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Solar Sounds With Tim Shaw


A session with Tim Shaw involved an introduction to sound art and its history.

A couple of things of interest I noted where:

  • The discovery that Palaeolithic cave paintings could be evidence of mans first forays into sound visualisation as paintings of bison, horses and mammoths were positioned in places of natural resonant sound which amplified and transformed sound. Perhaps using primitive instruments in a particular part of the cave mimicked the sound of a stampeding herd?
  • Sound hallucination. The idea of sounds existing in the mind, a person having their own inner soundtrack. This also made me think of sounds not existing where they should be, our expection of sounds and how they can be our anchor to reality.

We also had a go at building a solar sound sensor circuit using a solar panel and piezo speaker which responded to light levels in the environment. Taking our little thingy’s for a walk around the building and around the campus it seemed to get the most excited about the lights in the corridors of Culture Lab, making sounds reminiscent of little analog crickets in the night.

Video creds to Jade Mallabone –

Ethnography Walk – Recorded Sounds


As part of a John Bowers ethnography exercise we were asked to observe happenings in the town centre. As well as taking notes on the awkward avoidance of people running the chugger gauntlet we recorded some sounds on a H1 Zoom recorder I brought along with me.

Rolex Clock – Blackett St.

We (Alexei, Garry, Lewis and I) were interested in the reactions to the clock bell tower as it chimed 11am…expecting people to look up and confirm the time or maybe check their own devices or watches for accuracy. Most people didn’t react at all in fact…

Found Piano

Whilst checking out the Odeon demolition on Pilgrim Street we found a piano with its innards exposed. Garry and Alexei went about tinkling its ivories and plucking it strings with a student card..

Documenting Doom

Doom 5 sm

Next up we were asked document one of the outcomes of the practice swap group project. Focusing primarily on something created that was previously unfamiliar and create new work from it.

I chose to expand on the music I made for Ben’s task as for me that was the task that was the least familiar.

When I was putting the piece of music together I was thinking about big sounds and daunting, expansive landscapes.

My musings are often inspired by my experience of the gigantic, atmospheric and overwhelming. Difficult to describe sometimes but the feeling of insignificance when in big spaces/expansive landscapes and in what feels untouchable environments. An impending sensation or feelings of uncertainty and ideas of infinite space. I mean environment in all senses of the word, physical, mental, aural etc…

What I am trying to explain does actually scares the shit out of me a bit but I think thats what I like about it, a historical Ashley fact here… I used to have a recurring nightmare when I was a kid about what I can only describe as a huge black mass chasing me and there would be people surrounding having conversations that where overbearingly amplified. All very strange but those eerie, intimidating, overwhelming sensations are what captivate me today.

Anyway. I took a trip to Iceland not so long ago and I was really taken by the sounds and the drama of the landscape. Vast, void of human activity.

The sound of the rolling waves on a black volcanic beach was like nothing I had ever heard before, a deep, otherworldly rumble uninterrupted by any far off din of civilisation. I took a really crude recording on my phone which doesn’t do it justice at all obviously.

Getting back to creating new work from documenting where my inspirations came from for Ben’s tune. I decided to do a couple of things, firstly I wanted to create art from some of the photos I had taken of glaciers and volcanic rock in Iceland. I created abstract images by repeating photographs in various configurations in a attempt to produce alien, otherworldly environments.

Although photographs of huge landscapes, I feel the resulting images could be macro shots of alien organisms as they remind of cells and biological matter under the microscope, playing with scale in an interesting way…

Secondly, I was interested in making a music video for the piece of music I had made for Ben’s task. Keeping with the theme of vast spaces, this time I was keen on going cosmic.

Stanley Kubrick is one of my film hero’s (along with Alejandro Jodorowsky!!!) and his handmade visual effects for the Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) which include and the slit scan camera technique as well as ink and oil in pans and trays of water have always mesmerised me. Creating a galactic environment in a meter squared of space is just dreamy!

I decided to conduct my own experiment with oil and ink on water, creating a visual for the track I had made.

Using a Panasonic AF101 film camera and a fixed zoom Voightlander lens, I messed about with food colouring, oil in some oven dishes and tried to create some expansive landscapes of my own, particularly enjoying the lo-tech aspect of the exercise. Using Premier Pro for the first time I edited the scenes together to create the little vid below. I’d say it’s a little crude and could go with refining at some point

Practice Exchange – Group

Arto Trumped

So at the start of semester 1 we were asked in groups of 4 to identify our individual practices and create 4 separate works by exchanging our practices with the others in the group. In essence in my mind to become familiar with the unfamiliar.

During my undergraduate I started to work with design fiction. As part of a project I designed a card game based on a concept from the Situation Lab called ‘A Thing From The Future’. The scenario generating game uses extrapolation theory to conjure up fictional objects for the future, whilst the game I designed, ‘Future Fictions’ is tailored toward future sport and physical endeavour.

