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BSM 4 – Indian Summer

Indian Summer

Talking about the weather is a very common British stereo type, especially English. And quite a self-employed reference at that. While most people would actively avoid discussing the weather under the belief it makes you dull or uninteresting this project has forced me to embrace it. That being said even if you’re one of those people who believe that discussing the weather means you have nothing worth discussing the meterological twists of the week are impossible to ignore.

If I’m totally honest I was ready to hang up my audio interface for a few months until October since the last installation but it’s just too gorgeous to not take advantage of the weather. Hence why I had another attempt at Rivington. And this time I won! Huge and eternal thanks to Sambo for being my packmule and faithful companion on these journeys (Nik was stuck in work, poor thing). And if I’m honest I don’t think any of the other times we attempted it would have come as close to capturing a moment like this one. The video is over in the video section if you want to watch it, and the audio is available for download in the audio section or on the bandcamp site. I could never do justice to an explanation of the sky that night. Pictures only tell half the story.

Sambo @ Rivington

There’s also lots of other stuff happening at the moment. An old friend has, in theory, agreed to create the new CAD images for what will hopefully become a standardised version of the hardware. And another friend has, in theory, agreed to construct it. Judging from his work as a luthier it will be a thing of beauty. The upshot of which means that the hardware will be smaller and way more portable. It also means that the old picture frame hardware (looks pretty but rather impractical) will be retired for a younger, smaller, sexier model. Version 2 is on the way. Better get soldering lol.

Death of a FIAT

Finally there was a plan to head over to Morecambe, again with Sambo, last night but my faithful FIAT chariot failed me. Not true. I failed him. The weather, my ill-treatment of it, and the fact that it’s not had so much as a change of water in 36,000 miles might have something to do with it. Goes without saying that after a breakdown at the side of the road time was against us, and it wasn’t a battle we could win. Instead I spent an evening with my folks and allows me to plan for the next installation, which by the time this blog post goes up will have probably already happen (the joys of scheduling). Tonight thebrokendoor are gigging so I need to go pack my gear ready to roll, and thanks to the grace of a few flickers of summer it’ll be in the great outdoors at The Dog. Also as promised there’ll be a playlisty 8tracks thing coming in the next few days. Whoop whoop!

So I shall wish you a very pleasant few days filled with muffled heat and long nights.

Liam.x

Sunset, Rivington. 28/09/11

BSM 3 – App Geekery

This is my main work area. Or should be. The debris of summer has ruined it slightly, and being the lazy individual I am the thought of tidying even this small amount makes my fight or flight instinct choose to side with “shirk”. The main downside of not tidying is that I’ve transferred my working to my laptop and now I like to lie on my bed against the wall and work. This however has DESTROYED my back. So all I have to show for summer is no tan, a lot of data and a bad back. It also means that my G5 is now relegated to grunt work batch processing images and rendering video. All of the additional software and processing I need (that isn’t video editing or the modular stuff to run the installations) is available now on my iPhone. That’s what I want to tell you about in this blog.

“Yes. No. Maybe. Definitely. Not a chance. Perhaps. Erm… GO!”
a typical morning before an installation

Apparently my life now revolves around weather forecasts, cloud graphs, topography, star charts, and maps. Lots of maps. In an attempt to keep up to date with when I can do these installations and get good results it means my eyes are constantly glued to weather websites and my phone. Especially useful is the Met Office app that carries great cloud data information (can’t get impressive installations from uniformly grey skies!). The iPhone’s own weather app doesn’t carry anywhere near the same level of information, and tends to be far too optimistic when it approximates the weather for the day. It’d be great if you could access the BBC site on an iPhone but the cloud data graphs run in flash so that’ll never happen.

