Here is a [completely non-representative] taster of what was coming out of the cardboard boxes:
The drumming and breathing was commissioned from Adam Kinner (the saxophonist from this post). He’s recently started a blog and I definitely think it’s one to watch for the future. Go have a look-see.
During the Almost Perfect residency, I had the chance to try out a few different types of thingies running off the mscape platform, but towards my 4th week in Banff I was starting to question the typical delivery format of iPaq and headphones. I couldn’t see how wandering around on your own, gingerly holding a foreign touch-screen device whilst plugged into headphones and being isolated from your surroundings related to my practice.
Nothing against those other mscapes I experienced, it just wasn’t a canon I wanted to contribute to.
Here’s what we were using to run the mscape player off:
A sight that might make some techies salivate, but kind of intimidating at the same time. These would generally be used in conjunction with some fairly substantial headphones. As a result you could very easily be worrying about if you’d pressed some of the wrong buttons, accidentally nudged the touch screen or whether you were easy prey for some street crime …rather than concentrating on whatever sounds were being delivered to via the headphones.
Things started to get interesting when people paraded down the street en masse but, for the most part, the experience stayed with the person wearing the headphones.
Cue my manifesto for mediascapes:
Be visible (i.e. make it obvious that something is happening, rather than skulking around wearing headphones and looking at a small screen); and be audible (inflict your happening onto innocent passers-by).
These starting points later opened out into further thinkings about how to make mediascape experiences shared experiences and how to make mediascape experiences playful experiences.
How these thoughts manifested themselves was through a quick prototype alternative housing for the iPaq.
First I hacked (in the non-tech sense) apart and rewired some mp3 player speakers and then I mounted them inside a cardboard tube.
I then had something big with a strong physical that you were very aware of carrying; something a bit shonky and made from very familiar, very non-intimidating materials; something that was loud; and something just a little bit ridiculous. A tool, a plaything, a conversation starter.
Actually, I had two.
With a diameter of influence of about 20 metres each.
With two of these ‘talking sticks’ I had a way of encouraging interaction between people using the mediascape. We also started up a few conversations with people who had no idea what was going on …but wanted to find out!
Like when Emergent Game‘s egorbeaver made friends with the ticket inspector or when Paul and some other Digbeth Invigilators found themselves in the position of having to make sure an inebriated stranger got back to her hotel safely I find these instances of when a thing bleeds out of its original context and reaches another layer of participant very interesting.
It was also fascinating to see how changing the interface for the mediascape changed the way people conducted themselves. Admittedly I don’t have a huge amount of experience with mediascapes, and wandering around the corners of campus listening to piano strings being broken is probably going to foster a fairly light-hearted reaction, but there’s something different going on here, right?
[Update: And there’s some video footage here too.]
I always knew I wouldn’t be able to realise my full-blown ideas for a locative media version of In C whilst I was in Banff this November: there just wasn’t time to organise the tech, the musicians, the recording and the power issues.
Still, not one to be put off by technicalities, I set off for a walk and a low-tech version. In C for
musicians, speakers, GPS and open road.
Armed with a map and some chalk I walked along a road that had been closed to vehicles for the Winter. Taking each of the motifs in turn, I walked until what felt like the appropriate moment to pause and draw the music onto the road’s surface.
I’m not sure how long I walked for or how far I travelled, only that I got up to the 17th motif before my chalk ran out. This, I decided, was the end point for the piece.
Only not quite.
My minor obsession with In C is tied up in with chance meetings, interactions and collaborations with various people outside the group directly involved with the residency I was on and, as such, somehow really underlines the true value of residencies such as these. I still had 4 more sticks of chalk (kindly donated by Laura, thankyou!) and decided that rather than continuing in a different colour, I should open things up to further collaboration from other people.
A kit containing instructions, the remaining chalk, the score for In C and a map was passed on to Dohi Moon – one of the In C musicians from the concert – for interpretation and, perhaps, adding another layer of chalk to the road.
I’m not sure what happens next, I just wanted to give it back.
A few days ago, Agent Scott and assistants braved the sub-zero temperatures to re-appropriate the construction site opposite the building we’re based in for a spot of Laser Tagging courtesy of the Graffiti Research Lab. [video documentation here: soundtrack not safe for work.]
For the last week or so I’ve been using mscape to construct a soundscape of words collected from people using the Banff Centre at this particular moment in time.
Walking around the campus will generate random juxtapositions of these collected words and phrases, with the words and phrases being located in the space from which they were collected. No two walks will be the same.
Parts of the campus will be getting a slightly different treatment: the areas around the musicians’ rehearsal huts; the piano workshop; and a hill in some woodland. For these I’ve extended the collaborative process further, and have invited some of the musicians to provide instrumental phrases for re-combination.
A few chance happenings yesterday led me to catch some of the rehearsals for the weekly Friday concert, the second half of which was a performance of In C by Terry Riley. This was the first time I had come across this piece and it is my new favourite
song music ever: resonating powerfully with themes in my recent practice.
The performance of In C at the concert was by turns long, repetitive …and hauntingly beautiful. One minute a part of you would be wondering when it would finish and the next everything would be swept away by a rising crescendo or an instrument’s voice standing out from the crowd. The varying shifts in focus were sublime …and nicely complemented by the glances and grins shared between the musicians as they intuited their way through the 53 phrases.
Whilst we were inside the recital hall for a few hours listening to people not playing the piano, clapping music, electronics and recorders, and weeks turning alongside more traditional pieces, Kinny “K” Blaze was out in the corridor playing an excerpt from his All Day Song. This too was powerful stuff and allowed to bleed into the main space at certain times.
Billed as “The concert reimagined. Guest curator David Pay rethinks the concert experience by restaging and recontextualising the works of our resident musicians”, right from the start the event had me thinking critically about performance and audience and expectations and endurance. There was a feeling of it being a happening rather than a concert and I’m sure I must have been grinning madly throughout most of it. Certainly for In C I was literally on the edge of my seat.
Artist seeks context (real or imaginary) suitable for the application of digital hobo signs.
We’ve a partially-developed prototype for a GPS-based system for ‘tagging’ physical space with digital media (photo, text, audio, video…) with a mobile phone.
We’re trying to think of contexts to test this system against, so that we can refine the user interface and fill in the details.
The process goes something like this:
- 1st person goes to the location they want to comment on
- 1st person records their media at the location
- 1st person sends media to the server
- Phone also sends GPS co-ordinates
- 2nd person, at home, sees location (but not media) marked on map
- 2nd person goes to location
- 2nd person views media on their phone
- 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th persons plus friends work towards common goal.