Xenakis: Architect in Sound at the RFH.

A little note to self: a month to go.

Worth reading:
Designing Sounds and Spaces: Interdisciplinary Rules & Proportions in Generative Stochastic Music and Architecture

Check page 5 for the similarities between the glissandi pitches in Metastasis, and the architecture of the Philips Pavilion at the 1958 World fair.

Le Corbusier gets most of the credit for the "Poeme Electronique" despite the fact that Xenakis was at the designing helm. (He shouted louder).

Xenakis' hyperbolic parabaloids clashed with Le Corbusier's conventionally-poured concrete ways (they required steel). So they made thin concrete ribs which held up steel cables which held up concrete panes. Still mathematically generated, still sufficiently expressionistic and sound-proof. Still concrete.

Inside, an 8 minute film was shown: Le Corbusier's montaged vision of "humanity". It was sectioned into seven sequences: "Genesis," "Matter and Spirit," "From Darkness to Dawn," "Manmade Gods," "How Time Molds Civilization," "Harmony," and "To All Mankind." (Charlie Chaplin, a mushroom cloud and Corbusier's buildings all got a flicker).

Meanwhile, Edgard Varese composed "Poeme Electronique" at the request of Le Corbusier. It was recorded entirely on three-track tape and moved across 450 speakers. It had bells, drums and voices. And some concrete.


They don't even teach english at my university.

(LCC Library, 2005)

Nabokov had a way with lepidoptery. He named and saved the Karner Blue. There must be a fair few enthusiasts in Elephant and Castle; Lolita's all about butterflies. They flutter in and out, all over his words.

Nabokov had a way with words, even after abandoning "my natural idiom, my rich, infinitely rich and docile Russian tongue, for a second-rate brand of English."

(Lolita was his only English novel that his muse/editor/everything wife Vera translated into Russian. She had a Pullitzer prize-winning biography written about her.)

Another small gift from Nabokov to Western culture; the untranslatable term poshlust. Poshlust neatly encompasses most of my hates.

Interesting fact:
In the 1980's, a contingent of state lawmakers tried to make the Karner Blue the official insect of New York state, but it lost out in favour of the ladybug, a beneficient creature without the ignominy of extinction hanging over its head.


The sonification of Protein

(Immunoglobulin fold)

"Life Music" could be mistaken as another irritating living-room music buzzword, but it's all about protein, and I love protein, so there's no arguing with the depth there. The page linked above is a bit wordy. Dunn likes words. But most of them are good, so it's alright.

Anyway, so they've taken amino acid sequences and created "aesthetically interesting and biologically informative" musical combinations. What a warming turn of phrase. More specifically: they took the secondary structure of proteins: the simple folding patterns that are combined to produce the overall tertiary structure of a protein. There are 3 secondary patterns: alpha-helix, beta-strand, and turns.

I'm pretty fond of the immunoglobulin folds protein architecture category, myself.

Anyway, fixed pitches are set according to the amino acid's water solubility (insoluble = lowest octave) Pitches range over three octaves in the diatonic scale, two octaves for a chromatic scale, and about four for pentatonic and whole-tone scales.

"As the linear sequence winds in and out of the interior of the protein, we hear counter-melodies in the music: one in the lower register representing the interior water-insoluble amino acids, and another in the upper register representing the more soluble ones arranged at the protein-water interface: our linear sequences were playing two and sometimes three parallel and slightly offset tunes."

Some proteins are schizophrenic (watch out for lysozyme C), leading to yet more intriguing sounds.

Listen to your inner self here and reveal your inner self here.


Trains Pt. 3

On the way home, I decided to stop in Paris for a day. I had some buildings and an M/M Paris retrospective to see.