My task for the other 3 asked to describe a near future scenario using the cards they picked and create an artefact that contextualises that future in some way our gives insight into a day in the life of an individual, society or culture from that fictional future.

This stemmed from an interest in objects and the way they can reveal the collective conscience of a society or the evolution of a culture.

Jade’s task was concerned with artistic proces. It began with Jade presenting me with piece of her work which I was tasked with responding to. The idea was to the pass whatever I created on to the next person so they could respond to my work, leaving out Jade’s original and so on until the circle was complete…a kind of art based Chinese whispers.

Jade handed over her work (image below) with no description leaving me to decipher it and draw inspiration from my understanding of it alone.

The aim was to work quickly so I wrote down a few observations and decided to create an image from the list.

Her work drew me to thoughts of restriction, constriction, bondage and sadism…

The image was then passed on to Garry to respond to.

Ben task involved making a piece of music around a minute long using a range of simple samples and Garageband. Any tempo, any style and not all samples had to be used.

I had never used Garageband and I had no experience with creating music so I was excited about this task! The program performed a little like some film editing software I had used before so I applied what I knew there.

In real life, I am generally attracted to dark, drone-y, heavy, big bassy but ethereal sounds…doom sounds I call em…so I used that as the basis of my creation by starting with the bass samples.

I have a slight fixation with lining everything up so when it came to putting to track together, in my complete lack of music production knowledge I couldn’t help just stacking things together so they looked really neat…soon realising that that didn’t make for a very interesting sound so I had to break that habit and offset things a bit.

The outcome sounds like this >>>

Garry was interested in swapping photography as his practice so he passed around his Nishika N8000 3D camera which uses 4 lenses to take a shot from 4 slightly different angles and when layered produce 3D gifs (see above) which Garry created with the images we took.

I am interested in storytelling through imagery and the day I planned on taking the photo was the eve of American presidential election so I used this as a starting point.

The goal was to create a speculative story of a day in the life of Trump’s future dictatorship…polluted water, deformed food. I also mocked up a cereal box, keeping Kim Jong Un style propaganda in mind to show a world where Trump is consumed on every level.

In presenting the work we decided to put together an exhibition reserving any explanations allowing the viewers to interpret the process themselves. Making use of a modular shelving unit in the studio that conveniently had 16 compartments to display 16 pieces of work.

The initial unveiling of work was planned to take place in the seminar room, we set our work up upstairs in the Space 8 studio in order remove the viewer from the predetermined space and in the hope of increasing anticipation on the the journey to the work.

We let the viewers guide themselves around, purposefully putting screens showing short films in awkward places close to the ground to order to have viewers more actively observing the work.

Public Data screenshots + screencast

Public Data screenshot 6

Well, it may have been forever since that project was handed in, but at least, here’s some documentation on the outcomes of the Public Data Dashboards project I did with Daniel, Garry and Ashley.


These are screenshots of the finished project. The assignment was to take a piece of public data available online, and use Processing to create a ‘dashboard’, whatever that might mean. We were encouraged to be subversive in our use of public data, so we took an alarmist approach, trying to use the data we found to draw as misleading and panic-inducing a conclusion as possible.

Since ‘dashboard’ can refer to part of a car just as much as an application that presents you with condensed data, we went with road safety as a theme. The idea was to have data piling up in front of you, obscuring your view, and imagine how distracting that would be while actually driving, combined with information that aimed to discourage you from ever getting in a car in the first place. The  images came live from the Tyne Tunnel webcams with the data sourced in various statistically un-sound ways by doing textual analysis of online articles relating to car accidents and road safety.

This was probably the most challenging project I’ve done so far. It really forced me to get up to my elbows in code, trying to wrap my head around other people’s scripts, fix bugs and compatibility issues to get different pieces of code to work together. A lot of it came down to figuring out how to describe the problems I was having well enough to ask the internet (and Tom) for help. Considering how new all of this was to me, I think we did alright in the end.

Sub-Editing for Magazines

front cover v1

This module took a while to get interesting, but we’re finally onto the good stuff. Spent the last week or two doing editing exercises (take 4000 words of news copy, cut it down into a 650 word article, that kind of thing) and messing around with InDesign. The task is to take an existing publication and redesign it in some way, so I’m going with Gamesradar+ Magazine. Here’s a sneak peak of what I’ve got so far:

I needed a gimmick, and doing an ‘under the radar’ version of Gamesradar for the ‘hidden gems’ of this year’s game releases. Not 100% sold on the green, but if I can find the right shade it might made for a good way to redefine the colourscheme.

