Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Regional Arts Fellowship - Field Report 4 [UK/Belgium/Sweden/Japan/NSW]

Included in this post is a look at some creative outcomes for my 2017 fellowship activities in UK/Belgium/Sweden/Japan/Regional NSW => Gigs at Cafe OTO, Trap Club, FUSE Art Space, SuperDeluxe. Chris Watson, Jez riley French and Aphex Twin mentorships, residencies at University of Hull, University of Newcastle, EMS Stockholm + a visit to ALM Busy Circuits, and Roland's Artist Liason Centre in Tokyo, and working in the field and in the studio in regional NSW for preparation of my Rainwire [Processed] installation.  

This is the fourth post on my Create NSW Regional Arts Fellowship, you can check out the first post on a week spent with Chris Watson here, the second post on my Moog Sound Lab UK Residency here and the third post on my EMS Stockholm Residency here. During the trips I posted up a whole bunch of pictures/tweets live through my twitter account, so you can also have a look back through those tweets too :) 


Following on from my first EMS residency I hopped on a plane to London for a gig at Cafe OTO and a slot on Graham Dunning's Fractal Meat on a Spongy Bone Radio Show, which you can check out in my previous posts & at the bottom of this post. I was on a tight budget and Andie Brown kindly put me up, helped me out in general, gave me directions and fed me in London! Also a quick shout out to Phil Julian for setting me up with this gig and intro'ing me to Andie Brown and Graham Dunning! 

At the NTS Radio studio, photo Graham Dunning

My little sofa/bed setup at Andie Brown's London gaff

Andie Brown & Phil Julian performing at Cafe OTO
Performing at Cafe OTO

After this little stint in London I was on the early train to Antwerp for a gig at the Trap Club with Entr'acte to promote the then upcoming dual CD releases FLD RCDR / MCRTNL.  

After Antwerp I was whisked off to a secret Scottish location for a couple of weeks of mentorship with Richard D James. During this time I worked on a number of interesting pieces of gear, such as the Cirklon, PreenFM2 and a bunch of Eurorack modules. 

Aphex Twin, courtesy Richard D James

I also saw early on the custom microtuning to pitchbend converter box for his Korg Minilogue, later mentioned in this interview with Tatsuya Takahashi

Microtuning to pitchbend converter, photo Dave Burraston

Checking out a Cirklon front panel, photo Richard D James

Getting ready for a microtonal discussion, photo Richard D James

A key part of the mentorship was the chance to work on his Fairlight CMI Series 1 sound sampler. I used this for manipulating and resynthesizing some of my Rainwire samples for an upcoming installation at University of Hull. The process for this was pretty straightforward after I'd had a few days training and self directed exploration. I setup my laptop to play the soundfiles from my MOTU interface direct into the mono input on the Fairlight. Once I had a few sections recorded and stored on the Fairlight's disc drive I could go about resynthesizing / processing them. Then I set about playing them direct from the huge keyboard and my MANIAC cellular automata sequencer, using various microtonal tunings. The sound quality is really quite something for an 8bit machine! I recorded the Fairlight output direct into my Zoom F8 field recorder. 

Other activities with Richard included washing up, tidying up, helping out in the workshop, moving equipment, making up some cables and soldering them to a very obscure AKG spring reverb.. These sorts of things are a key part of any working artist/musicians life and it was good experience to spend the time on these less glamorous activities.. :) Richard was also very keen for me to be actively involved in the Cirklon and PreenFM2 communities, so he said "i might as well just give you one of each, and you can get on with it asap.." So he dug out a couple of bust ups, a Cirklon with a smashed off data encoder, and a chipped up PreenFM2, wowsers! thanks m8y! I got Finlay Shakespeare to fix the bust up encoder, and he did a great job on it. Here's a couple of pics of these setup in my studio => 

Cirklon hardware sequencer
PreenFM2 synthesizer

Next up in my programme was a mentorship with Jez riley French. This kicked off with a gig at Fuse Art Space, Bradford with Jez and Embla Quickbeem. For this performance I worked with material recorded at EMS & material recorded from Richard's Fairlight, along with live improvisation with my Eurorack modular and MANIAC cellular automata sequencer.