The posters at the Tokyo Palais were so big. I told the lady at the desk this, she looked at me funny. I hadn't spoken to anybody for a day (strangers on trains? No.) My embarrassment was saved when she enthused "you're so (oooo) lucky to be living in the centre of the cultural world." Anyway. I don't really think that the 'Translate' project was necessary; surely M/M are established and flamboyant enough to exhibit everything without context props. As much as Dakis Joannou's collection seems decent and contemporary, I don't want or need the likes of Chris Ofili getting in the way of the Alphabet. (I could have kneeled down in front of the Alphabet):

Carsten Nicolai had some words on the wall as part of the Utopia Station project, about the "open source ideal" of alternative power sources based on the transformation of sound into light. Something about liquid immersed bubbles emitting light, excited by sound. He calls it 'Sonic Lumiere', the scientists Frenzel and Shultes called it low density sound waves (it was 1934). The poster was pretty. (In the centre of the floor of this room were dozens of grimy conceptual pushchairs. Like Lewisham Centre's playground come 3.30, only dirtier. Unnecessary.)

So, I stuck about feeling screen prints until midnight, for the sum of 1 € (at last, an 'art student' perk.) Not that I'm romantic, but you could see the Eiffel Tower sparkling, and throw things at fire-breathing youths on the lower marbled levels, from the Tokyo Palais' outdoor foyer.

Earlier in the week, as part of their series of reinterpreted works, Nicolai had this great restored subharchord on show at the Kunstler Archiv in Berlin. He used a system designed by Werner Meyer-Eppler to produce b+w interference patterns based on the sounds. It was called subvision. Shame this space was located so near to the ladies'. They are noisy, ladies.

The last morning of my holiday I took part in a self-imposed 5-hour cross-arrondissement challenge. Frank Gehry, Henri Ciriani, Pierre Granveaud and Philippe Gazeaux all make good, if disparately located buildings. I rushed around, allowing two hours for Le Corbusier's villas. The proposed peak of the tour toppled under the puffy-lipped realisation (I enlisted a local orange dog-walker for aid) that the gated square with the Corbusier foundation inside, is closed on Sundays. It was pretty sad. Ciriani's St. Antoine hospital kitchen, located on a grubby street with an above-average laundrette quotidient, looks like this:


Trains Pt. 2

The KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin has a slide (check the left of bird's eye view). I say slide, but it's architecturally equivalent to the flumes that used to stick outside of Ladywell swimming pool, until they got banned (rumours of blades in the plastic). After a friendly wave to the invigilator, this slide transported me from conceptual hell (there were broken UV lights tousled on the ground) to a soft, foamy landing, surrounded by a travelling archive of over 3500 independently published works. There was also a bench. I only had a few hours spare, but it's alright because Christoph Keller (of Revolver fame) and all his books are coming to the ICA via Istanbul some time soon. Book discrimination is tough. It goes something predictable like cover/content>binding>paper. If paper doesn't smell good, I am upset. Highlights from this brief ruffle include:

+ Non short-story, photography J+L books (although their illustrated short storybooks are very much worth it, I can but duly wait for a third beautifully ink-stained spine to arrive.)
+ The 'Transmission: Rules of Engagement' series, especially Autopoesis: novelty, meaning and value
+ Bart Lodewijsk's chalk drawings / dividers on abandoned buildings.
+ Airdrop, a history of air-dropped leaflet propoganda by Jennifer Gabrys. I learnt about this, a gift from the Germans to the French in WW1:

It says:
The leaves are falling. We will fall like them ... next Spring no one will remember either the dead leaves or the dead soldiers.

So, the reason why I couldn't spend the whole day on this bench (social obligations aside) was that the actual reason I'd come to the KW was for the e-flux video rental project. This is a room with 2 shelves, 2 sets of headphones, and a television set. On the shelves are over 500 short films on loveable VHS, to be watched at whim. It was hard demonstrating self-restraint, but I think I chose pretty wisely. My favourites were Jozef Robakowski's "Dance with Trees" (he hums and waves the camera about in a forest) and Mircea Cantor's "The Landscape is Changing" (a dozen people walk through a city with metal sheets on sticks, warping everything that comes into their path via sunlight).

I should mention that the night before, the KW hosted a country karoake night. A German man (Christophe Dettmeyer) wearing appropriate attire showed us his films (barren American landscape essays) and then wowed us with his Bonnie Prince Billy and Johnny Cash renditions. This was interspersed with the History of the Cowboy (thanks to Karolin, uber translator, I now know that the stereotype derives from American Indians. Pre-steam train and inevitable Hollywood heart throb responsibilities, their main occupation was that of an efficient postal service).

