Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Because machines want to make music too

The all poweful StumbleUpon has come up gold with the work of Glasgow artist James Houston

Big Ideas (don't get any) from James Houston on Vimeo.

The piece is called Big Ideas (don't get any) and was produced for his graphic design art show. the basic idea was based on the Radiohead track Nude after realising that Radioheads initial public challenge to remix the song was to say the least difficult (its rhythm and tempo clashes with dance music mechanics) he decided to fashion a "band" of sorts out of redundant hardware, in his own words:

"Based on the lyric (and alternate title) "Big Ideas: Don't get any" I grouped together a collection of old redundant hardware, and placed them in a situation where they're trying their best to do something that they're not exactly designed to do, and not quite getting there.

It doesn't sound great, as it's not supposed to."

I'd have to say i disagree with Houstons verdict on the piece, I personally thing it sounds amazing and I would love to hear more work done by this "band"

After reading about this piece i was reminded of an old favorite of mine, IBM 1401: the musical.

Wired did an article on 1401 back in 2007 when it was still touring. The piece is the brainchild of Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson who based the piece on work his father Jóhann Gunnarsson did whilst working with the 1401 mainframe in 1964. Gunnarsson noticed that due to a production fault the 1401 would produce an am frequency which could be read as a tone, armed with this information Gunnarsson wrote programs for the mainframe in order to modulate this frequency thus producing one of the earliest Scandinavian electronic instruments. Armed with his fathers work Johannsson teamed up with dance coriographer Erna Omarsdotti to produce a piece based on the 1401.

Musically the 1401 sounds a bit like a Cello with a definite string feel to it not found in the early synthesisers, this sound is used to produce a haunting ghostlike tune as though the Mainframe is talking from beyond the grave, which, considering The University of Manitoba gave there old IBM a burial, it is

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