Is it worth it?

January 30, 2008

penny
Next week i’m talking at a seminar discussing ‘the value of creativity’:

Economies of Value: A Seminar interrogating the roles, levels and definitions of value in media arts practice and partnerships.

SPACE, 129-131 Mare Street, Hackney, London E8 3RH

Tuesday 5 February
2008 10.30 am – 5 pm

Distributed South invites you to join us in a seminar which will examine issues of value and its measurement, paying particular reference to Media Arts sector and partnership working. We will focus on resource exchange and the value of research conducted by artists and organisations, through the development of work, residencies and placements.

Contributions from key economists in the field of cultural and creative management will enable us to look at systems that are being modelled to measure value in networks and groups. Alongside these systems, projects designed to focus on measuring value and exchange through social networking and information/resource exchange will demonstrate new methods of measurement

Economies of Value will be of interest to those working in the media, media arts, ICT and business people looking at new models of working.Like all events related to Distributed South it aims to move and inform policy in the media arts sector to drive forward new approaches to working and developing the field.

Some years ago we put the entire Bourbonese Qualk back catalogue online for anyone to download for free and do what they like with it. This wasn’t a Radiohead style marketing exercise but a statement of value – something is worth much more if it is free. Music has always been ‘free’ until it became fixed as a commodity i.e. when the gramophone was invented which triggered the notion of ownership, control and IP. Releasing records for us wasn’t a commercial exercise but a way of distributing our ideas and we’re sold as cheaply as possible (Crass’s ‘steal this record’ analogue equivalent of mp3 downloads).
Someone sent me a link to a discussion about the Radiohead campaign that mentioned our ‘give-away’ (making me feel worthy and smug):
“…as a follow-up example, bourbonese qualk put their entire catalog online for free a while back. i was ecstatic, since their stuff was very hard to find anyway. i DL’d all of it, and got hold of them to see what i could do in return. they asked for a donation to Médecins Sans Frontières rather than any payment to them. a few minutes later, MSF had $50 from me.”
Help yourself from here: http://www.bourbonesequalk.net/
…or all the albums from this single torrent file: http://www.mininova.org/get/763559

Tintin and Infrasound

January 15, 2008

tintin

Curious blog synergy: An article based on the Stalker ‘Early warning/Acoustic radar‘ post from our Portuguese comrades at Anauel, involves acoustic radar, Tintin and, unknown to them, relates back to the new Stalker post on Infrasound. Herge’s drawing of the German sound weapon is actually taken from a photograph of the ‘Luftkanone’ at the Elbe river in 1945:

luftkanon_01

The book illustrated is Leslie E Simon’s real and much sought after post war research into German WW2 experimental weaponry “German research in WW2”

Full article (in Portuguese) is here: http://anauel.blogspot.com/2008/01/oh-capito-isso-extraordinrio.html

gavreau

(image: Vladimir Gavreau)

Infrasound is low frequency audio beneath the human range of hearing. Infrasound constantly surrounds us, generated naturally; wind, waves, earthquakes and by man; building activity, traffic, air conditioners and so-on. Low frequency sound is used by marine mammals to communicate over vast distances and by birds to determine migration patterns.

At higher volumes infrasound of around 7-20hz can directly affect the human central nervous system causing disorientation, anxiety, panic, bowel spasms, nausea, vomiting and eventually unconsciousness (supposedly 7-8hz is the most effective being the same frequency as the average brain alpha wave). The effect is unintentionally (or not?) generated by the extreme low frequencies in church pipe organ music, instilling religous feelings and causing sensations of “extreme sense sorrow, coldness, anxiety, and even shivers down the spine.”(1) in the unsuspecting congregation. Low frequency sound generated naturally or by building work and traffic is said to be the cause of reported apparitions and hauntings (2) – blamed on the ghostly 19hz frequency which matches the resonating frequency of the human eyeball:

Frequency & effects:

7 Hz: Supposedly the most dangerous frequency corresponding with the median alpha-rhythm frequencies of the brain. It has also been alleged that this is the resonant frequency of the body’s organs therefore organ rupture and even death can occur at prolonged exposure.

