de_'tails of lite house keeping'

july 07, 2006.

i want to walk on the sea
[...] ...
but how can i ever keep my feet dry ?

( * )

The beacon of the Ameland lighthouse has been skimming the island's surface and that of the Wadden sea for a little over 125 years now, ever since the eve of may 10th, 1881 ... The round cast iron tower, painted in rings white and red, was the last in a series of dutch lighthouses that were designed by Q. Harder in the second half of the nineteenth century. It is 55,3 meters high and counts fourteen levels. Two hundred and thirty six metal steps lead up to the tower's top, where one finds the optic and reflectors.

A little below is the control room, where, through a locked metal fence, visitors of the tower may watch the lighthouse keeper, wearing a woolen bonnet and a lighthouse souvenir tie. The guy's up there day upon day, night after night, overlooking the sea, sitting behind radar, surveillance screens and radio communication equipment, ready to act at the first sign of distress ... ?


"Hier zit óók een meneer ... "
"Nou ... hij zit er niet te best uit ... "
"Nee, het is een vieze pop ... !"
"Die hebben ze dan zeker voor Zwarte Piet gebruikt ..."

[ lite house tail -overheard, 05-28 2006 ]

When we first visited the lighthouse (three years ago, in may 2003), the control room was without fence, and still occupied by a real life lighthouse keeper, André Ruijg. But André has become the last of the real life Ameland lighthouse keepers ... Even though the tower's lights continue to shine, early last year infrared cameras took over surveillance from eyesight. The dutch coastguard service conveyed exploitation of the tower together with its crew to the Ameland community. These days André sells tickets to tourists who come to visit the lighthouse museum, and with a vacuum cleaner he removes, several times a week, all of the sand that they bring up and leave behind on the floors of the 14 levels and along the 236 steps ...

The 10 hour long live webstream ookoi hosted and directed this may's last sunday, from within this majestic metal tube, became very literally a high point in the long list of our spring events and concerts ...

listening up
between down

"Tails of lite house keepers" ... for all day long, dressed in our ookoi tails, we spent inside the lighthouse( * ). It was sunny but windy, and the tower kept swinging slightly, which made being in there feel like one were on a ship ...
We set up a small 'streaming studio' high up in the tower just below the control room, microphones in the control room and out one of the windows, and a couple of piezo pick ups on some of the stairs. These captured the tower's sounds : the coastguard's and other's (real time) radio communications that were sounding as part of the control room's 'museological decoration', the rumbling of the wind outside, the visitors climbing and descending the metal steps, their comments, their children's whining ...

"Het ís niks ... "
"Nee, het is niks ! En als je boven bent is het niks, en als je dalijk onder bent is het niks, en als je in de auto zit dan wil je wat anders ... het is nooit goed met jullie ... nooit !
... ... 't is niks ..."

[ lite house tail -overheard, 05-28 2006 ]

zwarte piet uitzicht

We used a continuous (nix)mix of these sounds picked up in and around the tower as a 'sonic screen', on- and into which were 'projected' a series of - mostly live performed - streaming contributions from elsewhere in Europe, and north and south america. Curious visitors that climbed past our 'studio' in the tower were invited to pause and listen to what was going on, through headphones( ** ) ...

Ana-R members E. Rébus, FlexRex and Cosmo Helectra contributed four 'on-the-spot' creations from Bures-sur-Yvette, a little to the south of Paris (Aspha1, Bshi, Cmi and Drhe); and within the confines of Paris itself, Mark Webster did Mermaids & Lighthouses. Regularly the sounds from around the lighthouse intermingled with other streams of original field recordings; like those contributed by Bad Brace, from Portland, Oregon (USA), or some we made during earlier stays on the island. A second north american contribution came from Jay Needham in Carbondale, Illinois (USA). Sounds for the lens, Tail wind, Blacktop were the titles that went with a thirty minutes of radio play, adding tale and great story telling to the lighthouse stream ...

"There's this operation that doctors do on little people ... where they break the bone in the leg in four different places ... once below the knee, once above ... inserting screws in each break ... "

An obvious difficulty to overcome when producing a continuous audio webstream with streaming contributions from different geographic locations are the gaps in between sets: contributor A at location X has to stop the streaming broadcast, so that contributor B at location Y can start hers (or his, or theirs, or whoever's) ... I guess there must be streaming server solutions that allow handling of several incoming signals (would that be called 'multi-streaming' ?), but the simple out-of-the-box solutions we use do not (seem to) have such an option ... The way we did it this time, was to use two servers. The ongoing 'gap less' stream was running on Park's Quicktime Server, while the external contributors either (in some cases) used their own streaming server or (most of the time) broadcast to de Waag's icecast server. Contributors thus broadcast to the lighthouse, from where we 'plugged through' their audio stream to the Park server. Thus we were able to provide transitions between sets, and every then and again, overlay part of an outside contribution with a mix of sounds picked up in and around the lighthouse. We did, all day long, encounter no serious streaming problems, with the unfortunate exception of part of the contribution from Argentina, with Leandro Barzabal, Cristian Carracedo, José de Diego, Adrián Juárez, Pablo Martinez, Yagui Quintero doing a pretty intense hour long play with Vicky. Especially during the first half of their set we had problems receiving the stream (the used their own server), which kept on stalling every two minutes, with our laptop re-buffering, and re-buffering ... thus giving rise to a long series of gaps, 'silent periods' of between twenty and forty seconds, which we decided to fill up with a 'tower mix'. The streaming end result therefore will have sounded very different from what the sextet actually were producing in their proper time and place - across the ocean, in their time zone ... Hope to be able to hear some of that eventually (apparently they did record at least part of their set on video).

