may 06, 2013.
Y is a series of yearly events for students of the Amsterdam Rietveld Academy for Fine Arts and Design. Y carries the name of the artist Yariv Alter Fin (1968-2007), a former student of the Rietveld and (until his untimely death) also a teacher there.
Last year's edition, Y.3, was baptized Yltra. The 36 hour workshop took place in the now defunct Club Karlsson at the Amsterdam Keizersgracht, and was all about working with sound, doing music & performing in the impartial, investigative and do-it-all-bloody-yourself ULTRA-way. Y's 2013 edition focused on numbers, art, music & measure. A logical follow-up, also historically. In the mid-1980s, as the frenzy of the late 1970s to early 1980s post-punk experimentalism gradually extinguished, not in the least due to its form becoming mainstream, much of the energy that remained found a new outlet and new creative challenges in the then emerging digital domain. It was not only in the Netherlands that, post-post-punk, many uncompromising young DIY Ultrarians swapped (in a manner of speaking) their guitars for computers. This is not as strange as at first it may seem. Recall that, whatever has become of it, the core of our current internet saw the light of day thanks to the combined DIY efforts of a collective of individuals that, if anything, shared the same 1960s 'psychedelic' utopianism that, with a radical leftish punk-inspired twist, gave rise to post-punk experimental DIY.
Little wonder that the sequel to ULTRA will be a book of Numbers. Because we are living in an era in which the collection and manipulation of numbers, for better or for worse, has become bigger than gold. But also because since days immemorial music, numbers & the cosmos have been very close cousins. In this day and age it is as good a guess as that of any other epistemological faction to consider the poles in the alliterating awesome foursome - music, mind, mathematics & the multiverse (MuMiMaMu) - as essentially the same thing. Over the past decades some of the paths followed in the ongoing quest for a TOE, a theory of everything, could be seen heading towards the unfolding of a one and only cosmos into a multitude of parallel universes, while our one and only music keeps diverging into a multitude of parallel musics. Meanwhile we keep on counting ... In Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach, the singers sing-count up to 8. Karlheinz Stockhausen in his Helicopter Stringquartet has the Sprechgesang counting of his flying stringers (they always make me think of stinging bees) hit a 14. One sunny Sunday afternoon in Maastricht, almost 7 years ago, with the ookoi we topped them both, as we undauntedly went for 1024. And some next day? (Though this claim is an extrapolation from the current state of our particular corner of the multiverse and requires your faith in the immutability of the physical laws by which it is governed:) There will not always be a Next Day. But there will always be a Next Number. ( * )
Even though 'one cannot tell if it is beautiful by the numbers: that depends on who is counting' ( ** ), we decided to let this year's Y event pick its own number. Within certain bounds, reflecting not so much our, as the outside world's, limited tolerance of anarchy. . 'Or less, or more, or in between'? Chances are a solid 4 in 5 that next time you visit this page, Y's next number will have changed...
In the morning of Friday April 19th, 2013, we kicked off with a series of lectures and presentations at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy.
Sarah van Sonsbeeck re-counted how the realization that she would be a bad architect helped her to become a good artist, whose works include gems like one cubic meter of broken silence and a machine that records the sounds of her neighbours & sends it back to them, amplified (which as you might guess will give rise to one hell of a feedback).
Jochem van der Spek is a visual artist and game designer, who recently released Style Clash, a painting machine construction kit and drawing game for the iPad. On his dynamica.org web site you will find an overview of his other recent work (related to Jean Tinguely's drawing-machines from the late 1950's), which involves "the changing of an object that is known to be controlled by rigid laws, into an entity that appears to be alive. The perception of life," Jochem said, "is strongly connected to expectation and prediction. Anything that perfectly fulfills our expectation is not alive." In the afternoon, at the beginning of the workshop, Jochem supplemented his morning lecture with a hands on introduction to the impressive possibilites for scriptable graphic rendering and animation provided by the HTML5 canvas element.
Nirit Peled and FPCM gave an overview of some of Yariv's digital creations on (the old new medium) CD-rom, especially the park4droms of the PARK4DTV artist collective, like the legendary Twaalf uur puur beeld en geluid from 1997, for which Yariv (a digital and net-art pioneer) was the programmer and major contributor. Twelve hours of pure PARK image and sound, accessible via a program that, however, after precisely one hour of playback would relentlessly quit upon you. In its original format (a Macromedia Director file) it is no longer evident to access this digital PARK artifact, as its system specifications have long been overruled. In order to show it to us, Peter had to dust off his orange Macintosh iBook, which (on the upside) was still operational and running the long obsolete 7 point something version of Apple's operating system. The Twaalf uur puur beeld en geluid CD-rom comes with several fun and smart 'inside' jokes (including comments hidden in the code that, of course, only the programmers were able to read), which only adds to its value as a comment on the state of the 'video-art' of that period.
Nirit worked together with Yariv on what we now may call a masterpiece: the Permanent Flux CD-rom (1999). It is of course no wonder that also this 'digital thing' refuses to reveal its treasures on today's computer. More remarkable is the somewhat tragic fact that the Permanent Flux CD-rom is so heavily loaded with data, that also at the time of its publication the majority of the then 'modern multi-media' computers were unable to handle it...
