April 7, 2006 12:46 AM   Subscribe

What? From WFMU: "What happens when a man covered in microphones walks into a room covered with speakers? Feedback. Lots of it." (might be NSFW)
posted by minkll (91 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Boy that was fucking annoying.
posted by chasing at 12:49 AM on April 7, 2006

NSF Work, Speakers, Ears.
posted by Grimgrin at 12:52 AM on April 7, 2006

but is it art?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:57 AM on April 7, 2006

posted by unmake at 1:07 AM on April 7, 2006

Oh it's art. For more check out this [flash] First find _project (it's on the left hand side), then go to L.evolution and watch the grande fille video (NSFW). Interesting.
posted by tellurian at 1:19 AM on April 7, 2006

Wow... fucking pointless...
posted by Debaser626 at 1:20 AM on April 7, 2006

John Cage suddenly seems much more tolerable.
posted by bcveen at 1:22 AM on April 7, 2006

quieter, even.
posted by trondant at 1:27 AM on April 7, 2006

humorous because of his bodily contortions and awkward movements around the room.
funny in a "haha that must be quite painful" way.

John Cage would be unimpressed, except if the mic's and speakers were positioned by chance operations.
posted by blastrid at 1:39 AM on April 7, 2006

Sunn 0))) does it better.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:34 AM on April 7, 2006

Needs more cowbell.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:03 AM on April 7, 2006

Paik does it even one step better.

Have a listen and lose yourself.
posted by Mach3avelli at 3:05 AM on April 7, 2006

Nice idea, but needs more style and execution, and a lot less youngster emo art fag contortions.

Throw some hugely fat digital delays and reverbs and maybe some distortion and other processing in the loop and you might have something to work with.

Otherwise raw feedback from such shitty little speakers and half-assed microphones isn't going to develop into anything interesting, not without some kind of architectural modulations.

This reminds of me of an awesome experiment with feedback I had the honor to witness. Pull up a chair and a blunt, kids, it's story time...

The scene was a college radio station late one night. (It was KUCI.org if you want to know.)

The station had a long history of audio experiments and assgrabbery. Some were excellent, many were annoying, most were mainly "eh" and probably not much fun for the potential listener without knowing what was going on.

So, this one late night I wandered down to the station just to see what was up. These two guys I knew - one "Mike" and one "Tom" - were setting up and dicking around at the beginning of a three or four hour slot. Mike was famous for cut up montages of erratic, improbable records and spoken word oddities. Some kinda cracked out whiteboy post hip-hop tweaker gestalt. Tom did, well... Tom mostly did reggae I think, and wasn't really noted for his experimentation - at least not in the audio realm.

They've got both studio booths open and patched out over the air. They're doing goofy stuff with noisy children's toys and records, screwing around with the rackmount effects processor... standard college radio sonic art wanker fare.

Now, where it gets interesting is how it evolves, and what eventually happens later.

Eventually they have the output of studio A patched in through studio B, and the on-air broadcast monitor patched into B. B is receiving A's output through the effects processor's then-large 2000ms digital delay/reverb effect. I believe the internal feedback value for this delay parameter is also set rather high, at 90-99% or so. So, huge, huge delay all things considered.

At some point all of the speakers, monitors and various small radios and boomboxes in the station are cranked all the way up, playing back the noises from the on air signal.

At around the same point all four or five of the mics in A and B are turned on. Around this time very complex, modulated feedback and rhythms evolve.

They have megaphones, both child-sized and the real thing. They have noise makers, those now-ubiquitous brightly colored and annoyingly noisy children's toys.

They're layering sounds into this growing feedback loop. Mike's scratching noises and voices in on the turntables in A. Tom's making noises into the mics in B.

So at this point we have a number of different loops in the feedback path. On air is coming back into the station and being patched through the live boards. Both the boards in A and B are patching through the effects processor. All of this noise is going out on air and coming back in to the station through the monitors and various boomboxes we use as air monitors, and this noise is going into the live mics in A and B, back out over the air, through both boards and the effects processor.

Wash, rinse, repeat. Admittedly, listening to it at home probably sucked, a lot. Anyway.

