The latest commission is for composer Chris Schlechte-Bond. It uses electrical interference of various DC motors to create noises and textures in the central pickup. 2 inputs are connected to some pulse width modulation boards to control the speeds of the motors and gives different pitches and textures. The other 4 inputs share a 9v battery source and so when played together they take some of the power away from the other motors, again creating a change of sound.
So the dust has settled on the first Hackoustic Festival and its time to reflect on what a fantastic day it was.
I will start with a preface about Hackoustic, it’s an open group of people who meet at the london hackspace to talk and tinker and play with sounds and music. Tim Yates often organises great speakers or workshops too, all just for the love of the experimental. I was first invited to speak at their evening way back in 2014 by Saif Bunni. Then had the pleasure of being their neighbour at londons maker faire. They were also the group who invited me to exhibit at the Tate Modern. It’s safe to say I owe a lot to the Hackoustic group and to Tim for the multitude of opportunities sent my way.
So when Tim approached me to help run this festival I didn’t hesitate to offer my services.
The first (and only) choice for venue was Machinesroom. My home away from home, and premier maker space for all your making needs. The staff there are beyond helpful and friendly and our gratitude for them is massive.
The first thing out audience were greeted with was Tim’s Big Blade installation. A giant circular saw hung from a log tripod with a variety of beaters and sticks for people to hit it with. The variety of tones and timbre you can achieve with this thing is vast. It’s a great example of the ethos behind Hackoustic in finding extraordinary sounds from unexpected sources.
Lucia Naidu is a long term Hackoustic participant who bought down 2 of her fantastic projects. One being a type of 3D theremin using capacative sensors and the other an arduino driven computer fan noise generator.
We were fortunate to have Raxil4 join us. We gave him some pretty odd spaces to try and work with and he managed to pull off 2 very interesting installations. Nuclear Toilet was a site specific installation created using manipulated field recordings of the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, recorded to endless looping audio cassette tape. The installation was in the toilets of machinesroom and definitely added a level of fun and intrigue to the day. He also pulled off a great version of Luciers music on a long thin wire with artists μ + Harmergeddon.
Charles Matthews has been one of the speakers at the Hackoustic meetups before. I have been lucky enough to have played with and discussed his work before so was massively honoured he was able to come to our first fetival. He bought down his project and passion which is his Augmented Gamelan/pipilan project.
It’s such a complex system of MAX patches, feedback loops, piezo sensors and transducers that i couldn’t even begin to explain it. All that matters it it sounds incredible and looks amazing! It is controlled by simple arrows and buttons but has been developed by Charles to follow the method of composition for full traditional Gamelan playing. You can find out more about his work here http://ardisson.net/
Jack Jelfs was another recent Hackoustic speaker and he bought along his moat recent installation,fresh from its last home at The Conservatoire in Blackheath.
Stop/start is an ensemble of sculptural units which generate sound using magnetism, electrricity, physical acoustics and amplification to collectively perform a musical composition on an endless, never exactly repeating, loop. The piece draws influence from minimalist classical music, techno, scientific apparatus and the physics of sound.
I was very lucky to work with Luis Zayas in Berlin recently at MTF. So was naturally very excited he was able to bring his lifeSupport installation to us. It uses hospital drip feeds to randomly trigger sensors underneath. This is then processed with a Bela board and converted into audio outputs. You can change a whole bunch of variables, from the scales to the octaves and sustain. It’s a very zen like installation, beautifully constructed and a joy to just sit and watch/listen to.
Cyber Citizens are a group that Tim and I have bumped into a few times at recent London maker events and they are ALWAYS completely surrounded by people wanting to try their creations, but more specifically Butterscotch, their voice controlled bubble farting unicorn. It is intended for the performance project ‘Girl with the Unicorn’, but is such a well executed and fun hack of an existing product that it’s worthy of being it’s own stand alone project.
While these great installations and projects were out and on display we also had a great line up of talks and performances from some of our friends and idols in the world of sound/hacking/tech. All of which was recorded and broadcast by the great Sonica.fm radio station.
We had Dan Wilson give an incredibly interesting talk on his work with what he calls Miraculous Agitations. It was a talk that resonated a lot with me as it seems our creative process runs along similar lines. It was great to hear his ideas and I hope to work together on something in the future.
