Friday, June 5, 2009

last days...

i flew back to the uk on 29th may, but hit the ground running and have only now found time to update the active crossover blog and finish my story...

the night time recording session with john grzinich and taavi tuulev was excellent - we went right out into the countryside once more and visited a couple of lakes as the sun rose. i was aprticularly happy with recordings of creaking trees and some crazed birds singing their hearts out as dawn broke. the mosquito bites i could have done without!

the last entry described the first workshop, which seemed to go well, but i had reservations about. the second day the weather had turned and it was raining. i gave the short presentation of my work, equipment and methods, abley assisted by john, and then we took the group into a disused part of the polymer factory we had been granted access to.
this part has large open plan rooms with debris littering the floor and windows missing. the perfect place to blindfold participants and leave them to negotiate the space using their other senses. we split the group so two people could ensure 3-4 blindfolded participants did not injure themselves or each other. i ran this part for well over 30 minutes and the group i was overseeing were incredible to watch. they moved slowly and carefully around the space, but stopped by open windows, corners, doorways, and really listened.
when we removed the blindfolds and returned to the residents room i asked the question, how long do you feel you were blindfolded for? most said 10-15 minutes! that was the answer i was hoping for! the response the previous day was good, but the second workshop hit all the buttons i was aiming for.

that evening the art container had organised an event where films were shown, a dj played, john and i, and two who from finland, also performed, and estonian painter, peeter allik, took live fish from a huge tank of water in the middle of the red hall at the polymer factory, killed them and cooked them. it was a strange night - very busy, and lots of people getting up to catch the fish - but the image that will stay with me is when the first fish was caught and taken to the preparation table, another guy (tutu?) tried to cut the fish, or skin it while still alive. peeter then took an axe to the fish, beheading it thankfully, but gradually all eyes turned to the fishtank, one end of which faced the prep table. all the remaining fish had lined up to face the tale, pressing their faces up against the glass, as if watching their fallen comrade! weird stuff... from what i understand, it has caused many people to reconsider eating fish...

the thursday workshop started shakily with technical problems with projecting from my laptop, but we overcame them and i showed the very basics of multitrack composition using audacity. the biggest challenge was working with participants using both pc's and macs! the response to this part was also very positive, and i have a number of compositions that will be included in all exhibitions, installations and the framework radio show i am compiling.

john left, after arranging to return to run workshops with ernest - a good relationship has started there i feel - and i threw a small thank you and goodbye party for the residents of the polymer factory who helped and supported me during my time there. beer and vodka flowed forth into the night....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

photos from the last week

photos by jgrzinich -

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

1st workshop

Having been away in Mooste and Riga - and being really busy in Riga, with a late night radio performance, a visit to a disused power station, a night of 6 performers at the Goija Tea Rooms, and then having to get back to Tallinn to meet Doug Benford Sunday night - I have been appallingly slack with updating the blog.
Before I go any further, details of the performance event tomorrow night can be found here:
So, here I am, back in Tallinn for a couple of days, flying back to the uk on Friday. The first presentation and listening workshop ran today and seemed to go down well. After a brief introduction to me and my work, I demonstrated the equipment I use. We then walked to a quiet spot - quite hard to do in Tallinn - and half the group donned blindfolds, with the other half acting as guides. We walked up streets away from traffic, stopped on corners to hear the trolley bus cables sing, walked through the park to the old town. Then blindfolds were removed and back to the park to hear what a hydrophone does. Also I demonstrated my contact mic's and how different things sound through objects. This time the second half of the group wore the blindfolds, guided by the previous group members. This time we walked through the train station, across to where the trams make fantastic sounds through the rails, then around the russian market and back to the Polymer Factory.
Although most participants said they didn't hear anything they hadn't heard before, their sense of time was distorted, and passing objects (cars, bikes) seemed a lot closer.

So, now I sit and wait for Mr. Grzinich to drive up from Mooste. We're taking a trip to a penninsula to watch the sunrise and do some recording, then hopefully visit the area where Stalker was filmed - I'm really looking forward to that...

Here are a couple of links to sound clips from the visit to the power station - please note, no processing has been carried out on either.

Looking back I realised I haven't added anything since at Moks! We drove to the nearest train station at 9:00 on the Thursday morning, and just missed the train by minutes, so had to drive into Latvia and get a bus. We arrived in Riga around 14:30 and after meeting Max (Maksims Shentelevs) we were on our way to the now infamous disused power station.
We were wandering around the building and climbing places we probably shouldn't have been until gone 20:00! It's a recordist's dream!

Then Jez had an interview on late night radio, so we tagged along and after he played a set a bunch of us started playing - i haven't listened back to the results yet, but it was pretty full-on...

