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  • Writer's pictureClaire Cical

From Inside the box

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

After spending the first years of my life in nature, connecting with all kinds of living creatures, insects and small mammals, snakes and birds, trees and plants, I started having a close relationship with technology.


Around the age of seven I was using Paint to draw on the family Amiga, horses in fantasy landscapes, saturated abstract pieces and typography.

I spent the summer of 1997 on my brand new Pentium II, learning how to use 3DS Max. The computer was set up in my bedroom so I had basically unlimited access to it. I remember the result was a short animation of a patch of grass, with a few flowers and a butterfly flying from one to the other. A colorful and bouncy recreation of the amazing environment surrounding me, in which I spent all my summers before that one. Of course it is gone forever but I could probably recreate it pretty easily, remembering it very vividly as I spent hundreds of hours looking at it then.


The year after I started getting access to the internet.


In 2013 I started working on a factory line, which gave me opportunities to explore the relationship of my body with the machine and its environment. Producing batteries, means of energy for trains and planes, producing machines for the machines, entails working with a lot of harmful chemicals, heavy metals, and a lot of noise. In the years I spent there, my body itself evolved into a machine, tapping into resources I did not know I had.


The level of noise in the factory is pretty high, and the first day I had trouble hearing what people were telling me. After some time the brain adapts and learns how to filter out the noise, and I would soon be able to hearing every word, even told under the breath. One day we all felt like something was off, and it did take us a few hours to figure out that indeed the vents in charge of cleaning the air were off.


Machines can be looked into, and their guts are mendable. When working with a machine long enough, my body will adapt to its rhythm.


Computers store data, they are the machines of language. They are also prone to fatal errors. When working with computers, I tend to push them outside of their capacities.


Delving further into the intimacy of my relationship with machines and computers, aiming for an opportunity of an improvisation that would give the technology some agentivity, I am recording my sound experiments.


  • The point of hearing is always from inside the box.

  • The harmony is to be found through the superposition created by delay and feedback.

  • Sound is contained in the object.

  • All of the pieces rely heavily on stereo sound, placing the listener inside the dispositive itself.

PHASMR1


PHASMR1 is a computer produced acousmatic piece that immerses the listener into a surrealist landscape. The piece uses the Sensory Overload Interface (S.O.I.), which is controlled by the Kinesthetic Instrument, a unique device that uses pressure sensors to map touch onto the sonic output.

It is a composition of heavily processed and distorted sounds recorded by the microphone of the laptop running the interface, resulting in everchanging sonic textures. The listener is transported into an otherworldly space where the familiar is twisted and distorted, leaving only a sense of disorientation and mystery. We enter into a completely different reality, one that is chaotic and unpredictable.


At its core, the Sensory Overload Interface (S.O.I.) is a cybernetic system that enables the user to control the parameters of the soundscape being produced. The Kinesthetic Instrument acts as the mediator between the user and the S.O.I., allowing me to manipulate the system through touch. I use the Kinesthetic Instrument to control the parameters of the sounds and build up layers of sonic material in a fluid and intuitive way. Tapping the screen, caressing the keyboard, and whispering in the microphone, I create a gestural language that is translated into sound.


One of the key tenets of cybernetics is the idea of circular causality, which is the notion that cause and effect are not linear, but rather operate in a feedback loop. In the case of PHASMR1, this feedback loop is evident in the way that my physical gestures are translated into sound through the S.O.I., and how the resulting sounds then inform my subsequent actions.


This circularity creates a constantly evolving system, where each action and reaction modifies the overall soundscape in real-time, creating a dynamic relationship between the artist and the work, blurring the boundaries between the two. The resulting piece, in turn, communicates with the audience, eliciting an emotional response that is both visceral and abstract.


As we plunge ourselves in PHASMR1, we can feel the power of the Kinesthetic Instrument and the Kinesthetic Cybernetics. The sounds and textures challenge us to question the limits of human perception and the role that technology plays in our understanding of the world.


As we continue to blur the lines between human and machine, we must confront the ethical implications of such a transformation.


How can we ensure that we maintain our autonomy and agency in a world where technology and biology are increasingly intertwined?


How can we preserve our sense of self when our bodies and minds are constantly modified and enhanced by technology?



Springs



The Spring Instrument was made for the artist and composer Valerie Vivancos. Noise, to be played by the musician, is conveniently contained in a wooden box. This box is covered with springs and a guitar string is attached to it. The object itself resonates. It is an instrument for music concrète. It produces mechanical sounds.




The noises you hear come from inside the box and are unprocessed. They are the raw outputs of the mics, in a realtime recording of my first encounter with the Spring Instrument.


This piece is giving a direct account of the production of the sound, with the minimal digital work necessary to make it available to others through the internet. It is the track, taken directly from my Tascam Recorder through the stereo piezo microphones inside the box, uncut, unedited, without any compression other than the one applied by the streaming service, without effects, and no mastering.


The urgency is to meet with the instrument in a very limited amount of time after building it, and sending it away. It is a collection of some of its potentialities.





020127_0178 is the sound of the machine.


The landscape is highly spatialized due to the positions of the microphones in relation to the springs.


The video was produced through analog video-feedback processed through an analog video synthesizer called the Vidiot. The rapidly evolving patterns seem to react to the soundtrack, even though it is not the case.


Hearing from inside the machine


The Sensory Overload Interface allows us to perceive the auditory content of our environment through the point of hearing of the machine.


The input consists of sound captured by the device, the Kinesthetic Instrument, by binaural microphones. The sound is then processed by the Software (MSM), according to the parameters set by the sensory system of the machine, composed of an ensemble of captors. The captors turn the Kinesthetic Instrument into a complex, layered, sensitive, responsive device allowing us to communicate with the machine in a novel way.


We then get to perceive the output through the headphones. Due to the binaural way of acquiring the sound source, it creates an illusion which superimpose itself to our environment. It is as if we are hearing from the point of hearing of the machine, as if we were hearing from inside the computer.



The dispositive feeds our auditory system with a version of reality corrupted by the machine.

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