At some point, some time later, the feedback drone just opens up and blossoms. It's not this screeching, shrieking noise any more. It's pulsing, modulating, and self-modifying like some insane recursive audio algorithm.

There's weird bass lines and riffs and deep, deep subsonics. There's traipsing mid-range melodies and patterns washing in and out. There's just a smidgen of tinkling, crystalline high note twittering away and patterning like mad.

We all just stop and kind of stare at each other, dumbfounded. The whole station is reverberating and shaking, finding harmonic resonances and distortions and modulating the sound itself with its physical shaking and subtle movements and vibrations. The whole portable institutional type building feels like it's breathing and coming to life. You can feel it in your chest as you breath, pressure differentials and sonic force.

Around this point Tom goes and stands in the middle of the gently vibrating "lobby" and keys up the adult-sized megaphone.

It howls like a burnt dog, immediately picking up on all the ambient noise and feedback, and shortly begins picking up its own howls from all the feedback-saturated speakers.

Tom puts the mouth side of the megaphone up to his mouth, and just starts making mouth-shapes. Not actually making any noise. The shape-shifting cavity of his mouth forms resonances with the megaphones mic, causing even more harmonic distortions and resonances. He doesn't have to make any noise, just modify the way the mic is picking up pre-existing noises.

The overall feedback in the station hits a critical mass, a juncture or node. Being in the station and listening to it was extremely pleasant and satisfying. There's a lot going on, a lot of interesting tones and patterns.

Self-referential audio complexity writ large as a single consolidated musical instrument.

So, Tom's making his mouth shapes. The feedback swirls and whorls, dips and dances, pulsating happily to the only structure available - that 2000ms digital delay, which imposes a 2 second long structure on the many loops feeding through it.

Suddenly the whole station starts shaking. I can see ceiling tiles vibrating and popping up and down in their suspended frames. The floor feels mushy and liquid under our feet. Plate glass windows are rippling. I can see standing cymatic waves in my half-empty 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. Weird patterns and shapes stand up there stock still, then suddenly collapse as new waveforms are presented. I actually worry for a moment that it'll violently release all the CO2 in the soda and that the bottle will explode, but then I realize equally swiftly that that would be totally fucking cool if it did.

The station is shaking and vibrating and resonating so strongly at this point we're all looking at each other in awe, wondering if we're actually going to cause damage, wondering if at any moment the wrong frequency will be injected into this complex, organic and inorganic network of feedback loops and the whole place is going to blow apart like a bomb.

Just then this hideous, fire-belching, blood-gurgling demon of indescribable evilness bursts through the floor and demands our very souls for discovering some arcane magical, musicological secret of the universe. Well, no, that didn't happen. I'm lying and making up stupid shit.

But the rest of it was really neat. I don't remember how it all ended. As far as I know, nothing was broken. We probably did loosen up quite a few nails and fasteners in the building. I think they just wound it down slowly and let the feedback peter out.

I hear that a review of the on-air recording was less then interesting, as our broadcast path had a lot of compression on it, and our signal wasn't so hot, either.

But the sounds in the studio while it was happening was indescribable and thoroughly entertaining. I've never heard anything like it again, before or after, live or recorded, and I've been looking for something like it ever since.

I would really like to attempt to replicate the experiment and get a good open air recording of it, but I worry that without happy accidents, it'll never happen again.

Luke Larsener's art experiment has the slight potential for such a thing, though, and that's what intrigues me. I would never have thought to strap the mics to a living, moving human like that.

*grows quiet, fills pipe, moves to comfy chair by the fire to reflect*
posted by loquacious at 3:17 AM on April 7, 2006 [7 favorites]

This would have been better if they had covered the floor with canvas and his head had exploded like in "Scanners".

Then they could have sold the "paintings".

Now THAT"S art.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 3:17 AM on April 7, 2006

I would like to point out that this comment by loquacious has just single-handedly justified the existence of Metafilter to me.

Truly amazing.

And I do recommend looking into some drone bands and more importantly seeing them play live to get the full effect...
posted by slimepuppy at 3:33 AM on April 7, 2006

Noise, experimental, drone and feedback bands seem to be a direct, punk rock-like response to the whole industry and economy of recorded media. A big "fuck off" to artistic permanence and a raging fat hard-on for transience, temporariness. Hakim Bey's Immediatism, for sure.

