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BUSK [2010]

About

BUSK is a site-specific audio-visual work which examines the recontextualisation of sound through an improvised performance composed solely of sounds and images sourced from various London street musicians and performers.

Each sound sample triggers the playback of its corresponding visual footage that is then projected onto the performer's chest in order to alert the audience to the sound's origin.

While the work is interested in examining the aforementioned themes, emulating a traditional busking performance and thus sonically and visually entertaining the audience is central to BUSKs success.

Documentary

Film

The BUSK film is a audio-visual piece which sonically is composed soley of sounds cut from recordings made of various London street musicians and performers. The audio samples were manipulated and sequenced on an Akai MPC 500 with each audio sample triggering (via MIDI) the playback of its corresponding visual footage in real-time.

Background

The recontextualisation of sound was a primary interested while devolping BUSK. I wanted to explore to how and to what extent the physical and sonic locations in which sounds are heard effected the listener's attention, perception and emotional attachment to sound. I was also interested in 'Busking', defined as "(to) play music or otherwise perform for voluntary donations in the street or in subways".

I sense when I observing buskings that the performer(s) seem literally and figurativy exposed, the performance is often located in a open environment, but also traditionally a busker is an unsolicited musician who imposes their performance on their audience rather than voluntarily offering as is the case of planned concert performances. It appears as if the performer's instrument and/or their act itself creates the thin veil between the artist and audience.

In the case of musical busking performance, there is not necessarily a set duration for the musician(s) to play, or indeed a running order one must stick to. I imagine a portion of what busker's perform is improvised in accordance with the audience present, their location and their own desires. I aimed to on explore these compositional strategies in my work and in particular the link between improvisation and indefinite durations.

Ethics

BUSK is a non-commercial and non-profit project which was intially undertaken as the major work for the final year of a bachelors degree in 'Sound Art and Design' at the London College of Communication (part of University of the Arts, London).

If I have recorded your performance (or your group's) and don't wish for your image or sound to be used please email me at sam@kalou.co.uk stating so and I will respectfully remove any content from the project. If you have any questions regarding the project please don't hesitate to contact me.

Furthermore

For more on my work on sampling please considering reviewing my paper:

"How does the increased accessibility of sampling contribute to the notion of the democratisation of music production?"

diss

It can be found here.


Sonic Tube Map [2009]

Idea

The Sonic Tube Map is a project initially conceived by myself, Carina Levitan and Sam Andrews during a Max MSP class at the London College of Communication. The three of us discussed designing a program that would allow users to create their own unique sonic journey through London using the London Underground map as an interface and brainstormed a number of ways in which to implement this including recording the ambience of each underground station.

When I began developing the project independently in the spring of 2009, I realised that the sound of the different stations themselves did not differ enough to properly explore how the diversity of the city manifests itself sonically.

The London Underground map proved an ideal interface to use due to its simplicity and iconic nature. To begin, the user simply clicks 'Start' followed by the circles next to the stations on their chosen route. After the route has been decided, the 'End' button is clicked; the journey begins, with each station on route offering a sonic snapshot of the area, intertwined with tube train recordings simulating the journey.

(Click for larger image)

sonic tube map

Technicalities

I visited each of the 62 zone 1 Underground stations and their surrounding areas, recording what I heard (the criteria for which is below). I cut the recording into smaller segments (13 seconds) and using Max MSP, mapped each station giving it its own unique sound file. I also made a number of recordings on tube trains. These 10 short files (7 seconds) are randomised during the journey.

An automatic 1 second fade was programmed on Max for the beginning and end of each file, so every station sound would smoothly transition into a tube train recording and so on, creating a continuous sound-piece.

Recording

All recordings were made using binaural microphones which attempts to replicate the way the ears would have originally heard the sound. All recordings were made in Linear PCM format using a Sony RZ-1 Mini-Disc recorder, which meant little to no compression of the sound.

The criteria for my recordings were varied. I made recordings that I thought were a good representation of the primary focus of the area. For example the 'Changing of the guard' was used for Green Park, which is next to Buckingham Palace. Some recordings were chosen because I deemed them the prominent distinctive sound in the area, for example Big Ben's tolls in Westminster. Others were chosen because I either believed they represented the general ambience of the area (Warren Street's traffic on Euston Road), was an interesting found sound (squeaking bridge at Embankment), or for pure artistic reasons ('Silent' crowded lift at Russell Square).

I do not claim that all the recordings accurately represent the ambience of the area, above all they are my personal choices. Below are the notes I took while recording, some of which were written before I decided to focus solely on zone 1 stations.

