Posts By Thomas Grill

Contribution to the SAR Conference 2019, February 21-23

Our submission to the 10th SAR International Conference on Artistic Research at the Zurich University of the Arts has been approved.
We are referring to the conference topic “Inspiring Failures” which is close to the conceptual underpinning of the rotting sounds project

In the artistic research project Rotting sounds – Embracing the temporal deterioration of digital audio, we explore artistic opportunities arising from obsolescence, degradation and information loss in digitally represented sound.

Compared to a gradual and graceful degradation and eventual disintegration of analog sound, common digital representations tend to exhibit an abrupt breach into fail and thus silence. Decay is, however, inevitable to any representation. We therefore propose to tightly integrate it into the artistic practice and embrace its (seemingly negative) effects as aesthetic benefit.
By means of experimental digital audio toolchains designed to fail easily yet graceful, degradation turns from disastrous errors into transformational, generative elements, hence offering a palette of opportunities to the artist.
This disposition to (re)act to circumstances of unanticipated behavior asks for a certain capability to tolerate the unexpected and improvise.

Within the project, we are also exploring to integrate said perspective into both our decision processes and our documentation: The fact that concepts require flexibility to adapt to such complex context is a rather trivial insight. However, the dissolution of ideas, strategies or methods seems less easily digestible. We note that, analogous to our case of deteriorating media, there will always be a residuum that sediments and is researched for emerging follow-up concepts. One method to facilitate sedimentation and documentation is to assemble convolutes of media artifacts. Although we lose control about the exact form of such legacy, we leave a composting sculpture, anticipating the future form of our residues, to be rummaged through and re-interpreted by those who follow. The success of the prospection is depending on the coordination and motivation of the seekers.

Notably, our embracement of data loss is in obvious conflict with currently enforced “Research Data Management” policies, demanding sustainably stored research data. In the interest of our research topic and more generally, in the interest of artistic freedom, we must claim the right to let our data degrade, and, eventually, even vanish.

Opening of the Auditorium of rotting sounds, March 29, 6pm

Reinhold Friedl: Die Suche nach dem Original: vom Verfall elektroakustischer Musik – lecture
Klaus Filip: Sonic Dust – opto-acoustic installation
Till Bovermann: Buffer manipulations – live coding performance
Mario de Vega: Suspension – for quadraphonic system, tape, objects and self-made electronics

at the Bankettsaal of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna
Anton-von-Webern-Platz 1, 1030 Wien, Austria

The Auditorium is open after 7pm with the following works on display:
Angélica Castelló: Magnetic Room – objects and sound installation
Klaus Filip: Sonic Dust – opto-acoustic installation
Juliana Herrero and Thomas Grill: Antenna – sounding object
Martin Howse: NN – installation
Nicole Krenn and Thomas Grill: Fields of Haze – audiovisual installation
Mario de Vega: NN – installation
Works and experimental setups of the project team Thomas Grill, Till Bovermann and Almut Schilling, together with Tobias Leibetseder.

Live events in the Auditorium during the opening:
Dario Sanfilippo: Phase transitions – Multi-channel electroacoustic performance
Charlotta Ruth: Intervention

The rotting sounds project is a cooperation between the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, the University of Applied Arts Vienna and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

1-bit audio printing at the University of Applied Arts Vienna

Today, we visited the gravure printing workshop at the Institute for Graphics and Printmaking at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. The staff around Veronika Steiner and Attila Piller showed us their printing procedure and the possibilities in terms of materials, size and achievable resolution.
Obviously, one of the important limiting factors is the quality of the rasterization which is usually done with a laser printer on transparent film. This film is used to expose the polymer printing plate with ultraviolet light. The non-exposed parts of the plate are washed away, making room for the print color.

On our quest for maximum resolution of the photomaster, we also visited Josef Schauer-Schmidinger at the workshop for Digital Photography. Although they specialize in digital photography, we will have the possibility to reproduce large-scale high-resolution ink prints (160 cm width) onto 8″x10″ film with an analog Sinar camera, once their darkroom is installed in a few weeks. The target resolution should be more than 2400 dpi.

Electroacoustic composition “residuals” at re_composed festival, October 31

At this year’s edition of the re_composed series, part of paraflows XIII, festival for digital art and cultures, i will present a new piece of acousmatic music, titled residuals.

The piece is re-composed solely of compression artifacts, originating from my piece Points of View, as performed at the same re_composed festival five years earlier. The new piece has the same 24 minute duration as the prior performance, and also the same 4-channel layout.

October 31 thru November 3, 2018
weisses haus, Hegelgasse 14, 1010 Wien, Austria

1-bit audio laser engraving

Today, we have gained new knowledge about laser engraving thanks to the great guys at Universal Laser Systems Vienna.
The laser engraving expert convinced us that a target resolution of 1000 dpi is not easily attainable due to restrictions of laser focus, positioning accuracy and, above all, material constraints.
Nevertheless, we will research further in this direction, since laser engraving allows the application of visual representations of audio on various interesting materials.