Ate Hes contributed lively and playful symplunderphonics from his home in Utrecht, the Netherlands, mixing vintage soundtracks, seventies muzak, military pep tunes, scifi, and extracts from a sailor's tale, that was part of an english course on vinyl ...

"I sat on a log by a heap of stones, until I recovered my breath. The others arrived after they had got the boat moored. Then, together, we climbed the steep hill. All was quiet. The moon was still high in the heavens, and the stars were shining. The silence we preserved was broken only by the sounds of insects ... "

Last, but not least, there were two streaming contributions from Germany.

lichtensteiger In Frankfurt german composer Ralph Lichtensteiger contributed a "Havenland Lighthouse Placard" Mix, using recent material from his large musique trouvé catalogue, all of which is carefully crafted and documented in great detail on his website. (Which, btw, is a veritable treasure house, crammed with pictures, sounds, stories and - there must be thousands - of notes and citations ... what we dutch call 'een omgevallen boekenkast', if ever I knew one ... : Wittgenstein, Derrida, Beuys, Cage, Heidegger and many, many more) ... Lichtensteiger's 'Lighthouse Mix' included material from mirrors/flipside, 36 Soundscapes and Argonauts.

The information provided by Sonic Kitchen, who contributed from Bremen to the Lighthouse Placard, on their website is somewhat less dense ... Sonic Kitchen are Marc Pira and Dennis Tan, who - at least for this project - insist on cuisiner as a metaphor for the improvised brewing of sound works. Now of course I haven't seen them at work, and can't confirm their actual 'grating of freshly sawed planks with wooden spoons', but the sounding results streaming, from be it their kitchen or studio, were pretty exciting ...

"Je ziet overal zee, hè ? ... Daar ... en daar ... en daar ... en daar ... en daar ... en daar ... en daar ..."

[ lite house tail -overheard, 05-28 2006 ]

The lighthouse itself provided the day's final tail, its swan song ... Every day, when outside daylight dims, the lighthouse automatically comes to live ... In the early evening we installed microphones around the optic and the reflectors, at the tower's highest level, and we started to broadcast, complete and unabridged, the tower's continuous buzz-song, to which then suddenly a second voice is added, when the lighthouse's 'worm' comes to live, and starts moving the reflectors ...

We documented this coda in a ten minute Raudio Vodcast.
Tails of lite house keepers obviously was very much a performance, and the proper way to experience it was simply to be there ... You may listen though, to some of the sounds that were webcast to and from the Ameland lighthouse on sunday may 28th, in two additional Raudio Podcasts( *** ), that were built by layering fragments from the audio webstream ... For more short visual impressions, visit Timo Mank's page with five 'one take' files.

[ Tails of lite house keepers was part of Archipel Media Lab's Havenland project, initiated by Timo Mank and Galerie Dit Eiland, with additional support from the Media Art Friesland Festival (MAFF). Special thanks to the Stichting Amelander Musea, who allowed us to enter and use the Ameland Lighthouse during the weekend of may 28th, pretty much unconditionally ... ]

About the Placard international Headphone Festival on the SoundBlog:

(september 14, 2019) - A brief history of Le Placard (1998-...)
(august 11, 2019) - Vive Le Placard ! Varia ...
|→ (august 04, 2012) - 72 Hours of Post-Nuclear Survival
|→ (august 08, 2009) - (Le) CLeUb, Placard, CLeUb
(february 12, 2008) - Karlheinz's Song of Praise
(november 05, 2006) - Cellarlar Heroes
(october 20, 2006) - Funky Shit!
|→ (august 14, 2006) - placard : la générale
(july 30, 2006) - "le zida ne passera pas par moi..."
(july 07, 2006) - de_'tails of lite house keeping'
|→ (july 27, 2005) - tafelmuziek: placard & cd
(july 31, 2005) - tafelmuziek: paradiso placard
(june 18, 2005) - zandoog placard & cd
(december 31, 2004) - soundinjury placard
(may 31, 2004) - old bears new tricks
(may 13, 2004) - tafelmuziek placard
(july 13, 2003) - gaité lyrique
(june 20, 2003) - live chronicles

notes __ ::
(*) The placard's title, Tails of lite house keepers, is a paraphrase on A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, title of the B-side of Pawn Hearts, an early (1971) album of Peter Hammill's Van Der Graaf Generator, one of the better sixties/seventies british 'prog rock' bands and writers, one that without any compromise continued to produce their original mix of pretty kitschy bombast and cult 'psycho drama' that stayed sincere and edgy enough to continue to intrigue (me). I actually remembered the track's title as being Tales of Lighthouse Keepers ... A Plague of ... is a fine noisy 'n' arty rock card board melo-play, built around utterly obscure lyrics, which, contrary to first appearances, now somehow strike me in places as being actually kind of funny ... The two lines forming this entry's "motto" are taken from there. Also, certain fragments of the contribution to the stream by the Ana-R members assembled in Bures-sur-Yvette sounded as though they were re-makes of some of the more noisy parts of 'A Plague ...' But that resemblance must be mere coincidence ... [ ^ ]

(**) As was the case last year, also this 'island placard' took place mere days before the official start of this year's international headphone festival (on june 3rd at the Mutek festival in Montreal) ... [ ^ ]

(***) To subscribe to the Raudio Podcasts, get the feed's URI by clicking the green podcast button in the sidebar. Alternatively, you may preview the podcast feed ... [ ^ ]

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