News

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

Program:
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).

Implementing digital deterioration by increasingly unstable nonlinear feedback networks: an exploration of phase transitions in dynamical systems

Hi all, this is Dario Sanfilippo. I have recently joined the rotting sounds project, to work on feedback systems that progressively become unstable to structurally and conceptually render the idea of digital deterioration.

The main purpose is to implement a set of relatively small networks with different topologies, feedback matrixes, and nonlinearities to microscopically explore the phase transitions of the systems by means of adaptive behaviors. The works will be exhibited at the Mold Museum of Sounds starting from April and the deterioration process will take place over a period of weeks.

Pure Data is the software that I normally use for my works, but the programming environment used for these networks is the Faust language, for double precision in the DSP calculations is a requirement given the very long lifespan that these networks need to achieve full deterioration.

The periods of the feedback loops in the networks, which may be chosen as prime, co-prime, or near-integer ratios depending on whether more or less spectral peak overlappings are desired, will be affected by one or more features of the environment where the works will be running.

The nonlinear functions will be a set of bounded saturators. These functions work in a way such that the wave shaping is directly proportional to the amplitude of the input signal, which can be used as a deterioration process for progressively growing signals.

Networks will start from the condition of marginal stability, that is a configuration of the nonlinear functions and feedback coefficients so that a constant energy stream is produced by a Dirac impulse. Over a time span of one or more weeks, the feedback coefficients of the networks will be increasing from the stability threshold to an arbitrarily chosen value outside of the stability range. The systems will soon become self-oscillating but the limiting effect of the saturators will prevent them from growing infinitely.

As the feedback coefficients increase, the input of the nonlinear functions will grow too, resulting in a stronger deterioration which in turn will produce richer spectra. With more frequency components, there will also be more interactions between signals and instabilities.

The output of the system is the result of recursively combined intermodulation phenomena – both at formal (beats) and timbral (sidebands) time scales – together with the iterated nonlinearities inherent in the DSP structure.

Phase transitions are particularly interesting and nontrivial states of dynamical systems, and the most profound aesthetic aspect of this work is the time-stretched exploration of such areas while going through different degrees of instability. This microscopic inspection will be realized by implementing an adaptive behavior that affects the growth rate of the feedback coefficients. Specifically, the detection of a phase transition will slow down the growth of the coefficients, while the detection of a stable state will increase it.

Of course, the detection and inspection process is something that may either trigger or suppress a phase transition, while the phase transition itself will, in turn, affect such process. In fact, the overall formal evolution is determined by this Heisenbergian relationship where the attempt to determine a state will influence the state itself, recursively.

Table of curiosities at All About Audio 2018

Almut and Till spent some time last week to research on our project topic and eventually prepare and give a presentation at All About Audio at the FH St. Pölten. It was an intense time, yielding in very interesting and fruitful discussions and results.

We came up with (at least) two important elements for our research:

  1. the auralist — A fictional character that represents an aural culture (in the digital age) in which sound is considered the preferred medium, implying temporality (and hence decay) to be embraced. This was a rather good addition, we plan to further flesh it out and maybe turn the auralist into a true opponent that not only questions our visual/clean cultural approaches, but also our (project’s) research practice.
  2. the use of a large paper on the table — It served as note-taking and sketching medium as well as an archival container. We used the same paper for the four days and it helped us a lot to follow along all the different (but equally interesting) threads of our discussions. Many of our sketches you can find in the presentation pdf are photos from the paper.

Guests of the conference were quite interested in our approach and asked valuable questions leading into fruitful discussions.

You can find our presentation slides here.

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.

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.

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.

Residency at Eden Project

Together with Katharina Hauke, Till will be on a journey to Invisible Worlds at Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. The residency resides under the theme … and then we see if we will be friends and is meant to be an invitation to all curious organisms and life-forms in and around the Eden Project to create sounds and improvised experimental music together (with us).

Small networked music making systems will be set up within the various sites of the Eden Project that feature differing degrees of self-sufficiency and interaction possibilities for both visitors and inhabitants.

We plan to adapt and extend our semi-autonomous platform fielding to both sense and provoke actions of the various actors, inviting them to explore emergent collaborative phenomena. Of course, the (obvious) connection to rotting sounds will be investigated within the residency and related material be collected over at friendly.organisms.de.

Hope to see you there in September!

Performance at Silence London 2018

On Wednesday, 8.8.2018, I had the pleasure to perform at Silence London, a satellite event of the Silence Festival held annually in Kaukonen, Finland.

Along with classical music performances, contemporary circus, ballet and a lecture on the influence of silence on contemporary music, I performed an improvisation piece based on computational deconstruction of silences and their counterparts that I observed around Hoxton Arches.

It was divided into a 30min sound walk and a subsequent livecoding performance based on field recordings I took the day before inHoxton/Shoreditch.

More info at the Artifacter page of TAI-Studio.org.