Tuesday, November 29, 2005

free sound!

looking for that perfect sound snippet of a thunderstorm, cranky meow or boiling water? better yet, looking for a home for your own audio snippets of thunderstorms, cranky meows or boiling water?

then check out
the freesound project, an ever-growing collection of recorded sounds that are offered up for anybody's use through a creative commons license. basically you can download sounds to your heart's content, or upload as many samples as you want, to share with others. freesound is an especially remarkable and important resource given the antiquated and tiresome copyright laws governing intellectual property these days.

there's a particularly nice sounding bell on the site that i like a lot, or maybe you'd prefer to listen to some hens right now. but don't just log on to listen to or download sounds, you should consider contributing some of your own audio treasures to the mix. the site's creators are working steadily toward the goal of posting 20,000 audio files to the site before 2,000,000 files are downloaded by visitors, so stop by and get busy uploading...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

house sounds

spent a few days with my family in ohio for thanksgiving and was particularly aware of the sounds of being home this time around. recognized familiar pops and cracks - sounds that don't seem to come from anywhere specific but are somehow still emitted from the walls and floors of the house i grew up in. sounds that just last week were exactly the same - as mysterious and benevolent, almost comforting - as they were twenty years ago when i heard them all year round.

[the hum of the heating system, the miniature roar of an avalanche as snow slides off the skylight above the staircase, the creak of the pantry door as i go searching for midnight snacks. (chips ahoy - but of course. and something akin to pringles - same shape but more of a potato-chippy food stuff.)]

it's a big, sprawling house, easy to lose people in so there's often someone yelling for someone else from another room. add a portable phone to the equation and you've got simultaneous yelps of 'where's the phone?' and 'you had it last' every time the thing rings. add a five year old nephew to the equation and you've also got 'auntie julie, when are you gonna show me how to play ping pong?' every five or so minutes, much to my extreme delight. and i couldn't have been happier to wake up each morning and immediately recognize the sound of the TV steeping upward through the floorboards from downstairs (the weather channel...but of course)

also just as i remembered them: sounds of the dogs chasing each other around the living room - bounding on and off the couches. the crash of the five ft. high gate meant to keep the dogs downstairs, shaking between its hinges as the cats sc.ale it, madly scrambling to safety from their canine housemates. the particular flick of lights turning on and off and the unmistakable rattle and spillage of the water bowl, as it goes skittering across the tile floor, accidentally kicked for the third time that day.

next year this house will probably be sold, so i was grateful to get an earful while i was there. in the meantime, i'm becoming accustomed to the sounds of my own place, here in chicago - the whine of the water coming out of the showerhead just when the temperature gets hot enough, the regular and impatient honking outside my window, my neighbor vaccuming overhead every sunday. the sounds, i suppose, of home sweet home...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

...for an hour on the radio

Q: where can you hear balloons popping for an hour on the radio, landscape paintings being meticulously described for an hour on the radio or the feeding of experimental musicians from stockholm (six different varieties of fake meat, no less) for an hour on the radio?

A: perhaps _nowhere_ but on
blind spot, a notably brave program inspired by the radio theater of the 1930's and 40's that broadcasts live every sunday night on WLUW in Chicago. blind spot employs a diverse (and i do mean diverse) range of styles, themes and strategies to accomplish their one clearly defined goal -- to explore the potential for radio as a place for artistic and experimental efforts, and to do this through live radio, i.e. the presence of bodies in a space: creating noise, reading scripts, releasing cats (yes there was a cat party show) or shoveling dirt...to name just a few scenarios.

bravo, i say!
sometimes the concept matters as much as the content...or more. sometimes it's fine to be bored by an idea. sometimes your radio need not be information-packed and delivered in a cadence you can imitate in your sleep. (poor all of us.) sometimes we allow art for art's sake...

it's not that every episode of blind spot holds my attention for the full sixty minutes. (nor theirs, they've confessed.) but i _have_ been astounded by so many of the ideas this SMALL crew of people has brought to the microphone, week after week. people...do you know how difficult it is to fill an hour of live radio every week?

well into their second season, these folks deserve your attention, and if you live in chicago and want to get involved, they would love your help. Give 'em a listen, or a