We were VERY VERY VERY privileged to have Dr Kelly Snook talk with us. Kelly is one of the pioneers and creators behind the mimu gloves project. The gloves allow you to control and trigger a multitude of gestures and commands via MIDI, with complete ease and freedom of movement and it’s really a very magical thing. She went through the software behind the gloves and gave us all some exciting news about that software becoming available soon for everyone. Kelly went above and beyond after her talk and let people try on the gloves and try a few of the million different things you could do with them. I was lucky enough to have time to try them and I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time…
Gwaith Swn are a london based arts collective concentrating in sound, field recordings and installations. I’ve performed on the same bill as them before and they interviewed me for their monthly radio show on Resonance FM. We had Kev Chan from Gwaith Swn perform his hypnotic, mesmerising and stunning tape loop performance. hand crafted tape loops layered ontop of each other, slathered in reverb and masterfully mixed together.
And to top of the day of the festival we had the unimitatable Tasos Stamou perform and textural, multilayered drone piece on electronics, harmonium and various effects. He was noisy, and brilliant, and loud, and worth trying to see perform if you ever get the opportunity to do so.
Tim and I also had our own projects on show at the festival, Tim’s Curio project explores the sound of everyday objects in a wonderfully designed array controlled by capacative touch sensors. And I had my recycled instruments setup ready for anyone to pick up and play and make noises.
After the day festival, we packed up Machinesroom and headed down the road to Limewharf to set-up for the evening gig. Tim and I were joined by Jon Saunders for our improv project YOAF.
It’s been a few weeks since Music Tech Fest in Berlin happened so it’s about time I write about what I got up to. As is to be expected with MTF, it was all mind blowingly incredible, innovative and fun.
Hakan Libdo bought quite a few of his installations with him which were all fantastic! I had a great time playing blind tennis with Dave from Daves conservatoire! And building an edible step sequencer with Cos Chapman. I love the playfulness and interactiveability of Hakans work, they genuinely make you think and smile and connect with other people and the world.
Another highlight was Martin Molin from Wintergatan showing off some of his instruments. You’d know him from his amazing marble machine that did the rounds on the Internet recently. He confirmed he’s working on a transportable version of it which would be incredible to see.
Another really great installation was Luis Zayas‘ lifeblood. Drops of water from drip feeds trigger sequences of notes in predetermined scales resulting in an amazingly peaceful, dreamy experience.
The Highlight, as is customary, was the Hackcamp. 24 hours to make something with a bunch of challenges to aim towards. I teamed up with Luis Zayas and Gawain Hewitt and built something ridiculous. A installation/performance piece that used a tree as one of the performers.
Ben Heck from The Ben Heck show was kicking about and being a judge and filming some things. Here’s Luis’ and I trying to explain our creation as quickly as we could:
(Watch the whole video, every other project being worked on was INCREDIBLE)
The video failed to mention that we used DADA machines to trigger the solenoids, which itself was being sent MIDI notes from a Giant Steps Harmonic Filler. We had light sensors that triggered vocal stems from Eska, the strings on the tree were going to go up into the branches and bend as the wind made the tree sway which would alter the pitch of the notes being played. The Music Bricks Gesture sensor would sit on a branch and as the branch swayed in the wind it could be used either as a control for a MIDI instrument or effects on other elements being played.
So the tree would actually be controlling 3 different aspects of a performance!
It was pretty amazing how we managed to pull this off in 24 hours, massive massive credit goes to Luis and Gawain for dealing with the tech stuff I had no clue about! It’s great doing these types of events as I get to meet guys like these who have massive amounts of knowledge in subjects completely unknown to me.
We won 2 of the prize categories which was unexpected and much appreciated. I can’t wait to see what the next one brings!
I am beyond excited and honoured to have been asked back to MTF to talk about my work. The lineup for Berlin looks insane and I strongly advise anybody within affordable ranges to go there.
I will be presenting some of this work plus one of my new ventures into instruments which is in the realm of accessibility. I’ve come up with a One Handed Violin prototype which I submitted for the OHMI Trusts 2016 competition for one handed instruments.
Welcome to the new and improved Vulpestruments.com!
I’ve had to re-think my online presence due to how varied the work I do now has become. I no longer just build fun things and write about them. I have been working on installations, workshops, talks and demonstrations, performances, concerts, radio and a whole host more.
So this new site will be a collection of everything I do, just a bit better organised.