Posts Tagged: ‘iPhone’

RjDj Soundwalk

March 13, 2011 Posted by Milena D

After a brief hiatus where I was busy with who-knows-what…Oh, yes, being obsessed with the Harry Potter series and already planning my next Severus Snape halloween costume, ahem; I am back to RjDj with ideas for a new scene. And I’ve re-discovered three scenes I didn’t give a decent chance before – Aware and Unowis, and KDSP’s Replay Atlantis. Now, I’m having some trouble uploading to RjDj’s web interface (Error 413?) but I’ve made mmm, at least 5-6 new recordings. The trouble is really, it’s so easy to accumulate recordings, and I always have trouble thoroughly listening to them again…

The other great news is that I’ve successfully now proposed a soundwalk with RjDj through the Vancouver New Music 2011 Spring Soundwalk series. This is an excellent initiative that has a long history, and is associated with the WFAE and CASE in Canada, part of the worldwide acoustic ecology movement. I have to confess I’ve never actually attended an official VNM soundwalk, and I know the usual folks are used to some techno-geekery but I don’t know how exactly walking around with headphones in is going to pan out!

Really, the only thing I wish is that I had some more time to look at all the PD utilities and tutorials and make a new scene specifically geared towards the soundwalk, a scene that hopefully goes a bit beyond the RJC in sofistication…Next time!

Since RJDJ have now closed their product and all associated website support, including their embedded player, I can’t actually link to any of my recordings there. But thankfully, the recordings of the soundwalk (some samples anyway) can be accessed via the Interference Journal, where I published a piece with my collaborator and colleague Vincent Andrisani.

Interference Journal: Aural Cultures Vol. 1, Issue 1.


Rant – More RjDj

November 20, 2010 Posted by Milena D

I am sharing one of the latest recordings I made with also my first attempts at my own scene – The Everyday Listener. It has four pages/stages going from a more heavily processed, musical environment to a more “natural” one. I guess I was intrigued by the idea of introducing natural sounds (water, birds chirping) into an application that also samples and transforms one’s surrounding environment (which for me is often transit, traffic, street noise, etc.). I am yet to do more purposeful trips to record and preview different surroundings, not necessarily just with my scene, others too. I particularly like everything made by Kids on DSP – great stuff! And it is too bad I was never able to use “A Tool through which to experience the city” – when it actually managed to load, which was one of out ten times, it sounded terrible, and inevitably resulted in static noise. I realize the slowness may have to do with the fact that my phone is just a 3G, so a bit slower, but I think somehow it should work better.

Anyways, I am already thinking of a new scene that perhaps doesn’t use music per se, but synthetic drones and again moves towards a natural soundscape. Or, just a one-pager with some bird sounds and processed mic input. Simple but it might be fun. And then I can go out and compare a whole bunch of environments with their typical sounds. Hmm.

RjDj Universe!

November 17, 2010 Posted by Milena D

Ok, I have discovered a whole new way of experiencing everyday listening….still through my iPhone. Will the possibilities never end????? (Steve Jobs, pay me now, for free promo, or gimme cheezburgr, ktnx). After downloading this app called RjDj a while back, and wondering what the heck it does, something made me go back to it again and discover a whole new world of experiences. Initially, I only tried out the few simple interactive modules like Can of Beats and Scrambler. I have to admit, one thing that stopped me, or rather, made me lose interest at the time was, these were super quiet. Like suuuuuuper quiet. And there were only a few. I know I’ve updated it several times but I never checked back to see what was updated. And then recently I went back to discover a ton of new content, with the “scenes” separated by themes and modes of interactivity. Albeit still glitchy, probably due to the fact that most of this is user-generated content (using their great Pd-based software!!!) it contains a number of quite sophisticated, cool sound modules. The ability to record these scenes has been amazing for me. It’s like new style composition! One type of scenes called Soundtrips is especially interesting, relative to my research (I am thinkging of including it as an activity in the next two user sessions) – it contains modules specifically designed to interact with, sample and re-mix the environment around. Once again, I remember thinking about this a long time ago, trying these out at home, without headphones – “but it’s quiet here??!? I want to create music not wait for a sound to trigger something!!!”. So I thought, if I have to put on headphones at home, forget it, and if it’s so quiet, how would I hear it outside in all the noise of the city.

But now, I take this baby on the road and just listen to it go. Amazing! It was a big mental shift for me to put on the earbuds and go out. I often opt not to listen to music on the go becuase everthing is too loud and i just don’t want to ruin my hearing by turning it up too high. So the shift was precisely that – listening to a Soundtrip scene IS both like listening to music and listening to the outside environment at the same time, so the fact that they blend only adds to the experience. The whole point is ambient listening and the integration of the outside environment into that ambient listening experience. In other words, I am no longer trying to separate my inner and outer worlds, but combine them. Michael Bull could have a field day with this, but I found it first yesss!