(broadcasting sundays from 10 to 11 pm on WLUW 88.7 fm chicago, and via webcast too.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

lampo brings mathieu brings radioland

this saturday lampo (bringer of experimental music and intermedia events to chicago) presents german sound artist/composer/musician stephan mathieu, performing 'radioland' - a suite of computer-processed live AM radio, accompanied by a fast, random video flicker of 256 colors. not sure what to expect...audio glimpses and snippets of golden oldies/ dusties? rabid sportscasters? spewed right-wing hatred for all things just and meaningful? traffic reports?

or maybe it'll all just sound like fuzzed out computer murmurings and secret drones, a sound pillow to rest your weary head against and simply listen to on a windy, chilling evening. helloooooo winter.

either way see you in radioland -

november 19th / 9 pm

6ODUM / 2116 W. Chicago Ave.
(across from the pierogi store)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


the sixth annual outer ear festival, a month-long presentation of performances, installations, radio broadcasts, cinema screenings, workshops, and roundtable discussions from chicago's very special experimental sound studio (ESS) kicks off this weekend with an installation at the lincoln park conservatory.

for the installation, composer bob snyder has created pseudorniphones - a multi-channel sound piece emulating the sounds of birds, based entirely on his memories of birdcalls. let's hope he remembers having heard a loon at some point in his life.

if you've never visited an experimental sound installation in the ferm room of a historic conservatory, may i please recommend the experience not once but regularly? and why not start with the opening reception for pseudorniphones, happening sunday november 13th from 3 - 5 pm. (in chicago. but a good a reason as any to visit, if you're not currently a resident.)

the outer ear festival continues in many manifestations through december 11th. check out the schedule and learn more about the participants here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

musique mechanique

recently stumbled upon a cd by pierre bastien, which i've been listening to whenever possible, since. bastien builds amazing musical instruments amounting to a one man mechanical orchestra which he both makes recordings on and performs with all over the world. and from tree tops. here's some text from bastien's website, which i have to admit, charmed my pants off. and not just because of its endearingly slight broken english quality!

In a studio, it is more than funny to build a small automaton that will play the violin, or a nigerian drum : rather an irreverent joke about Music, and about the human machine as well. So what ? Will a simple mechanism be able to play a violin, when a student spends so much time in learning how to bow ? Will the talking-drum sound, while beaten by the stick through a motor and some gears, instead of a dancer with muscles?

However, during a concert, the other way around : the constructor becomes a conductor. Instead of a screw driver, he now holds a trumpet. His fellow musicians are nobody else than his metallic contraptions. Their nerves are nothing but rubber rings. Their heart, some recycled electro-motors taken from old record-players. He has to trust on these light and fragile creations. The composition is based on this delicate machinery. Then a strange phenomenon occurs in the music, that makes the necessary emotion come less from the man, than from the machines around him.

Find out more about pierre bastien, see some neat photos and listen to some songs here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

prometheus strikes again nov. 11-13

a few months ago i came back from northampton, MA, all googly-eared about my experience there at the combined grassroots radio conference / prometheus barnraising, where after a weekend of all sorts of radio activities the low power fm radio station VFR actually came to life / joined the airwaves.

well, prometheus is at it again, this time in our corner (pocket?) of the world. if you're anywhere close (or feel like a nice drive through the midwest) consider joining the radiostation / barnraising happenings in urbana-champaign, IL, november 11-13. there'll be radio skills-sharing, opportunities to meet other radioheads from all over and most excitingly, at the end of the week 104.5 fm WRFU / Radio Free Urbana will claim its place in the radio universe.

additionally, if you've been thinking a lot about 'independent radio production' and would like to learn more i'm heading down there with my colleague roman mars and fire on the prairie's aaron sarver and emily udell, to present a discussion about just that. um, better start reading up on the subject...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


announcement! from now on, the Every Third Sunday Audio Gathering LISSENUP series will exist as an Every Six Weeks Or So Audio Gathering LISSENUP series. which means it's about time for:


a potluck/listening soiree,
with snacks, drinks, fine humans to talk to and a couple of audio stories to digest as well. including one about an octopus.

- sunday, november 13

- 7:30 - 10 pm / listening at 8:30ish
- in the lovely logan square neighborhood in chicago

send me an email if you'd like to come / need directions.