Screen prints for sale

Category : Sound

Some of the screen prints I made last year during my Smithsonian residency are now available for sale – go and visit the shop to have a look. A few more should be ready in the coming weeks.

Sound Signature: Explorer 7

These are all from my Sound Signatures series, which are screen prints of spectrograms made from the sounds of rare and disappearing aircraft. Each purchase comes with a high-quality digital download of the audio recording used to create the print.


Sound Signatures

Category : Sound

I’ve finally managed to put together a little page about my recent Smithsonian Fellowship, which resulted in a series of screen prints which I’m calling “Sound Signatures”.

Sound Signatures

You can read all about the project and see photos and listen to the recordings I made. If you have any questions or comments be sure to get in touch!

Yann Seznec – Sound Signatures


A few months at the Smithsonian

Category : Sound

A few weeks ago I arrived in Washington DC to start a two month project at the Smithsonian – specifically at the National Air and Space Museum. This is for a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (wonderfully shortened to SARF), which means I am embedded in the museum until early December.

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My general aim is to explore the sounds of aircraft, and in my first few weeks I have been focusing on military planes in particular. I managed to record a number of WWI-era planes at the fantastic Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome…if you’re ever in the Hudson Valley area in the summer or fall I would highly recommend going to visit! The staff was wonderful and they put on an amazing show, complete with dogfighting planes, pumpkin bombs, a rascally neighbouring farmer, and dastardly villains. Before all of that got going they very kindly ran a number of their planes just for me to record, which resulted in some excellent recordings. Have a listen:

I’ve also managed to record some WWII-era planes, which their considerably throatier 12 cylinder radial engines.

I’ve found it really interesting to make spectrograms of these recordings. This one, for example, is of the Fokker Dr.1 Triplane (the plane most strongly associated with The Red Baron). You can see the distinctive harmonics created by the air whistling through the braces of the wings – as well as the general ambient noise created by the leaves in the trees rustling above my head, and the high frequency whooshing of the air being moved by the propellor.

fokker dr1 spectrogram

Over the next few months I’ll be making more recordings and also dipping into the museum archives to see what kinds of sounds I can find. I’m really looking forward to seeing where it all leads.


All aboard the Floating Cinema

Category : Sound

Today I’m starting a new project which will keep me busy for most of the summer – I’m very pleased to be artist in residence with The Floating Cinema, a wonderful canal boat kitted out with a miniature movie theatre, for their Summer Tour, which is going from London to Bristol (which takes a rather long time by canal boat!).

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For the next six weeks or so I’ll spend a bunch of time with the boat and the wonderful people at UP Projects. I’ll be running workshops and recording sounds, and at the end I’ll use all of the material I’ve collected to make a new piece of work.

I’m starting all of that today at the launch of the tour in Brentford, West London (go bees!). From 2pm-7pm I’ll have a little stall by the boat, and a small pile of microphones and recording machines. I’ll be looking for people to help me record the area, aiding me on my quest to capture the sound of Brentford. I’ll have a list of sounds I want to record – these will range from obvious (cars, the train, crosswalk beeps) to perhaps slightly more conceptual (what is the sound of gentrification? what is the sound of disparity between wealth and poverty?).

Over the course of the whole tour I’ll be uploading sounds to my soundcloud account, posting lots of pictures to my instagram, and of course tracking it all on twitter, so you can follow it all as it happens.

Check the website for full details on my schedule, and to see all the other exciting things that are happening along the way – there are plenty of screenings and workshops for all ages. If you’re in West London today please come by and say hello!


Tewolde Reddacted

Category : Music, Sound

Ethiopian 45

On a recent trip to Ethiopia I picked up a few old 45rpm records from the 1960s. They are super fun to listen to, though some of them are in really bad shape. I digitised the records and used some de-noising plugins with some good results, but one record by Tewolde Redda record has so far eluded my attempts at cleaning the sound. However when I pushed the de-noising plugins to their maximum settings they created a wonderfully abstract representation of the original music.

Have a listen to the result:

I love how you can still hear a lot of the rhythmic and melodic structures, but how they have been transformed into something that sounds almost like 1960s style spectral synthesis. It’s oddly fitting.

I’m currently working, among other things, on the recordings I made in Ethiopia. Some of those should be ready for release soon. In the mean time, if you’re interested in vintage Ethiopian music you can check out Kidus Berhanu’s Soundcloud page for some great mixes. He’s the one who sold me these records, and his collection and knowledge is fantastic.

Record shopping in Addis Ababa.

A video posted by Yann Seznec (@amazingrolo) on


The premiere of Currents

Category : Music, Sound, Sound Design

Over the past few months I’ve been working on Currents, a project for the Edinburgh Art Festival and the PRS New Music Biennial.

For this project I am taking hundreds of discarded computer CPU fans and turning them into both musical instruments and an installation in a police box in Edinburgh. This weekend sees the debut of the instruments in a performance at the Southbank Centre in London where I will be accompanied by Sam Beste and Hugh Jones. We are, of course, performing under the name Yann’s Fan Club. The performance is at 1pm in the Purcell Room. It is free but ticketed. Full details here.

This project is about distance and technology, and how that intersects with our constant striving towards change and growth.