It's very, very difficult to record noise/experimental well and play back well.

Good noise and experimental music often defies recording. It often makes use of the performance space and its acoustics in a way that few other kinds of music do. Listening to it live is often essential.

I've dragged people to some really harsh, difficult noise and experimental jams. Really painful, hard stuff, stuff I could never get the same people to sit down and listen to from a recording on a stereo.

But then after a while they often get it. Their hands come off the ears and all they can do is make "wow!' shapes with their mouth, speaking being useless, of course.

There's definitely something interesting that happens when confronted by so much unnatural, overwhelming chaos and outright sonic assault. It's like standing on the surface of a star, bathing in flame, or willingly standing in a gunnery range, or at ground zero for a nuclear blast

You can't escape it, you can't hide. It confronts you and your subconscious like a powerful drug, like assault or crisis, it stirs things and brings thoughts to the forefront you might not otherwise have or realized you have.

Do bring good earplugs, though. Its nice to have them even if you don't need them. And being able to hear later is nice, too.
posted by loquacious at 3:50 AM on April 7, 2006

This totally blew my headphones...
I want a refund :(
posted by lenny70 at 4:13 AM on April 7, 2006

... and since I am drunk and have lost a pair of beloved headphones, I feel totally entitled to this:

MetaFilter: I want a refund :(
posted by lenny70 at 4:15 AM on April 7, 2006

All right, motherfuckers, all right. It wasn't art. But it sure must've been fun, eh?
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:19 AM on April 7, 2006

Holy crap. Screw your headphones, how are your ears!?
posted by loquacious at 4:19 AM on April 7, 2006

is it art? no, art is what happens when a minkll covered with gasoline walks into a room covered with cigarettes.
posted by quonsar at 4:24 AM on April 7, 2006

posted by lenny70 at 4:31 AM on April 7, 2006

My wife, after hearing the laptop start screeching:

My god, did you just open the Matrix?
posted by benATthelocust at 4:34 AM on April 7, 2006

Great story loqacious. I enjoyed a tiny equivalent last night - opened up an '80s delay pedal to see if there was anything adjustable inside, and was twiddling away in there, with a contact mic (which are always prone to feedback) taped to the floor running into it, running out to three or four other echo and delay pedals. So, there was general a high pitched tone coming out of my speakers, until I moved a little dial inside the pedal a fraction of an inch, the result was just like your sound "pulsing, modulating, and self-modifying like some insane recursive audio algorithm". Windows rattled, and an anglepoise lamp started emitting a beautiful humming tone! And, since the mic was taped to the floorboards, just moving around the room or sitting on a chair added new layers to the sound. I looked at my watch a little while later, and... realised I'd been walking around my living room listening to feedback lunacy for two and a half hours. (The downstairs neighbours just love me...)

Do bring good earplugs, though.

Yeah, the first thing I noticed about the bloke in the video was the apparent lack of plugs. Tinnitus for life, I imagine.
posted by jack_mo at 4:56 AM on April 7, 2006

The Art Of The Absurd.
posted by Sijeka at 5:01 AM on April 7, 2006

You can feel it in your chest as you breath...

You can feel it when you go to church... when you pay your taxes.
posted by Witty at 5:05 AM on April 7, 2006

Lou Reed would be proud.
posted by jellyfish at 5:11 AM on April 7, 2006

Thanks minkll.
First laugh this morning.

And loquacious: great story. I want to see (and hear) it in a movie.
posted by bru at 5:20 AM on April 7, 2006

that was pretty cool
posted by pyramid termite at 5:28 AM on April 7, 2006

Being a big fan of feedback, I found it to be both beautiful and annoying at the same time. Art? Sure. If that's what he wants it to be. And, that Paik track is, well, gorgeous. Thanks Machiavelli. I have a new band to find a bit more from.
posted by horseblind at 5:36 AM on April 7, 2006

It's very, very difficult to record noise/experimental well and play back well.

loquacious: in order to best capture the live experience, has anyone tried recording these performances binaurally using a dummy head? (Would no doubt add to the visual aesthetics of the work as well.)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:38 AM on April 7, 2006

Wow, loquacious.

