sa Sound Arts vol.4

XEBEC SoundCulture Membership Magazine

a sound & art vision


[Bosch image]


[Bosch image]

Vibrating Objects--Between Order and Chaos

By now, you have probably become quite familiar with our "sound & art exhibition"s, the ongoing series of shows held mainly in Xebec Foyer--"the space where sound can be felt." In this section, we will bring you interviews and reports about artists who have produced works for the series as well as other sound artists who are currently receiving attention.

For NAKAGAWA Shin's second report on "ARTEC'95", he interviewed the Dutch sound art team, Peter BOSCH and Simone SIMONS.

April 28, 1995 Nagoya City Art Museum
Interviewer: NAKAGAWA Shin (musicologist)
Assistant: SHIMODA Nobuhisa (Xebec staff)
Vibrating Wooden Boxes
--Krachtgever (Invigorator) (1994)

Nakagawa(N): The work Krachtgever that you are exhibiting at "ARTEC" is very interesting. How many years have you been working together?

Simons(S): From 1986, so nine years.

N: The first installation you did was Bamboo Air (1986/87), wasn't it? Do you usually work with vibrations or kinetic machinery?

Bosch(B): Most of our installations are kinetic as well, but our main interest is of course sound. Then we like to have some influence by physical phenomena, and also if possible, some kinetic elements too. We also have an installation that uses chaotic pendulums so it also uses movement as information for making music. And in another sound installation, we use air that goes through rubber appendages, so there is an element of turbulence. We are not especially interested in movement, although we are always interested in sound vibrations.

S: All the machines, or all the sculptures, create possibilities by themselves. They never repeat themselves, and in time, they always play different things.

N: You have said that your work is influenced by physical phenomena. What, for example, are these physical phenomena?

B: Well, the physical phenomena can in general be vibrations or anything that comes from physics. And for us the most interesting would be phenomena with a rich set of behaviors. In this case, it's vibration--I think that's clear. In the other work, with chaotic pendulums, it's also movement created by a machine, a motor that rotates,with a rich set of behaviors because of this phenomenon of order and chaos. But anyway, we are interested in making something that has an unpredictable element and not only by choosing random numbers with a computer--but with a generator in the real world.

N: You mentioned order and chaos as part of your creative pursuits, and maybe these are very important points or concepts in your work, but the dichotomy between chaos and order is a very traditional one in Western culture. Is there something new about your conception of chaos and order?

B: We are very interested in the development from order to chaos and visa-versa. And of course, we think of it as a continuum and not as a binary thing--not either chaos or order. I think you're right "order" and "chaos" are just very simple ways of putting this continuum of possibilities. I think what is new about our work is putting several elements together in our own way, not that we invent order and chaos or vibrations--they are there.

N: How does the computer function in this work?

B: Well, the computer Knows three classes of behavior. There are simply rather quiet behaviors, medium behaviors, and rough, or loud, behaviors. It has a very simple memory which says, "I have chosen one of these three, so now I will choose one of the others." It only has a memory about the sequence of events, and then there are nine different classes of eventS: three in each category. Then it can choose subdivisions of these behaviors. This means it can choose from seven different motors. It can do this either randomly or there are presets because there are some things we like to hear. If it chooses a preset, then some things are fixed. Anyway, it can only choose the starting frequency of a vibration motor and an ending frequency, whether he goes slowly or quickly from start to end frequency and then the combination of motors. And actually that's all. For some classes, more things are fixed, and for other classes, less things are fixed. So it's a kind of balance between freedom and our own taste.

N: And are the motors put in the wooden boxes?

S: Yes. There are only seven. Each second box from the bottom of each stack has a motor. But by tuning the frequency of a motor to resonant frequency of the construction, we can even reach the box on the top right with a motor placed at from the left side.

B: The computer always goes slowly from one frequency to another, and it does not know exactly where the resonances are in the system because there are twenty-eight boxes, There are maybe thousands of resonances and some of them would really be very steep if you would make a graphical representation.