1-10hz: “Intellectual activity is first inhibited, blocked, and then destroyed. As the amplitude is increased, several disconcerting responses have been noted. These responses begin a complete neurological interference. The action of the medulla is physiologically blocked, its autonomic functions cease.” (Gavreau )

43-73hz: ” lack of visual acuity, IQ scores fall to 77% of normal, distortion of spatial orientation, poor muscular coordination, loss of equilibrium, slurred speech, and blackout”.(Gavreau )

50-100hz: “intolerable sensations in the chest and thoracic region can be produced – even with the ears protected. Other physiological changes that can occur include chest all vibration and some respiratory rhythm changes in human subjects, together with hypopharyngeal fullness (gagging). The frequency range between 50 and 100 Hz also produces mild nausea and giddiness at levels of 150 – 155 dB, at which point subjective tolerance is reached. At 150 to 155 dB (0.63 to 1.1 kPA), respiration-related effects include substernal discomfort, coughing, severe substernal pressure, choking respiration, and hypopharyngeal discomfort.” (Davies)

100hz – At this level, a person experiences irritation, “mild nausea, giddiness, skin flushing, and body tingling.” Following this, a person undergoes “vertigo, anxiety, extreme fatigue, throat pressure, and respiratory dysfunction.”(Gavreau )

infra_02

damage

(images: tables from “Acoustic Weapons—A Prospective Assessment: Sources, Propagation, and Effects of Strong Sound” Jürgen Altmann)

The first documented attempt to reproduce the infrasound effects was by the much mythologised Russian/French physicist Vladimir Gavreau in 1957. Gavreau became interested in infrasound when he was asked to cure a case of ‘Sick Building Syndrome’; Staff at a research plant in Marseilles were mysteriously falling ill. Chemical or pathogen poisoning was suspected but Gavreau eventually traced the origin of the illnesses to an air conditioning units rotating fans that were generating low frequency sound waves. Gavreau began to experiment with low frequency acoustics with the intention of creating a viable audio weapon for the French military. Several prototype designs of various sizes were produced christened ‘canon sonique’ consisting of piston driven tubes and smaller compressed air horns and whistles. Gavreau and his team tested the instruments on themselves at the Marseilles plant with unexpected success as apparently one of the team died instantly “his internal organs… mashed into an amorphous jelly by the vibrations”:

“Luckily, we were able to turn it off quickly. All of us were sick for hours. Everything in us was vibrating: stomach, heart, lungs. All the people in the other laboratories were sick too. They were very angry with us.

Read the rest of this entry »

acousticmirror

Image: Sound Mirrors near Dungness, Kent, UK

Scattered around the South East coast of England are these concrete objects. They are Acoustic Mirrors, built from 1916 to the mid 1930’s as an acoustic early warning system . The mirrors were simply large ‘acoustic ears’ used to locate approaching enemy aeroplanes and Zeppelins by amplifying and pinpointing engine sound – they had a range of around fifteen miles which gave a few minutes extra warning over visual location . The parabolic mirrors reflected and focussed the sound into one spot which was picked up by the listener through a rubber tube attached to the ears – a great example of the practical application of British exentricity. The mirrors eventually became obsolete with the development of faster aircraft and killed off entirely with the invention of Radar.

Mobile versions of the sound mirrors were still in use by Germany, Briatain and the USA during the Second World War as crude anti aricraft warning devices:

acousticmirror_02

Image: German Acoustic Early Warning device 1940s

acousticmirror_04

Image: British Acoustic Early Warning device 1940s

soundradar

Image: Japanaese Mobile Acoustic Horns 1930s

Link:

Sound Mirrors on the SE coast

Acoustic Location and Sound Mirrors.

