Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Rotund Found Sound Mantra

You found me as the depletion vibration decays into wisps of reverberation and memory lulls in the finer things while pondering the nature of wind blowing through the pines or children singing in the park and really I came into the scope of found sound quite by accident in a rotund kind of way while staying for a few months in a small dwelling on the top of Copper Ridge in the northeast corner of Hawkins County in 1983 with the porch taken over on one end with my welded steel sculptures which would cause this sounding that would travel through the wood structure of the dwelling into the living space which was mostly open in the middle so the floor could act like a sound board and I would sit in sudden exile from family awaiting the divorce hearing with separation anxiety crawling through my skin like acid and I would hear these amazing sounds that would induce a tranquility that defied the time and place of my reality so I traced the sounds out to the porch and discovered that the wind was causing one sculpture to rock back and forth and tap another which would tap another like wind chimes so I held my ear against the wooden handrail around the porch and tapped and heard and thus began experimentation into a well established discipline of found sound and experimental music via the discovery that tapping a hollow log made an interesting sound which became the first drum among humans forward to Zen Buddhist music of Japan or the random noises of the Dadaist as a response to the inhumane nature of technology before during and after World War I so the message is to not think about it too much or better yet to not think about it at all and just experience it without the slightest thought and I recorded these sounds starting later that fall after the divorce by suspending a few smaller works of welded steel sculpture from the roof frame of a open shed and duct taped a microphone to the wood going to a mono-aural cassette tape recorder my mother had rescued from a trash container and that was how I started getting this sound reproduced that I heard in that house and the sounds would continue to induce a state of tranquility each time I listened to the tapes so I knew there was more than just noise going on so I worked to improve the process but it was always blind luck as I had no way of knowing what the sounds were until after I recorded them and played the tapes back so a lot of the process became intuitive by nature and I would make tapes and send them off to friends who were under-whelmed with the sounds and idea behind them which probably had as much to do with the poetry spoken-text ranting and chanting in the background as I tapped away at my sculptures but I didn’t mind because I knew I was onto something and the tape recorder wore out or really I don’t remember what happened but I knew I could come up with better equipment and really make this happen so I approached a friend who was the director of a dance company about doing a recording of this manner which could be used as the sound for a dance piece and she loved the idea and just happened to be dating this guy who owned a small recording studio with an 8-track recorder so I went in and set up my frame with my sculptures and tapped out two tracks then added some piano and chant before doing the spoken text for the last two tracks and it was all done spontaneously as I couldn’t come up with anything to write before hand so I just went in and winged it and the finished piece came out as “Spiritual Warrior” which was featured in the New Year’s Eve celebration put on by the Knoxville Arts Council on December 31 1987 so I got interviewed by the local paper and television and had my 15 minutes of fame before receding back into the woods and making a few dozen copies of “Spiritual Warrior” and sending them out to all the public radio stations that I had an address for so the tapes got radio air play for a year or so before they wore out but no further fame or claim or funds came from all of this so it all went dormant for many years until I started trying to get the same sound through a miniDV camcorder with a portable mixer and lapel condenser microphones but something wasn’t working and the best I could get was the ambient sounds coming into the camera microphones which left out something altogether and I still know there is a way to get this sound again but another divorce and more financial hardship and a few years ago a friend gave me a digital video recorder that is really a great audio recorder as long as you don’t mind the two stereo microphones being less than an inch apart but the sound blows through and over to the computer and a bit of digital editing and new things happen along with some of the sounds digitized from those old cassette tapes and even if the dream hasn’t come full circle and manifested with this idea of being able to create that sound again I keep working with what I have and add more to it like mixing fractal music together with found sounds and intentional sounds coming from a musical instrument which is a harmonica this time and suddenly this idea comes to me one day while doing a load of laundry that was sloshing about in the washing machine that a neighbor had given me in May 2013 before she moved to hospice (and later died of cancer in July 2013) to turn on a track of fractal music that I had done a few months earlier with which ever program I used at the time and I had just