The focus of the project is the design of the pages, rather than the articles themselves, so we can source the articles from anywhere. So I figured, why not create more work by writing them myself? That way I can get some of that sweet games journalism cred as well as design cred. Fingers-crossed this is going to make a pretty good addition to my general-purpose portfolio of stuff.

Cardgame/Boardgame Backstory

Been creating some backstory, character descriptions, etc, for two different games projects recently. One of them for a cardgame Northumbria University’s Game Development Society is working on, and one for a boardgame a friend and I have been brainstorming, based on Baltic folklore. Its been pretty fun, so I thought I’d drop some excerpts here:


The Bard/Jide Yado/Yado the Bard
“You see that bard?” asked Sven, taking a swig from his tankard.
“The one dancing on the table?” answered Jarl.
“That’s the one. I heard he’s leader of the revolution.”
“What?” Watching the little man sing and caper, he couldn’t help but laugh.
“I heard the Prince’s Black Hand wiped out his entire village by poisoning the well, and now he’s out for revenge.”
“Nonsense! That drunken fool?”
“He’s no fool, he’s cursed!” Chimed in Grog from across the table, “I heard stole the devil’s magic lute, but the devil drove him mad!”
“You’re all wrong.” Remarked the waitress, bitterly. “He’s a heartbreaker and a good-for-nothing rogue, plain and simple.”
And with that, the three men shrugged, and went back to their drinking.

Yado is a wandering bard, out for justice, freedom for the common folk and all that he can steal. He can embolden his allies with a rousing tune, but don’t underestimate his own prowess! With his magic lute he can set up strong and unpredictable plays, catching his opponents off guard.

Card flavour text: “Sex and drugs and second breakfasts” – Yado’s tour slogan
Lute flavour text: “Let me sing you the song of my people.”

The Valkyrie/The Furie/Fjola the Valkyrie
“Ah,” sighed Grog, watching from his chair as a young woman in armour passed along the street outside. “Would you look at that?”
“Beautiful,” agreed his companion, wistfully, “but she’s nothing compared to the Valkyries. Have you seen them?”
“Aye, I would do anything for a kiss from one of them.”
“Are you mad, Grog? They’re warriors. Angels of war. Got no eye for men or women.”
“He’s right,” added Jarl, “They fight day and night in that colosseum of theirs until one of them is ready to take on the Prince and his cronies.”
“Maybe we could sneak in and watch them?”
“Good luck with that! It’s on a floating island in the sky. The last time someone did make it up there, they threw him into a volcano.” Grog sighed.
“Maybe not then.”
“Aye, Grog, maybe not.”

Fjola is the champion of the Valkyries, sent to strike down the Fat Prince in the name of the Sun God. Strong and versatile, she can bring the fight to the Floating Colosseum for a homefield advantage and charge up a powerful sun strikes to bring her opponent to their knees

Card flavour text: If she starts to sing, that’s when you know it’s all over.
Colosseum flavour text: Common audience shouts include “Praise the sun!” and “Get good!”

The Trickster/The Black Hand/Zeb/Zeb the Trickster/Zeb the Spymaster
“You filthy cheat!” Cried Sven, throwing his cards onto the table in disgust as Jarl unveiled his perfect hand. “You’re no better than that filthy trickster Zeb.”
“Be quiet!” Hissed Grog, fearfully, “If you say his name, he can hear you!”
“Don’t be a fool. He’s a spy, not a sorcerer.” At this, Jarl leaned in with a conspiratorial whisper.
“That’s not what I heard. Some say it was him what turned the Prince bad, poisoned his heart with manticore venom so he could be the power behind the throne.”
“You’ve had too much to drink. The Fat Prince has always been bad.” Jarl shrugged.
“Maybe, but he’s gotten worse since Zeb became his Black Hand. That man hears everything. Some say he can even read minds.” Sven sighed in disbelief.
“Jarl Magnusson, that’s paranoid codswallop and you know it. Now take that bucket off your head and go get us another round.”
Zeb stalks the shadows of the Fat Prince’s kingdom, sowing fear and distrust in his wake. He’s a wily combatant, spying on his foes with a network of informants and using misdirection to create the perfect opening. If his poison arrow strikes you, it may already be too late.

Card flavour text: You’d be surprised how often ‘look behind you!’ actually works.~
Poison flavour text: The poison Zeb made. The poison used specifically by Zeb. Zeb’s poison.


Tribe: Telivar (Builders/the Diligent)
Hero: Shara, the Dawnsmith (Worker unit, anything she builds costs 1 less)
Bio: Claiming ancestry from the giant who forged the very sun, the Teliavar are second to none when it comes to building and blacksmithing. Now that the Warlord threatens their ancestral mines, they have also become skilled in fortification, and are ready to face their enemies with an onslaught of finely wrought iron and catapult fire.
Starting Bonus: You start the game with an additional ‘Construction’ and ‘Sabotage’ card in your hand.
Passive Power: Siege-Ready – Structures built by the Telivar have +1 health.
Active Power: Rain of Fire – Once per game at the start of a turn, you may declare ‘Rain of Fire’. All friendly catapults deal +1 damage this turn.
Traitor Bonus:
While you are a revealed traitor, all ‘Sabotage’ cards do +1 damage to structures.