We did that writ (very) small -- well, compared to you guys. We had an 8x12 SVT cab, a 2 sec delay, and an SM-52 mic. We'd throw various thing in, listen to them feedback and loop.

Then my digital watch (I was the geek, ya know) went "beep" at just the right moment. It was Echoes on acid.

Very cool, or so I thought. Using a whole station -- wow.
posted by eriko at 5:39 AM on April 7, 2006

Frankly, I enjoyed it. And with all the responses claiming it isn't art - I would propose that you made it art.

Eh? Think about that.
posted by r3tr0 at 5:52 AM on April 7, 2006

Oh yeah, thanks for the story Loquacious. It sound like a great experience. The closest I've come to this was while seeing a band in a local venue a few yews ago. As their set wound up, one by one the members left the stage. But when they did you could, for a moment, hear them still playing. Then it turned to reverb and feedback. It kept growing even past the point of the last member (the guitarist--who was really quite amazing) leaving the stage. So this music/reverb/feedback was left to grow and change on its own for a good ten minutes or so after the band was completely off the stage and already mingling with the crowd. It took a few days for that giddy feeling I got at the show to completely leave me. It's still one one my favorite shows that I've ever attended.
posted by horseblind at 5:54 AM on April 7, 2006

loquacious, best post on the meta since I've been here... for a moment I thought you were channeling Stephen King....

Absolutely made my morning... Thanks!
posted by HuronBob at 6:05 AM on April 7, 2006

I thought it was funny.
posted by fungible at 6:22 AM on April 7, 2006

*dittos everyone else on loquacious' story - great stuff*

I went to an Einsturzende Neubauten show when they were touring for Tabula Rasa, and experienced something similar. About 2/3's for the way through 'Headcleaner' (IIRC) the music stops and there's a high-pitched trilling that went on for about 45 seconds or so. About 25 seconds into it, it was difficult to think, and when the band started playing again everything sounded different, like it was in a different key or something. Nowhere near what you described, but I get where you're coming from.
posted by Zack_Replica at 6:33 AM on April 7, 2006

My dog hated it.
posted by splatta at 6:37 AM on April 7, 2006

Fantastic post! Awesome music. Like Sachiko M, Toshimaru Nakamura and Ryoji Ikeda tag-team wrestling in a car alarm factory. I could have done without the visuals though - I like my headfuck to be less contrived and self-conscious.

Paik does it even one step better.
Mach3avelli, are you in the right thread??
posted by nylon at 6:40 AM on April 7, 2006

Feeback and subsonics - I knew that rang a bell. An excerpt from William S. Burroughs' "The Job", specifically second paragraph of the the third answer down.
posted by Zack_Replica at 6:47 AM on April 7, 2006

take one of those the's and put it in front of second.
posted by Zack_Replica at 6:50 AM on April 7, 2006

Hydrophonic.....that is my favorite line from SNL. "Needs more cowbell"
posted by winks007 at 7:31 AM on April 7, 2006

loquacious: (1) friggin' awesome post! (2) if you find yourself in south-central indiana and want to give recreating this monstrocity go, I've got a two hour radio slot in that period of darkness between closing time and Sunday morning where this kind of wankery is de rigueur and would love to give it a shot. Everyone else is invited too.

As for the speaker experiment, a little part of me can now peacefully embrace the great beyond. That's something I've always wanted to do but with much heftier, floor-rattling sub-sonics. I figure I could really break some shit up.
posted by Fezboy! at 7:45 AM on April 7, 2006

Mike was famous for cut up montages of erratic, improbable records and spoken word oddities. Some kinda cracked out whiteboy post hip-hop tweaker gestalt.

So, apparently he was Campbell Scott from Singles.

