Archive for July, 2007


Fourth Entry (reflexivejournal005) Timbre


31 July 2007

Ah this one is slightly more complicated because of my scan job, but lets go from left to right, upper left hand corner is 1, upper right is 2, lower left 3, lower right 4.

Number 1: Okay, because I am fairly environmentaly conscious, I re-use the hell out of my post-it notes, also I sort of bounce back and forth between two things when I think they are running parellel.

Might as well begin with the Russolo notation. What I thought was noteworthy was the idea of the world without the inclusion of it.

What does that mean, ‘timbre as a resident noise, that invoked the world without incorporating it’? Pearsall and Trumbell define timbre as being ‘the distinctive character of a musical sound or voice apart from its pitch and intensity’ (p. 1509 2003). Timbre is an aspect of sound it’s one element of many that make a particular sound, sound the way it does. Just like in a swatch of red paint, the colour red is made up of a variety of different tones which make it red, timbre is one of those elements in relation to sound.

It’s not so much the idea of timbre, but the idea of invoking the world without incorporating. In March I installed a piece at the McLellan Gallery building in Glasgow. The building is no longer used as an exhibition space, but has a more multi-purpose aspect now that the Glasgow School of Art has temporary use. I installed my sound piece in the foyer area, which spans three floors (to see images, please go to search under aps215), the work itself was created from a variety of different processed sounds. In a tutorial with my supervisors there were a lot of questions about the nature of these sounds, ‘were that a jet engines and did I mean to evoke the idea of jet engines per say’. No the sound was not a jet engine, and no I did not mean to evoke that particular response, but that doesn’t make it wrong. There is something inherently metaphorical about sound, if something has an even beat it can reference the heart without even meaning to, so the idea of bringing forth reference to the real world is both interesting and a pain in the ass. Whilst that response is very cheeky, what I mean is regardless of the level of sophistication to create an alternative universe; you still leave and enter the experience through the real world. The more thinking I do on this, the more success I think can be reached when the lines are blurred and the distinction between what is real and what isn’t can not be recognized, then it’s not a matter of incorporation or invoking.

Within the context sound, what makes that interesting is regardless of how processed and filtered a sound is, there seems to be something to anchor it to some aspect of reality. Theoretically I am ok with this, in fact I am more than ok with it, but on some other level the metaphorical nature of noise as sound and noise that exists in the world is frustrating. I want to create my sound work from sounds and or noises that come from outside of myself (the real world), but that doesn’t mean they are what they sound like, nor should that reference be the first you make, but to achieve that, our brains need to be rewired to think outside of preconceived contexts.

So yeah, now going back an analyzing my notes the question ‘Is there a contemporary crisis with perception?’ I am not sure I know what a contemporary crisis with perception means, nor am I attributing at this stage the question with Fredric Jameson, but in hindsight the quote fits the aforementioned really well.

Whilst I was closing the gap in my knowledge about sound, I was also doing a lot of thinking about perception because I was/am/continually forming a contextual standpoint for the research and my practice, so the notations about perception are dealing with the formation of those thoughts. (this will continually be revisited).

Number 2: What are the negotiations btwn noise (crossed out) (sound) and musical sound? I was still unsure of where I sat on the noise/sound/music front, and so was asking a lot of questions of where my work is situated. Now with benefit of year plus’s worth of knowledge I would have to say noise should not be scored out in favour of the word sound, and that the negations are born out of the academy’s desire to define, in practice or at least my practice it’s not as big a concern (personal statement). I make noise I make music: whatever.

Numbers 3 and 4: I got in the habit or rather I am in the habit of writing down the thing that comes to me, at the moment it does. Often I forget to contextualize it, thus making it seem random. These questions and or statements, ‘What is it about the experience that sets it apart?, and ‘phenomena is fleeting. How do you extend the experience?’ reference my own practice and the creation of work within the greater context of ‘phenomenological art’ (i.e. James Turrell, Robert Irwin, and William Basinski). My personal experiences with work created by these guys has been everlasting and extremely important to my practice, and I was asking those questions of my work in relation to their work because I feel that someone like Irwin’s installations do extend the experience. It doesn’t end when you leave the gallery it sticks with you, how do you do that?


Third Entry (reflexivejournal010) Polanyi and Lacan


31 July 2007

Probably best to begin with pointing out that I spelled Michael Polanyi’s name wrong there on my note. Sorry Michael. Anyway a bit of background, Polanyi was born in Budapest in 1891. He gained two doctoral degrees at the university there, before immigrating to Great Britain in 1933 to become a professor at the University of Manchester, he is most well known for his contributions to the philosophy of science and social science.

To be perfectly honest, at this time I am not sure what text/essay/book I was reading that led me to do a bit of googling on Polanyi, but when I was reading up on him there was an instant recognition for me on his school of thought and how he might be useful to my research. Polanyi’s most recognized work is called Personal Knowledge. His thinking was that any creative act (especially those which deal with discovery) are full of personal feelings and commitments, and while many view science as being a ‘value free’ enterprise, we should not negate the tension brought about by a different ‘tacit’ kind of understanding (Smith, M.K. 2003). In his book The Tacit Dimension Polanyi stated ‘we can know more than we can tell’ (Polanyi p.4 1967).

