustic and digital worlds. The instruments are often based on old parts lost and found, which are refurbished into electronically augmented instruments.
The Wind Speaker
The Tandberg family (Tantrix, Sølvberg, Treberg, Slåttberg).
The Player Record
I am currently also working on building instruments for Verdensteatrets productions.
The exploded lapsteel – photo: Isabelle Vigier
Performed at Sonic Acts / Stedelijk Musem 2015. From the Sonic Acts blog:
Hesitatingly plucking, the sparse ringing tones echo the tonality of bells, with the formants gradually fading into drawn out ululations. He moves from plucking, to running a slide over the strings. A laser beam mounted on the slide shines down on the pages, where he has sketched sharp straight lines to represent the frets, and circles for tonal movements. Each hand drawn score indicates a different modal tuning system based on the equal ratio tuning system of Pythagoras. The book is a copy of Pythagoras’ music theory de-accessioned from Eide’s local library in Bergen, Norway.
He begins to layer the sounds, creating a chorus of voices from cavernous depths: a choir of rock and soil, hum and steam, roar and crumble. Harmonically related, yet in non-western tuning, the texture beats against itself until Eide filters out the mid-tones and reduced the bit resolution. The choir becomes a distant rattling crackle with occasional comet-like glissando’s reminiscent of the sounds of the cosmic radiant ionosphere.
Leaving the loop to gradually fade away, Eide moves to the sculptures of aluminum dowels that echo the forms of Malevich’s supremacist paintings hanging in the background. The dowels are cut to equal ratios to echo the Pythagorean tuning system.
He loosens the structure, and rotates the poles so that they are no longer parallel, running his hand over the metal to set off a resonance. Moving around the structure, he sets off harmonic relationships on horizontal and vertical planes, so that we hear overtones moving and fading through time, creating ghost notes and rhythms inside the timbres. He swings a loose pole in the range of the others, interrupting the phase of the frequencies and causing irregular patterned beating before adding sticky paper to the end of the poles, to create roughening the smooth sine tones.
Eide told me that he usually plays these sculpture on mountaintops in Norway, letting the sounds ring out through the trees. Here, he plays with theory and structure, articulating theory by reading words in music. Gradually adding noise to knowledge and the sound of pure tones, the work “a tuned chord is like a scientific instrument probing the universe” emulates a kind of echo-location of tuning, feeling out possible harmonic and formal relationships.
Debuts in a new musical performance for Sonic Acts, February 26. More info here
Some upcoming dates:
7. November - Bastien & Eides Electric Folkways, Seconde nature, Aix en Provence
15. November - Weed Archive, Performa Festival, New York
23. November - Performance Art Bergen, C. Sundts gate 55
The instrument is made for 4 singers and 1 conductor. The conductor controls the sounds that are played through four miniature speakers that are (more or less) inserted into the singers mouths. The singers then proceed to shape the sounds resonance with their mouth cavity as the resonant chamber. It is perhaps best described as reversing the speech direction, where I as the conductor supply what is normally the vocal chords or "voice box" job. The resulting piece is a polyphonic and minimalistic transformation of various vowel resonances. The title alludes to Roland Barthes famous essay on the grain of the voice, giving identity to the voice and reflects on the relationship between the voice and the subject.
The piece featured in the video was composed for coreographer Eva-Cecilie Richardsens perfomance "Speaking and building" in April 2012, Dansens Hus, Oslo.
The singers: Cecilie Lindeman Steen, Janne-Camilla Lyster, Gry Bech-Hanssen and Marte Vold
The conductor: Alexander Rishaug
Searching through old files I came accross these photos by Denis Isaja of my "workshop-performance" at Manifesta 7 in 2008. I invited local participants to bring old vinyl records to have them refurbished with a simple electronic circuit to make them into "vinyl instruments". A separate brush is attached to the arm of the recordplayer that records the conductive carbon material that is painted or sprayed onto the record. The physical orginal grooves may still be heard as well.
Last week I cooperated with the great choreographer Eva-Cecilie Richardsen for a show at Dansens Hus in Oslo. In addition to composing and doing the sound design I got the chance to test a prototype for a new instrument I am working on at the moment. The instrument is made for 4 singers and 1 player/composer. The composer controls the sounds that are played through four miniature speakers that are (more or less) inserted into the singers mouths. The singers then proceed to shape the sounds resonance with their mouth cavity as the resonant chamber. It is perhaps best described as reversing the speech direction, where I as the composer supply what is normally the vocal chords job. The resulting piece is a minimalistic play with various vowel resonances.
Hope to get some better documentation of the process soon, for now here is a picture of the dancer Janne-Camilla Lyster in deep concentration during rehearsals.
