Archives for the Month of August, 2008

Matt Shlian – Everything, Everything

Matt Shlian
Wash Series – Matt Shlian

Matt Shlian’s large ballpoint pen drawings are refined outputs of personal human computation system. ‘Everything, Everything’ delivers an undulating landscape through a procedural triangulation technique creating an angular web that might have been made by a giant mechanical Voronoi spider. ‘All Possibilities’ reveals the wireframe contours of a mountainous landscape directly from above, computational synthaesthetes will feel immediately at home with its FFT-esque peaks and troughs as though it was informed by sound analysis. Elsewhere on Matt’s site we find geometric tessellations reminiscent of Islamic tile patterns and the enigmatic ‘Kasparov Vs R13’ – an apparent mapping of one of Gary Kasparov’s more difficult games of chess.

Daphne Oram – Oramics (Drawing sound)

Daphne Oram
The Oramic Machine – Daphne Oram

A lesser known but important contributor in the field of ‘drawn’ electronic music is British composer Daphne Oram who worked at the legendary BBC Radiophonic workshop in the late 1950’s. Oram dreamed of making a machine that directly translated graphical notation into sound and this dream came to fruitful realisation with her technique of Oramics. The set up ‘consisted of drawing onto a group of ten sprocketed synchronised strips of 35mm film which covered a series of photo-electric cells that in turn generated an electrical charge to control the sound frequency, timbre, amplitude and duration.’

Oramics, released on Paradigm Discs is a great entrée in Oram’s exotic experimental electronic compositions. The short track Power Tools is a head on collision between cute dinky electronic pop and industrial noise, or perhaps a cartoon interpretation of an offshoot Faust might have produced – had not Daphne arrived decades earlier. The beginning of Bird of Paradise predates the heuristic aesthetics of the uncompromisingly excellent Raster Noton label before sliding into an accomplished music concrete and then dropping the listener back into a computational meditation chamber.

In all tracks there is a good balance between experimental noise/concrete and segments of melodic counterpart, distorted 50’s beach music, skewed fairground rides and abberated bossonavas. Comical noise art abounds as does ironic gestures towards 50’s utopianism, it seems – or, at least, it sounds that way today.

Goldsmiths College in London has become something of a centre for the precipitation of Orams works to the general audience and researchers a like. It has been involved in the production of numerous music events showing rarely or never heard pieces by Daphne.

Related links:
Drawing Sounds in Both Directions
ANS Synthesizer – Drawing Sound
Radiophonic Workshop Gallery

George Hart – Echinoderms, Roads Untaken and Deep Structures

left: Snarl 2 – George Hart

A recent, random encounter in Florence with a reconstruction of Leonardo de Vinci’s illustration for Luca Pacioli’s De Divina Proportione triggered me to re-explore the complex mathematical sculptures of George Hart. In 1999 George recreated wooden models from Pacioli’s book including the Ycocedron Abscisus Vacuus and the stunningly complex Duodecedron Abscisus Elevatus Vacuus, the latter consisting of 120 equilateral triangles, made from 360 pieces of wood. These pieces are only a tiny fragment of George’s huge output of intricate geometric sculptures. Initially specialising in novel polyhedral structures he has produced hand made sculptures as well as utilising solid freeform fabrication techniques. More recently he has used rapid prototyping with laser sintering to explore forms from the hyperbolic domain. The popular Echinodermia spieces are good examples of the latter process.

George explains:

‘I like echinoderms, and these are toroidal sculptures inspired by their forms. They are not models of actual species, but more like some kind of parallel universe evolution of maniacal echinoderms. All are made by selective laser sintering of nylon, on an SLS machine, then I dyed them’

Eric Archer – Drone Commanders, Sound Cameras & Circuit Bent Tabla Machines

Eric Archer
Sound Camera – Eric Archer

Eric Archer’s oscillographic work has been featured on these pages before, then Natureisdata focused on the harmonic autographs from his bespoke plotter-oscillator set-up. But Oscillographics are only a tiny fragment of the story. Eric has modified and created a whole spectrum of surprising and unusual devices. Each hand crafted audio-visual mechanism a beautiful thing in itself.

Take his Sound Cameras for instance. Eric has designed a system whereby 8mm film cameras are converted into audio transducers. The output is connected to headphones allowing the roaming headphonic troubadour to go out on ‘listening expeditions’. Be sure to read through the notes especially his stepfathers analysis on what the Aurora Borealis might sound like.

