This audio piece is a mashup of four different nights between March and April 2020 across two streets. It represents the nightly tribute our particular neighbourhood did for our essential services workers during the pandemic. It’s something many children all over the world will one day remember doing and why. As always, best listened to with your headphones. Noise cancelling ones will do very well.
In April 2016, my Aunt sent my siblings and me an email asking if one of us would like to take some of my grandfather’s memorabilia off her hands, since her children were not interested. I was the one that accepted and found myself with approximately 250 cassette tapes spread over about 23 binders. They included tapes that Grandpa was surely making when I would visit him as a child. My recollection was of him recording music off the radio, using a reel to reel tape recorder, a cigarette dangling off one corner of his mouth, squinting in the smoke, one eye trained on me, asking what instrument I was planning to become proficient in, as he prepared to verbally annotate the recordings via his microphone. In those days, my grandfather surely saw musical content as free and did not bother to concern himself with any copyright issues associated with what he was doing. As it turned out he was creating an audio library for a friend or colleague named Edward; someone to whom he had actually willed the collection to. Edward never received the collection. I don’t know his last name, or where he might have lived. Maybe it’s all for the better. Despite Grandpa’s meticulous cataloguing of the material, most of it can be found free on the internet today. Much of that is better sound quality than what my grandfather was able to get off the air from Niagara Falls New York, Toronto, Buffalo or other stations he could find. When he died on January 1, 1982, he was still in the process of creating this special musical library for his friend.
I looked at the mound of binders on the floor and calculated how long it might take me to copy all the content from them to my PC. Easily six months I estimated. It took me almost ten. I ended up with 213 hours of classical music, one hour of Grandpa providing commentary, introductions, and unfiltered opinion, and another twenty-three hours of music and radio broadcaster voice fragments. Some of it is ripe for interpretation and experimentation. No sooner had I completed the initial sorting of the material, then I rolled up my sleeves to see what interesting sound pieces I could make to both acknowledge his labour, honour his memory, and have some audio fun.
The piece you can listen to below, I call Greatness and Fame. Evidently, his favourite flutist was Sir James Galway and he devoted a lot of time recording pieces that Galway was featured in. My grandfather seems to idolize and be awe struck by him, asserting him as a powerful, wealthy, and superior craftsman of his art. Grandpa himself was a musician in his youth. He was a member of the Toronto Symphony and the CBC Orchestras in the 1930s. He played a variety of woodwind and brass instruments. He gave it all up, though to go into the retail clothing business. So what happened? What if there was a little frustration and perhaps sour grapes that he, himself, never became world renowned?
For this piece I used some of my grandfather’s tape audio of Galway playing and cut out some parts. I then overlaid audio of my grandfather introducing some of Galway’s performances that he had recorded. Best listened to with headphones.
In February 2015, I visited the National Gallery in Ottawa. At the exhibition called “Canadian Biennial 2014” I wandered into an installation by Kelly Richardson. The sound that went along with the video installation filled the room. I was spellbound.
“As part of Shine a Light, Kelly Richardson’s recently acquired large-scale video installation Mariner 9 will be presented in the Contemporary Art Galleries. Mariner 9 presents a 48 foot by 10 foot panoramic view of a Martian landscape set hundreds of years into the future, littered with the rusting remains from various missions to the planet. Despite its suggested abandoned state, several of the spacecraft continue to partially function, to do their intended jobs, to ultimately find signs of life, possibly transmitting the data back to no one.
Mariner 9 was created using scenery-generation software employed by the film and gaming industries in combination with technical data from NASA’s missions to Mars to produce a faithful artist’s rendering of Martian terrain, populated by the debris from centuries of exploration through real and imagined spacecraft in the centre of a dust storm”
Equipment Used: Zoom H2 Recorder with Roland CS-10EM Binaural Microphones.
Spring waterfall over ice and rock #2. By the side of the road – March 23 2015 11:09am Prince Edward County. It was sunny and very very cold -10c. Equipment Used: Zoom H2 Recorder with Roland CS-10EM Binaural Microphones.
Water rumbles beneath the snow and ice with birds on Lake Ontario March 23 2015 12:13pm Prince Edward County. It was sunny and very very cold – 10c. Equipment Used: Zoom H2 Recorder with Roland CS-10EM Binaural Microphones
Waterfall Over Ice and Rock by the Side of the Road March 23 2015 11:05am Prince Edward County Ontario. It was very sunny and very very cold -10c. Equipment Used: Zoom H2 Recorder with Roland CS-10EM Binaural Microphones.