The instruments are now finished and we have done some rehearsing. Here are a few pictures of the finished instruments we’ll be using.
Currents
2 currents
3 currents

The performance will be semi-improvised, with a structure dictated by live wind data from around the world. At regular intervals the fans will switch to recreate the current windspeed in one of five locations, ranging from St Johns, Newfoundland (one of the windiest cities on the planet), to the suburb of Bangkok where the majority of the fans were produced.

Here’s a small glimpse of some early rehearsals with Sam. It was rather hot in the room, the fans came in handy.

The instruments are made of thick plywood, which I cut using a CNC router at the DCA print studio. Many thanks go to Rob Jackson and the rest of the DCA staff for all their help.

Most of them are controlled using MIDI, so we will be using standard keyboards and drum machines to ‘play’ them. The electronics are made with Teensy microcontrollers and a set of power circuits for switching. They are powered using standard computer power supplies which are, in turn, cooled by fans.

The first performance is Saturday 5 July at the Southbank Centre at 1pm. We will be performing again in Edinburgh on 31 July and in Glasgow on 1 August.

With the instruments finished I’ll next be working on the installation side of this project, which will be ready for the opening of the Edinburgh Art Festival at the end of July.

In the mean time, here are some pictures of the process of making the instruments.
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Currents-6

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Currents-4

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Voice changer toy into instrument pedal

Voice Changer Stompbox

A little while back I picked up a “10 Effects Voice Changing Toy” at Maplin’s (it was on sale for £5, how could I resist?).

I decided to try and turn it into an instrument effects pedal. I opened it up, replaced all the switches, removed the speaker (bypassing the amplifier chip), and added some 1/4″ jacks for inputs and outputs. I mounted it into an old jewellery box and it was ready to go. I’ve tested it out with a guitar and a keyboard:

It sounds pretty bonkers, which I like! The various switches make it pretty hard to predict what kind of sound will come out. One funny consequence of building this out of a voice changer toy is that the originally design obviously includes some kind of input and output gating – it will only turn on when the input volume is above a certain level, and it will cut out when the output volume falls below a certain level too. I think this its sounds pretty cool, it really makes it even more crunchy and digital.

Voice Changer Stompbox

Voice Changer Stompbox

Voice Changer Stompbox

Voice Changer Stompbox


Hamilton Mausoleum

Category : Sound, Sound Design

Hamilton Mausoleum
In 2013, as a project for The New Radiophonic Workshop, I was able to visit the Hamilton Mausoleum in South Lanarkshire to record the incredibly long and beautiful reverb in that building. At 15 seconds long it is quite possibly the longest man-made reverb in the world. Just listen to the sound of the door slamming shut…

So I travelled to Hamilton in May with a great little team made up of Lauren Sarah Hayes, Tobias Feltus, and Varun Nair. One of our main aims was to record an impulse response of the legendary 15-second reverb – this would then allow us to apply that reverb to whatever sound we like, after the fact. For more information about recording impulse responses, read Varun’s great article on Designing Sound.
Recordings IRs in Hamilton Mausoleum
If you are interested in the impulse responses we recorded, and have the requisite software (Logic, Altiverb, etc), you can now download the IRs in a number of different formats from the New Radiophonic Workshop website. I think they sound pretty amazing, and definitely capture the feeling of being in the Mausoleum, which is very strange indeed.

I’ve used this reverb to make a short piece, dedicated to my wife, called “Living in the Recent Past”. Have a listen.

If you are running Chrome, or possibly another Web Audio enabled browser, you can also try listening to the reverb yourself. Go to this website and allow it access to your microphone – be sure to wear headphones! It should, theoretically, let you hear the reverb for yourself. I’m listening to it right now as I type, and every keystroke is a thunderous 15 second echo. Your mileage may vary, as Web Audio implementation is still quite spotty.

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Many thanks to Visit Lanarkshire for helping with our visit.


Sound of Sewing

Category : Sound

Contact microphones are amazing things – they pick up the vibrations of the material they are attached to, rather than the movement of air (like normal microphones). That means you can hear all sorts of wonderful things that you would normally be totally unaware of. Piezo discs are essentially cheap and easy contact microphones, but they have a well-deserved bad reputation for sounding pretty terrible if you just plug them into a recording machine. However, building a simple preamp is a really effective way of making even a lowly piezo microphone sound totally amazing.

So I recently built some new contact microphones and a phantom powered preamp, using Alex Rice’s technique as detailed on Zach Poff’s fantastic website.

I’ve always loved mechanical sounds, and my wife has been doing a lot of sewing lately. I was really excited to use my new microphones to make some recordings of her sewing machine in action.

Here are the recordings on their own, feel free to download them and play around. Each recording uses slightly different microphone placement, so you can hear the various differences in the machinery – also you can can varying levels of hum! Apologies for that, I think it’s partially down to the machinery and partially from my microphones, which need improved wiring.

Oh, and here’s a picture of the thing Kristina was sewing! You can read more about it on the Crafty Foxes blog

clutch

And some pictures of the mics, and how they attached to the sewing machine. You can see them plugged directly into the cigar box preamp, which is then plugged into my RME Fireface audio interface.
Contact mics on sewing machine
Contact mics on sewing machine
Balanced piezo micsCigar Box piezo preampCigar Box piezo preamp


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