Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘omnibus’

25 MAY, 2010

Strange Sounds: 7 Experimental Projects Making Music from Natural Elements

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Solar-powered guitars, salty vocals, and what bonsai has to do with liquid music for the deaf.

Yesterday, we challenged what art creation means in the context of experimental media. Today, we’re turning to music, spotlighting seven unorthodox ways to create and think about “music” and the art of sound.

STEVE MANN

Steve Mann, founder of MIT’s Wearable Computers Group, may be better-known as “the world’s first cyborg”, but he is also a passionate sound experimenter. His latest invention, the hydraulophone, is a mellifluous, highly tactile instrument that, Mann hopes, could offer a new self-expression platform for music creation for the deaf and blind — the skills required for reading Braille, it turns out, are quite similar to those required for playing the hydraulophone.

DIEGO STOCCO

California-based artist Diego Stocco is a master of sound abstraction. A sound designer and composer, he creates unusual sound experiences using anything from everyday objects to contraptions he builds from scratch. From outfitting a tree with a stethoscope, a plastic pipe and a microphone, to blending an old piano with the sounds of sunset, his work has a beautiful nature-grounded quality to it whilst really pushing the technologies and conception of modern sound design.

Follow Diego’s latest experimentation on SoundCloud and keep an eye on his Vimeo channel for even more neo-musical goodness.

CELESTE BOURSIER-MOUGENOT

French artist and composer Céleste Boursier-Mougenot creates sound by drawing on the rhythms of daily life in unexpected ways. In her installation for the Barbican Centre in London, she placed a flock of zebra finches in an aviary equipped with electric guitars and other instruments, creating a technological playground for nature’s lo-fi songsters. As the birds go about their ordinary business, perching on the various pieces of equipment, they inadvertently create curious soundscapes.

MEARA O’REILLY

Sound designer, instrument builder, and singer Meara O’Reilly intersects art and science as she explores the fringes of auditory percetion. In her Chaldini Singing project, inspired by the famous scientist’s 18th- and 19th-century experiments, she creates songs based on sequences of patterns of salt scattered on a metal plate.

VIENNA VEGETABLE ORCHESTRA

The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra, which we first featured a couple of years ago, is all about the music of Carrot Top. No, the other carrot top. Since 1998, the Austrian alt-music getup has been play anything you can buy at your local farmer’s market and has even released a couple of albums.

FELIX’S MACHINES

When we first saw Felix Thorn and his incredible machines at TED last summer, it made us unable to look at a broom and a colander the same way again. Under Felix’s Machines, the 24-year-old Brit performs on a fascinating instrument made of household objects like candle holders and shower caddies. His experimental music plays with synchronized light and sound, aiming to remove the human performer.

CRAIG COLORUSSO

From musician and composer Craig Colorusso comes an unusual take on one of the decade’s most buzz-worthy technologies: solar panels. Sun Boxes is “an environment to enter and exit” — an installation of 20 speakers powered by solar panels, with a different guitar sample in each box adding to the cumulative composition, encouraging participants to walk among them and experience the dimensional soundscape.

The sound the installation produces is absolutely haunting and eerily hypnotic, like the breath of the desert itself.

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30 APRIL, 2010

Urban Hackscapes: Augmented Reality 1.0

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iPhone vs. pencil, or what the Library of Congress has to do with cartoon dinosaurs.

If you think augmented reality is a recent fascination woven from the fabric of the camera phone age, think again — artists, photographers and casual creative pranksters have long been using camera tricks to hack urban landscape by layering additional fascination over the naked eye’s view of the city. Here are three of our favorite photographic hackscapes.

SOUVENIRS

You recall Michael Hughes‘ wonderful Souvenirs collection from pickings past. The British photographer travels the world and “replaces” some of its most iconic landmarks with their cheap touristy souvenir replicas — miniatures, snow globes, plates, postcards — by holding them in front of the camera at just the right angle.

The result is a playful take on tourism which, depending on how philosophically inclined you are, even exudes subtle commentary on the artificiality of souvenir collecting in the context of the actual experience and our often excessive propensity for sentimentality.

Prints from the project are available on Hughes’ website.

LOOKING INTO THE PAST

Because we love the cross-pollination of ideas and the transference of creative inspiration, we love Jason Powell‘s Looking Into The Past project (which you may remember from one of our most popular features of all time, Photographic Time Machine), inspired by Hughes’ Souvenirs.

Powell prints out historical photographs from The Library of Congress digital archive (remember that, too?) and holds them up against the physical locations depicted in them, offering an absolutely fascinating glimpse of how urban landscape, dress and transportation have evolved over the past couple of centuries.

To contribute to this fold in the space-time continuum, submit your own photographic time capsules to the eponymous Flickr pool Powell set up for the project.

PENCIL VS. CAMERA

After object-in-photo and photo-in-photo, it’s only fitting that someone comes up with drawing-in-photo. Artist Benjamin Heine did — his series Pencil vs. Camera adds an element of playful fantasy to the already innovative cross-medium technique.

We imagine being trampled by cartoon Godzilla while staring at a four-eyed cat is among the eeriest yet most amusing of deaths.

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26 APRIL, 2010

Subway Etiquette Posters: New York, Toronto, Tokyo

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Sardines, anthropomorphic luggage, and what the beach has to do with train doors.

The thing about public space that’s both a blessing and a curse is that we have to share it. And in order to avoid complete anarchy, we need a set of commonly agreed upon rules to govern this sharing — a code of etiquette. Subways, with their boisterous highschoolers, gospel-preaching nomads and vocal trinket sellers, are among the most anarchy-prone of public spaces. So today, we look at three brilliantly irreverent efforts to foster subway etiquette with wit, humor and a wink at authority.

NEW YORK

Last week, artist Jason Shelowitz, a.k.a. Jay Shells, took New York’s Metropolitan Transit System by storm with his clever guerrilla campaign promoting subway etiquette to combat people’s chief complaints. He surveyed 100 commuters on their top pet peeves, then designed a series of posters modeled after the typical MTA Service Changes announcements, silkscreened 400 of them and began deploying them under the “Metropolitan Etiquette Authority.”

Shells encourages people to take the posters home before the MTA starts taking them down in typical no-fun fashion.

TORONTO

Never late to the sticking-it-to-the-man party, the Canadian were quick to appropriate Shell’s idea. Only two days after the New York deployment, the good folks at Toronto’s National Post designed their own version of the posters, hijacking TTC, the Toronto Transit Commission, and turning it into TTCC, Toronto Transit Civility Commission. Under TTCC, they released a series of etiquette posters, encouraging the public to print their own copies and plaster them all over the subway.

Decidedly snarkier than the New York ones, these posters do make one question the whole but-Canadians-are-so-much-nicer stereotype.

TOKYO

In a lot of ways, a subway train is full of Hollywood movie set staples — the stuntman diving through the door and escaping its clench by an inch, the diva in the corner powdering her nose, the muscle-jockey doing pull-ups on the hand-grips. The Japanese are here to remind us the subway is no movie set with a series of tongue-in-cheek but very to-the-point etiquette posters by graphic artist Bunpei Yorifuji that are tragicomically accurate in the stereotypical annoyances they depict.

Of course, the directive to go home and exercise binge drinking does raise a whole other set of concerns, but we’ll settle for it if it keeps the chin-up masters at bay.

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