Embla Quickbeem performance at Fuse Art Space, Bradford
Jez riley French performance at Fuse Art Space
My performance at Fuse Art Space, photo Jez riley French

Following on from the gig Jez took me out on some active listening / recording field trips in the Yorkshire Dales. As well as taking some recordings, we spent a lot of the time doing active listening exercises. The process of active listening is a really important component of our practice, one that can be sometimes forgotten about in the midst of recording, editing, performing etc. Its a great way of just breathing out, soaking in all the sounds around, mentally readjusting/recalibrating, ear training and especially not focusing on just recording..

Listening to wind through fence wires with Jez
Grimwith Reservoir
Grimwith Reservoir
Listening to a metal gate with Jez
Hydrophone recording with Jez at Pocklington Canal
Me having a listen to the lock, photo Jez riley French
Recording the lock gate at Pocklington Canal with JrF C-Series contact mics 

Another great spot we visited was Skerne Wetlands Nature Reserve => 

Recording railings in the rain at Hull =>

I was also very keen to record some of the industrial sounds of the area, and Jez identified a couple of great locations. The first place we visited was Bradshaw's Flour Mill, after walking around the mill and listening at various spots, we parked up in the car park and used Jez's DPA 4060's (which you can buy from him direct!) hooked up to my Zoom F8.

We used a tried and trusted Jez technique of hanging them out of the car door window and very carefully putting the window up so the leads are just held lightly.. this allows for a good height while minimising any noise from ourselves as we listen inside the car.

Bradshaw's Flour Mill, East Yorkshire

The next location we visited was Saltend Chemicals Park on the outskirts of Hull. There is a little dog walking road/track around the perimeter and we were able to find a good spot to park and hang the DPA's out the window.

I got a good mix of the chemical park sounds and some road traffic on wet ground, as well as the odd delicate spot of rain just audible over the industrial soundscape. Listening to this in the car on headphones as it was recorded was a very meditative experience..

Saltend Chemicals Park, Hull

Folks out there interested in field recording should check out Jez's work and his range of contact mics, field recording gear and info available on his website => http://hydrophones.blogspot.com and also here.

After my session with Jez I had an Artist Residency at the Faculty of Drama, Music & Screen, University of Hull, organised by Rob Mackay. During this residency I gave a lecture, was part of a Pauline Oliveros tribute performance celebrating International Womens Day, and had a number of recording sessions on the EMS VCS3 MKII, and the harpsichord in the university chapel.

I got to work straight away processing some of my Rainwire recordings through the VCS3. Its a quick and neat way of working with modular synthesis through the use of patch pins via a matrix which is something I really love.

On the VCS3, photo Rob Mackay

Below are a few photo's of the performance of Open Field by Pauline Oliveros, performers for this were Jo Kennedy, Tallulah Vigars, David Burraston, Jez riley French & Rob Mackay =>

Jo Kennedy & Tallulah Vigars during the soundcheck
All of us on stage during the performance

Having spent 10 years playing classical piano until I was 16 I ended up with a great love of the harpsichord instead. So when I found out there was a nice little dual manual in the Chapel I managed to book a couple of hours recording time on it.

I borrowed a couple of Schoeps microphones and hooked them up to my Zoom F8, and with Rob Mackay's help we setup the mics on stands. Here is a brief excerpt of my little improvisation session =>

A few more pictures of the harpsichord session =>

After Hull I was off to Tokyo to round up the first 2 month overseas tour. Here I gave a performance at SuperDeluxe, as well as being invited to Roland Artist Liaison Centre to play on their synths!

Tetuzi Akiyama performing at SuperDeluxe
Me performing at SuperDeluxe, photo Mike Kubeck

I met up with Christian Moraga of Roland and he took me to a crazy synth shop, before we headed back to the Roland building.. 

Drooling over synths at FiveG, photo Christian Moraga

After Japan it was back to NSW for a couple of months before my next overseas trip. I got the opportunity to make a few more field trips for Rainwire recordings at The Wired Lab for my Rainwire [Processed] installation =>

Back in my studio I did a little work on the PreenFM2, its an exciting little Open Source project for making a small, portable FM synthesizer with full microtuning. I decided to write a little Open Source programming tool for it in the Processing programming language using Farey Sequences. Full details of the program can be found in the PreenFM2 forum here and its available on github here ---- but briefly it is a tool to help with choosing the fundamental parameters of FM synthesis.

