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Sage Pbbbt - watching Shinkan Tamaki's 'time space motion'

In December 2017, Elizabeth Miller and Craig Pedersen (Sound of the Mountain) had a residency at Spectrum Project Space in Perth, Western Australia. (The whole week of which was incredible.) As part of this residency, they screened a film by Shinkan Tamaki called time space motion. As it happened, we recorded ourselves watching this mostly silent film (we had been recording another performance and the device was left on while the film screened).

I felt very moved by this film. Aside from being probably the most stunning piece of film I’ve ever seen, it really resonated with an aesthetic that I was trying to explore almost twenty years ago in art school as a painter. And having a not very pleasant time. In part, I could have articulated what I was striving to explore more clearly. In part, it just seemed like everyone else was interested in different things and didn’t really get what I was interested in. I was interested in something about the beauty of the everyday, of the textural landscape-like beauty of pavements and walls that perform their history. I tried to explore this in painting and collage—admittedly not very well—and had people say things like ‘it just looks like a random mess on a wall or pavement, and you wouldn’t stop to look at that’. At the time, I was one of those people who did stop to look at things like that.

I stopped painting when I left art school (in 1998). And I haven’t painted since. It’s not as sad as it sounds—my creative focus shifted towards poetry and musick. I was still creatively engaged with the world. But I didn’t have a particularly great time at art school. I certainly didn’t find it nourishing. And I just drifted away / let it go when I left.

Cut to nineteen years later and some friends of mine show a film which moves me to tears and stirs up all kinds of emotions in me I haven’t felt for a long, long time. I cry because I have never seen a film so beautiful. I cry because I am confronted with an incredibly refined version of the aesthetic that I was striving for all those years ago (and which I abandoned).

I dream about painting most nights for a few weeks after watching this film and despite most of my house being packed up for a move to the other side of the continent, I buy some paints and paint for the first time in nearly two decades. It’s frustrating, not having practiced for so long, and it’s also incredibly satisfying and profoundly disorientating and pleasurable. Years of visceral memories around paint and texture feel present in my body prompting all kinds of responses.

I felt moved to do something in response to my encounter with this film, and while my return to painting in some ways feels more important (whether or not the painting goes anywhere interesting in terms of outcomes) I was highly amused by the accidental recording of our (mostly) silence watching this (mostly) silent film. And something about these recording for me references paying attention to the everyday, the overlooked, ‘silence’ and striving to see new images in/of the world.

digital penetration / Sage J Harlow / Sage Pbbbt
digitalpenetration.bandcamp.com / SagePbbbt.com

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Sound of the Mountain - Residency Writeup

Sound of the Mountain (Elizabeth Millar and Craig Pedersen) spent 5 days on Tone List’s Residency #4 at Spectrum Project Space from December 26 to 30th 2017.

Their improvising-sound-noise duo focuses on acoustic and electronic textures and sounds through the use of extended techniques on acoustic instruments (trumpet and clarinet), close amplification, and self-made instruments. 

The concept for the residency was for Sound of the Mountain to make, perform and collaborate. During the day they worked on expanding their sound-making practice by building low-voltage noise-generating instruments and programs in Max MSP. In the evening these instruments were used in performance and collaboration with local musicians. At the end of every day the instruments and the room were dismantled and returned to zero state. In this way each subsequent performance involved different instruments, sounds and collaborators.

On most days the various sound sculptures or instruments came together within 30 minutes prior to performance. Whilst this was not always a comfortable situation, it was interesting to see how new ideas could materialize at the last minute, given an urgent need. Often the self-made instruments would not function the way they were intended, and grappling with them in a live setting became part of the performance, and informed the music. During the residency the artists explored the limits of an aesthetic-driven practice, as every day they chose to work in new and unfamiliar ways. Through out the residency, members of the community exchanged ideas, practices and sounds, and there was a wide variety of performances.

Below is a summary of each day of the residency, including the instruments built, the performance schedule, and a recording except from each concert.

Sound of the Mountain (Elizabeth Millar and Craig Pedersen) would like to thank collaborators Sage Pbbbt, Furchick (Claire Pannell), Pedro Alvarez and Josten Myburgh, Tone List, Dan O’Connor, Filth Goddess, Eduardo Cossio and everyone in the community, including those who performed during the week, those who lent equipment, and those who helped set up and pack down the space.