However my favorite new mobile app (and also for your mac or PC) is Stellarium. It offers you the all the information on sun, star constellation, time and compass points you could ever need in a lovely 3D interface that allows you to see all the necessary angles you could want. And it’s free! Much love to it creators and developers for creating such a lovely piece of software. Yes this thing is pretty niché but for a project like this it cannot be beat. It can’t predict weather or the environment at the location you chose but it means with a compass (or even the one on my phone) I can turn up at a location and aim the installation at the correct angle depending what time of day I’m planning for rather than just an approximation like it used to be.

Obviously in addition to these more specific apps are those that every man and his dog has but are still worth an honorable mention. It goes without saying that the google earth app is marvelous, and offers a great level of detail regarding the layout of… well… the entire earth. For me its incredibly handy for finding those hidden paths and dirt tracks to save me breaking my back hiking up hills and through rivers with a lot electronics. The great thing is it’s integration with your google account and how markers can be passed from one to the other. When you’re doing location-based sonic art what else could you ask for?!

Finally honorable mention needs to go to Vimeo‘s app. It’s got a lot of bad press but it works a treat for me. Their 3G implementation works really well and it allows me to check where my progress is with the batch stuff I mentioned above. Their uploader app is also amazingly handy, if not a little slow but when you’ve got task scheduled to run while you sleep time isn’t really off the essence.

As far as sonic art goes there are a lot of interesting apps doing stuff with generative music (Brian Eno’s Bloom is the template for most) but nothing that’s really wowing the world yet. Next time I decide to geek out to this degree it’ll be looking at modular audio environments. But in the meantime I should hopefully be completing the modal instructional map for this project and it’ll be up and available to buy.

See you soon!

BSM 2 – Chasing The Whale

Wow. An oddly eventful few days with lots to tell you. I should warn you before departing on a journey into this post that for some reason my writing is very rangy and disjointed this week. Don’t know why. Now disclaimers are out of the way you can begin:

First up obviously there’s the fact I had to cancel the first installation; the thing that actually would have tested how well this site copes with a full public project from initiation to archiving. But alas it was not to be, but it also kinda was at the same time (more later). The weather had been pretty torrential in the run up to the day and I decided that a car was out of the question as the road to site is a little rustic (i.e. a dirt track) and I didn’t fancy getting my car stuck in the mud  halfway up the pennines, and the hike isn’t really feasible until I’ve got my new camera. Hence I decided to postpone. But as winter closes in the chances are going to be fewer as time progresses so I need a good window of weather to present itself. And so that’s the fourth time that Rivington has beaten me.

However in the evening the weather began to turn very pleasant (annoyingly). My timetable was already free (I had planned to do Rivington) and the timing was perfect. A few quick phone calls to Nik and his girlfriend, the lovely Laura, meant I was able to arrange a quick one shot installation from Laura’s root terrace. It was cutting it very fine however and without Nik to look after the camera end of things, and Laura offering brews around, it would have been a massive fail. The results were some of the most consistent and interesting I’ve managed to achieve thus. I love working in a Lydian mode. It evokes all this heat but without the tension you get in other modes. It’s a very “summery” tonality. And it was bloody freezing! We needed all the heat we could get. Much love to those two for helping me out at short notice.

Skip to two days later. I refused to let Rivington beat me, if I’m honest that hill is quickly becoming my white whale, and I some slightly more computerised and fruity Captain Ahab. The weather was perfect, clear skies, scattered clouds and not hazy at all. Plus the weather had been acceptable enough to allow the dirt track that serves as a road to the top in the days prior. Again a last minute effort (but this time that served as my downfall). Throwing poor Naomi into the car to be my helper we started up the St. Georges Lane that leads to the summit. Not bad going, very bumpy; does a Fiat Stilo have decent suspension? If it did it doesn’t anymore! Generally very slow progress to the top but we were getting there slowly but surely. However as the road progresses it becomes steadily worse, severe grooves gashed into it too deep to go over, with little room either side, and just a bit too wide to try to straddle. As a result the underside of my car must look like a wild beast has had its way with it, I’ve not been brave enough to look to be honest. But suffice to say we “ran aground” (if we’re going to be all nautical) and couldn’t progress any further. We were too badly positioned in the road to leave the car and a little too far from the top to trek the rest of the way on foot. However there were wonderful views from where we had scuttled the car and so decided to do it where we were. And… I’d forgotten the batteries. The issue with last minute, off the cuff things is that stuff can go wrong because you’re rushing. Like this. So Rivington has officially beaten me 5 times now. Result? Dig out the car and head to the pub and watch what I couldn’t record.

