Sound Box

As part of my Project Proposal is to experiment more with audio I have created a sound box to use when recording minute sounds. Here’s what I did: –

Firstly I purchased foam board, egg trays to create the sound boards. I also purchased a rubber matting that I could use for the base of the sound box. Perfect opportunity for some egg tray photographs – of course.

Having cut the foam board down to size I then attached the egg trays to the foam board using hot glue to create the sound boards.

This was followed by removing the outer lip of the egg trays to provide a space where the boards could be placed together. I then used velcro to attach the boards together so that that they can be taken apart and stored easily.

I can’t wait to use this to help me when recording minute – almost inaudible sounds.

Reflection

The best thing I did would have to be applying the glue to the egg boxes and not the foam board – this meant it was much easier to stick down and stay together.

The velcro is not the best option for holding the boards together – a bit flimsy – but does the job in the meantime. My initial idea was to create a frame using PVC corner lengths – this is still going to happen. I allowed someone else opinion on this to take precedence over my own judgement – other peoples opinions are not always better.

If I was doing this again, I would definitely create the frame first – and I would also cut the egg boxes smaller in the first instance  and not after the fact.

Planning would be the thing that I would do in the future to improve the outcome. I didn’t find this boring or tedious – it was just a task I needed to do to get to a point where I can deaden the sound around my microphone. – I could have also purchased a sound box – but I wanted to make my own.

Last but not least another edited image of my lovely sound box.

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Experimenting with Binaural Audio

An important part of the process I undertake when creating artwork is for me to have an empathic connection to the work that I create. Even when I view artwork, the question that is uppermost in my mind is “How does this make me feel?”. When viewing artwork, I listen to any physical and emotional responses in my body to help me determine a response to this question.

Previously in my video work I have manipulated sound to a certain extent and in particular attempted to collect audio that represents the emotion of the subject matter that I am representing through my artwork.

After a really interesting and inspiring visit to the Liverpool Biennial and a continuing discussion with my tutor, Jonathan, I am keen to develop my skills further when it comes to working with audio, in particular in an attempt to invoke a physical or emotional response.

In particular, I am interested in Binaural recording, where two microphones are placed a distance apart (similar to the distance between your ears) to record different sounds through each microphone so that when played back through headphones, you get the sense of the sound moving around you as each headphone plays a different audio track.

Through my many years of association with Yoga and Meditation, I have long since been aware of Binaural Beats. Binaural Audio and Binaural Beats are not the same thing at all. Binaural Beats are a method of producing two tones of different frequencies (Hertz) when played back so that each ear hears a different tone. These tones cause a physiological response, where the brain perceives a third tone, and the difference between the two mathematically and begins to produce brainwaves at the new frequency (Hz).

For example, if the tones used were 140Hz and 100Hz then the brain would produce brainwaves at 40Hz, the mathematical difference. Also different tones are said to stimulate different brain states, so any tones produced can be set to target the different brain wave frequencies:

  • Alpha (7.5-14Hz) – deep relaxation
  • Beta (14-40Hz – Waking Consciousness and Reasoning
  • Theta (4-7.5 Hz) – Light Meditation and Sleep
  • Delta (0.5-4Hz) – Deep Sleep
  • Gamma (above 40Hz) – Insight

I am also interested in ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridien Response) which is a response to an experience that is akin to a low-level euphoria, bringing feelings of positivity and associated physical responses such as static or tingling. Why this is significant here is that it is usually stimulated with audio or visual stimuli. I personally associate my “How does this make me feel?” question with very similar responses.

The other area of audio recording I am interested in is recording of the imperceptible sounds around us, sounds that happen all the time that we never really hear because of other louder sounds that are at the forefront of our hearing. For this, I will need a sound booth and have invested in the materials to make a homemade sound booth, including a huge box of egg crates.

In the first instance, I decided to spend some time re-acquainting myself with Audacity and using audio from previous videos and some audio recordings that I have made for this experimentation. I used my iPhone for these recordings and covered it in some cases to produce a muffled sound.

Firstly, I reviewed some interviews of people affected by the events at Tryweryn and noted some of the comments that they had made. I then recorded some ambient sounds and whispers of comments made in the interviews that I had seen. At this stage I am not actually recording bin-aurally, I’m just manipulating two mono tracks in Audacity so that the audio in each ear can be heard separately.

It intrigues me the different sounds that use the repetition of words/phrases, so I firstly recorded a couple of tracks where the repetition is the same phrase used in the audio track.

I then moved on and combined different phrases in an attempt to expand upon my first few recordings.

I was also considering at this time the ambient sound from Tryweryn and created the following piece using recordings of the wind and water and incorporating a fade in/fade out.