Farey Sequences for FM programming were introduced in the classic text by Barry Truax: Organizational Techniques for C:M Ratios in Frequency Modulation. http://www.sfu.ca/~truax/ In order to get the best from this program please read up on Farey Sequences for FM programming, I wrote an article here => http://noyzelab.blogspot.com/2016/04/farey-sequence-tables-for-fm-synthesis.html and there are lots of places to read further.

Another project I got on with was building some diode transformer ring modulators for processing my rainwire recordings for the upcoming installation. I've discussed how to make these in a previous blog post "Modular Mortgage" which is a talk I gave at Unsound Adelaide. Here are a few pics, which include some ultra-rare military transformers: COIL C-161. As these are pretty heavy, I also made some others using smaller transformers for my next overseas trip..

Other activities for the Rainwire [Processed] material involved custom writing my own software for the Tiptop Z-DSP module via the Numberz programmer. A big shout of thanks to Chris Clepper at Tiptop for providing this equipment =>

I am hoping to make some of these Z-DSP programs available as pre-programmed cartridges in the near future, stay tuned! In the meantime you can get an ear for some of the programs on my limited edition 4xCDr NYZ - DSP TRX. This is a recent release on Psoma Psi Phi, where all the tracks are recorded from the direct outputs of the Z-DSP, with minimal post processing other than a slight bit of EQ and stereo placement. These recordings feature various DSP algorithms programmed in Spin FV-1 Assembler, mainly inspired by some of the classic Serge Paperface modules, but also some of my own inventions  =>

May 29 - June 2 : Guest Composer at EMS Elektronmusikstudion in Stockholm, Sweden, working on Serge & Buchla modular synthesizers => 

This was my second trip to EMS, which I was offered at the end of my previous residency! I was super keen to get stuck in to the Serge & Buchla systems again, as well exploring some of the gear I didn't have time for last time.. Ding Dong.. NYZ calling!

I got working with Roberta Settels ring modulator straight away, and was allowed to hang on to it for my whole residency, read more on this historic piece of gear here.

Here is a short excerpt from the sessions, processing Rainwire recordings with Roberta Settels diode transformer ring modulator =>

This excerpt is from a session with the Buchla, using the 288v Time Domain Processor =>

Diode transformer ring mod setup, Roberta Settels original + some of my own builds
Diode transformer ring mod setup, Roberta Settels original + some of my own builds

Another piece of gear I was keen to check out this time was the Buchla 225e MIDI Decoder / Preset Manager which allowed me to setup various ways of working with MIDI. I'd not used this in my previous residency and added a new dimension to my interactions with the big Buchla =>

I also got some more time in the Serge studio, and I was very keen to revisit the Serge / Gentle Electric Pitch & Envelope Follower, for info on this module see my earlier post =>

Another studio I didn't have time to work in previously was Studio 1, so I got booked in there straight away! It contains some great vintage equipment including a GenRad 1382 Random Noise GeneratorOrban 622B Parametric Equaliser and a pair of dbx 160 Compressor/Limiters. 

Here is a picture hanging on the wall in Studio 1 from back in the day =>

Managed to get a quick nip back up into the attic to setup the EMT plate reverbs =>

Some more outboard gear I was using =>

Some pictures of my setup in Studio 1 =>

I convinced Henrik Jonsson to let me in the storeroom where we dug out some Aquarian H2a-XLR hydrophones. These were on my list as possible ones for purchase as they are reasonably affordable, so was a good chance to check these out. Directly opposite EMS is the Riddarfjärden so I went out on a nice sunny day and got dunking. I managed to record some nice bilge pump and water sounds from the nearby boats =>

That wrapped up this residency, another great time at EMS, and a massive thanks to everyone there again!! Especially Henrik Jonsson for taking the pics of me at work and more Eurorack lends.

Here are some quick iphone videos taken during both EMS residencies =>

June 7 - 14 : Artist Residency at Culture Lab, University of Newcastle, UK including workshop, lecture & live performance =>

I managed to land an artist residency at Culture Lab, University of Newcastle, where I was hosted by Tim Shaw and John Bowers. I had a nice little studio to use, as well as access to their workshop. One of the many highlights was a field trip to the South Shields area, and my favourite spot was Marsden Grotto. They loaned me an Aquarian H2a-XLR hydrophone so I was able to do some further testing with this, and got this nice little rockpool recording.

