Monday, March 24, 2014

Urban Soundscapes and Critical Citizenship

This week the Urban Soundscapes and Critical Citizenship conference rolls into the University of Limerick. Guests from around the world will be visiting our fair City of Culture this Thursday and Friday, 27-28 March.

In this interdisciplinary conference, we explore the intersection of soundscapes and acoustic ecology studies with urban, applied ethnomusicology’s focus on human subjects and with sociological understandings of the cultural restructuring of urban space, through an evocation of "critical citizenship".

Given my ongoing attempt to interrogate this field, it should surprise no-one that I will contribute in no fewer than three ways. An excerpt from one of my pieces is being included in the soundscape collage Echo-Locations, which will be played at various locations in the city.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My new album "...between..." now available!

I am proud to announce that you can now purchase the album "...between..." from the lovely people at German label Gruenrekorder. It comes in high quality FLAC files with an assortment of photographs.

Places are made real as we encounter them, through our physical presence, memories, and imagination. This album was created using location recordings and the timbres of musical instruments. These have been transformed into landscapes that are perhaps as fictive as they are real. Birds eat bread from a frost-covered wall. Trains rattle over bridges in the centre of London. A mysterious drone sounds out in rural Ireland. Someone throws stones into a stream. A police siren plays a duet with a piano.
Saturday, March 08, 2014

L-System Garden: Max implementation of Lindenmeyer

Iteration is the act of repeating a task in order to approach a desired goal. This process is at work in many natural phenomena, notably plant growth. Aristid Lindenmayer, a Hungarian biologist), first modelled cell formation using a simple iterative process. He later discovered that the same principles could be extended to larger plant forms: stems, leaves, petals, and so forth. He introduced the L-system (Lindenmayer System) in 1968 and subsequently proposed various geometric interpretations in order to create 2D and 3D renderings of this data. The best source for information is the book he co-authored and in 1990 (shortly after his death). The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants is available as a free PDF download.
Sunday, February 23, 2014

Olympus PEN ISO comparison

Although the internet is full of such comparisons, I periodically step up to the plate and provide another "camera this" versus "camera that" insight. I guess you can never have too many. Or, more to the point, I prefer to do my own testing, with my own equipment, so that I have a basis for deciding how I will use these tools out in the field.

So, being recently in receipt of the Olympus PEN E-P5, I decided to compare its noise characteristics throughout its ISO range, which extends from 200 to 25,600 plus a "pulled" ISO 100 that is useful on particularly bright days. I put this up against the Olympus PEN E-PL2, which has settings for ISO from 200 to 6400.
Friday, January 31, 2014

Recommended headphones for audio pros

Beyerdynamic Tesla DT 1350
It's hard to imagine I haven't written about headphones before now, but apparently it is one of my many interests that hasn't made it to the blog. It's time to rectify that omission. First I'll discuss the applications for which different headphone designs are suited, and will then make recommendations, drawn not only from my own listening experience, but industry knowledge in the main. My results accord with those of other experts, so if you are already knowledgeable on this subject don't expect many surprises. Headphone choice may be a personal matter, but it's still far easier than discussing studio monitors, microphones, or a host of other topics.

My focus here is on headphones for audio professionals [1];, and without getting too bound up in what that might mean, let me simply say that the goal is affordable quality without much compromise. We want to hear the actual sound, rather than some filtered, sugar-coated, bass-emphasised version of the audio truth. So you won't find any Beats or other rubbish [2] in my list. Neither will you find those mega-expensive audiophile models that require special amplification, cable modifications, etc. This is mostly snake oil [3]. There is simply no reason to pay sky-high amounts to get excellent sound. And the minute differences in frequency response and rendering that differentiate a €500 pair of headphones from a €2000 pair are generally swamped by other listening factors.
Wednesday, January 01, 2014

slug trails trace morninglight

green and gold (leaf and slug trails)

slug trails trace morninglight
across specular shards of granite
silverflash catches my eye from the kitchen
I stand in dressing gown
carefully wiping sharp crystals
from my eyelids
I track my tongue across the inner
surface of gritty teeth, worn enamel catching
that sticky muscle still
bitter from travels taken
through night's dark concourses

I dreamt of a long passage, worn feet,
and typewritten pages left to rot in thick, damp grass
Friday, December 20, 2013

Synchronising files between devices -- how hard can it be?

It's the age of the cloud, or so we are told. All our documents are available to us everywhere, on our computers, phones, and tablets.

In this golden age it should be simple to synchronise between Android and the desktop computer, in such as way as to take advantage of an internet connection when it exists, but not be hampered by the lack when it doesn't. Seamless editing, with automatic synchronising on each edit, should be a reality in 2013, given that the technology is decades old. But the truth is rather different.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Latest Activities


Almost three months since my last blog post... I guess you could say I've been busy, all the time making photos, gathering sounds, writing poems, delivering lectures, presenting new compositions... interrogating the world around me through as many means as possible. Here follows a short summary, with photo and audio accompaniment.