The next day I was one of 6 artists playing the Goija tea rooms - I played early, and through not being announced, and through playing a quiet-LOUD-quiet set, I think most people only realised someone had played by the ripple of applause that started inside and gradually meandered outside, where a set of speakers enabled those who didn't want to lay down on rugs smelling of incense were hanging out... After some technical problems Jez played a lovely set, then I think John was up - and he's mesmerising! It was great to watch him work! After Evgeniy Droomoff, whose work wasn't my cup of tea, Sound Meccano (Rostislav Rekuta) played a really nice electronics and environmental sounds set. Max and his buddy Kaspars played last and also did good work - field recordings and amplified driftwood...

The following day - this was another day where we got up around midday because the previous night went on into the early hours of the morning - we hung out, went to the junk market, where i picked up a crappy old mic that's identical to one John found in the power station, then John, Rostislav and I attended the Touch Spire event that was running as part of Sound Forest in Riga. I have to say, there's a reason why organs and churches were built, the two fit each other perfectly... Amplified music/sound using a straightforward pa setup doesn't work. It sounds flat and lost, or in Philip Jeck's case, just harsh, although that may have been the volume he was playing at. Hildur Gudnadottir's composition, played on the organ by Charles Matthews while she moved the stops incrementally, was so good - inspiring in it's simplicity.
The three of us, not being able to gatecrash the Touch aftershow party, hit the theatrebar, where we somehow managed to get free drinks all night!! Fantastic!

The bus trip back to Tallinn the following day (Sunday) was uneventful until we stopped at the border and officials got on asking to see passports.... guess who'd left his in Tallinn...? I got away with stern looks, rather than being kept in Latvia, but I won't be doing that again.
And got back just in time to have a well-needed and overdue shower and run out to old town to meet doug Benford at another church and listen to the Highgate Choir, to be followed by the best food i've had since arriving here - wild boar cooked in a juniper sauce.

Yesterday was laundry day, and another excursion around a disused building, this time part of the polymer factory, and meeting a lovely guy called Shawn Pinchbeck in the evening at Noku. Shawn, I didn't stay on for that extra drink, tempting though it was I didn't really want to sit in the place on my own!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Active Crossover as part of Global Container VI

Kunstikonteiner & Kultuuritehas Polymer esitlevad:


27. mai 2009

Algusega kell 19.00

Ernest Truely ( US/EST ) - Late Night Drawing Salon

Peeter Allik ( EST ) – Live Performance

John Grzinich ( US/EST ) – Sound Art

Simon Whetham ( UK ) - Sound Art

Liivi Tantaal ( EST ) – Live Performance

Kaarel Arb ( EST ) – Sound

Film Screenings

Jätkuvalt avatud Erik Alalooga Müsteerium

Liivi Tantaal ( EST ) – Kestvusperformance

Kl 16.00 alanud protsessi kulminatsioon.

Kl 19.00

Ernest Truely ( US/EST ) – Öine joonistuskursus

New Yorgi juut Eestis, Academia Non Grata eks-rektor jätkab oma iganädalast joonistuskursust. Elav modell. Süsi, pliiats, akvarell.

Kl 20.00 – 23. 00

Peeter Allik ( EST ) – Performance

Eesti legendaarseim graafik paneb üheks õhtuks linoolinoa tuppe ja püüab oma suurt kala tegevuskunstis.

Kl 20.00 – 23.00

John Grzinich ( US/EST ) – Sound Art

Tiksutamine ja sahistamine.

Kl 19.00 – 24.00

Simon Whetham ( UK ) - Sound Art

Vaata eelmist.

Kl 19.00 – 24.00

Kaarel Arb ( EST ) – Sound

Happy kinky shit.

Kl 21.00 – 24.00


Neli jalga hea, kaks jalga paha.

Kl 19.00 – 01.00

Jätkuvalt on avatud Erik Alalooga kinemaatiline müsteerium „Tecnophobile“.

Kl 19.00 – 01.00

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Today - Moks, Mooste, Estonia

today was an unexpected pleasure, hanging out at moks with jez (riley french) and john (grzinich). initially we were going to stay in tartu last night and head for riga today, but plans change, so i came to moks last night after a lovely evening of performance (courtesy of jez and myself) and presentation (ana carvalho), and georgian food (the country, not the period in time).
a short walk around the village with jez showed how great it is up here! it's like a playground for guys like us! entry is not largely restricted when it comes to disused buildings, unlike back home, so you can climb in things, on things, over things - fantastic!
john came over around lunchtime and we set off for a high telephone mast to record the tethering cables, and then up north to a swamp where we recorded with hydrophones for quite a while.
i came back to find 9 people have already signed up for the workshops i'm running on 26th and 27th, which is great news.
apologies for not adding any sound clips today - i haven't even had a chance to listen back myself yet!


