Archive for the 'sound sculpture' Category

Oscar Vargas Leal & David Espejo Aviles – Cromometrofonia No.1 c/w Cometa 1973

Oscar Vargas y David Espejo – Cromometrofonia LP front cover
Oscar Vargas y David Espejo – Cromometrofonia LP back cover
Oscar Vargas y David Espejo – Cromometrofonia LP lado A

This disc pairs two compositions for special harps in 16th tones intervals, known as arpa citera, inspired by Mexican microtonal composer Julián Carrillo (1875-1965). While until the 1920s, Carrillo composed traditional, so to speak, atonal music, after this date, starting with Preludio a Colón, in 1922, he dedicated himself to compose exclusively in microintervals, a goal he pursued until his death in 1965. Carrillo divided the octave into various number of notes, from 16 to as much as 96 intervals for what is known as his Sonido 13 (“Sonido trece”) system, or the thirteenth tone. Between 1926 and the 1950s, Carrillo conceived several models of microtonal pianos and harps, but they weren’t build until 1958 when fifteen Sonido 13 pianos were exhibited during the Brussels World Fair in Belgium.

David Espejo Aviles and Oscar Vargas LealThe pair of arpa citera used on this disc were presumably build around 1973 by Carrillo’s last students and disciples David Espejo Aviles and Oscar Vargas Leal, who also composed the two works recorded here. These vertical harps can play 400 notes with very short intervals. In addition to the strangeness of the tuning, the musicians use a lot of ascending and descending glissandos, decaying tones and, of course, the sounds of the 2 harps also create harmonics and unusual intervals. This eerie and out-of-this-world music will be familiar to people already accustomed to Ivan Wychnegradsky or Alois Hába.

01 Cometa 1973 (11:05)
02 Cromometrofonia N°1 (11:00)

Total time 22:05
LP released by Discos PAX, Mexico, [1973?]


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Jean Tinguely – Bascule VII [re-up]

Jean Tinguely - Bascule VII LP front cover
Jean Tinguely - Bascule VII LP back cover
Jean Tinguely - Bascule VII LP side A

This is a re-up of the first Jean Tinguely disc I posted back in November 2008. Together with this week’s other Tinguely posts, it represents more than 80% of the published recordings of his sculptures. To complete the picture, one would have to add several tracks from various compilation releases:

  • the 7inch record coming with the catalogue of the Sounds of Sculpture exhibition at Minami Gallery, Tokyo, 1963, with sounds recorded by Toshi Ichiyanagi
  • the Meta-Harmonie II track included on the Meridians 2 compilation cassette on Touch, UK, 1983
  • a piano transcription by Rohan Drape of the Relief Meta-mechanique Sonore I, on the Slave Piano compilation LP, Melbourne, Australia, 1999
  • a string quartet transcription (!) titled Hegel on the DeFlockeD String Quartet CD, Melbourne, Australia, 2000

Relief Meta-mechanique Sonore I

01 Bascule VII -1969 (11:27)
02 Sound Sculpture – a (1:34)
03 Sound Sculpture – b (1:33)
04 Sound Sculpture – c (2:08)
05 Sound Sculpture – d (2:08)
06 Sound Sculpture – e (2:21)
07 Sound Sculpture – f (2:30)

Total time: 23:30
10” mini-LP on Manhood, MAN-002, ca. 1994–1995


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Jean Tinguely – Sculptures at the Tate Gallery

Jean Tinguely – Sculptures at the Tate Gallery front cover
Jean Tinguely – Sculptures at the Tate Gallery side 1

The Jean Tinguely exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London in 1982 offered a display of animated sculptures, including a number of Méta-Matics drawing machines, as well as the Méta-Harmonie II large-size installation. Instead of his usual artist’s interview, William Furlong chosed to document the sound of these sculptures on this Audio Arts cassette, and the result is a joyous menagerie of whimsical machines producing all kinds of erratic, irregular noises akin to heart arrhythmia. Perhaps due to these malfunctioning sounds, one feels sympathy and empathy for these automatons, rather than the expected exasperation.

The Méta-Harmonie I-IV series was intended as  sound sculptures by Tinguely, and are known as “Ton-Mischmaschinen”, or Sound Mixers, according to German Wikipedia. Méta-Harmonie II, featured on this tape, is now in Basel’s Tinguely Museum, Switzerland. It includes a piano, an electric organ, bells and drums. See it in action on YouTube.

[Thanks to Giuseppe for this tape]

Sculpture at The Tate #1–13
01  #1 (2:13)
02 #2 (2:12)
03 #3 (2:26)
04 #4 (2:36)
05 #5 (2:23)
06 #6 (2:19)
07 #7 (1:10)
08 #8 (1:15
09 #9 (1:22)
10 #10 (1:19)
11 #11 (2:24)
12 Méta-Harmonie II (18:13)
13 #12 (1:38)
14 #13 (1:38)

Total time 43:08
Cassette released by Audio Arts, London, UK, 1983


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Jean Tinguely – Homage to New York

Jean Tinguely - Homage to New YorkJean Tinguely - Homage to New York
Jean Tinguely - Homage to New YorkJean Tinguely - Homage to New York
Jean Tinguely - Homage to New YorkJean Tinguely - Homage to New York
Jean Tinguely - Homage to New YorkJean Tinguely - Homage to New York

This artist book was conceived by sculptor Jean Tinguely as a suitcase containing texts written by Pontus Hultén, an original “Meta-matic” machine drawing and a 7” record.