Audience generated music. Performed on Saturday October 18, 2014 at New Adventures in Sound Art in Toronto. Audience members were given cards with a url to connect to, and were able to send in button presses which formed the basis of the composition.
Conductor and Score Meister : Elliot Feinberg
Participants : Elliot, David, Sarah, Stephen and Eric
New York City Subway – September 18 2014 at around 17:20pm. Travelling from Bleecker Street to 42nd Street Grand Central Station. The audio has been edited and time slightly compressed to emphasize certain audio elements and vocal idiosyncrasies.
Listen: (5m36s 10Mb)
Equipment used: Zoom H2 and Roland – CS-10EM – Binaural Microphones/Earphones
A reading of T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, one of the greatest poems of the 20th century. Using an Apex Microphone connected to an Alesis 8 channel mixer on an x86 laptop running Ubuntu.
This piece uses approximately four minutes of audio from the documentary : Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change. Pangnirtung, Nunavut residents speak in their native tongue about a flash flood that occurred in June 2008. The flash flood caused the collapse of two bridges that connect the north and south end of the community over the Duval River. The bridges were built on the community’s permafrost. The permafrost in the northern latitudes is becoming unstable for our infrastructure as the permafrost thaws. I do voice over English translation using the documentary’s subtitles. The audio is 3 minutes and 47 seconds long. I recorded the voice over using Audacity, Alesis Multimix 8 USB Mixer, and Apex microphone connected to my Ubuntu server.
In my fourth and final installment of sound and visual art and artists I recorded at the Toronto Electro-Acoustic Symposium this summer, I end with the bees. After-all I started the series with bees for Hot Fossils and Rebel Matters number 208. In this show I learn a lot. For example – that there are at least 800 varieties of bees in Canada. Bees evolved from wasps. And so did ants. Many of these are solitary bees. There are many varieties of solitary bees. These are bees that do not live in hives, but instead burrow into discarded dead stalks and wood. They are not the least bit interested in us, just collecting pollen and nurturing their young to maturity. I catch up with Sarah Peebles and learn all about one of her prototype Audio Bee Booths – a habitat she created for solitary bees. (In the background of this soundscene/interview you can also hear the sound of children playing and airplanes flying overhead.)
One Side of the Audio Bee Booth 2010 Prototype
Or right-click to download: HotFRM 211 (75mb 40:00)
Equipment used: Apex 415 for intro. Zoom H2 and Roland – CS-10EM – Binaural Microphones/Earphones for soundscape and interview.
Alexandra Gelis is a Colombian-Venezuelan visual artist based in Toronto, Canada. She holds an MFA degree from York University, Toronto, Canada. Her work incorporates photography, video, electronics and digital processes…Gelis’ work addresses the use of image relation to topics of displacement, landscape, and politics. One of the prevalent concerns in her work is to unveil the relationship between landscape, history, people, geopolitics and the diverse techniques for achieving subjugation of bodies and population… As an educator/facilitator in video and photography she has led workshops with youth in disadvantaged communities in Canada, Colombia, and Panama. Her work has been shown internationally in several venues and galleries in Canada, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Argentina and the United States. She has developed curatorial projects, video screenings, and programs for festivals in Latin America and Canada.
On August 15, this summer, Alexandra unveiled her installation called Raspao/Snow Cones. This installation in her own words is
…a moving sound sculpture vehicle that makes Snow Cones to sell them. It is also equipped with electronic components that capture, reproduce, mix and record sounds and video in real time. Customers and bystanders create sound compositions by mixing sounds in real time from the surrounding environment and the sound made by the internal components of the cart. The Snow Cone vehicle is a food cart, a hybrid vehicle, a mixture of a Raspao cart used in Colombia to sell snow cones and the food carts that Portuguese and Greek Canadians use for selling roasted nuts and other sweet goods in Toronto. Snow Cones is also a sound piece that aims to open a space for social interaction, a place of meeting and conversation.
Of her relationship with the experience of snow cone machines she writes:
When it was very hot in Cartagena, Colombia, as a child I will buy an ice cone and I will eat it lying down on the beautiful decorated and cold tile floor in my house. The installation is a product of a private performance in the back of my house in Toronto, dealing with childhood memories. I paint on the snow using fuchsia ink (reminiscences of Ice Cone or “Raspaos”) tiles with arabesques as in the floor in my house in Cartagena. At the end I laid down naked on the snow trying to recuperate these impossible memories. Hot – Cold, Fuchsia – Childhood – Moments.
