Network 2 (2018)

Crackle box and 10-relationship-network


  • 13-Apr-2018 - Spektrum, Berlin
  • 9-May-2018 - DeMontfort University, Leicester - Performance and lecture
  • 15-Jul-2018 - Iklectik, London
  • 27-Nov-2018 - Institut für Elektronische Musik, Graz - Performance and lecture

Network 2 is a work that uses the analog output of a crackle box (1) to drive a network of digital synthesizers and surround the performer's gestures with an immersive synthetic landscape. This landscape requires no intervention other than the input sounds for its whole development. These sounds are converted into a wide variety of data which are then recombined to generate all the aspects of the computer's response, which is always a result of a combination between incoming data and automatic behaviors; there is no use of sampling or timeline sequencing.
The sounds do not avoid referentiality: there is glitch, synth patterns, percussive gong-like sounds, a part evokes an eastern bowed string instrument. It's not an intellectual operation of decontextualization, those sounds belong to my experience. It is more a chance to explore a particular view of emergent behavior. We are starting to get used to the "alien" sounds of the machines, it is almost if we expect them to sound that way. What happens if the machines use sounds that we are starting to consider socially codified? If the machine behavior proposes with an unpredictable logic sounds that evoke a vague sense of familiarity and then betray our expectations?

In this work, there are two distinct phases of agency, which also determine two clear musical sections. The first section is responsive to the input sounds. Sometimes the association is direct, but most of the times is tangential: the spectrum analyzed is spread over a larger timespan, and often the computer recombines data coming from sounds produced at different times, blurring the association between sound and gesture. In the second section, there is no input analysis. The network uses all the data accumulated during the first section to generate an independent landscape with formal ties to the sounds played in the first section; although, the relationships are mostly unintelligible. Here, the result of the mapping process concerns mostly the spectral components of one single sound that is then repeated, lengthly, with a rhythm that is the symmetric reflection of the timing of the performative gestures.

(1) The crackle box is a circuit designed by Michel Waisvisz in 1974. The original circuit consists of an operational amplifier whose connections are brought on the control surface, and left open. The user, touching them, closes the circuit using the body as conductor. The sounds produced are related to the resistance of the body and the amount of pressure applied to the connectors. The classic crackle box used the integrated circuit LM709. Unfortunately, the LM709 is not that easy to find, so instead I used the schematics of John Richards bed of nails, which uses a far more common IC, the LM358. The op amp inside the LM358 is more stable and less prone to surprises, but in the bad of nails this is compensated using both the op amps on the IC, basically creating two crackle boxes feeding back into each other. Furthermore, there is a white noise generator made amplifying the background noise of a small 10 Ohm resistance connecting pin 2 and 3. The connection is done manually, pushing with the finger the resistor on the pad, so it's possible to control the white noise in a fairly performative way.