Click for a larger image

Below is a compete list of the recordings used for each station. Click for a larger image.

To hear in isolation and download the recordings of the Tube trains, please click HERE.

SONIC TUBE MAP - COMING BACK SOON

Instructions

1. Plug headphones into the computer if possible.

2. Select the stations you'd like to visit by clicking on the circle next to their name. Selected stations will turn red. Your route will be determined by the order in which you select the stations.

2. Press the 'Play' button above these instructions, your sonic journey through London will begin. Each station's circle will pulse while the train is stationed there.

Notes

Due to the nature of the binaural recording, the Sonic Tube Map is best heard using headphones.

If you make a mistake while selecting your route, click the 'Clear route' button to begin again.

Volume can be adjusted using the slider below the 'Play' and 'Clear route' buttons.

See the 'Background' page for a list of the stations featured in the Sonic Tube Map project and a description of their corresponding sounds.

Created by Samuel Shelton Robinson. Adapted for the web by Brian Gruber.

Examples

A few examples of the journeys I have made using the record function can be found below. Routes are not limited to orthodox tube underground lines so, for example, I could create a journey that stops at Gloucester Road followed by Liverpool Street and then to Vauxhall.

These journeys are best listened to using headphones, as the listener will have the full benefit of the binaural recordings.

"Imaginary Journey #1 " featuring: Gloucester Road, Notting Hill Gate, Edgware Road, Regents Park, St Pauls, Marble Arch, Embankment, Holborn, Southwark, Convent Garden, Earls Court.

"Victoria Line" - featuring: Vauxhall, Pimlico, Victoria, Green Park, Oxford Circus, Warren Street, Euston, Kings Cross.

Future Development

I'd like to see as many people as possible help to develop this project. The contribution of others could build a world-wide network of sonic transport maps, and provide an insight into the diverse sounds of the world's cities. Ideas for development I've had include:

If you are interested in developing the idea and need some assistance please e-mail me at sam@kalou.co.uk.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Aquiles Pantaleao, Allyson Stephens, Carina Levitan and Sam Andrews for their help in developing and sustaining this project.


The Inner Workings Of A Dream [2008]

Second live performance

Live performance with Stephen Preston on the baroque flute

“Sanity is a madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled.” - George Santayana

With this piece I was aiming to replicate sonically the strange unpredictable nature of a dream, how one never knows what is around the corner, when people and situations collate in ways they wouldn't in waking life.

In order to express this, a number of methods were used including not specifying which instruments should be used, the quantity of instruments and the duration of time each should play. At first I planned to include a dream sequence as part of a piece that would encompassed the whole sleep experience, but decided it would be better to focus solely on the R.E.M. stage. I wanted the score to be conceptually solid but also to allow for improvisation.

There are five instruments for this performance of the piece, and they each take it in turn to make each make sound. The order of instruments is important but the sounds can overlap each other. The crux of the piece is the dream sequence, in the which the instruments take it in turn to play atonal or tonal sounds (perhaps harmonic and non-harmonic is a more fitting description). The atonal sounds represent the strange, unusual parts of the dream and the tonal sounds, the logical.

Due to a lack of time (and practicality), I wasn't able to perform with four other musicians or solo, so I spent time recording and editing a number of sounds myself using the instrumentation listed above in part three and then importing the sounds into an MPC sampler/sequencer. Using the MPC enabled me to manipulate in real-time the panning, pitch and level of the sounds.

As I developed the piece, it became apparent that many of the atonal sounds I'd recorded could be classed as tonal and vice versa. I decided addressing this it wasn’t critical to the piece as it's the disparate nature of the sounds, not the definition of tonality that's the basis of the piece.

I also composed and recorded three short pieces that would represent different transitional parts of the dream. These are also triggered and manipulated live using the MPC. In other performances musicians could improvise the sections where I have recorded short pieces. In addition to a written score, I drew a graphic score. The intention of this was that the performers should interpret the colours in the big 'Z' (going from bottom right and up) and play their instruments in the dream sequence accordingly.

The metronome is a constant throughout the piece and could be replaced by any percussion. It is included to represent both the passing of time, and the consistency and 'normality' of real world while one dreams.

Dream Elements

Descent Into Dream

Bad Dream

Ascent From Dream

Additional Piece

In preparation for this project, I composed a short piece based on a quote by Jean Cocteau.

“Asking an artist to talk about his work is like asking a plant to discuss horticulture”

There is no further explanation for this piece.