Day One

Elizabeth built: Contact microphones, vibrators and bangles in metal bowls with contact mic, massage motor with contact mic trailing on the concrete floor, Max/MSP patch sending a saw-tooth wave into set of earbud headphones inside of a long tube, fading in and out at different rates.

Craig built: Amplified computer fans controlled with potentiometers, fans were left on and Max/MSP patch faded the signal in and out based on semi-random values. Feedback machine: a condenser microphone in front of a bass-amp; microphone signal was routed through audio interface, and volume was controlled by a max patch. Rate of change and maximum volume was set by semi-random parameter, so that feedback occurred semi-unexpectedly, in partially unpredictable ways. White noise generator fading in and out at different rates, outputting into broken JBL single channel speaker. Attached to the speaker cone was heavy tin wire, which carried the signal to a small cymbal that had a tambourine bangle on it.

Audio excerpt: Performance (Sound of the Mountain with Josten Myburgh).

Day Two

Elizabeth built: AM radio, magnetic pendulum amp switch for contact microphone, cymbal and tuning fork 'mobile' in a fan

Craig built: Feedback machine: JBL speaker with tin wire going to a contact mic'd toy cymbal, routed through an audio interface and back into the speaker. JBL speaker could be used with tambourine bangles to adjust sound. Max/MSP patch spatialised the feedback into 4 cymbals.

The day also included an improvisation session with Shoshana Rosenberg, Josten Myburgh, Ali Fyffe, Matt Hinchliffe and Sage Pbbbt.

Audio excerpt: Sound of the Mountain performing to Passages, a film by Shinkan Tamaki.

Day Three - Collaboration with Pedro Alvarez

Elizabeth built: Fan popping with bouncing metal cord, close mic'd. Motorized arm hitting contact-mic'd metal goblet. Milk frother in contact-mic'd metal goblet.

Craig built: 2 computer fans controlled by swithes connected to trumpet valves. Potentiometers to control fan speed, connected together with alligator clips, and tip-bin salvaged wire. One fan in a colander, another fan on top of a cymbal.

Pedro Alvarez used two guitars, with one functioning as a low-gain feedback drone instrument.

Audio excerpt: Sound of the Mountain with Pedro Alvarez

Day Four - Collaboration with Furchick

Elizabeth built: Fan streamers beating on colour-changing LED sieve with contact mic, through octave pedal. Vibrator-controlled circuit switch driving motorized percussion on: metal goblet, cow bell, thunder tube spring.

Craig built: Two toy cymbals suspended from the ceiling; hanging off each of them a 5V hobby fan. Used rare-earth magnet ended wire, connected tip of each motor to a slinky. Slinkies had foam cups attached to the bottom for amplification. Attached contact microphones and controlled through mixing desk. 9V battery connected to old broken speaker taped to a vibrator, spoon attached to battery, circuit completed by touching vibrator clip to spoon. Vibrator created continuous on-off when placed against spoon, and acted as a synthesizer. Speaker was mic'd with another small speaker that had been turned into a microphone, run into the mixing desk for control.

The day's activities included a visit to SciTech.

Audio Excerpt: Furchick with Sound of the Mountain.

Day Five - Collaboration with Sage Pbbbt

No new instruments built - much listening, including soundwalks, and exploration of sounds in the corridor space down the side of the venue.

Audio Excerpt: Sage Pbbbt with Sound of the Mountain.

Shoshana Rosenberg in Oslo #2

11.1.18

This morning was off to a good start with a serene listening session at Christian’s which included his newly-acquired copy of Aussie grindcore legends’ Captain Cleanoff’s “Symphonies of Slackness” (recommended by yours truly; never say I’m not a great cultural ambassador!) After explaining how you write grindcore (“there’s a blast, a d-beat and a breakdown, and you just kind of shove them together”) we headed off, and I was directed to a little bookshop near the centre of town. Cappelens Forslag, according to its owner, is “like walking into a Swedish home”. This meant books in Norwegian and English side by side, some interesting approaches to the alphabet, and black coffee as the singular menu item. I left with my second SOFA Records LP for the trip, a copy of Search For The Dice Man, and my head full of a conversation about free will and changing drunk guys’ lives with esoteric literature. 

