Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Castle, Fish, and Duck

My mother-in-law celebrated her 80th birthday in a beautiful moated castle (Wasserschloss Anholt) surrounded by a park - family and friends came and we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon together. The food was amazing too :-)

The kids in our party were so amazed by the huge carps that the very nice restaurant staff brought them a few pieces of bread to feed the fish ... I videotaped some of the resulting tumult in the water (see video above). Although the carps were probably harmless I was reminded of hungry sharks ... and I was suitably impressed by the fearless duck which tried to catch some of the bread while surrounded by these water beasts.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Crane Sunday

People do strange things. Many people (including my wife) think the things that I do are quite strange too. Last Sunday afternoon, I found myself sitting alone at the waterside in a small harbour in Cologne, recording underwater sounds. Luckily, nobody was around who wondered what I was doing. This activity would probably have looked quite boring from the outside, but whenever I do this kind of thing, I feel like a boy inside - an adventurer, a discoverer, hunting for the unknown - excitement.

The underwater sounds in this place turned out to be not very interesting, but I know that one has to be patient and record for a while just in case. Eventually, all I got were distant boat motors, and yes, there was a shoal of small fish but they didn't talk (sometimes you find places where fish make all sorts of strange and interesting noises, but you have to be very lucky). Instead, they inspected the hydrophone which resulted in loud bumps on the recording.

While recording this, I found that the reflections of various cranes, towers, and ships in the water looked quite beautiful. I took a number of photos and they looked so nice together that I turned them into this video, very slowly fading one into each other.

The video soundtrack should have featured the underwater recording but since this turned out to be disappointing, it fell through. Instead I created several layers of treated sounds from these sources:
  • underwater insects of a nearby lake that I had recorded a week ago
  • a propeller plane that flew above
  • a contact microphone recording from the same day of the nearby Rhine bridge
  • a wonderful pump organ that I had played and recorded in the Stockholm music museum
The slowed down bridge sounds creates a beautiful drone of howling traffic and wind vibrated metal, and of course now that I hear it, it reminds me of Eno's White Cube recordings. It still amazes me how he has influenced my musical thinking and often when I find some interesting new way to paint with sounds ... he has already been there.

The pump organ with its wild pitch changes lets me think of Györgi Ligeti's 1967 organ piece "Harmonies" (not that I would compare myself with this master of course). I found that pump organ in the Stockholm Musikmuseet - here is a short video. I played and recorded just a few minutes and this is the material that is used for the Crane Sunday video - pitched down and equalized a little. Oh how I loved this instrument, it had such a charming breathing sound - and not even keys to play! I would have stolen it but it was too heavy ;-)