What's so funny about... PEACE,PEACE,PEACE... love and under... PEACE,PEACE. / Death Row, what does a brother know? PEACE,PEACE. / Yow, wow, wow, wow, wow, kapow! You're the King, man, you are the King!
posted by thanotopsis at 7:51 AM on April 7, 2006

loquacious - even though I don't understand the SCIENCE, if you had posted this here as an answer, you would have received an almighty tick.
posted by tellurian at 7:53 AM on April 7, 2006

that is my favorite line from SNL. "Needs more cowbell"

Then you must be a happy camper, because people quote it here in every other fucking thread. It's almost as clever as the welcoming-overlords line.
posted by languagehat at 8:06 AM on April 7, 2006

what good is all that feedback without a drummer underneath it?
posted by fisherKing at 8:09 AM on April 7, 2006

That scared the shit out of my flatmates, but it was great, as was loquacious' story.
posted by Len at 8:28 AM on April 7, 2006

Because it's Friday: http://s11.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=2UGQJ4QH6RMU510YL19Y5ACV13.
posted by everichon at 8:35 AM on April 7, 2006

The aural equivalent of metatalk. Intriguing, yet mostly annoying and difficult.
posted by boo_radley at 8:47 AM on April 7, 2006

MetaFilter: a lot less youngster emo art fag contortions.
posted by fenriq at 8:50 AM on April 7, 2006

Ooohh, hot mike. Hot mike here.
posted by unixrat at 8:54 AM on April 7, 2006

is there a podcast
posted by baker dave at 8:54 AM on April 7, 2006

So this music/reverb/feedback was left to grow and change on its own for a good ten minutes or so after the band was completely off the stage and already mingling with the crowd.

Spiritualised used to do that, with the added disorientation of blazing white lights and dangerous over-use of smoke machines.

And this thread just made me remember that I'm going to see Whitehouse next weekend. Hurrah!
posted by jack_mo at 8:55 AM on April 7, 2006

As someone that listens almost solely to noise and drone, I found this kinda lame but kinda funny at the same time.
posted by melt away at 9:12 AM on April 7, 2006

don't know about you, but i, for one, welcome our youngster emo art fag overlords.

oh, and to join the feedback fray:

Metafilter: a hideous, fire-belching, blood-gurgling demon of indescribable evilness.
posted by ab3 at 9:15 AM on April 7, 2006

There are two things that bother me about this.

1. People encountering that level of feedback at a noise level that would be as painful as he's making it look COVER THEIR EARS. The idea that he doesn't even MOTION towards his ears to cover them (and then stop himself, if he's trying not to do that) gives the lie to this. Plus, when you lose your balance from piercing feedback noises like that, you don't just awkwardly stumble around, you fall over and bump into walls and shit. everything about this performance screams fake.

2. Feedback has been made into art successfully before, but precious little art of any value comes from the "what if I did [x stupid thing] in [y inane environment]" camp without some other artistic or creative activity imposed on the stituation. Just stumbling around a room of feedback does not art make.

Or, to paraphrase Stan Brakhage, who knew John Cage intimately:

I don't think even John Cage used Chance Operations in his work. Sure, he would sprinkle dots on a paper and use their positions to write his compositions and such, but if he didn't like what he got from it, he would throw it out and start again. There is always that mark of the artist on the work, even if it's only by rejecting the results of bad experiments.
posted by shmegegge at 9:15 AM on April 7, 2006

oh, and I flagged loquacious as fantastic, because that was.
posted by shmegegge at 9:22 AM on April 7, 2006

loquacious's story IS amazing.
i've had the same thing happen to me numerous times...and then the drugs wore off...
posted by fisherKing at 9:34 AM on April 7, 2006

Anyone else have an Abu Ghraib moment there?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:45 AM on April 7, 2006

If he wasn't wearing earplugs then I hate him and everything he has ever done or will do.
posted by jon_kill at 9:52 AM on April 7, 2006

They say you judge a civilization by its art- between this and Jackass, I think nothing more need be said...
posted by yeloson at 10:00 AM on April 7, 2006

That's exactly how I feel when I have to shop for new tires.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:03 AM on April 7, 2006

That fucking ROCKED. Damn, I must dig out "Psychocandy" at once!
posted by Decani at 10:27 AM on April 7, 2006

Critique: funny, but the guy is a total dick if his ears weren't protected.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:36 AM on April 7, 2006

Damn, I must dig out "Psychocandy" at once!