After becoming a little snowblind and losing my path, I made my way onto a tram and onwards to the Norwegian Music Academy, where I had my first experience playing with a viola player (Tuve). It was pretty exciting contrast to what my ear is used to hearing from a violin (played by Hans Kjorstad), and I probably spent too long nerding out about it. We played some musical games, including my personal favourite “compliment and contrast”, which involves constantly supporting or opposing what other players are doing. After recording some tunes and figuring out the night’s plans, it was time for the show. 

Tonight’s performance took place in NyMusikk, a New Music organisation based in Oslo but with branches in several other regions. AllEars made sure everyone was stuffed with curry and bread before the show began, although my personal partaking may have been a mistake. At this point I’d been awake for about 15 hours, and the comfort food meant my brain was ready for sleep. Nonetheless, I pressed on, and managed to only embarrassingly nod off and snore one time. 

Jöelle Léandre started off the night with a set of demonic conversations between her voice and her contrabass. It was like watching someone negotiate for a front-row seat in the Sixth Circle with the only other person intent on sitting closer to the infernal flames. Next up was WEDOMAGIC’s set, which involved a clarinetist, bassoonist/flutist and contrabass player being live-mixed by a fourth player. Their set was like a deconstructed musical: foley, sampled conversations, and waterside noises were mixed in with looped key clicks, string screeches and flute spits. Unfortunately this was the set where my body gave up; the music was too immersive and I was too susceptible to becoming immersed. Sorry!

Before the final act, there was a panel on sustainability in a musical and political context. Short and brief, some of the night’s performers and festival organiser Guro discussed their perspectives on the ethics of sustainable musical practices and beyond. 

Finally, BNSU ensured I had enough energy to make my way home, with an improvised splattercore set which was half Agoraphobic Nosebleed and half something from the Bloody Fist archive. Nice. 

With 22 hours of wakefulness, I finally dragged myself home and into bed for my final night in this apartment. 

12.1.18

Today was a day for running around. I left the apartment of my gracious host at 10am, dragging my tiny-wheeled luggage through snowy paths beyond its design. Having overcome several physical and mental barriers, and one Sisyphean hill climb later, I arrived at Ila Fysikalske for the workshop with Wave Behaviour. The French duo took us on a living autopsy tour of a 16mm film camera, from the bulb to the lens. We were then invited to take turns making our own films: using only the light from the camera and a series of props (magnifying lenses, perforated screens, zebra-stripe duct-taped lampshades) we were each given the opportunity to explore how light travels through a camera and what happens when you disrupt this path. This may have been one of the most generous workshop experiences I’d ever had. 

Following the workshop, I dragged my belongings through some more beautiful, viscous slush and arrived at my hotel. Being the clever, seasoned traveller that I am, I decided the best use of my time between arrival and heading to tonight’s event was to watch the new Jim Carrey documentary and give myself a full-blown existential crisis. Why am I here? What is the mask I wear for my art and what is real? When I quit making albums, will I have to grow a beard? Simply awful. 

Eventually I left the hotel and made my way to tonight’s event at National Jazzscene Victoria. It’s a spacious hall, with two balconies, comfortable back seats and a performance/dance floor that was partially occupied by additional audience seating. It’s a $9 fancy cola kind of place, but the vibe was right. 

Andrea Parkins’s set was a quadraphonic experience of looped bells, rattling items and accordion. Originally an installation, she adapted it to a live performance especially for allEars. Maybe it was the accordion, but Pauline Oliveros instantly came to mind as I felt myself constantly attending to different speakers and trying to figure out the individual voices of the piece. 

Jöelle Léandre and Kazehito Seki played for the second time this festival, this time as a collaborative duo. Squelching, guttural inhales and murmuring were the main vehicles for the performance, and rather than one winding piece they relied on producing a series of moments. At one point Jöelle exclaimed “I don’t know what I’m doing”, which seemed to fit the mood just fine. 

Next up was a double duo featuring Malaysia-based Yong Yandsen and Siew-Wai Koko and Norwegian natives Mofjell and Sandtorv. It was basically an alien invasion being greeted by a very upsetting saxophone and drum orchestra, along with some traditional tuned cymbal for a truly interplanetary experience. 

