Friday, December 18, 2015

Stolen Mirror releases debut CD from Steve McCourt


Today is an exciting milestone, as my label Stolen Mirror releases Steve McCourt's evocative debut "AC" on compact disc.

For some, noise is a curse, an unwanted sound, a transaction gone bad. For others, noise is a wellspring of life and energy, from which imagination springs. McCourt operates in the second category, composing with jet engines, cell phone interference, and sounds usually ignored as musical material. He has crafted a personal statement about the place of noise in our lives.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Light Moves festival this week

Methods of Hypnosis

It's back for its second year, bringing all manner of inventive and energetic films to Limerick. The Light Moves festival of screendance is not simply focused on films that illustrate dance, but rather on the many ways in which movement can be creatively expressed in film.

Most of the events take place at Dance Limerick, 1-2 John's Square. The church is used for the screenings and seminars. The studio on the opposite side of the square houses the installations.

I'm very proud that my film "Methods of Hypnosis" is one of them. It's being presented with a first-class projection and sound system, so I cannot wait to see it! You can drop by the studio between 10am and 8pm Thursday and Friday only, to check it out.

A woman is wrapped in a blanket by four strangers. Couples with broken arms partner on a dance floor. An unconscious young man is disengaged from a steering wheel. "Methods of Hypnosis" reveals strange choreographies hidden in public domain footage. Repeated patterns of behaviour. A path traced out over time. Social relationships exercised. Place in the process of formation.

I will also be giving a talk and screening on "The music video experiments of Angela Conway", as part of the Friday Symposium. I'll be talking about her work as musician, choreographer, and videographer, which arose out of associations with the group Wire and the Michael Clarke Company.
Sunday, November 08, 2015

Sesame salmon stir-fry

It's been a while since I shared any food. Here's something delicious and healthy you can make in a wok. It starts with fresh salmon fillet, skin on (of course -- that's where much goodness is).

Monday, October 12, 2015

media + inspiration + art = mia

Let me introduce my newest website, MIA. This stands for media + inspiration + art.

It's a blog, a curated collection of creative approaches to technology and aesthetics.

There I will be posting links to fascinating projects that might be related to courses I teach at the University of Limerick. Or might not.

I won't be passing much comment, but instead hope to give you a daily dose of inspiration. It will become a repository for ideas I think are particularly worthy.

Check it out, and subscribe via email, RSS, etc.

Update: URL updated for 2016.
Thursday, August 20, 2015

Album review: "Matins d'Ariège" by Stéphane Marin

It begins with a juddering of a window being buffeted in the wind, and then we are sucked out into a squall, wind swirling about us. To lock out the gale we slam doors closed, slide bolts on their supports, and latch squeaky shutters. Thunderous impacts alternate with the howling gale in a procession of inside/outside, far/near, dissipation/intensification.

Literally and figuratively "Bourrasques" is an opening. It's a stunning way to commence Matins d'Ariège, a new release by Stéphane Marin. For two years Marin gathered sounds in the village of Fabas, embedded in the Pyrénnées Ariégeoises region of France, using mostly binaural and contact microphones.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eurozone Crisis resource page

no future

My last article assumed quite a lot about the reader's knowledge regarding the Eurozone Crisis. It at least took for granted that the reader's attentive intellect had pierced the veil of propaganda surrounding this issue. Here I collect supplementary references. This is for those who still need convincing, or for those who want a handy place to send others.

Since this is a current event, the information is time-sensitive. Already it is in the past. Or at least it is framed that way by a news media that hops from one crisis to another. But the situation continues; people have to live with it. And the forces that generated this crisis are still at play. The same will be done again.
Thursday, July 09, 2015

BBC News as creator of the "Greek Crisis"

How do news media shape the stories we read? What role do they play in forming mainstream opinion? Complex questions, but we can learn a lot from simply reading a web page, both for the choice of "facts" and for how this information is represented. As a topical example, I will examine the BBC News coverage of the "Troika Crisis", AKA the "Greek Crisis", by looking at one snapshot of their web page.
Sunday, May 10, 2015

PIP microphone tests

Audiotalaia omni PRO

Here are the results of a microphone test I performed with some compact electrets and my small Olympus recorder. Read on for a description of the test. Download the files (link near the end) so you can reach your own conclusions. I trust this will be of value for those making similar decisions.
Friday, May 08, 2015

On the Occasion of the UK General Election


The UK has been doomed since the Second World War, which the country lost to the USA. Recall that rationing only formally ended in 1954, and had repercussions far after. (See "Government Cheddar" for an intriguing history.) The country now has no basic industry or sustainable means of economic existence, instead relying on two mechanisms for survival. It is these that define the contemporary "empire".
Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Sonic Vigil and the search for accidents

David Stalling

Sonic Vigil is a group durational improvisation, held annually in Cork. See my last post for a list of the organisers and this year's participants (some of whom I will picture here). In this article I will describe my approach to improvisation in general, and this event in particular. This will lead into technical discussions to be posted later.
Monday, May 04, 2015

Sonic Vigil 9 Thanks and Photos

Sonic Vigil 9 perspective view, St. Mary's Church

Saturday last saw an incredible crew of musicians and sound artists gather in Cork, for the ninth annual Sonic Vigil. This six hour event is scheduled by a computer programme, so that every musician plays for a total of one hour, but doesn't know in advance who will be playing with them. Attentive listening and great sensitivity in sound production is required for this to work in any way, shape, or form.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015

SendEmail automates boiler-plate email messages

Last week I needed to email out marks to my students. How to automate a bulk email project? No doubt the Internet will turn up hundreds of spyware-infested programmes of dubious lineage and intent, all designed for just this purpose.