Please do. I always laugh when I think of the reviews of J&MChain. At the time people were saying they sounded like two car wrecks happening at once. Since listening to bands like the ones described above (and how come nobody's mentioned The Swans? they're like Paik's rosetta stone.), J&MC sound so, so not freaky feedbacky.

Really, they were a band that wrote pretty cool little songs and just used some feedback. Compare that to a band like The Locust (or The Boredoms fer crissake) and they seem like nice young boys singing nice songs.

(I still love that album, btw. It's one of my faves)
posted by lumpenprole at 10:39 AM on April 7, 2006


I wish one of you guys had thought to press 'record' on something.
posted by geekhorde at 10:51 AM on April 7, 2006

I laughed my ass off watching this, by the way. Cackling like a maniac.
posted by geekhorde at 10:51 AM on April 7, 2006

So... this feedback... it vibrates?
posted by geekhorde at 10:55 AM on April 7, 2006

I think Wilco should sue him for copyright violation.
posted by quadog at 11:30 AM on April 7, 2006

That was a great story, loquacious.
posted by Termite at 11:39 AM on April 7, 2006

>I don't think even John Cage used Chance Operations in his work.

Yes, he definitely did. He used dice, flipping coins, choosing random numbers out of the I Ching to help compose his pieces. Regardless of whether he sometimes decided to scrap a piece because his methodology yielded crap, he still conducted the same techniques using random figures. Often putting a lot of the weight of composition on the performer...

Relating back to this mess, the 'performer' is a jacked, contorted moron with SM57's taped to his back. If he used a little more coordinated arrangement with the speakers, mics, and movements, then this would've been interesting.
posted by blastrid at 11:52 AM on April 7, 2006

good post, great story by loquacious. happy happy joy joy
posted by mr.marx at 12:05 PM on April 7, 2006

quite emotional
posted by semmi at 12:26 PM on April 7, 2006

That was fucking hilarious. What is with this desire for some of you to put it up on a pedestal it doesn't even seem (I can't read french) to put itself on just so you can knock it down? loquacious, what do you mean by "Nice idea, but needs more style and execution, and a lot less youngster emo art fag contortions."? If anything, he reminded me of Matthew Lesko. In any case, he looks around 30 to me and not at all what I envision as "emo". Would it be so bad if the "youngster emo art fag contortions" were an intended part of his expression? He's wearing some sort of white jumpsuit or long underwear with no shoes or socks and has microphones taped all over his body, which is wrapped in wires, connected to a thick white cable running off-screen and generating feedback through groups of speakers positioned on the wall...for me, at least, his actions seem to fit the bill. Assuming an ideal world, what sort of body movements do you imagine him doing? How would you perform this "nice idea" in a better way?
posted by nTeleKy at 1:18 PM on April 7, 2006

nTeleKy: I think you're overanalyzing my sarcastic comments in that specific instance and looking for depth where there really isn't any.

However, I'd like to see actual dance or something. Or some sort of better control of the sound and the modulations that the movements cause. Effects processing would probably help. Something.

It's not that it's too harsh for me, at all, but that it's uninteresting and undeveloped.

There's no reason that I can see from the video that he should have multiple microphones attached to his body and going through his contortions.

That is to say, why? It's not producing any more of an interesting effect or control then it would if he'd just carried a fistful of mics and pointed them in various places.

All that being said, without knowing the backstory it could simply be a small sketch or random experiment, and not intended to be a fully realized piece. Cool, but needs polishing.
posted by loquacious at 2:09 PM on April 7, 2006

loquacious: That makes sense. I guess I was looking at it from more of a "someone doing something simply because it's ridiculous and amusing" thing than a developed performance piece. I guess that's why I felt the criticism (which was not just you) to be overly harsh. Also I'm kind of crabby and anti-critical today (probably a result of reading myriad pretentious reviews of The Chumscrubber, which I thought was quite good). It would definately be cool to see someone do this in a more controlled fashion with fewer mics and coordinated movement/sound production; thanks for clarifying your expectations.
posted by nTeleKy at 3:11 PM on April 7, 2006

Dude moves like classic Steve Martin.
posted by eatitlive at 3:20 PM on April 7, 2006

It's better than anything by the Beastie Boys.
posted by thrakintosh at 3:45 PM on April 7, 2006

Almost as annoying as Ventolin, but not as cool.
posted by rsanheim at 5:02 PM on April 7, 2006

Steven Martin? More Like Ed Grimley (Martin Short)...
posted by ParisParamus at 5:47 PM on April 7, 2006

Yes it's a nice idea, but to me, it's a far too random manipulation of the sounds.