Elsewhere you’ll find all manner of quirky brilliance. The gorgeously finished Bird Box Sequencer, which uses the linear feedback shift register method, can produce a single loop that could last up to 17 years!

Other favourites include the Circuit Bent Tabla Machines with added keyboard control to generate glitches and the irresistibly named, immaculately finished, Drone Commander. It should be noted that all audio devices have audio clips on the documentation pages.

Flickr Fruits # 17

Flickr Fruits # 17
Attractor 1 a3, b9, c4, d-4, s2 – Subblue

The Oscillographic elegance of Subblue’s Simple Attractors set are based on two simple equations by Peter de Jong and Cliff Pickover. While a few of the outputs have non-deterministic complexity in their overall form, others appear to describe specific harmonic progressions to create lightweight space-time gauze-like glyphs.

Using film dialogue taken from subtitle files as a base material, Evsc’s Cinematic Particles data visualisation set appear as calligraphic branching doodles – ‘Smokey watercolour drawings emerge from each movies individual frequency of spoken words and their letters’. Could this method hint at the hidden combinatorial code inherent in language and the spoken word?

Actop’s Random Graphics set appear to have the deconstructed aesthetic of a render from an unruly visual programming environment but were infact produced using Adobe After Effects. Fresh minimal colour palettes enhance a fragmented and iterated multiform environment.

More Oscillographical art can be found here and here
More meta-calligraphy can be found here

Synchronator | Gert-Jan Prins + Bas van Koolwijk


’Since the early years of video art, works have been made which do not actually produce a standard TV signal waveform and therefore cannot be directly recorded. Some are based primarily upon magnetic distortion of the normal TV scan pattern, others utilise a Cathode Ray Tube as if it were an oscilloscope screen.’

Gert-Jan Prins and Bas van Koolwijk’s Synchronator project continues a lineage of experimentation originally embarked upon by the likes of Nam June Paik and the Vasulka’s. Both artists teamed up after a shared need to transcend the technical limitations of the video signal and through a shared aesthetic. Accessing the inner working of their audiovisual equipment, they crosswire sound and image to produce a glitchy synaesthetic montage – sometimes with tantalizing hints at representation as seen in the online video.

Syncronator is dysfunctional roboid ghost in the machine, choreographing an interference dervish to a montage of extreme noise textures.

Bridges 2008, Netherlands

Toroidal Helical Sweep – George Hart

Recently back from a sojourn in Holland were for the most part I attended the Bridges 2008 conference on the intersection between maths and art, music, crafts & architecture. The annually held conference was rich with a very diverse range of lectures on topics such as:

Mathematical visualization, mathematics and music, computer generated art, symmetry Structures, origami, mathematics and architecture, Tessellations and Tilings, aesthetical connections between mathematics and humanities, geometric Art and geometries in quilting.

I was invited to give a lecture on my real-time video signal feedback work regarding tessellation and symmetry and present ideas compiled in a paper which was included in the conference’s proceedings.

This year’s conference was held in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, in honour of one of it’s most famous sons, MC Escher – this year marks the 110th anniversary of the artists’ birth. It seemed fitting to have a special set of Escher day lectures since Escher himself was continually in an oscillating dichotomy between arts and maths. Incorporating extremely complex maths in his artworks, such as hyperbolic tessellations, without any real solid mathematical understanding.

Aside from the lectures, there was large exhibition of Mathematical Art in the location of the conference. Works ranged from Op-art-esque space-filling curves, 3d prints of hyperbolic tessellations, laser cut fractal tessellations through to module based sculptures utilising Fibonacci numbers as well as a polished steel sculpture of the Lorenz Attractor.

Spread around the surrounding countryside in Gothic and Romanesque churches there was a Bridges & Passages exhibition of works by artists who have come from abstract mathematical backgrounds. Artists included were Gerard Caris, Istvan Orosz, Rinus Roelofs, Koos Verhoeff, Yvonne Kracht, Oscar Reutersvard, Ulrich Mikloweit and Elvira Wersche.

I expect to devote some time writing about these artist’s works in the not so distant future.

Full Flickr set HERE

Related: Exotic Mathematical Surfaces