The amazing guys over at Voy (famous for their WIFI lightpainting amongst other works) have made a (kind of) music video to present my new instrument the "Wind Speaker". The instrument was made in collaboration with Voys Einar Sneve Martinussen, who designed and built the birch casing for my electronics.
The Wind Speaker may best be described as a digital electro-acoustic harmonica made of birch that turns blowing into computerised singing. The sound emerges from the speakers at the front of the instrument when the player blows into the holes in the wooden mouthpiece at the back. The amount of pressure controls volume and various effects to add expression. There are both singing and speaking poetry modes (the latter I play towards the end). The red wire out of the box is the powercord.
More images and information over at Voy (how many Scrabble points for that name?). They just started their design-studio and opened their webpage, so pay them a visit!And yes... in case you were wondering... the location is a woodshop, the birthplace of the Wind Speaker!
On Thursday 28 April the Stedelijk Museum and Non-fiction present Hear it! – a playlist for the Stedelijk Museum, with works by Dick Raaymakers, Alvin Lucier, Mark Bain and Gert-Jan Prins, and performances by Paul Panhuysen, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Alog, Claron McFadden and many others.
“I don't separate ‘Sound Art’ from ‘music’. I am one person; my ideas come from the same place.”
- Alvin Lucier
A playlist for the museum
Hear It! is presenting a playlist of these different types of work with sound, and is presenting different generations of musicians and artists who work with sound in their own way. This evening does not aim to provide a historical cross-section of sound in the arts, but is a personal playlist of works from the collection of the Stedelijk Museum and performances by (international) artists and musicians who are exploring the limits of the building and sound. The evening was organised intuitively by listening carefully to the building, the collection and the public, and is possibly most comparable to the way in which a DJ works, or to the musical experience you have with Soundcloud and Spotify. That is why there is a mixed succession of a Siren, a Norwegian DIY band, a Gregorian choir and the public which assumes the role of composer and performer, amongst others.
The sound of now, since 1952
It is now almost 60 years since director Willem Sandberg embraced music in the Stedelijk with his famous series ‘The Music of Now’ in 1952. Sandberg’s view was that the museum should provide room for other art forms than visual art as well, including contemporary music. Since then contemporary music has assumed many different forms and is described in various ways: as experimental music, sound art, sound performances, sound sculptures and audio culture. Some musicians call themselves ‘artists’ and some artworks are characterised as being ‘musical’. It is not always completely clear, but what is evident is that there is great deal happening at the point where the visual arts, music and sound come together.
Aardvarck (NL) / Alog (NO) / Nathalie Bruys (NL) / Carl Michael von Hausswolff (SE) / Allard van Hoorn (NL) / Brandon LaBelle (USA) / Claron McFadden (USA/NL) / Gabriel Lester (NL) / Paul Panhuysen (NL) / Sarah van Sonsbeeck (NL) / Schola Cantorum Amsterdam (NL) / Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht (NL)
Mark Bain (USA/NL) / Pierre Bastien (FR) / John Cage (USA) / Alvin Lucier (USA) / Gert-Jan Prins (NL) / Dick Raaymakers (NL)
Harold Schellinx / Juha van ‘t Zelfde
Michiel van Iersel & Juha van ‘t Zelfde (Non-fiction)
I received my Arc today. After unboxing, I updated an old patch I had lying around to be controlled by it. The patch mimics a long-wave radio, and the "stations" I tune into are soundfiles lying on my desktop. It was actually originally made to be controlled by the Griffin Powermate knob. But this upgrade to Arc gives me much better control through high resolution and visual feedback. One knob is for tuning in larger/coarser steps and the other for fine tuning into the stations spread around the Arc.
35 min documentation of Verdensteatret's live performance "And All the Questionmarks Started to Sing"
Two bicycle wheels mounted upright arrived in the post today from Verdensteatret. My task: To make them play like instruments.
The Concertinome is a custom made instrument combining the concertina accordion with the monome style keyboard and electronic air pressure sensors. It was made by Espen Sommer Eide 2009 and demonstrated in this concert at Visningsrommet USF, Bergen, Norway.
Bergen Electronic Racecourse was the opening event at the 2009 borealis festival i Bergen, Norway. It took place at the local horseracing course and was curated by Espen Sommer Eide and Alwynne Pritchard. In this clip you can experience one of the acts improvising to a choreographed horse race.
John Hegre (Jazzkammer), bass steel guitar
Espen Sommer Eide (Phonophani, Alog), elecronics and race-choreography
Chris Rune "Noiseboy" Olsen, trot-generator and noise Amund Sjølie Sveen, drums
A preview of a custom built musical instrument by Espen Sommer Eide, artist and member of Alog and Phonophani. The Slåttberg will premiere at the Borealis Festival for contemporary music Bergen, Norway late february 2008.