He lacks controllability, and also, a way to effectively manipulate sound parameters.

You could have gotten the same effect by hanging a ball of mics in the center, giving it a shove, and turning up the volume.

Having a human walk around served no purpose, so why have a human do it?

What I would be interested is seeing was that same thing, only with more direct effect from the players movements; e.g., you lunge this way, and it makes the following tonalities.

Beautiful sounds though ... however they were made.

Oh, and Loquacious, you and I should hang out some time.

There was this time, at the direction of Prof. Biasini, that we had a very long tape loop running through 4 real-to-reel machines, 4 output tracks per machine, 4 speakers per machine, each speaker placed within an irregularly shaped room to reflect the (possible) standing waves ... all analogue, pre digital ...

You get the idea ...
posted by Relay at 6:14 PM on April 7, 2006

Many years ago I saw a guy who did the same thing with the first portable video cameras. If you connect the camera output directly to the video input of a television monitor and point the camera at the monitor you can get some spectacular visual feedback effects. This guy strapped six cameras to his body and danced in front of a stack of monitors. It was quite entertaining.
posted by JackFlash at 6:15 PM on April 7, 2006

Yes, Jackflash ... video feed back. I remeber experimenting with that in 75 ... want to do something really cool, find the guns, and zoom in as far as you can.
posted by Relay at 6:16 PM on April 7, 2006

Relay, you must remember the days of guerilla video with the old Sony Portapak. It had a camera about the size of a loaf of bread and a recorder the size of a small suitcase. The camera was a vidicon tube which had a lot of persistence so that rapid panning produced a cool smearing effect. All the built in non-linearity really enhanced the feedback with no effort.
posted by JackFlash at 7:54 PM on April 7, 2006

Not one mention of Lee Ranaldo or Thurston Moore yet? Shame on us. Shame, shame, shame.
posted by JekPorkins at 9:36 PM on April 7, 2006

Oh you bet JackFlash, I remember the Portapak real well!

I spent many an hour playing around with those. Not only did you get that smearing effect, but you had to be real careful of light sources with a vidicon tube.

I also recall there being two types of decks in common use, one was a groovy brush aluminum thing for "field use" (had a lid, and the reels were partially tacked), and then that brick red colored Tolex job that was the "studio model".

Jesus, reel-to-reel video ...
posted by Relay at 9:56 PM on April 7, 2006

Relay, where you at? Shoot me an email. (see profile)

I also once briefly met some high mad monk wizard of video feedback. Living in a small loft in an amateur "pro" wrestling studio of all places. The studio was occasionally rented out for afterhours and underground parties, which explains my presence considering I have little interest in wrestling.

His sole posessions seemed to be a filthy blue foam camping pad on a cargo pallet, a thin blanket and pillow, an assortment of threadbare tie-dyed clothing, an array of empty pizza boxes, a desk, a chair, a handful of old TV monitors, a few VCR decks, a small assortment of old video cameras, a small two-source video mixer, a whole lot of tape and a thousand yard stare so intense it'd bore holes in concrete - if he ever managed to look at something other than a reflective TV screen.

He made some absolutely unbelievable video feedback art. Weird, pulsing mandala things with intense levels of complexity, dynamic behavior and coloration. The man was obsessed. He confessed to running feedback iterations not only for days on end, but weeks and occasionally months before he was able to get them to develop and tweaked into what he was looking for, before he would even pop a tape in and hit record.

If you've read Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson, Gentry - the man obsessed with discovering "the shape" of cyberspace - Gentry basically was this guy. It was uncanny. He was looking for something, but I'm not quite sure if he even knew what it was. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Gibson had met this guy at some point and based Gentry's character off of him. It's a small world.