I then set up a couple of Binaural Beats experiments, the first said to train the brain to produce Beta Waves – (between 14 and 40 Hz) at 20Hz.

With the following track said to train the brain to produce Alpha Waves (7.5 to 14Hz) at 10Hz

With the following track said to train the brain to produce Gamma Waves (above 40Hz) at 50Hz.

I then added Binaural Beats tracks to the Wind and Water Audio track.

Finally I created an audio track that included the whispered phrases, added binaural beats (not yet sure if this is necessary or relevant – but I did it anyway) and added a track that had noise of the bulldozers moving in.

Retrospective

The best thing I did during this experimentation was to learn about the brainwave frequencies and the tones required to achieve each of the associated states of being. I also learned about how the brain attunes to the mathematical difference of the audio playing in the left and right ear. This enabled me to extend the experimentation further on this occasion.

The absence of a proper binaural recording device and a sound box definitely hindered my progress with this and I intend to purchase a microphone and make a sound box so that I can progress this experimentation further.

This work was stimulating, yet challenging as it is a somewhat new addition to my skillset. I did not find this boring or tedious at all. As I find this concept of manipulating audio very interesting, I am keen to experiment further with this.

Tutorial – 02/11/18

Today’s Tutorial with Jonathan has been really useful as to date I have been going through quite a lot of confusion with regards to my way forward and my Project Proposal.

I began by explaining to Jonathan the point where I’m at now. Prior to starting the MA I had been intent on my project being based upon Women in Work and I originally wrote a proposal for this as a theme. However in one of the recent group chats Jonathan had asked me if I always worked to a theme and this raised for me the fact that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the Women in Work theme I was planning.

I decided to take time to reflect on my work over the last two years in particular and review my motivations for creating the work that I had to date. See UAL First Year Symposium for an overview of my work to date.

In short I had been focussing on the Social Political elements of particular historical incidents that had occurred locally that I felt I was not yet finished with and that I had only just scratched the surface of. My final piece of my degree, about Tryweryn had been the most potent for me personally and had affected me on a very deep level. Through my reflection I began to realise that the subconscious connecting theme throughout my work was about memory both cultural and personal, historical yet up to date and that in my photographs I had been attempting to show unearthed memories in the landscape. I created the following mind map to try and make sense of my much confused thinking.

We then discussed my perception that I have yet to develop my own particular artistic style and whether in fact this is important at all. From our discussion about this it became apparent that perhaps the important thing is the motivation/trigger that stimulates the artistic process. For some this might be using specific materials that the art then flows from the act of using those materials.

For me, I feel an empathic connection to a situation or event that I need to make art about. I then research the subject and decide on what materials would be appropriate for each project.

Perhaps I was looking for some clarity in my work that I had not yet seen. After my discussion with Jonathan I can now see that there is a clarity in my process and that is enough, that a particular artistic style is not always necessary and has been a distraction to me. I already know I’m a maker and that I see the digital realm as an extension of any work that I make and now I’m more aware that I do have a clear process – even if I couldn’t see it until now.

Whilst we were talking about motivation, it also became apparent that to be able to visit a location or site that relates to the work I am making is very important to me – being able to sense the physicality of the landscape and the emotion and feeling of the events that have gone before.

Moving on to the subject of memory we discussed my proposed artists that I am considering for contextual reference; Christian Boltanski, Rachel Whiteread in particular, and also Anselm Kiefer, Mona Hatoum, Joseph Beuys and Louise Bourgeois. We also discussed triggers of memory such as smell, location and sounds that often pull back memories that had been long forgotton. Jonathan mentioned the piece Keicheyuhea (2017) by the artist Aslan Gaisumov on display at St Georges Hall for the Liverpool Biennale 2018 and her rememberance of a life gone by brought about by the sight of her homeland.

We then spoke about my intention to bring my more successful elements of my practice forward to help me with my project enquiry. These would be introducting stitch and photography, akin to the piece I produced for the Elfennau Exhibition – Galeri Caernarfon from my previous degree.

I also mentioned the use of sound that I am going to experiment with having been expoosed to Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) sound recordings at the Liverpool Biennale 2018. ASMR recording is used for the hidden sounds of everyday life that often go unnoticed, for example whispering and the flicking of a piece of paper.

I feel using these sounds with the site specific experimentation that I intend to do will potentially provide me with a method to invoke feeling or emotion, not just through the visual communication but through an auditory method also. I definitely am keen on the idea of producing multi sensory work and my experimentation will include elements of this too.

Along with ASMR sound recording Jonathan mentioned Binaural sound recording and Directional sound recording and I plan to research these further so that I can experiment with them.

Very happy with today’s tutorial – positive and excited and now ready to begin experiementing.