The Sound Mirrors project

SE London 1986(Not really a sound from memory more the memory of an imagined sound…)

The ideal city is a city with mountains – Naples, Lisbon, Sarajevo, Phoenix Arizona even. The flat and claustrophobic city of London lacks this topological quality but tries to make up for it in the form of council tower blocks (not quite the vertical exuberance of Hong Kong or Shanghai but it will do…) and it was to these buildings that i was drawn in a skyward search to try and ‘understand’ the city and the London landscape.

In the early Eighties council housing was in chaos and these blocks had been more or less to fend for themselves; the original tenants had moved out (except for a few aged ” i’ll only leave here in a coffin” types identifiable by heavily armored front doors) leaving the run of the place to a colorful mix of smackheads, the smackhead’s drug dealers, ‘antisocial’ families and the dregs of the squatter population.

(a friend of mine who lived in the top flat of a fourty storey building, hacked a head sized hole through his bedroom wall so that when he was lying in bed he could remind himself that the only thing between him and the void was a thin layer of breeze blocks. His occupancy of the flat was cut short when a pirate radio station gang persuaded him to leave by dangling him out of the kitchen window…)

Access to the buildings was unrestricted, I spent happy hours exploring and climbing these imitation mountains – walking up the stairwells, climbing scaffolding or directly up the exterior of the building, balcony to balcony to sit, dangling my feet of the top. Much of the mid-period bourbonese qualk imagery derives from this architecture (not as commonly supposed an ‘industrial’ affectation but a search for the echo of a more rural landscape) as video, album covers, posters and photographs. But more and more the focus of my climbs became the attempt to record the fall from a high building; Sitting on the edge of the top of a tower block caused me an almost unstoppable physical urge to leap off – i was sure the falling sensation would be worth it, however brief. I decided to try and capture a simulation of falling by dropping microphones and video cameras off high buildings creating a series of short, very short, films and audio recordings (and smashed equipment). I never came close to matching the imagined sound, a sound which has to be experienced to be fully appreciated: in a short six seconds the sound of televisions, and children crying changing pitch though doppler distortion as i drop past the balconies, the noise of the city – traffic, car alarms, sirens fading as the range decreases to a single point of impact on a concrete surface bringing the short journey full circle from solid to void and back again.

Some tips on falling:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2004/may/20/thisweekssciencequestions2

http://www.wikihow.com/Survive-a-Long-Fall

John Crampton

January 4, 2008

john_crampton

Hastings Arms, Hastings. 17-12-2007

John Crampton is one of those idiosyncratic British musicians like Lol Coxhill or Evan Parker maybe, who have taken a musical form, in this case Blues*, and adapted and evolved it into their own per-culiar voice. John’s music is essentially blues but replaces the standard characteristics with his own idioms: shuffling 12 bar blues rythm are replaced with up-tempo 4/4 beats metronomically measured out on a simple foot pedal. Instead of the formulaic flattened guitar chords, John’s playing is an eclectic mix of Flamenco, West African Ju-Ju slide, country and Punk, the tin  guitar occasionally  treated as a percussion instrument augmented by hand claps and foot taps. Layered over this is Crampton’s gritty, growled minimal vocal and harmonica playing which again avoids blues stereotypes and  harmonically adds to the range of the music creating a ‘big sound’ like an Irish string section moving loosely along with the guitars.

Micklepage Stomp (excerpt) MP3 file

http://www.crampton62.freeserve.co.uk/   John Crampton Website

*Not my kind of thing, “The Blues”. I like the idea of “The Blues” but my ears refuse to listen to it – don’t get me wrong, i can see why it is good; i understand the whole ‘west-africa-to-america’ relevance, complex harmonies and rhythms and root importance to rock and pop music – i’d just prefer that it sounded better. Maybe it’s what happened to Blues that makes me uncomfortable; when played amplified by white blokes it tends toward bombast (and that unforgivable crime; the creation of Heavy Metal). When it’s purity is preserved it becomes sterile and ironically further away from it’s roots; becoming the sole domain of aging middle class  males.