Memefest were also holding an exhibition (the ABC semiotics of resistance) whilst I happened to be in the area. They gave awards to all the wrong people, and there was some incredibly irritating work on show (eg: a tv screen showing a still of a drunken man covered in foam, the tv itself surrounded by empty beer bottles). However, there were a couple of interesting things, such as Hans Bernard and Alessandro Ludovico's "Google Will Eat Itself" project: "The Google to the People site (www.gwei.org) run infrequent online demonstrations on the google website, we inject a social virus (lets share their shares) into their commercial body hidden under google's polite and friendly graphic surface." Falsely luring people to their site, ad clicks resulting in a micropayment which is then invested in Google itself; it's old news, but I understand paper better than most things, so it was nice seeing a large flow diagram on a wall. I like Google a lot myself, but I guess minor deception must provide kicks.

Matt Siber also had some stunning, me-sized photographs on display. The text/image separation idea doesn't quite translate to vertically aligned small pixel patches, his website is worth a look.


Trains Pt. 1

I've spent the past few weeks on trains.

Things I narrowly avoided:
- Losing my passport (thank you Koln trains). I should really avoid carrying 3 bags (not including luggage) on my person. Even if one of them is promoting "Euroanaesthesia" (which isn't a joke, but a Madrid conference in June 2006).
- A rock, thrown through the sleeper train window. It left a neat hole and the entire pane shattered. I've been waiting for this moment since I got glasses (family friend gore story), and feel lucky I don't have a glass eye.
- A fire on the Paris metro.
- Spending the night with an old Greek EU-specialising journalist who comes from a nearby village to mine by the sea, and says "crac crac" when referring to Brussels.
- Interaction with Calais locals. Calais is a terrifying place. Especially when they have brocantes on Sunday, in the rain and there are no ATMs anywhere, and some sub-sub-Beyonce is blaring from a dodgems track and blood is emitting forth from toes (mine).
- Making "click click" noises every time I wanted to take a photo, but couldn't. My eyes are sore.

Everything else transport-related was whole-heartedly enjoyed and embraced (double decker trains = ace). But for now I am eschewing most forms of movement.

After my easy, sunny slide into relative isolation, (the mountains in Montguers have lavender fields instead of mobile phone networks) the Yvon Lambert Collection in Avignon was kind of a shock. Step into this beautiful converted hotel from the 17th century and Bam Bam Bam. It's really hot, my mother's confused, and my chest hurts a little from the shift in pace: Bruce Nauman, Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, all before one enters the actual gallery itself. Works better than pearls.

Another surprise was hearing Cat Power whilst admiring a large format photo of a foot in a morgue. (This person had died from rat poison, the open wound was very red). Anyway, Olivier Pietsch has made a montage of film sequences, lots of people falling from the sky, to the strains of "Maybe Not". It's really nice. But I'd had montage-overload by this point. Marclay's phones, Goldin's life and some young girls with a mechanical piano playing on the side, to be precise. It was all a little too much after a week spent walking in dried up rivers, skimming my uncle's library and eating fruit.

Lambert also likes photographs of film stills. Gordon Matta-Clark used to cut holes in buildings. Here are some 45 degree angle cones from Paris c1975. Some irritating people have written irritating essays about how he's an 'anarchitect.' They are beautiful, that's all.

There's a podcast about groupies on Resonance. It's good to be home. Groupies are crap, but great to listen to (I meant overhear. Don't look in their eyes. Spend ages washing your hands. Etc.) I think I avoided talking to most of my Dischord-affiliated teen idols mainly because I didn't want to get confused with these freebie lovin' notchers. I guess that's a shame, but I'm sure my male friends didn't manage to utter anything overly eloquent anyway, communications probably summised in what I always wanted to tell Jason Farrell in my formative years (but never admitted); "Marry me. (Just for the Join Us inlay)"