february 27, 2012.
One of the very first things that I did when I got my first computer (a Commodore 64, some time in the early 1980s) was looking up some rudimentary statistical data on Dutch language, such as the frequency of letter occurrences ('karakterfrequentie') and the length of words ('woordlengte'). I used them in the composing of BabelLib, a simple BASIC program that endlessly generated series of words, interspersed with punctuation marks (, / .), and thus sentences, that together concatenated into texts with these same statistical properties. Back then in my Amsterdam home, I let this private & automated Library of Babel scroll for hours and hours, across the screen of the small portable black and white television that I used as a monitor, fantasizing about all the (old, but especially the new) masterworks that it eventually would produce, but that I would never be able to capture or reproduce. For any generated pattern - as at times indeed did occur, though very, very seldom: some intelligible, common, Dutch words, series of repetitions - would be scrolled away into oblivion as soon as I would notice it.
My BabelLib made noise without a sound. The visual ambient music that it tirelessly and endlessly produced I found very soothing indeed.
I loved playing & watching BabelLib.
Along with my old & continuing love for (the sound of) flies (it is one of the very best sounds that I know, and one that never ceases to fascinate me; I can listen to flies for hours and hours), this probably explains why recently I became a very dedicated follower of @flycolony. Young American artist David Bowen keeps a swarm of houseflies. "They live inside an acrylic sphere, along with a computer keyboard," David explains on his web site. "As the flies move and interact inside their home they fly over the keys on the keyboard. These movements are collected in real-time via video. As a particular key is triggered by the flies the key's corresponding character is entered into a twitter text box. When 140 characters are reached or the flies trigger the enter key the message containing the accumulated characters is tweeted."
That's how my twitter screens come crammed with tweets by flies.
In its liveliest hours, there's a near to endless stream of fly-tweets, only occasionally interrupted by a more human scream for attention... Sometimes the flies' messages will signal the start of something new.
Sometimes a tweet will look like a deep code, starting off with a number that you might like to dial up, just to see who's on the other side of that particular line ...
Yes. David's flies do tweet an awful lot, but you know that you do not need to pay that much attention. @flycolony really livened up my Twitter-life. Little beats scrolling through a whole lot of fly tweets on your iPhone, when you wake up in the middle of the night. (Though you might want to add some AstroCantus chiming as an accompanying soundtrack.) It's noise - not unlike the majority of all the other tweets that come floating by - but it's real good noise. Ambient tweets, that - like a fly's song - do not cease to fascinate me.
The waking up in the middle of the night, or at indeed decidedly odd hours, for the full year of 2011 (a prime year, as you might recall), during one or two weeks every month, was part of my Seventy Seconds recording task, salvaging 10 seconds of sound, for every day of the year, at continuously shifting hours.
Doing, and persevering with, these weekly Seventy Seconds has been a great experience, which would have been far less easier without its publication, on the go, every sunday as part of the great Dutch Hard//Hoofd web zine.
The full collection remains available at SoundCloud, and for the (hopefully near) future subsequent events are being planned. With the sounds, but also with the fine series of photographs by Pieter van Wynsberge that came with them.
Meanwhile, it is also possible to explore Seventy Seconds via a map interface, as a Shoudio collection, on the web, or via Shoudio's smart phone apps.
I will do another 10 secs per day audio diary in the next prime year, 2017. If only I manage to get there, sound & moderately safe. But I did notice, when January 1st arrived, that I simply could not kick the routine & habit I had fallen into, of daily sound recording. On the other hand, continuing the 10 seconds audio snippet recording into all of the coming years, was - for me - not an option.
It is probably because I just started trying the instagram app, and found myself on new year's day on the Amsterdam Thalys platform with nothing much more than my iPhone, that I came up with the format for a SoundBlog | Audio Diary 2012: something far less ambitious than the Seventy Seconds of last year, easier to do, less strict; something almost private. I use the iPhone's built-in lo-fi dictaphone to record, to give me a daily reminder (at 18h00, in - the unlikely - case that I'd forget), and to take an instagram picture, at about the same time as the sound recording. Picture and sound are daily dumped onto a Tumblr site ...
Together it will built up to something of a 2012 sound calendar. Here's what January's page looks like. Clicking an image will bring you to a corresponding Tumbler page.
tags: random, flies, Seventy Seconds, audio diary 2012, ultra
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