S: Anyhow, the resonances are so complicated that we made a computer model at the technical university of Twente in Holland to have some kind of model for this installation. Only with three stacks of three boxes, and only to make two minutes of animation, we had to calculate for about twenty hours. Even then it's still not like reality because the boxes and the objects in it have different kinds of vibrations. They might have low, heavy things in them and you know, then they would move differently than if they had little, light things. This of course was not possible for the computer to predict exactly.

B: But you can predict more or less what's going to happen. The computer model was interesting for us because the springs all have different coefficients. The lowest ones are the strongest because they have to carry seventy-five kilos, and the highest are weaker. You can see what an interesting combination of springs will be on the program without trying all these kinds of combinations. You can use a computer model for this, but for all these details of what's inside the boxes, it's more or less impossible to model.

N: What is inside the boxes?

S: We like to use a lot of things that come from the place where we are performing. So we now have a lot of Nagoya things in the boxes. These little plastic drinks, and these plastic stirrers for your coffee, and we found bamboo here in the park, but we took it out after all because the sound was too heavy.

Various Inquiries into Vibration

N: We are very curious about your piece, Electric Swaying Orchestra (1991/92) too. Please explain it.

S: It has six chaotic pendulums that are one-and-a-half meters long and at the end of each of them is a loudspeaker or a microphone. There are three loudspeakers and the others have microphones. There are three pairS: one pair with one loudspeaker and one microphone. And there is a feedback principle. It operates in real time, the computer is listening with the microphones to what is coming out of the loudspeakers.

B: These pendulums can move chaotically, orderly, and also in-between. You can get all kinds of behavior. We were searching for a machine that was rich in unpredictable information for the computer. So it's actually a random music machine, but with a connection to the real world.

S: It's just real time, improvised music. It will never do the same thing because the distance between the microphones and the loudspeakers is always different. When it picks up a note, the note is sent to the computer. And the computer has some compositional rules and sends a new note to the loudspeaker, and then it depends again or where the loudspeaker is positioned and what the microphone will pick up. We are now working on a follow-up piece to this one. It will also have pendulums, but larger ones, three meters, that really have a wide reach of sound. And Doppler effects.

B: It wouldn't be possible in this space--it's only four meters high. But as always with sound, if it's bigger, it's more interesting. You get bigger movement of sound that is, and you also get slower resonant frequencies.

Shimoda:Sounds great! That reminds me of Gordon MONAHAN.

S: Yes. Also, Steve REICH made a piece with microphones and pendulums.

N: You mean Pendulum Music (1968). Well, please explain Was der Wind zum klingen bringt (1989) and Trajectversterker (1993). Then we'll have all of your major works covered.

S: As Peter explained briefly before, Was der Wind zum klingen bringt uses pipes and air coming from vacuum cleaners. They blow, and in between the blowing outpats and the pipes is a rubber appendage--a bicycle tube cut up in pieces. It gives you a kind of trumpet sound, and there are different sizes of pipes, so you have different tunings. And because the blowing through the rubber is so loud, it interferes also with the motor noise of the vacuum cleaners. And then the computer controls the whole thing, it can turn on or off each vacuum cleaner. The Trajectversterker, is a wooden roads with sound chambers in it and wooden shoes do rhythmical things on the wooden sound chambers. They climb or walk up while the whole road is vibrating.

B: It vibrates about fifty times a second, so you don't see it, you only see the movement. The small shoes go very fast, and the big ones go slower. They can also really jump. It is wood on wood, so it has a percussive sound. And we also have a computer controlling the magnets, and choosing different combinations and probabilities to make events happen by chance.

N: Please tell us about your new directions in the future.

S&B: We will be busy developing more machines with vibrations. And we are also, as we told you, working on a follow-up to the pendulums. Oh, and we have a lot of ideas and very little time. Well, see you later!

(This interview was held in cooperation with ARTEC.)

SoundArts 4
European Electro-Acoustic Music and The Use of Electronics as Anti-Modernism
Bosch and Simons:
Kukan Archive
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