Call for participation: Workshop “sound-material-time”, November 8+9, Anton Bruckner University Linz

We will host the workshop “sound-material-time”, taking place November 8+9, 2018, at the Anton Bruckner Private University, Linz, Austria.

We are specifically targeting practitioners and theorists in music / sound art explicitly working with long time spans / obsolescence phenomena / explicit degradation.
In principle also other forms of time-based art are welcome if they are topical. Our focus is on digital media, but deviations are possible.

Since the workshop is within our artistic research project “rotting sounds”, its intentions should well resonate with your topic.
We would like to stress the fact that this is not a scientific workshop, but rather a gathering where we would like to discuss (personal) artistic practices and their contexts.

Central concepts are the following:

  • Interaction of material (physical, analog, digital) and time
  • What is “digital”? Where do physical and logical data interface?
  • Identifying and working with degradation processes/artifacts in the (digital) medium
  • What is the aesthetic impact of such processes?
  • Aspects of presentation, preservation, distribution of artworks depending on degradation

Each of the participants should bring along material things of their work practice which could be instruments, data carriers, objects of interests and passion. You should also give a short introduction about this practice.
Our intention is to keep the number of participants low (select 5-8 or so) and to zoom in on each practice individually.
All three core members of the research project will be present (Thomas Grill, Till Bovermann and Almut Schilling).

Within the group, we will develop questions and experiments on deterioration specifically for each participant.
We will also ask the participants prior to the workshop about specific topics they would like to have addressed.

The work schedule is 10am-1pm and 2pm to 5pm on both days, tentatively.
There will be a possibility for public presentation (concert format) in the evening of November 9.

The deadline for applications is Sunday, October 21, 2018.
Participation is free of charge.

Please direct your applications to, including

  • a CV
  • a few relevant examples of your work (artistic or theoretical)
  • a short motivation text about what you suggest to bring in and what you expect

Please distribute the call!

Rhyzopertha dominica feeding on digital audio

We are commencing experiments with organisms potentially feeding on digital audio carriers or circuits, therewith changing contents or functionality. Today we have observed and recorded several representatives of Rhyzopertha dominica. Usually they would feed on various cereal grains, but if those are not available, they instead digest also polymers and other technologically interesting substances. We are looking forward to having interesting sonic encounters with them.

First publication “Embracing the temporal deterioration of digital audio – A manifesto”

We are happy to announce that our paper “Embracing the temporal deterioration of digital audio – A manifesto” has been accepted for publication in the upcoming proceedings of the Politics of the Machines conference on the British Computer Society’s eWic platform.

This paper presents the fundaments and challenges of the Rotting sounds project and expresses the most important theses in the form of a manifesto.

Most of today’s media output, be it audio or video, is produced and stored in the digital domain. Although digital data are adorned by the myth of lossless transmission and migration, everyday experience does prove the existence of degradation and, ultimately, data loss in various forms. This pertains to the physical nature of storage media and playback devices as well as to media formats and software in the context of their technological infrastructure.
We have recently launched the project of artistic research ‘Rotting sounds – Embracing the temporal deterioration of digital audio’, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). Since degradation cannot be avoided by principle, we therein propose alternative perspectives on the nature and the implications of deterioration in theory and artistic practice, specifically for the domain of digital audio.
This manifesto shall represent an introduction to our endeavour, as much as it shall form a guideline for us carrying out the research.

Talk at ars electronica symposium, September 9

Under the title “Letting loose, embracing the loss”, I will talk about implications of audio deterioration at the Ars Electronica symposium “… under control of music, music under control of …; composing (in) digital worlds”, part of the Sonic Saturday at Anton-Bruckner Private University, Linz.

Most of today’s media output, also music, is produced and stored in the digital domain. Although digital data are adorned by the myth of lossless transmission and migration, everyday experience does prove the existence of degradation and, ultimately, data loss in various forms. This pertains to the physical nature of storage media and playback devices as well as to media formats and software in the context of their technological infrastructure.
Usually, this loss of control over the musical material is counteracted in the personal or societal domain using various kinds of archival strategies.
In the running project of artistic research “rotting sounds”, however, we rely on the hypothesis that by gaining pertinent knowledge and developing adequate means to work with digital degradation in a constructive fashion, its inevitability can be turned from being a source of irritation into a potential for aesthetic choice.

September 8, 2018, 4pm-7pm
Anton Bruckner Private University
Hagenstraße 57, 4040 Linz, Austria

Presenting a manifesto at the “politics of the machine” conference, Copenhagen, May 16

I will present some observations and implications on our topic of the degradation of digital audio. Consequentially, i will try to formulate a number of bold claims summing up to the form of a manifesto.

Politics of the Machine conference
Aalborg University Copenhagen
A. C. Meyers Vænge 15, 2450 Copenhagen, Denmark
May 16 2018, “sonic machines” session at 3:45pm