I profited from the occasion of my morning lecture to talk about one of my favorite books (the Rand Corporation's A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates, currently available as a free pdf download), about one of my favorite sets of sounds (the Conet Project CD set of Number Station recordings), and to play fragments of some of my 'ritualistic number recordings' that, vaguely, were inspired by both, like last year's CityNumberScapes.
The second half of my presentation focused on data sonification, which currently is quickly establishing itself alongside the more widespread techniques of data visualisation as a complementary tool for complex data analysis, which is likely to profit from multiple views of the same sets of data. Sonification gives the means to transform relations between the numbers into perceived relations in an acoustic signal, which may facilitate interpretation. Think for example of rhythmic changes, that are easier detected by ear than by eye. You can get a good impression of what this emerging field is about by reading - or even just looking through - the Sonification Handbook (2011 - edited by Thomas Hermann, Andy Hunt & John G. Neuhoff). In pdf-format the book is a free download.
Besides their use as analytic tools, these same and related techniques for sonification have an obvious attraction and potential in the context of musical composition and artistic creation. And it's not too difficult to give sonification a try. It only takes your laptop, some free software and ideas. Arguably the most versatile (but also the one with the steepest learning curve if you have no programming experience and are not used to interact with your computer via line-commands) is the PlayItbyR package that uses Csound and runs in R, a very powerful, open and totally free, language and environment for statistical computing and graphics. The easiest to use is the Sonification Sandbox, made available by the Sonification Lab of the Georgia Institute of Technology's Psychology Department. Below is a screenshot, that shows the sonification of data (the 'score') obtained from a cost-profit simulation in Excel for a fictional tire recap company in the Amsterdam Bijlmer area, that I made up as an example to use for my presentation in the Thalys hi-speed train, roughly between Antwerp and the Dutch border. (Just to underline how easy it is :-) You can listen to this particular score's 'MIDI orchestration' in our RAUDIO 0 Next.Numbr = stream.)
After the morning session at the Rietveld, with some 15+ students, we installed for a 36 hour workshop in NASA, the New Art Space Amsterdam.
Also this year the students' assignment was to use the available 36 hours to create some 'thing' related to Y's theme (if possible using one or other of the tools and techniques introduced in the morning' session and developed further in the course of the workshop, but this was not an obligation) in small groups or individually, and then present the result on the final evening.
The NASA's spacious Auditorium (with ample room for an army of laptops, strings, mikes and little amps) proved to be a brilliant work- & playground, that on Saturday evening in little more than instant was transformed into a theater for the grand final and public presentation of an eclectic series of ten fine and varied 'next numbers', with Yariv's parents, Shlomo and Aliza, as our very special guests.
[ It is easy to find out what each of these numbers sounded like: all audio recordings are part of the RAUDIO 0 Next Numbr stream, along with 420+ (and counting) other next numbers. To listen, use the free RAUDIO IIIII iThing app, and look for the zero (0) (use 1 or 2 finger swipe to change channels). Alternatively, you may open the 24/7 audio stream directly in iTunes or whatever other audio application. ]
That Saturday evening at NASA we heard next numbers recited in different tongues and a sonification of digits of π (Sofi Lindroos & Raluca Tudorache); recited numbers, electronically modified and musicalized, playing along with numbers captured on video (Jack Louis Fitzgerald); we read randomly generated and then 'logically rearranged' poems (Görkem Yalim); listened to Kalina Terzieva counting the seconds passing until she fell over backwards; we shouted and howled to chase away ghosts & monsters in Daniel Farr, Adrian Sölch & André Chappatte's interactive Flash game; Carmen Navarro Puig's HTML5 hack - copy/pasting bits and pieces of code into a code-collage - would have made any working programmer cry out in utter terror... but in a browser, as if by magic, it simply worked; with silent attention we watched an endless number of forky y's falling (Vera Hoveling); we heard and felt the vibrations of a long string bent, stretched and hit by an entangled dancer (Derck Littel & Victorine van Alphen); we tapped out feet and banged our heads along to pop tunes, while watching the rhythmic by-hand-animation of the noisy images obtained by importing the raw data of these same tunes into Photoshop (Anne-Caroline Luttringer); and - rounding it all up - witnessed a conversation - backed by a loop of rhythmic, trancy music - about communication, that gradually drowned itself in its own feedback (Marcel Herkelman & Chun-Han Chiang aka Dawson).
"Some things you say I don't understand. Sometimes it sounds like there is a bit of noise on the line."
"A bit of ... what ...?"
"Noise. On the line."
[ was conducted by Peter Mertens and Harold Schellinx, in the spirit of former Rietveld student and teacher Yariv Alter Fin (1968-2007). Many thanks to the Rietveld Academy staff for support and to the NASA for space. Also this year all survived thanks to Silvie's healthy and tasty catering. was made possible by the Alters. For updates and supplementary information, you may want to follow the Yariv Alter Fin Trust on Facebook, Twitter and/or Pinterest. ]
Next Number? Y ¬ Y.1024 ...
notes __ ::
(*) The number of numbers is infinite, though that is not a number like other numbers. If you're not a mathematician, think of infinite, ∞, as a measure that is NaN: not a number. [ ^ ]
(**) Karlheinz Stockhausen, Orvonton (the 15th hour of Klang) [ ^ ]
tags: Y, numbers, data, sonification, Yariv Alter Fin, Sarah van Sonsbeeck, Jochem van der Spek, Rietveld Academy, ookoi, 1024, HTML5
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