On side A, the disc features a report on the 1960 Homage to New York performance, a self-destructing, large size sculpture Tinguely created for MoMA’s Sculpture Garden, conceived in collaboration with Billy Klüver and Robert Rauschenberg. After a short introduction by Swedish Pontus Hultén, director of Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris from 1974 to 1981, the report proper starts with radio host Tony Schwartz (my own guess) interviewing the artist and witnesses of the performance, with interspersed excerpts from Schwartz’s own recording of the event. A detailed account of the performance was written by Michael Landy (PDF).

The B-side features Japanese avantgarde composer Toshi Ishiyanagi‘s own interpretation of Tinguely’s sound sculptures, in a kind of sound collage-cum-reportage based on recordings made during a Tinguely exhibition in Mirami Gallery, Tokyo, in 1963, plus documentary recordings made during a Nouveaux Réalistes event in Milano, Italy, in 1970 (including sound poet François Dufrêne talking non-sense Italian on megaphone), as well as various processed sounds. This soundwork isn’t included in the Obscure Tape Music Of Japan Vol.5 CD from Omega Point‘s Archive Series, published 2008, which features another of Ishiyanagi’s work on Tinguely titled Homage à Tinguely.

[Thanks to Giuseppe for this recording. Pictures from various internet sources]

01 Jean Tinguely Homage to New York (8:27)
02 Toshi Ishiyanagi Tinguely Sound (excerpt) (8:45)

Total time 17:12
7” single+book in suitcase issued by Pierre Horay éditeur, France, 1974


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Healing – 水琴窟 Suikinkutsu

Healing-水琴窟 Suikinkutsu

Winter might just be the best season to enjoy your suikinkutsu. Birds and crickets are gone, the air is still and crystalline, it seems the environment holds its breath until next spring. In one word, acoustics are appropriate. Go out in the garden, put a little water in the chōzubachi, or washbasin, and listen to the ever-changing water drops in the earthen jar buried below ground level.

Found in Japanese gardens and near ceremonial tea rooms, the suikinkutsu is meant to provide soothing and relaxing sounds during hand cleansing prior to the tea ceremony ritual. Dating from the Edo era in 17th century, the tradition slowly declined until the Meiji Era (late 19th-early 20th century) when it was re-discovered, only to be completely forgotten during most of the 20th century. Around 1960, researchers located only two remaining, though not functioning, examples. In the 1980s, a campaign was launched to find, restore and promote suikinkutsu again.


♫ This recording is from a CD titled Healing – Suikinkutsu, published in 2007. As with previous suikinkutsu posts on this blog (here and here), it was found on the web and came without cover artwork or information. The recording was done with microphones inside the jar, so birds, insects, wind or rain are banished, and the recording was possibly done in a studio. It was perhaps inspired by Professor Yoshio Watananbe’s pioneering article Analytical Study of Acoustic Mechanism of Suikinkutsu, 2004, which examines sound frequency, reverberation and droplet behavior.

Note: I felt this blog was badly in need of some purification of one kind or another, so this post is about cleansing our minds before going back to the usual avantgarde stuff.

Healing – 水琴窟 Suikinkutsu
Total time 44:25


.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Nihon teien (日本庭園) = Japanese garden
Chōzubachi (手水鉢) = washbasin
Tsukubai (蹲踞) = stone water basin
Yaku-ishi (役石) = the 3 large stones arranged under the tsukubai
Suikinkutsu (水琴窟) = earthen jar buried below ground level
Suimon = water hole in earthen jar

See also:
水窟琴 Suikinkutsu [1/2] >
水窟琴 Suikinkutsu [2/2] >

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Michel Deneuve – 16 Nouvelles d’Ailleurs

16 Nouvelles d'Ailleurs LP front cover
16 Nouvelles d'Ailleurs LP back cover
16 Nouvelles d'Ailleurs LP side A

Michel Deneuve, born 1955, was a member of Structures Sonores Baschet for 6 years along Bernard and François, before starting a solo career. Deneuve’s solo music focuses on the Cristal Baschet only, for which he developed new playing techniques, as this album demonstrates. Conceived as a library music record published by French company Sysmo Records, a Parisian recording studio as well as a library music company, 16 Nouvelles d’Ailleurs, or 16 Echoes of Faraway, is entirely played on the Cristal Baschet. Deneuve plays the instrument the regular way, vibrating the glass rods with rosin-ed fingers, but also using wooden sticks to resonate the instrument, as well as the occasional bowing technique on metallic or glass parts of the Cristal. Avoiding any trace of virtuosity in favor of varied and exploratory textures, Deneuve creates mysterious and timeless atmospheres sending the listener far away in imaginary places evoked by the LP’s title. The perfect soundtrack to a reading of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