recently discovered that this freeware program that I had downloaded a few years ago because it would play FLAC files that I was downloading off of newsgroups from the Internet would also convert midi files to wave files if I had a set of sound fonts so I had done a search and found a free set of sound fonts so the midi is now a wave and sounding like mechanical versions of real live instruments so I fired up the computer with this fractal file set up the Q3 digital recorder and grabbed a harmonica and jammed with the washing machine and computer and loved doing it so much I did the rinse cycle also and a few weeks later like you know I forgot to do this the next time I did a load of clothes but got it the next time after that and I’m just letting it all hang out there and have a good long piece playing on the computer so I’m blowing two harmonicas in the key of C and D so I can get all kinds of chords going and mix it up with the fractal while the very quiet Maytag Heavy Duty set on regular cycle (no one has asked me yet what brand of washing machine I used for these recordings but I’ll tell you anyway because this machine is way too quiet for sound art recordings so check before you buy and get one that makes more noise like the one we used to have back when I was married and living in a house trailer because the wife could sent the kids to the living room to watch Saturday morning television and that washing machine would make so much noise that they couldn’t tell what was going on in the back bedroom but never mind….) and I walked outside at one point so when I broke that 14 minute file up into three tracks the second one has the sound of the door slamming when I went outside and played the harmonicas through the window for a minute before coming back in and going into the kitchen so the sound had to bounce through this apartment before I came back into the living space and started kicking a 5 gallon plastic bucket to make it spin on the floor which sounded great until it spun and rolled over into the box that had been the shipping carton for Styrofoam cups that I rescued from a trash spot on a sidewalk recently which had a wine bottle shipping box on the top of it with the cardboard spacers still in it and a sheet of cardboard from a cereal box on that which the digital recorder was sitting on so this created something of a sound chamber that gave some reverberation and the bucket hit the box and the recorder fell over and I kicked the bucket one more time before blowing low on the harmonica for a minute as the washing machine chugged along and started to drain so I set the digital recorder on it for the last minute or so which became the fifth track in The Wash Machine Tapes there about the time I kicked the bucket and then I did another edit on the full track of the day starting out with some fractal music at the front for about 25 seconds after punching the gain up on the 14 minute audio track and doing a little echo so it sounded different than the more raw first offerings and then mixed in several audio clips culled from previous projects like a mix of chanting that was the first effort to get the sound I wanted for “Voices (a desert song)” and a couple of clips from field recordings of the foot bridge over Turkey Creek in Wildwood City Park in Morristown Tennessee and the retired water turbine from Douglas Dam that Maggie and I did during a stop-over to shoot some photographs of the blue herons in the river that day and then I threw in the 8 minute sound track or one of the several edits that I have on file from that project of the video “Energy Cantata” which ends with some spoken text from the poem “Homage to Artaud” which I also did as part of the spoken text for “Spiritual Warrior” so it seems fitting that it shows up in “Wash Day (remix)” as it is the theme for all of this as this whole process of finding sounds that induce that state of tranquility has kept me alive and of course you know the last two lines of the poem are a statement that I won’t commit suicide as I endure the pain and suffering that torment me through this reality of being an artist much like Artaud had to endure but the bastards gave him shock treatments and left him in the care of Catholic nuns during the war against humanity that time that war and now we wash it all away once again to the sound of a washing machine given to me by someone who died sober except they had to medicate her towards the end to keep her from screaming but that doesn’t count and we survive like my neighbor survived because after all she did a lot of damage with drugs and alcohol in her life because she was a professional gospel singer that toured the country during her early adulthood and they did what they had to do to endure just like a rock star does it and now her washing machine is the backbeat mantra that we survive to so here’s the poem and now you know this is about saving my life and surviving your mileage may vary love

Homage to Artaud

I would not mess with your horizon.
I would not eat your only landscape.

The birds are listing in a vision.
The whales are moving through a gulf.

Dogs are penned up in my memory.
Flames are marring my frantic signal.

I would not crack beneath your awe.
I would not explode beneath your awning.

Oliver Loveday © 11/04/81

The Wash Machine Tapes via

Maggie next to the retired water turbin

One of the foot bridges over Turkey Creek

It's a Maytag Heavy Duty washing machine.

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