Here's a couple of pics taken by Tim Shaw on my iphone at Marsden Grotto =>

As I had access to the workshop I managed to find time to build a couple of CGS diode transformer ring mod kits. A great little module, and super quick and easy to put together, Tim just had time to take a quick snap before they were all done =>

I also had time to make some collaborative recordings with Tim & John in the Culture Lab studio & take a few snaps =>

John Bowers synth/eclectronics setup
Tim Shaw synth setup

My setup in the foreground ready for our collab session
A close up of my setup at Culture Lab: PreenFM2, Axoloti, MANIAC, Eurorack and diode transformer ring mod

We finished up with a gig at Culture Lab, which was a lot of fun! Also playing that night was Rob Blazey with his Kalimbo. I was also super interested in the bowl of components that John Bowers uses in his setup. Basically its a bunch of randomly chosen components all mixed up in a glass bowl. A metal object it then insterted, such as a spoon or fork and wired out on an audio lead. A 9v battery supplies power and John stirs and prods the mixture which makes a whole bunch of weird clicky and glitchy noise sounds. Even gave off a few choice smells too.. =>

Tim & John at our Culture Lab gig
Rob Blazey performing with Kalimbo

Tim Shaw kindly sent me a bunch of pix of my lecture, workshop and performance =>

June 15 - 22 : Mentorship with Chris Watson in Newcastle surrounds for field recording & accompanying Chris setting up his installation at University of Hull, UK for Sound+Environment Conference =>

My next mentorship session with Chris began in Newcastle at his home studio, where I was able to sit in on the mixing sessions for the upcoming world premiere of his major installation at University of Hull, Trent Falls to Spurn Point :

"A collaboration between Hull 2017 and the University of Hull, this three dimensional sound sculpture follows the ebbing tide, from the confluence of the rivers Trent and Ouse. An enthralling journey along the Humber estuary and out into rich melodies of the North Sea, experienced at the Gulbenkian Centre using sound, space and light as evocation."

Here's a little video I recently put together from some iphone footage taken in the earlier session in January with Chris on location =>

At his studio Chris has a 4 speaker Genelec system and runs Steinberg Nuendo with a Harpex-X ambisonic decoder plug-in.

I was also shown some of the older gear that Chris has used, which gave me [and my recent haircut] a really good perspective on how the technology for field recording has changed. This Nagra IV-S reel-to-reel for example at 6.4kg is so heavy I can't imagine what it must have been like lugging this around! 

This Nagra SN below is really quite something, and was state of the art for miniature tape recorders. A great quote from the Crypto Museum page on this recorder =>

"The Nagra SN was a high-precision minature audio tape recorder built by Nagra-Kudelski in Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne (Switzerland) from 1970 onwards. It was based on a prototype from the early 1960s and was built to the highest possible Swiss standards. During the Cold War, the Nagra SN was popular at either side of the Iron Curtain: both the CIA and the Stasi loved it."

Chris Watson showing me his Nagra SN

Not only would you need to carry the Nagra machine, you would also be needing a whole bunch of accessories too! =>

Ourt first field trip was recording limpets munching on algae at Craster Rocks with Chris' DPA hydrophones  =>

This was an especially rare opportunity as DPA hydrophones have long been discontinued, so getting the chance to experience working with this gear was great! Maggie Watson took a few pics of us on my iphone, and I made a few snaps too =>

Just a little further up the coast is Dunstanburgh Castle, where we made an ambisonic recording with the Soundfield mic. It was placed rather dangerously a little way down the very high cliff, all in a days work for Chris! As I was doing the recording I got to stay in the relative safety of the cliff edge..

Another great field trip was The Hoppings, a fair that happens only once a year, so another rare opportunity to work with Chris. He set me up with his DPA 4060's clipped on to my hat for a binaural recording, where the microphones are positioned over each ear. The important lesson I learned here was not to wear headphones, as the audio can be picked up by the mics. So its important to keep a close eye on the recording meters, as well making multiple takes rather than one long take, particularly as I was having to adjust the recording level at different points.