What makes this so important to my research is the idea that we can know more than we can tell, Lacan states ‘there is nothing known, that can’t be articulated (?), Lacan must not have been a big believer than in the ineffable. As I stated in the last entry, remember the word ineffable it will be important later (well all the time). The definition of ineffable: 1. Unutterable; too great for description in words. 2. that must not be uttered. (Pearsall and Trumbell p. 720 200).

Foremost the word ineffable speaks to an experience. You have an ineffable experience, as to whether or not you can have ineffable knowledge I am not sure, personally I am not sure if I have knowledge, which is in itself ineffable, I do know however that I have knowledge on ineffable experiences that I have had. (See the difference?). Aspects of both Lacan and Polanyi’s teaching are useful to my research, Lacan more so in latter stages. Polanyi throughout. To talk about a knowledge which maybe within us but is not necessarily known to us, does relate directly to the ineffable, it explains how we maybe able to comprehend something but not be able to relate it.

If we experience something, which we cannot speak about, how can we understand it? It is my opinion that the ineffable experience(s) is most fully realized when in dissemination. If you are trying to relay something you are focused on the intrinsic aspects of what happened: what it looked like, how it felt it etc., but when you are inside of said experience you are fully engaged in the act of perceiving. (dropping in the word phenomenology, remember it). Polanyi’s idea of personal knowledge gives us a place to start questioning how we experience and comprehend the ineffable; it also gives validity to personal feelings. Emotional response is subjective at its core, and that very subjectivity is hard to define. One person’s feelings of happiness or awe might resonate similarly for someone else, but how are we to know they are the same?

Back to my notated quote from Polanyi ‘all perceptual knowing is knowing in action (change) and the equivalent of the phenomenal’ (need to find source)

I am going to let that sit for a while because I’ll be coming back to it, and I think it’s worth thinking about.

As for the lower left hand corner note, after reading Russolo, I began to look at music and the way it incorporated sound. This note was on the spot reflection, to me the words noise and sound, brought forth techno, acid house, and harmony. This too will be revisited.



Second Entry (reflexive journal 009)


31 July 2007

The basis for these two different notes was sound specifically noise. At this particular stage in the research I was unsure of what it meant exactly to be a ‘sound artist’. Part of my issue with sound art to this point had been the ‘same-ness’ of it all. It’s not that all blips sound the same, but I had yet to encounter anything different, it seemed to me that most sound artists (gross generalization I know) seemed to create work that sounded very similar to their peers. Some aspect of this brought up the question: ‘is it sound, or is it music’?

It’s a potentially interesting question for a few reasons: what is it that actually differentiates between the two? Within the context of fine art is this particular question applicable and or note worthy? And lastly (just for myself) is the difference, and if so what is it, and why is that the differential?

In order to make some headway and try and come up with an answer, I read and listened to a lot, the note from the upper right hand corner deals with Luigi Russolo an Italian Futurist who is often called the grandfather of modern sound. He wrote a manifesto called ‘The Art of Noises’ (1913). The manifesto took the form of a letter from Russolo, to Balilla Pratella (another futurist composer).

To summarise, Russolo spoke of that fact that man had been surrounded by:

‘this death of noises, the first sounds that man drew from a pieced reed or stretched string were regarded with amazement as a new and marvellous things. Primitive races attributed sound to the gods; it was considered sacred and reserved for priests, who used it to enrich the mystery of their rites’ (Russolo).

As Russolo was speaking of a time before the actual science of music, i.e. the chord, harmonic structure et. al, a parallel can be primary drawn by the association of the aural or sound and the idea of something beyond ourselves (the spiritual) and or the ineffable (remember this word, because we are going to be talking about it a lot).

As this was a reference to the past, the way the manifesto spoke about sound in the present day (1913) as such:

‘art of music sought purity, limpidity and sweetness of sound. The different sounds were amalgamated, care being taken, however, to caresses the ear with gentle harmonies. Today music, as it becomes continually more complicated, strives to amalgamate the most dissonant, strange and harsh sounds. In this way we come ever closer to noise-sound (Russolo).

Looking back today, you sort of think: duh, and? I mean the idea of noise being sound and sound being noise isn’t an especially revolutionary idea TODAY (2007), but in 1913 it was absolutely crucial, and without it there would be no ‘ duh, and’? Russolo was seeking out noises because he felt that ‘ musical sound is too limited in its qualitative variety of tones’ There was an effort to strive to explore the actual vastness of sound beyond the structure. In a way it’s about academicizing the sound which was outside of the boundary of music and bringing into a pre-existing context, but it’s also about widening and expanding how music was thought about and the components that went/go into it. I suppose I notated ‘noise is much richer in harmony than sound’ because I am interested using noise/sound to create a phenomena, an ineffable experience, something akin to sacred, as well whilst noises have for the most very definable contexts, there is something organic about them that does not come from instruments.