Tribe: Zvora (Hunters/the Brave)
Hero: Medeinar, the Bearkiller (Archer unit with +1 damage and range)
Bio: Once peaceful hunters who ruled the forests close to the Mountain, when the Warlord appeared the Zvora were forced to become fierce fighters to defend their home. Lead by the wildest and strongest warrior in the land, and trusting in the spirits of the forest to uphold their birthright, the Zvora are expert archers and will not give up without a fight.
Starting Bonus: You start the game with an additional ‘Reinforce’ and ‘Ambush’ card in your hand.
Passive Power: Hit and Run Tactics – Archers built by the Zvora have +1 range.
Active Power: Tactical Retreat – Once per game at the end of a turn where 1 or more friendly units were destroyed in the same square, you may declare ‘Tactical Retreat’ and relocate them somewhere else with only 1 health remaining each, instead of taking them off the board.
Traitor Bonus: While you are a revealed traitor, all ‘Ambush’ cards spawn 1 additional enemy unit.

Tribe: Bezul (Scholars/the Wise)
Hero: Fabius, the Counter (Builder unit, whenever he builds a)
Bio: A tribe once torn apart by decadence and excess, the Bezul have since recovered and are now led by a family descended from the quartermasters of their original lords. Reserved and level-headed in all things, they have dedicated themselves to the accumulation of knowledge. They have built great libraries, and are willing to leverage every secret and every ounce of their cunning to prevent their books from going up in flames.
Starting Bonus: You start the game with an additional ‘Research’ and ‘Miscalculation’ card in your hand.
Passive Power:
Pragmatism – When you successfully research something, draw 2 ‘Results’ cards and pick one.
Active Power: Great Tribe Meeting – Once per game at the start of a turn you may declare ‘Great Tribe Meeting’, and draw 2 cards for each allied player, then choose and give 1 of those cards to each ally. Discard the rest.
Traitor Bonus: While you are a revealed traitor, all ‘Miscalculation’ cards count +1 against research attempts.

tfw brainstorming

tfw Brainstorming

A couple of weeks back in term time, we were all in the seminar room brainstorming about what we might do for the Seven Stories commission opportunity- Seven Stories being the ‘National Centre for Children’s Literacy’, and the opportunity being Newcastle’s Late Shows; a night when a range of the artistic venues around the town open their doors to the public late at night for a special programme.

We were shamelessly asked to blog about this experience, as we’re obviously not pulling our weight! But as such, here I am..

I suppose the more menial aspects of my experience is where I will start- I quite enjoyed the act of brainstorming how we did in that group. It was a fun creative space to participate in, and the lack of real constraint was liberating in much the same sense that I have found the ethos of MUS8161: Free Music Practice. I found it interesting to observe how my own ideas were bounced around by others, and how this led to inspiration I never could have achieved purely by myself. This reminded me of a really useful video I stumbled across the other night aimed at aspiring artists- in particular I’m referring to point #6, about how excellent work can be constructed by consistently seeking external opinion and integrating it in the process.

The process also got me thinking about something we were talking about a while back in relation to reflecting on the features of one’s own practice. the act of brainstorming made me consider my own role in group, and thus what I might have to offer to the dialogue. In order to do this I really had to be objective about my previous interests and abilities; which of course is a massively important exercise when trying to develop one’s own original aesthetic.

I also daydreamed a bit.. {pic related}

Saturday Busking

Parkinson's busk photo with arrow

Having an irresponsible amount of fun rejoining the Newcastle Allstars Steel Orchestra for a busk on Saturday at the bottom of Northumberland Street, in aid of Parkinson’s disease charity fundraising.

Biggest workout I’ve had in months.

Listen to the Ionosphere breathing

The Ionosphere, electrically charged layer of Earth’s atmosphere, stretches from 50 to 100km into the sky. Responsible for radio propagation, it is possible to listen to the sound of the winds and radio signals at that altitude, using two metal poles stretching 5 to 6 metres off the ground. Linked by a variety of wires the device, hooked to a recorder and headphones, allows us to listen to the strong winds hundreds of kilometres above us. The resulting sound can then be used and distorted with an audio editor such as Audacity or Ableton for “cosmic” relief.

“Ionosphere Orchestra”, the creative composition that CAP students improvised, will make your ears bleed but it offers a view into the possibilities that can be achieved through various ethnographic practices and audio editing.