Just as we arrived the Army were putting on a show firing tanks and rifles, again this was a stroke of luck, as they only did this a couple of times.. I should mention I'm no fan of war, but I got some good quality loud bangs courtesy of the UK taxpayers.

Chris drove me out on another field trip to one his favourite locations, Kielder Forest, to record the 3.30am dawn chorus with the Soundfield mic's and a double MS rig. We set off around midnight, and as it was midsummer we could still see a hint of daylight, I took a quick snap as we were driving out =>

We setup the mic's up on very long cables all the way back to the car and brought them in through the window. It was a good night for midges.. and insect repellant. By early morning there were plenty accompanying us in the car. We got out to pack up around 6am-ish, and reeling in the cables we found out how many midges were really out there! We were totally covered, eyes, noses and ears were a favourite spot.. After we'd wiped as many off as we could and set off home Chris was smiling, and told me that he'd been all over the world and experienced all kinds of animals, but the midges in Kielder Forest were the worst thing he's experienced anywhere..

When we got back I was shown a piece of useful kit for carrying equipment in rainy conditions, these bags by EXPED =>

Chris had a few final tweaks to do for the installation test, and then began the rendering to a B-Format file for playback at Hull =>

As this was our last session in the studio I got a quick snap of his gear rack, which features a Lexicon PCM96 effects processor and Klark-Teknik DN-410 Dual Parametric Equaliser.

When we arrived in Hull the setup was well under way, with the speakers being installed first in their locations and measurements taken of their exact location to enter into the ambisonic decoder.

A few pics of the lighting rig being installed =>

Another aspect of the work was an extensive interview by the BBC, where we revisited a number of the locations where Chris did the original recordings. This was a great experience for me, as it a demonstrated some of the less know aspects of a working artist, and the interview took up a whole day, something I was not expecting to see. We all had a great time and it was really nice to be able to see and hear the locations at a different time of year.

Back at Hull the lighting rig was now raised in position and the initial tests were being made with the audio playback =>

I was given a peak at the computer running the ambisonic decoder software, the file playback being done in REAPER 5 and decoding via SuperCollider Ambisonic Toolkit.  

Another day, another interview, this time with BBC Radio Humberside =>

Matthew Bernard taking some sound level measurements on the Radio Shack Sound Level Meter => 

As there is a lot of bass in the installation at some points the readings are being taken using the decibel C-weighting =>

The final tweaks of audio and lighting =>

June 23 - 28 : Artist Residency at University of Hull, UK for my commissioned Rainwire [Processed] installation for Sound + Environment 2017 Conference, University of Hull, UK =>

The main component of this residency was my Rainwire [Processed] installation at University of Hull, UK for Sound + Environment 2017 Conference. I also gave an artist talk on the Rainwire project, as well as chairing paper sessions and being on the round-table discussion panel.

The Rainwire [Processsed] installation featured live unattended processing by the EMS VCS3 MKII, and multi-channel speaker setup using a range of combo stage amplifier/speakers. Each speaker was driven by different recordings made during my residency at EMS on Buchla and Serge modular synths + Roberta Settels diode transformer ring modulator, and using Richard D James Fairlight CMI Series 1. These recordings were eq'd and mixed, before being transferred to an iPod for each speaker. Each recording was of a different length and looped on completion, so once the system was up and running it evolved over time to present a unique experience for the visitors.

Rainwire [Processsed] was setup in one of the universities Ensemble Rooms, and I spent several days working with my sound material and the speakers to get it tuned to the room so that it was loud and physical, but not uncomfortable or painful. I was keen to have a multi-channel installation that presented the work using something different than would normally be setup for multi-speaker. This went down well with the university as it meant I didn't require a whole bunch of Genelec's to be setup, and they had a great array of different amp/speaker combo's I could try out until I found which were the best for the work.

Here are the notes I supplied for the installation =>

Rainwire is an art/science project investigating the environmental sonification of rainfall, a technological appropriation of agricultural based objects, with particular emphasis on climate change issues and agriculture. The system is made from spans of fencing wire suspended across the open landscape. This installation features processed Rainwire recordings to give a very different experience of the work from previous incarnations. Both live and pre-recorded processing is presented using a number of different techniques. The listener is encouraged to contemplate the many and varied ways the recordings could be processed to inform scientific analysis. 