Back in August the extensive compilation For Tom Carter was released, the aim being to raise funds for Tom Carter's (Charalambides) hospital fees. It will take you over ten hours to listen to all 99 contributions, including my own "Bicameral Dash", a track unique to this venture. The album is available on BandCamp. Highly recommended! (And free to listen, but please purchase.)

listening to HomeBird

At the end of August I delivered the paper "Radio Before and After Radio Waves" at ISSTC 2013, which took place at the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art and Design. I wrote more about that in my last post. This annual event was, as usual, a fantastic occasion in which to listen to vast amounts of music and develop insights into matters both technical and artistic. I was happy with the reception my own paper received, which only means that I have to somehow find time to write it up into a presentable PDF.

Church of Saint Kancijan

I had only a couple of days at home and then I was off to The Golden Boat Poetry Translation Workshop in Slovenia. Guests from several countries (England, Ireland, Slovakia, Poland, Montenegro, Finland) were invited to contribute their own poems and assist in the translation of others. The results were read at the historic Church of Saint Kancijan, and then in a reading at Trubar Literature House, Ljubljana. The week was absolutely fantastic on a professional level, and I must thank all of the participants and especially the organisers, Iztok Osojnik and Tatjana Jamnik.

Reka waterfall

The week was also stupendous in terms of the local geography of Škocjan, which is literally beyond description. The area is know for including the largest cave network in Europe, which we of course visited. Terrifying! Beyond this the psychogeography of the region was compelling. Even if you don't believe in ghosts there is certainly something unusual happening in the vicinity of the Cemetery of the Fearless Dead. I stayed in Betanja, where dreams are known to be dark and fluid, mapping the river that literally runs all around and underneath the limestone terrain.

I not only wrote a poem from this expeience, I made a film for it. Hopefully to be shown at some point! In the meantime, here are some midnight insect sounds:

Later in September my article Making Noise And Reading Noise was published in Interference Journal. This is a review of Hillel Schwartz's massive book Making Noise, which I recommend... under advisement. You can read my detailed critique on the journal's website.

Marco Viscomi with Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, translator

Poetry continued in October at the Cuisle Limerick International Poetry Festival. I am on the committee and so was kept busy despite the onset of an annoying flu. I was particularly happy at the reception of the two lunch-time poets. Though illness precluded the usual late nights socialising in the pub, I found the variety of works stimulating. Pictured is Marco Viscomi from our new sister festival in Italy, with translator Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin.

As each year, the festival was the site of the launch of the annual Stony Thursday Book. No. 12 was edited by Paddy Bushe. I am happy to say it included my poem "Tinnitus", already translated into a few languages at the aforementioned workshop! At The White House poetry session I read a brand new poem, reworking Irish mythology. "Amhairghin Returns" got a great reception, so I immediately sent it out for publication... not something I generally bother with.

Slip 3 Mezzanine concert environment

Most recently I was at the Symposium on Acoustic Ecology at the University of Kent. I met up with no fewer than five other Irish composers -- nice to see us well represented. A special shout out to Fergus Kelly, since I meet him on pretty well every trip I take outside of Limerick! Mikael Fernström and Aileen Dellane each presented papers. Alan Dormer provided an installation while Steve McCourt and myself had pieces in the listening room. You can listen to my "Caged Birds (Augmentation)" on Soundcloud.

It was great to hear the keynotes from Katharine Norman and Barry Truax, somewhat surreal to be chatting to Denis Smalley as we walked from building to building, and a happy accident that I found intriguing sounds to record while I was there. I am sure that the historic Medway docklands would be a fantastic place to wander around when it isn't raining all the time. But I did my best in any case.

The photo above shows the site of the final evening's concert, a huge hangar that appears like the hull of an inverted ship. Imagine an array of forty speakers blasting out sounds here. And freezing cold. Special!

On top of all of this I've been teaching Acoustics & Psychoacoustics on the Masters in Music Technology programme at DMARC, University of Limerick. And working front-of-house at the Limerick City Gallery of Art.

So, yes, busy. And more to come, which I should save for another post.

Sorry for the long absence. I hope this summary will keep my non-Facebook friends somewhat in the loop.
Thursday, August 22, 2013

Convocation of sound and technology in Dún Laoghaire

Every year the members of the Irish, Sound, Science and Technology Association (ISSTA) meet somewhere in Ireland to discuss their latest research, listen to lots of intriguing new music, attend workshops on anything from circuit bending to DJ tactics, and generally have a good time. It's not a conference, it's a convocation, a word that better expresses the plurality of activities on offer.

This year the ISSTA Convocation is 28-29 August at the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art and Design, just down the tracks from Dublin. Wednesday afternoon I will be delivering the paper "Radio Before and After Radio Waves", which draws on my experience in radiophonics in Canada. I want to define what practical qualities make radio special, but also which topological and network aspects allow us to speak of radio as a concept, a powerful spark to imaginative artistic practice.
Thursday, August 01, 2013

Choosing a micro SD card for your phone

Three years ago I wrote an introductory article on choosing an SD card, with the emphasis on camera usage. Times have changed and so have applications. This time around, I want to focus on finding the best microSD memory card for your smart phone. Naturally you will want to examine brand name reliability, price, and performance. To determine which is the fastest card for your money you might read online reviews, manufacturers specifications, and examine closely the strange nomenclature ("Class10", "UHS-1", "SDXC") surrounding memory cards.

But this is misleading. Everything you know about memory card performance is wrong.