Did any of this answer my question about what is noise and what is sound? No it didn’t give me an easy place in a box definition, but made me better able to understand what I wanted to do with sound and noise within the context of my practice/research. (More about this to come)

The note in the lower left hand corner is basically a note on what to further read once I had read Russolo. I think it’s important to include them together because it reminds me of the parallels I was drawing in the very early stages of the research.

*ps. I know academicizing is not a real word, we are speaking to those who deal with this about making it so.


Russolo ‘The Art of Noises’ Manifesto


Slight Technical Issues

So yeah, the image is to big for the field it is in. It’s going to be sorted….never fear. *Update. Sorted the matter of width, now have to deal with the blog roll coming down into the image. Don’t fear, I’m not. Give me a few days.


Starter/Test (image: reflexivejournal007)


30 July 2007

These notes were written when I first began the PhD. Basically I was unsure of what direction the research was going to go in. At the time, I had four separate research ‘fields’. 1.Sound Art, 2. Installation Art, 3. Phenomenology, 4. Architecture.

It’s potentially useful to give some background info here. My interest at the onset was in the creation of space through sound. Could sound be tactile, could it create actual physical barriers all the while remaining ethereal? Before I incorporated sound into my practice, the focus of the work had been to create a ‘phenomenological’ experience much like that of James Turrell or Robert Irwin (I will post their images as well, however all of my research images live at search under name aps215).

The note in the top right corner says Sound As Force, as I was interested in the tactile qualities of sound at this particular stage, I was thinking outwards from this particular school of thought. Basically this is an extension of a conversation I had with Raid Hanna from the school of Architecture here at the GSA. He explained to me that with two sound waves of the exact frequency one played very shortly after the other, if you stood between both sets of speakers then the physics of the sound waves would cancel themselves out. So imagine being in a room, to both your left and right there are two sets of speakers (exact same make and model), the person on your left presses play, then the person on your right does five seconds later, and you standing the middle are in silence. To use sound to create the void, or rather a phenomena was really up my tree. What did it mean simply within it’s own context, but what did it mean within the context of fine art?

Because I didn’t know anything about the actual physics of sound I began to read up, the scribble ‘all that the ear can possibly hear’ with the arrow pointing up at my rudimentary sound wave refers to what sounds the ear can actually hear. In reality what we hear is actually a very small slice of the sound that is actually out there, 20 to 20,000 Hz (your average healthy person). I suppose in a way I sort of was more interested by what we couldn’t hear versus what we can. Wouldn’t it be more ‘phenomena’ based if it was the things you could feel but not hear? The other part of my note ‘how can you extend that’ references my desire to see if you make the ear more, or rather fake it. I am no doctor of the ear, I am an artist, I can stretch and play with the actual material, as a researcher however I can’t stretch or play with the findings of such material (this is actually a hard concept to get my head around).

The other note, the one in the bottom left hand corner is notes and thoughts that came about when I was reading Douglas Kahn’s ‘Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts’. When I first began in Oct 2005 my interest was in sound, all by itself in a room. Since then I have changed my position and I am interested in the ‘holistic installation’. I spent a lot of time focusing on how ocular centric a majority of installation art, especially the art I am interested in, is. So when I made the note about ‘where the meeting of audio and video is particularly conspicuous’ (p.72), I was just thinking of what a pain the visual side of it had become in a way. Now I don’t think that is the case. To create truly immersive work, and to really think about the ineffable, I am more certain that one is not hierarchal over the other. It’s about sound and vision together.

Some useful links, found today (30 July 2007)


What’s the difference between this blog and the other one?

Yeah, so two blogs: one which you barely update, and the other with only one entry so far, Spaul what’s the point you ask?

Well kids the point is this: is a place for me to post papers and essays and what not to ask general questions about the research that I have conducted thus far, and will continue to conduct. is my research journal. At this stage in the research I am choosing an existing methodology and or potentially creating my own, and deciding on what the best methods are to conduct my research. I have been told the key to good research is triangulation and since I have nothing to argue against this fact, I am going to make this journal one of my methods. Here, I will painstakingly go through and assess my notes, thoughts, practice, as one way to generate data.

Ole! as they say.


Not another Spaulding Research Blog…..

Right, so it’s probably pedantic to have two blogs one called Research Journal and one called Reflexive Journal (title to change soon….). Ideally they are to serve two different purposes. The Research Journal will be more theoretically based, featuring more writing and text based. This journal-or Reflexive Journal is to be used as part of method to generate data for my PhD. Through reflexive methods I will be able to look at the practical side of my work and all that is associated with it from a more holistic point of view. There will be images, MP3’s, videos etc. Hopefully this blog will be a sort of sister to Research, and the aim of this particular blog will be to show what got me excited and contextualizes my research, what the current practical status is, and where the work/research is going.

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