The majority of the material was processed at EMS in Stockholm, during two residencies in 2017 using: Buchla and Serge modular synthesizers, composer Roberta Settels' diode/transformer Ring Modulator, hardware DSP, and a number of custom diode/transformer Ring Modulator's I have built from scratch. During my 2017 Mentorship with Richard D James/Aphex Twin I had access to a Fairlight Series 1 sound sampler, and a batch of Rainwire samples were recorded, analysed and reprocessed on this instrument. Realtime processing is being performed by a vintage EMS VCS3 synthesizer and some of my custom programs on the Tiptop Z-DSP Eurorack module.

A great experience all round, and I learned a lot about working with the acoustics of the space. Below are a sequence of photo's detailing the installation during its setup phase =>

Here is an iphone video of the installation nearing its completion =>

Once all the fine tuning of the speakers and soundfiles had been completed all that was left to do was put in chairs and bean bags for comfortable deep listening =>

The first punters arrive and get comfortable =>

My installation was even visited by EMS founder Peter Zinovieff, seen in the following three photo's in the light grey jacket =>

July 4 : Short visit to Eurorack modular synthesizer manufacturer ALM Busy Circuits HQ, UK =>

My last stop in the UK was visiting ALM Busy Circuits for a behind the scenes look at how a Eurorack manufacturer operates. ALM makes some very cool modules, including the FM chip based Akemie's Castle, a custom limited edition wavetable module with my mate Russell Haswell called Haswell's Taiko and the latest offering is the MUM M8 voltage controlled filter in collaboration with Mumdance.

I got a good overview of the gear used to prototype modules, which includes a range of both new and older test/building equipment detailed in the pictures below.

A key part of the design process is laying out the circuit boards for manufacturing, and I was allowed to view part of this process, the software used in house is Autodesk Eagle

As well as getting a guided tour of the workshop I also got to model the latest ALM tee shirt!

I asked Matthew if he'd give me a quick primer on how to solder SMT chips that I could share on my youtube channel, so I grabbed this video of the process. 

ALM Busy Circuits, Akemie's Castle FM synth module
Thanks to Matthew & family for great hospitality! and for the Akemie's Castle which you can hear on my recent limited edition 4xCDr NYZ - DSP TRX release on Psoma Psi Phi.


Mentorship with Doug Quin and residency at Syracuse University, USA, residency at Important Records HQ, Mass, USA, and more regional NSW activities / field trips / workshops / performance. 

You can also hear a playlist of the above clips and more recordings from my fellowship on my soundcloud here =>

+ here is my appearance on a special episode of Graham Dunning's Fractal Meat on a Spongy Bone, which covered a bunch of my Fellowship recordings and activities during my first overseas trip, as well previously released and unreleased material  =>


Phil Julian
Andie Brown
Graham Dunning
Everyone at Cafe OTO
Allon Kaye and the Entr'acte crew
Richard D James + Stas
Finlay Shakespeare
Tim [RIP] & Debs in Notts for the legendary hospitality!
Vi Burraston
Anthony Locke [skeleton unit] & family for the usual mega hospitality!
Tom Knapp
Everyone at Fuse Art Space
Jez riley French
Rob Mackay & everyone at Uni of Hull
Matthew Bernard
Jo Kennedy
Tallulah Vigers
Alice Eldridge
Ben Poulton / Zoviet France
Leah Barclay
Mike Kubeck & everyone at SuperDeluxe
Christian Moraga at Roland Aira
Cal Lyle & Jamie Reed
Dave Crittle at Retrovox in Wagga Wagga
Everyone at EMS, Stockholm!!! Especially Henrik Jonsson for pix/clobber loaning, Mats Erlandsson, & of course Gabrielle Karlsén-Beretta for organising my residency!
John Chantler
Stephen McEvoy
Maxwell August Croy
Tim Shaw
John Bowers + Sanne
Rob Blazey
Graeme Hopper
Chris & Maggie Watson & family, especially Alex for all the lugging and setting up!
Russell Haswell
Matthew Allum [ALM Busy Circuits] & family
Chris Clepper at Tiptop Audio
Brian Grainger at Psoma Psi Phi
Scott Howie at Eastern Riverina Arts
Sarah Last at The Wired Lab
Create NSW 

This Regional Arts Fellowship is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.