Raspao/Snow Cone Machine by Alexandra Gelis
In my third episode of four shows featuring artists at the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium, 2012 join me now during the opening of this installation and interview with the artist:
In this second of a four part series of soundscapes and interviews I did at the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium this August, I share two sound exhibits. PluseCubes by Ryo Ikeshiro. From the program: “is an interactive sound where visitors are invited to become part of an implicit feedback loop whose other components include a set of small cubes on a flat surface, computer vision and digital signal processing. The cubes are tracked by a web camera positioned overhead and processed by a programming environment known as Max/MSP/Jitter. The audience interaction is created through the placement and movements of these cubes acting as a control device which in turn results in the production of audio and physical vibrations. Ryo is a London, England based electronics and acoustic musician working in the fields of audiovisual composition, improvisation, interactive installations, soundtrack and therapy. He is currently studying for a PhD in studio composition.” The next exhibit I explore is Ghostwood a/v by Michael Trommer who did the audios, and Brent Bostwick who did the visual part of the exhibit. From the same program: “It is an audio-visual installation which investigates the psycho-geography of Ontario’s northern wilderness. It is primarily focused on the use of infrasound provided by specially constructed tactile transducers and is supported by a video component of the Georgian Bay landscape. The project title is is a reference to those suburban neighbourhoods in which the sole memory of what has been displaced or eradicated as a result of their construction survives in the now prosaic street names (‘Valleyview’, ‘Forest Hill’, etc).”
In our discussion of infrasound, Michael mentions a phenomenon called the brown note and wonders if it is a myth. As it turns out, it looks like it is a myth, and is only hypothetical according to my sources. But you’ll hear more about that during the interview.
It’s hard to decide which piece I loved most on the evening of August 16. It was the second concert night of the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium hosted by New Adventures in Sound Art. The theatre at the Wychwood Barns on Christie Street, where the concert was held, holds a maximum of about a hundred audience members. So with some seventy-five of us seated, it was a respectable showing even when you include the artists and their friends and family. I looked around the concert venue and heavy black media space curtains surrounded the walls. Such curtains contain the sound within the room and keep noises out as well. The concert-goers faced the stage and some of us were along the curtained wall. Placed around the seating were no less than eight speakers. This placement of speakers guaranteed a surround-sound experience. Perhaps it would have been more immersive for me if I had sat somewhere in the middle facing the stage, but instead I sat on the periphery against one of the walls of curtain and directly to the right of one of these speakers. Keeping my eyes open during the performances sometimes put me at a distinct disadvantage. It was often better to listen to the nuances of the sounds without the benefit of any visual cues.
This concert had six pieces. The most breathtaking of these for me was the last piece : MiND Live: Live Coding Audiovisual Performance. The group performing consisted of five collaborators, a screen on which live-coding was projected in real time, laptops, and performers in various parts of the room including on the stage. Beautiful vocalizations by Meaghan Niewland were manipulated as were additional sounds and visuals by the other performance artists. There was a lovely hypnotic but controlled flavour to this performance. Another interesting piece was Michael Pound’s Opening. Through the use of sensors, pre-recorded sounds and music, (an accordion was prominently featured), Michael beautifully mutated the sounds of the accordion with the palms of his hands. With his hands above the sensors, waving and dipping up and down and across, it looked like he was making music out of thin air. It was a lovely irony since that’s what sound is – vibrations moving through the air. Dracnoids, Joshua Keeling’s interpretation of a meteor shower he experienced, features a soprano saxophone and a bassoon. I’ve never heard a sax that sounded like a guitar nor a bassoon that boomed like a foghorn, but those were some of the impressions I had of the sonic transformations that Keeling and the musicians left me with. It would be fair to say that I was also mesmerized by the other three pieces: A Trace of Finches, with it’s field recordings of Nova Scotian woods, First Life, a mixed media performance of string quartet, live audio processing, narration and animation of organic compounds, and finally Windows Left Open, with its sound experimentation using electric guitar, acoustic guitar, cello and contrabass.
Inspired by Revolution No. 9, the first sound art piece I ever heard, I will be using this site to publish a new audio podcast that is more experimental in nature. Revolution No. 9 was the longest Beatle composition ever produced at 8 minutes 13 seconds long. Hey Jude, by contrast, is 7 minutes and 4 seconds long and was released as a single on which Revolution was its B side. Revolution No.9 can be found on the Beatles White album, possibly my favourite album of all time. John Lennon conceived R9 himself inspired by the works of Yoko Ono and Musique Concrete.
Stay tuned for some sound art. Some of it by me. Most of it by the world around me. Incidentally, the White Album was the group’s ninth album.