Trond Lossius’ fellowship report

I spent my flight to Montreal (which became much longer than I expected when I was rescheduled through Chicago) reading Trond Lossius’ report for the Fellowship in the arts program. He addresses a number of interesting topics:

Commenting on the necessity for carrying out research for instead of on art, he discusses the concept of “art as code”:

It is not only a question of developing tools. [..] Programming code becomes a meta-medium, and creating the program is creating the art work.

This idea resonates throughout the text, and is followed by a discussion of the importance of craftsmanship in electronic arts:

This text might leave the impression that I am very concerned about the technical aspects of the works I create, with the potential risk of the works to end up having a certain geek factor. I do spend a lot of time and energy researching technical solutions that might help me achieve what I want, but they are primarily means to an end. I consider my practice to somewhat resemble how a professional pianist works. Several hours a day are spent rehearsing scales and other exercises in order to develop and maintain a high level of technical skills. But the development of technical skills is not a purpose in itself, and it would be out of question to play scales and etudes in concerts. The skills are required in order to be on top of the material one is working on, and to be able to articulate oneself artistically without technical limitations becoming a hindrance reducing the impact that message can be delivered with.

I very much agree with this. The tools we use certainly colours what we produce, whether it be scientific or artistic work. Thus, developing tools can often be considered to be the most important outcome of a research process. However, as Trond discuss in the end of the dissertation, such development might often be problematic in collaborative projects:

In stage productions it is very hard to find this kind of time and space alone for development, testing, fool-proofing and debugging. […] Coming up with a new idea might take three seconds, but developing the patch required to realize it might take three hours or even three days, and in the mean-time everything risk coming to a crawl. Most of the time it is hard to say how long the development or alteration of a process or algorithm will take. […] This makes it hard for others to plan other tasks to work on in the meantime, and the actors, musicians or dancers to often end up waiting. When that happens for the second time in a day, energy and motivation is drained, and they struggle to mobilize the presence required for their contributions to the project. […] It is a continuous struggle to find the right balance between working fast so that the general flow of the production is not hindered more than necessary, and investing time in quality assurance, making sure that patches are sufficiently flexible, structured, documented and tested so that they do not cause problems further down the road. I have seen repeatedly when working with others that the importance of this has to be learned the hard way.

This is another point where I totally agree with Trond. Obviously, by developing better and more flexible tools, it should be possible to reduce the time necessary for patching and development during rehearsals. But this is really part of what a creative technologist will have to deal with, and it is important for others to realise that this is actually part of the creative process, in much the same way as traditional musicians need to warm up and practice their scales.

Trond Lossius on sound art

Trond LossiusIn an interview, Trond Lossius discusses his take on sound art. He mentions how he treats video as an advanced spotlight, giving the eyes something to look at while listening to the sound:

Video kommer jeg mest til å bruke som avanserte lyskilder. Tanken er at de skal invitere publikum til å bevege seg rundt i rommet, og dermed også utforske hvordan lyden varierer i rommet. Bevegelsene, teksturene og fargene i videoene kan gi øyet noe å hvile på og samtidig invitere til koblinger til hvilke kvaliteter lyden har.

It is interesting that he uses the word kobling which could be translated to coupling or relationship in English. This is the term I have ended up using to discuss gesture-sound relationships.

A bit further on, Trond comments on the challenges in documenting something that exists in a moment and then disappears:

Det jeg liker minst er å dokumentere arbeider. Veldig mye går tapt i overgangen fra arbeid til dokumentasjon. I tillegg er arbeidene mine temporære. På en langsommere tidsskala har de den samme flyktigheten som en musikkfremføring eller forestilling: når det er over, er det borte. For å oppleve dem må du være tilstede her og nå. Dokumentasjonen føles mest som en ruin.

This is something I am struggling with myself as I have started writing up my dissertation. Most of my empirical material, but also analyses and representations are in the form of audio, video, devices, software, and none of these will fit very well into a traditional dissertation (in the form of a book on paper). I am currently investigating various electronic formats that will meet the requirements of the PhD committee while still allowing me to present my material in a format and representation that suits the media.

NoMuTe 2006

Just back from the 1st Nordic Music Technology Conference organized by NTNU in connection with Trondheim MatchMaking organized by TEKS. This is the follow-up conference from Musikkteknologidagene which I organized in Oslo last year as an attempt to gather people working within the field.

Ola Nordahl has posted some nice pictures from the Opening day, where Paul Lansky held a great keynote about his compositions (check out his music page for examples of his work). I gave a presentation on challenges and possible solutions in the study of musical body movements.

ARJ

The NoMuTe presentations were interesting, but the MatchMaking presentations were a bit more spectacular, not the least the one by Australian artist Stelarc who showed examples of how he is exploring the extended body, including an ear he is growing on his left arm!

The most memorable performance was by Dutch Pierre Bastien playing on a home “mechaoustical” rig built of mecano, a casio toy keyboard and various mechanical parts. Very lo-tech, and astonishingly musical!