Other things that have been done in recent days involve starting my job again as a glorified caretaker. Soul-destroying doesn’t come close. But also I’ve been off riding in helicopters (really curious about an airborne installation now, stupid I know but interesting idea), down in wales being a pro at crab fishing (I caught a huge one called Bernard but my so called “friends” wouldn’t let me keep him as a pet, they all were thrown back) watching a friend’s burlesque show (thanks to a wardrobe malfunction I’ve still not seen her knockers and irrevocably altered our relationship), and finalised my application for my Phd funding (big thing involving playlists, memories, archives and improvisation). Also started work on a friend’s birthday present that will rock hard, but can’t share it yet in case she reads this.

I’m also thinking of putting up a weekly playlist of a few tracks. Nothing big, just the music that has been following me around while doing this project. What do you reckon? Also the next blog post is looking at some of the software I use and cool tricks you can do with GPS etc.

So yeah, that was the week that was or something ( couldn’t come up with a suitably seaworthy way to sign off).

Arrr! Pieces of eight! etc.

BSM 1 – Water, Wurlizters & Focus Wheels

Yesterday heralded an unpremeditated jaunt to the seaside with some friends. There’s very little of my summer holiday left before the drudgery of work kicks in again so I’m adamant about two things; firstly that I spend lots of time running around in the sun, what little there is of it; and secondly that I make as many recordings before the galactic clock of the seasons runs out on me. With these facts in mind, the coincidence the weather was beautiful, and in case of emergency, I packed the sunshine machine gear in the boot of my car. You know… just in case.

I love Southport. Coastal towns around here aren’t great by any stretch of the imagination with this exception. You’ve got the horrifically polluted mouth of the Mersey with Liverpool towering over it with no beach or peace to be found. Further up the coast you have Blackpool in all its faded, tacky, pornographic glory. Even beyond that is Morecambe which, while its perfectly acceptable, is the preferred location for pensioners in the vicinity to take their holidays. It’s actually quite a nice little town but way past its best years. Maybe I’ll do Morecambe next week.
Anyway squeezed between Liverpool and Blackpool is Southport. Huge swathes of beaches, great old architecture, just the right amount of tack (enough to be kitsch and nostalgic, not enough to be cringey), and apparently a lot of very attractive people if yesterday was anything to go off.

Our day was spent messing around on the water. Motorboats could be hired for 20 minute stretches. It could have been quite idyllic had it not been for the loudest engine in the world and the poisonous fumes the engine was giving off. Then off to the tiny theme park. Perhaps the worst/best ghost train in the world; NOTHING HAPPENS. That is except a lot of sirens and a guys who’s job it was to wear a very cheap wolf mask and stalk around inside trying to make people jump. I didn’t realise bumper cars/dodgems still existed! I’d forgotten how wonderful they are. We should all ride those bad boys to work and back! Sod motorways, I’d get up a little early if it meant I could take out my rage on those around me in the morning crush.

It also appears that Southport has a very off phenonemon associated with it. There appears to be a much higher ratio of attractive people to average people in the town. It could be that we’ve discovered some holy grail of hotties. However I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s nothing to do with Southport and rather that simply where we live is filled with genetic rejects. Ah well.