01 Narva (2:14)
02 Cuzco (3:26)
03 Ceres (1:44)
04 Antares (5:08)
05 Io (2:10)
06 Kenora (:56)
07 Delagoa (2:03)
08 Cuenca (2:37)
09 Irian (2:29)
10 Saiph (6:09)
11 Kara (2:46)
12 Minerve (1:47)
13 Deimos (2:07)
14 Phobos (3:48)
15 Cephee (2:29)
16 Tsaidam (3:11)

Total time 45:00
LP released by Sysmo Records, Paris, France, 1983


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Nicolas Schöffer round up

DVD cover
Prisme, 1965
CYSP 1 with dancer, 1956
Nicolas Schöffer

The Post-war period saw a bloom of Cybernetics experiments around the world. Basically, Cybernetics is an information-based system where feedback constantly influences the system’s behavior. The word applies to anything from business management to crisis communication, from crowd control to robots to missile monitoring. No surprise, then, there have always been a lot of public funding for researchers in the field. A number of machines and robots were build using Cybernetics to have them interact with their environment. The earliest examples are Grey Walter‘s electronic turtles Elmer and Elsie, released in the real world in 1948 and Ross Ashby‘s Homeostat prototype, conceived 1948, later described in his 1949 book Design for a Brain. In 1948, Norbert Wiener published his influential book Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine.

It was not long for artists to explore the potentialities of the new technique, sometimes simplifying the concept, as artists are wont to do, or expanding its scope. Nicolas Schöffer was one of the first to collaborate with engineers, especially from the Philips company, to implement electronic interactive systems in his Spatiodynamic sculptures.  The definitive article on cybernetics according to Schöffer was written by Reuben Hoggett. Other artists who used Cybernetics systems include Piotr Kowalski or Roland Kayn, for instance.

♫ This post collects various sound recordings from Schöffer’s spatiodynamic scultpures sourced from the DVD of an exhibition at Espace Gantner, France, 2004, titled “Précurseur de l’art cybernétique”, as well as various internet videos. The Lumino and Microtemps, 1968 and 1961 respectively, were not intended as sound sculptures, yet the noises they produce are definitely part of their appeal, not unlike Jean Tinguely’s own machines, in fact. Prisme, 1965, (pictured above) was an installation using mirrors, lighting effects and sound to virtually expand the structure’s actual size. It was re-build in 1975 in the Paris’ Sorbonne university with incidental music by Pierre Barbaud. The last track is from a British Pathé newsreel documenting Schöffer’s 1960 Institute of Contemporary Arts exhibition. It focuses on one of Schöffer’s most famous sculpture, CYSP 1 (for CYbernetics SPationdynamic). The electronic music used in the film is not credited.

01 Lumino #1, 1968 (4:03)
02 Lumino #2, 1968 (1:28)
03 Microtemps #1, 1961 (3:23)
04 Microtemps #2, 1961 (3:23)
05 Prisme, 1965 (2:16)
06 Pierre Barbaud – Prisme Sorbonne, 1975 (1:25)
07 CYSP 1 – British film feature, 1960 (2:29)

Total time 18:00


See also: Schöffer/Henry book+single

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BogArt ‘Sounds of a Sculpture’

Sounds of a Sculpture LP box set
Sounds of a Sculpture LP box set
Sounds of a Sculpture side I
Mac Whitney's ConCan sculpture
Sounds of a Sculpture info sheet

Berlin percussionist Hubert Haverkamp, aka BogArt, was a familiar name in the post-Industrial German DIY network of the 1980s, being a cassette label, artist name and later a Berlin record shop (more info on Nostalgie de la Boue blog). Sounds of a Sculpture was BogArt’s unique LP, released by Berlin gallery Kunsthaus am Moritzplatz for the launch of US sculptor Mac Whitney‘s exhibition there in 1989. Known for his outdoor steel sculptures adorning various Texan towns, Mac Whitney, born 1936, released a special, on site work for his Berlin exhibition, a steel sculpture titled ConCan (see b&w picture and record cover). As it were, the special LP box set, complete with artists’ bio and statement, was used as the catalogue to the exhibition. BogArt sampled various sounds from the sculpture and reconfigured them in the studio. Far from sounding artificial or electronic, the music BogArt created reveals the sculpture’s sonic potential and resonating properties, its rich textures and sonic harmonics. Granted, the sounds have been electronically treated and distorted in various ways, but some of the sculpture’s sonic identity has been preserved, one assume – what Austrian writer Elfride Jelinek calls “Bis zur Kenntlichkeit entstellen” or: To distort to the point of recognition (in Revue des Deux Mondes, France, February 2007). Sonically, Sounds of a Sculpture sits between some of Z’ev’s more ambient efforts and Harry Bertoia’s own sound sculptures. Thanks to Hubert for permission and information.

01 Sounds of a Sculpture I (16:54)
02 Sounds of a Sculpture II (6:29)

Total time 23:23
LP released by Kunsthaus am Moritzplatz gallery, Berlin, 1989


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