So I turned to Python. Because if I write my own code I can trust it to do exactly what I wish, no more, no less. And so memories of Paul's first Python programme came flooding back... ah, sweet nostalgia! If you have no idea what I am talking about here, read Sunday's article. In it, I presented the minimal four line Python snippet that sends email. In this article I will develop that core into a fully-functional command-line application.
Sunday, April 12, 2015

Python... and a letter to an editor

Python, the programming language, seems to be in the news more than usual. Or perhaps it's just the "Python For Beginners" article in Communications of the ACM that got me thinking. The article seems unreasonably critical for one ostensibly promoting the language. And so, for the first time, I've written a letter to the editor of that esteemed journal. More on that in a moment.

If I think through all of the technologies that have made my life easier and better, the first one that comes to mind is, quite naturally, the Internet. The second is Python, created by Guido van Rossum. Allow me to reminisce for a moment.
Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Meditations on Light" by Simon Whetham

music for solar eclipse

Simon Whetham is a sound artist whose work covers a wide range of activities, from installations to compositions to workshops. For a long time now I've avoided hearing much of his music, perhaps because I always had a feeling that it might be uncannily close to my own work. But now, following on the solar eclipse, it seems somehow appropriate to share my review of this particular excellent release.
Saturday, March 07, 2015

Portable Audio Recorders 2015/2016 Update

Some of my most popular posts on this blog have concerned digital audio recorders. Between 2008 and 2010 companies released a steady stream of new models, utilising 24-bit A/D and SD card storage. These recorders were a godsend to those of us interested in field recording, since now we had access to smaller, more efficient, and less expensive units. It is no coincidence that field recording has flourished in the last five to seven years. This is enabling technology.

Most of the new recorders were targeted at the high SPL regime of band practice, live music, or interviews. Their microphone pre-amps were designed to withstand high signal level without distortion, but tended to be relatively noisy at low input levels.

My goal was to determine which models were fit for field recording. I bought several and borrowed others. I read extensively across all available information sources, some of which I list at the end of this post. Ultimately I made a choice perfect for my own practice, the Olympus LS-5 (or LS-11, or LS-10, all variants on fundamentally the same recorder). My detailed articles and comparison tables enabled others with different priorities to make their own decisions.

I've been rather silent on this topic in the last few years, for the simple reason that there have been no outstanding break-through in this area. Nonetheless, recent discussions on social media make this a good time to update my comparison table. I'll also pull together a list of historical articles, since they contain much information that is still useful.
Saturday, February 14, 2015

radioCona from Ljubljana

Zmajski most 1
Earlier this year I was invited to be part of radioCona, the "temporary project radio for contemporary arts" that is based in Ljubljana. Starting this Sunday, for five days, radioCona will broadcast on the FM bands, starting exactly at nightfall. "This is the time when the atmosphere is no longer filled with the fine sunlight, when the sun reaches 18 degrees or more below the horizon."

My composition "Caged Birds (Augmentation)" will be heard Monday. This is based on a dawn chorus, but there is something nice about it being transposed to the night-time. I believe that this is now the fifth country in which this composition has been presented.
Saturday, January 31, 2015

The 3TB problem, or: where did my drive go?


Have you got a large hard drive (3 TB or more) that shows up as a much smaller one when you go to use it? Read on for a free solution that works under Windows 7 and likely many other 64-bit operating systems.
Sunday, January 04, 2015

lunch at L'Antic Forn, Barcelona

It's time for a quick restaurant review, through photographs. This July I was lucky enough to be in Barcelona for a week. So many events stand out for me, including a fantastic lunch at L'Antic Forn, a place where the waiters are attired in white aprons and everything is just so. Barcelona can be expensive, but it has a tradition of "menu del mercat", where you can eat a filling lunch for the price of a single dinner item. Susannah and I did just that, picking the place randomly after a short walk in Raval, near her apartment.

L'Antic Forn means "old bakery", which is pleasing from the get-go. Bread is essential. Crusty, fluffy white rolls that go stale in a couple of hours, so you know they are not made with junk. That's something I cannot get in Ireland, so I do not eat bread when at home.

bread and beer
Friday, January 02, 2015

A year in photographs (part three)

If you haven't yet done so, now is the time to check out part one and part two of this recap, before continuing with this, the third and final instalment.

From 28-29 August I was in the east of Ireland, at the newly branded Maynooth University for "Audio Fabric: Socio-sonic Textures in the Real World", the annual convocation of the Irish Sound, Science and Technology Association (ISSTA). Every year since its inception I have followed this conference around the country. Indeed, I may be the only person to have presented at every session. My paper was "Field recoding - phonography and the creation of place". The rest of my time was taken up listening to the other contributors, seeking out the best pub in the (rather small) town, chatting with locals about history, recording the quiet corridors of a seminary, and getting trapped on private grounds (I escaped eventually).

Maynooth University