Finally it rolled around to 8pm and those two friends pretty much fell asleep in the car while I fiddled and fettled the machine into life at a lovely spot on the coast road. However you can’t see it in the video. Rather annoying. After being super sure to fit the ND filter on the camera (I forgot last time) I fitted it with autofocus on, then flicked the autofocus off. So essentially the camera is focused on its own filter. Everything is hyper blurry. Booo… hiss! And whats worse is that it was a stunning sunset. But oddly enough it still looks pretty even when blurred. Rather colourific. Also met a lovely chap on a bike cycling along the coast road who stopped to have a chat and ask. I love that this project has me talking to random people a lot of the time. It’s so worth those suspicious/weird looks people give you when they aren’t brave enough to ask you what you’re doing and assume by default you must be a terrorist or a weirdo.

So this leaves me in my current quandary. If I want to try again this evening I need to leave in 12 minutes. The weather report doesn’t look fantastic but hopefully enough to get something out of it that could be worthwhile. But I also don’t have anyone to help me this evening making time constraints even more difficult. Do I or don’t I? It kills me to repeat it but it also kills me that last night’s was so lovely and I can’t share it with you as it should have been.

Summer’s End

Summer has been a strange mix of hyper activity and lethargy. While it has been a useful time for sourcing and performing installations for the project on occasion it has felt like the elements have been transpiring against me for the vast majority of the time. The weather this summer has not been good, although in England that’s hardly ever a surprise (especially living in the north-west with the Pennines pinning in any cloud cover and refusing to let it move off anywhere). It has had a massive impact on what could and has been achieved over my break away from those horrible jobs we do to ensure that life and interesting things can continue. Unfortunately it’s only just over a week until the monotony of work kicks in and reduces the time available to me to do more installations.

Hence why I’ve decided to spend my day getting the site really ready to roll. It’s spent the summer languishing in this almost-but-not-quite-finished beta state. Hopefully within the next few hours all the updates and current videos will be online ready for you. Links for the audio player should be properly working (and I’ll have figured how to do autoplay). And most importantly all the diagrams and materials for the open source section should be online too.

I also ask you a question that has been pressing on my mind recently. I normally carry on with projects out of pure strength of will and/or misguided enthusiasm. Sunshine Machine feels kind of different though. Normally projects are done to satisfy myself or some creative goal I carry. This feels much less centred internally for me. Do you think this is something that other people or you want to even know about? Does it interest you or am I way off the mark? I’m not looking for reassurance or praise, just an honest response as to whether you think this is a worthwhile project for me to be engaging myself with and more importantly will it engage others (as that is really the whole point of the project). Please do comment if you have an opinion either way.

Right, lots to do with this site so I’ll be back once all is sorted out.

Liam.x

P.S If there are still some alignment issues and the pages randomly jump to the right I’m very sorry. I know its happening and it is on my list of stuff to sort out.

Momentous Firsts

This morning I received some bad news from the lovely gent I had asked to help me with constructing the website for Sunshine Machine (basically what I wanted couldn’t be done). So instead I’ve spent some serious time and energy investing in constructing this website. It functions how I want it to and within the boundaries of what can be done on my non-existent budget. I’m also capable of administering and updating it entirely without help.

So as you look around these currently empty halls imagine the potential for expansion and population. There are still some teething issues with alignments, the audio player isn’t embedded yet, and some CSS coding rubbish but hopefully within a few days those should be worked out and we can really start to generate the copy and link to all the media we’ve generated over the last year.

If there was a huge budget this would have been finished months ago but since this is DIY or DIWO (do it with others) we can’t expect multimillion dollar budgets and tight timeframes. You can expect a lot of heart.
The timing of this is cooincidental but rather fortunate. Our next installation happens in 5 days time so hopefully that installation will give us the chance to test run the way the site works and how we can fit what we do in real life with what we allow to manifest digitally.

So until our last few teething problems are worked out and we’re posting properly we wish you a very interesting life.

———

sunshine machine team.x

Latest Installation Audio

Sunshine Machine 10 //
01/10/11 //
07:04 - 07:13 //
Home, Northwest, UK //

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