Active Crossover - A Call for Participants


Field Recording Workshop - Simon Whetham

Call for participants

It could be said that sounds evoke memories and emotions more strongly than photographs, transporting you back in time and space…..

And although we are surrounded by sound all the time, you can hear it, but how often do you really listen?

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to stop hearing sound? You can close your eyes easily, but the ears are not so simple. And often, if you are able to shield your ears from loud or undesirable sounds, you can still feel them with your body as the vibrations enter you, move you, shake you.

Simon Whetham, from Bristol, UK, composes new sound environments through phonography: the evocative art of using field recordings of natural sounds. Hearing, and then capturing the music in everyday noises, Simon draws the listener's attention to the subtle details and sound layers commonly disregarded.

Simon has both performed extensively and had his work presented in many galleries in the UK and in Europe. His sound compositions have been released through a number of specialist record labels, such as Trente Oiseaux, Entr'acte and Gruenrekorder, with forthcoming releases from 1000fussler, And/OAR, Con-V and Lens Records. Visit and to hear work and view past projects.

Currently an Artist in Residence at the Art Container, Simon will be running field recording workshops May26-28 2009.

Workshop Descriptions May 26-28

The workshops will take place at the Art Container, Madara 22, Tallinn. Each workshop session costs 100 kroon (or 150 Kroon for one of the first two sessions and the third advanced session), which includes a CD of the sounds recorded during the workshop for each participant. Recordings made during the workshops will be featured on a webpage, accessible via links though the Polymer, Art Container and Simon's websites, and are to be included in a touring exhibition in the UK following Simon's residency. The recordings will also be included during a performance May 27 20:00.

Everyone is welcome to participate, from those who know nothing about sound recording, to experienced musicians, sound engineers and artists, who may be willing to learn new techniques or share their ideas.

May 26 14:00-18:00

An introduction to field recording , Simon's work, methods and equipment – which include digital recorders by Edirol and Zoom, an extremely directional Sennheiser microphone, self-built microphones that detect sound through surfaces and an Aquarian hydrophone that records sounds under water.

There will be a presentation of Tallinn sounds captured during Simon's current residency.

Participants will go on a short walk while blindfolded, experiencing the sounds of the city without visual distractions, to realise how complex the sound environment is.

May 27 14:00-18:00

An introduction to field recording , Simon's work, methods and equipment – which include digital recorders by Edirol and Zoom, an extremely directional Sennheiser microphone, self-built microphones that detect sound through surfaces and an Aquarian hydrophone that records sounds under water.

There will be a presentation of Tallinn sounds captured during Simon's current residency.

Participants will go on a short walk while blindfolded, experiencing the sounds of the city without visual distractions, to realise how complex the sound environment is.

Groups will be limited to ten participants. Two days of workshops are offered due to the response to the workshop.

If you have access to any portable digital recording device please bring it with you!

To pre-register to participate in the workshop, please contact Simon:

May 27th, 20:00
ound performance event, featuring Simon Whetham and John Grzinich from Moks, with more music and an exhibition at Polymer and Art Container. All welcome!

May 28 14:00-18:00

The session on 28th will introduce basic sound editing and composition techniques. For this participants will require a laptop, and the free software application Audacity (

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

performance in tartu

apologies for not updating sooner, but i have spent the last couple of days travelling to tartu, and recording here, with last night and this morning spent editing said recordings ready for a performance at the y-gallery, here in tartu.
the town is pretty, like an estonian cambridge maybe, with lots of students and cycling around town. the other side of this is you find some of the disaffected 'youth' investing time and money in loud ugly cars they like to drive round town very fast in.
i must have walked a fair few miles yesterday - i think i visited every corner of the town, and it was refreshingly successful, with a large number of good quality recordings captured. tallinn, as the capital, is very noisy traffic-wise. great if all you want to record is traffic!
i got some amazing sounds from the bridge in the image i have included, but you'll have to wait until you hear the completed composition from the residency... (you'll notice the large number of locks attached to the side of the bridge. a tradition of estonian marriage is to have your names engraved on a lock and then attach it to a bridge like so, although apparently these are to be removed as they rust and damage the metal of the bridge.)

i have however uploaded some other recordings, the links for which are below:

a special mention goes to toomas thetloff, who has been the perfect host since i arrived in tartu. we spent quite a portion of the evening recording his wire brush and contact mic setup, which sounds lovely, and somewhat steve reich-like. i hope to include an installation of toomas' work in the exhibition of active crossover later in the year, and maybe even get him to bristol to perform as part of the event.