Arma Agharta’s set was an amazing combination of broken toys, Casio drum sounds, DJ gear and plastic fruit. I’m not really sure I can explain it much further. It was... a lot. 

Finally, The End carried us out in a heavy duty set of metal riffage and duelling baritone saxophones. You could tell there were some prepared bits in there, but the overall feel was as jittery as it was furious. 

A sick and fitting continuation to the opening night, topped off by me falling asleep while watching The Fifth Element for the millionth time. 

Shoshana Rosenberg in Oslo #1

Shoshana Rosenberg is visiting Oslo for All Ears festival this month. She will be documenting her time there in the form of a Journal, excerpts of which will be uploaded here.

Listen to her live performance on BBC Late Junction here. 

9.1.18

After nearly 48 hours in transit, around half of which were spent trying out every uncomfortable, nowhere-to-lie-down bench as well as “who let me in here?” lounge luxury, I finally arrived in Oslo. Christian Meass Svendsen (identified by his signature green beanie) greeted me at the train station, and gently led me through the first couple of hours of culture shock/general touristy gawking (i.e. “oh my god it’s snow!”, ”fuck, Satyricon and Emperor are playing on the same bill!”). I settled in with some Cheerios, Goldfisk and salted potato chips (I’m on a health kick), slept like the dead, and eventually hauled my carcass two floors up from Christian’s apartment to Andreas Røysum’s flat. 

After a deep Rahsaan Roland Kirk listening experience I was left to prepare for my recording session for the BBC’s Late Junction program. This included some playing, but mainly the mental task of remaining (relatively) lucid as I made my way across mortifyingly deceptive iced pavement to Guro Moe’s house, and then onwards with her and our third trio member Danishta Rivero to the BBC broadcast session. Luckily Danishta was similarly lagging in the jet department, which resulted in us being asked to be our “best, most quiet selves” before going on air. 

We managed to be on our best behaviour and played some nice noise for our invisible, potentially quite conservative audience. Maybe it’s easier when you can’t see people frowning, or maybe I just managed to visualise some inspirational audience frowns in my mind. Either way, I left feeling accomplished, despite missing the opportunity to photograph a sign that said “Bro” which stood tantalisingly out of reach as we ran out of the building to catch our respective busses and trams back home. I’ll get it next time I see a bridge, no doubt. 

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10.1.18

I spent the first hours of this day still awake from the previous night, being regaled with stories about NecroButcher from Mayhem’s aunt and Darkthrone’s Fenriz’s passion for local soccer and handball teams. Other than watching tiny dogs bravely tread through the snow that my fur-less feet need boots for, I couldn’t think of a better way to solidify in my mind the fact I really, really am in Norway. Aside from these stories, most of my night’s end consisted of listening to the Norwegian language slowly chatter past me, while Ustad Bismillah Khan played in the midground. Being a non-understanding listener here feels like becoming washed over by a really beautiful aural texture, and the lack of obligation of attention is very liberating. I recognise the privilege of being able to tune out of comprehensible linguistics, whilst feeling safe in the knowledge that at any moment I could be brought back into the conversation by my colleagues’ crisp and careful use of the English language. I’ve been really thinking about the creepily-globalisational but also crucial role of the English language in these situations, and how it is slowly (quickly?) becoming what Esperanto could never be. 

After catching some haphazard Zs, I met up with Christian and went for a record store tour; the fancy shop (Big Dipper), the tiny shop (Tiger), and the scary shop (Neseblöd). I feel like I’ve got all bases covered now, having purchased a microtonal tuba record as well as a collaboration between allEars founder Lasse Marhaug and noise legend John Wiese. All that’s missing is going back to Neseblöd and buying that Sarcofago LP (and posing in front of the cheesy black metal nativity scene in the basement, of course). Only then will my nerdy music tourism be truly complete. 

The night ended with an exchange of unpleasant Norwegian customs tales between myself and the newly-arrived Yong Yandsen and Siew-wai Kok. I got off easy with a deeply uncomfortable conversation, while the other two spent some more time getting to know Norway’s finest government officials. Seems like Norway wants to make sure we’re here for a good time, not a long time. 

I’m writing this entry at 4:30am. The festival starts in a few short hours, and I’ve still got some sleeping to do and some donuts to make. 

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