Sorry to monopolize the thread, but feedback, recursion and non-linear dynamics are touchstones for me. It shows up all the time in my own art and music, in my life, in how my life flows, in the things that influence me - and I'm not even nearly as obsessed about it as others.
posted by loquacious at 4:07 AM on April 8, 2006

Back around 1970, my band played an outdoor "hippie wedding" in a park. All kinds of people were there - bikers, townies, short haired frat-rats, the hippie contingent. We discovered later some merry prankster had added white lightning LSD to the free Boone's Farm that everyone was guzzling that hot day, so by the time we were to play, things were already deeply weird.

Then the rain came. It came down in cold, gray, rolling sheets that hammered everything and turned the ground to mud. Lightning lit the sky and thunder rolled over us again and again. But no one left.

The band had set up under a long, skinny park pavilion, while all 300+ audience crammed under a parallel pavilion 20' feet away, (except for the three frat jocks sitting zazen in the mud down front, oblivious to the torrential rain).

The water crept closer and closer to out feet as we played, so we cut our set short. For the finale, I daisy-chained ALL of the amps from ALL of the bands together, turned everything to 11, miked EVERYTHING possible through the PA, and dove into Hendrix' Star Spangled Banner (remember, this was 1970).

It was loud. So loud you could hear a fingerprint rasp across a string, so loud you could hear a palm slide lightly down the back of the neck. Things were going smoothly until I reached "the bombs bursting in air" line. I did a massive dive-bomb which made the corrugated roof of the pavilion chatter like a pot lid holding back a rolling boil. Then I bashed the strings to simulate the explosion.

In perfect, incredible synchronicity, a massive lightning bolt branched across the entire sky, lighting the world like God's own flashbulb.

The sound from the speakers... changed. It was more than just sound and I wasn't controlling it any more. It transformed into a creature's voice, the sound pressure its breath on my back, my shirt and pants flapping like flags in the wind. The voice screamed, howled, rattled, growled, whooped, and moaned like lost souls in Hell... I wasn't playing those sounds, I was flying with the beast, barely able to nudge it in directions it didn't want to go, with its hot breath on my back as the rain pounded down and the lightnings flashed. And the 300 + 3 were right there with me, for at this point there was no artificial distinction between performer and audience and rain and lightning and the sound of the beast - we were all one connected entity.

When it finally decided to end, no one made a sound. There was nothing to say that could have added anything. I suspect that everyone there that day was never quite the same afterwards.

Every time I have played since then, I try to re-create, just a little, that gestalt from long ago. Sometimes, it almost works. I never played that song again, though. Some things only happen once and can't be recorded, except, perhaps, in the Akashic Records.

Guess you had to be there.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 12:12 PM on April 8, 2006

blastrid, I know I'm responding way too late, but I thought I'd clarify my paraphrase of stan brakhage.

that line, out of what I said, is an almost direct quote. When he said it (when listened to in context) he wasn't saying that John Cage didn't use Chance Operations. Having worked with and studied under Cage, he's fully aware that Cage invented the term. What he's commenting on, which I suppose I didn't convey clearly enough, was how people perceive the process of Chance Operations. He was saying that what people think of as chance operations is not composed of pure chance, but chance filtered through the intention and will of the artist. That's all I was getting at.

for anecdotal sake, here's another story he told on a similar subject (paraphrased because I'm too tired to watch the clip and transcribe the quote directly.)

I was once at Jackson Pollack's place, with a class, and he was introducing us to some of his latest paintings. This was during his period of heavy alcohol abuse, and in his hand was a handle of whiskey only 1/3 full. And as he swaggered angrily around in front of his paintings, he must have heard one of us mention Chance Operations (which we were often doing, it being a very in vogue movement for us at the time.). He yelled "FUCK chance operations!" at us, and dipped his painting dowel into the yellow paint he'd been using. He then told us to look at the door we'd just come through, and with a kind of flicking motion of the dowel, sent a glob of yellow paint arcing through the air about 50 feet to land smack dab directly on the doorknob. Then he turned to us and said "And THAT'S the way out!"
posted by shmegegge at 8:55 PM on April 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

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