I’ll likely blog about this a few more times, and for now here’s a little taste from my RjDj universe, a series I think I’m going to call “Commuter Music”. And since RJDJ have now closed their website, here is a bit of an oldie I saved on Soundcloud:

Aural Postcard: Jogging, Music, Place

April 22, 2010 Posted by Milena D

Running, especially longer distances, is a time when our listening is probably much more acute than in the rest of our daily routine. Whether one is listening to an electroacoustic soundscape over headphones, or just to the natural environment around them, there is nothing else to do but run and listen. If running with company, sometimes I like to have a conversation, and often a lively or controversial (better yet!) topic will keep my mind active and occupied enough so that my legs and lungs will forget about their workout. Conversely, when I am alone and with no electroacoustic aide, all my body aches, pains, corporeal awareness is heightened and all those sounds of my body – heavy footsteps, intensifying breath, amplified through bone conduction seem incredibly ominous, and my workout is quickly compromised. I bet that’s why I lot of people choose to wear headphones. Not so much to drown out the surrounding soundscape but to mask that heavy laboured breathing – the evidence of their effort. Lately I’ve run in two places, the Richmond dyke – picture on the right, and Seymour mountain (the left).

seymour Richmond dyke

Annotation: This account centres on my Richmond running experience, picture and measurements taken with “dB” and recordings also done with my iPhone. I recorded a bit of walking just to catch some ambiance from the trail path (a popular destination for many casual walks, bike rides, etc.) but I also recorded a little sonic pipe installation – a natural kinetic sound sculpture, near the Richman Oval building. Last, one of the days I was there the field was covered with so many white geese, making this adorable quacking sound as a choir, and I made a short recording of that too.

Narrative: The Richmond dyke is over ten km in length, strolling path alongside the Fraser River inlet connecting with the ocean. The other side of the water is frequently referred to as the Spit. The thing that struck me the first time I went running there with my running companion was how loud the area was, given that this strolling path was meant to be *the* quiet meditative reprieve for Richmond dwellers. Due to its proximity to several major highways and roads, a hydroplane run on the water, and the airport nearby, the place was rarely quiet. At around the 10th km from Richmand Oval the landscape really changes – gentrified, upper class, boutique surroundings and the setting becomes noticeably quieter, culminating in a wide grassy kite picnic area at the end of the Richmond dyke trail. Following is a recording from the first half of the trail, which is busier with families taking a walk, talking, children playing, etc.

Here is a little excerpt from the geese:

Richmond geese

There is a middle, transition space, one could say, between the industrial, noisy feel of the area around and past Richmond Oval, and the posh ponds near the park (the Richmond “Jericho”) – and that area feels more woody, like a real wilderness trail. There is a golf field off to one side and a wide tidal area with driftwood on the other. We even saw a large eagle’s nest on one of the trees. Of course, the soundscape changes accordingly – it is more pastoral, quieter. It is just past the area that can be seen on the picture to the left, with the geese. The geese, I should mention, added their own unique sonic stamp on that growing pastoral feeling – a regular soundmark of the acoustic community no doubt. Their chorus of clacking – like a conversation – was endlessly humorous. Anthropomorphizing, no doubt, they sounded like nagging grandmothers, egging each other on in their low level quacking, and raising levels together if there was an escalation caused by human intrusions or flight.

Again, the last recording I made (below) is from the area near the Oval, which is a lot more industrial, noisy and impersonal. Interestingly, even though the recording is of a “sound sculpture” or sound art of sorts, what the pipes do is amplify the existing soundscape, so you can hear it, even though it is musically pitched – still clearly a heavy traffic noise area.

Now, you might ask – well, what makes this a “secondary orality” experience? Well, is it turns out, my running partner needed to do a longer distance at a higher pace than me, so I fell back, put on my headphones and turned on a RadioLab podcast, somewhere at the halfway point. RadioLab, by the way, is a fantastic NPR subsidiary, professional grade radio programs, distributed for download as podcasts. They deal with a range of popular and scientific topics and are a great mental immersion (I found) particularly when doing exercise. Because of my current project, I decided to be a bit more reflective about my listening and my relationship to the whole soundscape surrounding me. These are my impressions….

The moment of transition from running and being in my body, present in the place, grounded and very aware of every bodily function – from that, to having a but of a headphone buffer to the outside and to begin listening to the inside voice of the stories from RadioLab, happening in that phantom central space between my ears – that moment is significant. It’s like the world opens all of a sudden in a completely new way. It is like I am still there, but not quite, I am also transported somewhere else by the program – in their WYNC studio, then in each field condition that they conduct an interview with one of the respondents. All of a sudden I can’t hear my own laboured breathing, my tired footsteps dragging on –  and it’s not that i can’t actually hear them, it is that I can comfortably ignore them and allow myself to be transported to the story world of the podcast program. And just as a fiery conversation carries me on the wings of emotion, the podcast too – sways me with the stories, some of them deep and meaningful and sad or profound or happy, and I forget about the distance and being tired. I laugh out loud sometimes, and I’m sure my face is a canvas of expressions related to my listening experience.

The only other thing I wanted to talk about is how this listening experience transforms space and place. Usually, while running (unaided by a designed soundscape) I take note of certain landmarks to mark the distance I’ve run, and to have a sense of – when coming back – how long do i have left after encountering the same landmark. I may also enjoy the view without necessarily making any associations. With headphones on, and a radio program running, I noticed how my relationship to place changed. All of a sudden, sounds from the environment somehow blended in with the podcast, or sounds from the podcast (they use some sound effects to contextualize stories) bled into and characterized my real surroundings. Somehow, my mind matched up continuously what I was seeing and what I was hearing, despite the complete arbitrariness of the connection. If I go running there again, certain landmarks will now remind me of certain moments in the stories I was listening to  – and vice versa – if I listened to any podcast, I can instantly visualize where I was when I listened to it. I don’t know if it is too much of a stretch to suggest that our (‘my’) general habituation in the conditions of secondary orality to what Hildegard Westerkamp calls music-as-environment is responsible for my readiness and acceptance of merging the sounds in my head to the surrounding landscape/soundscape. Even bleed-over between the two doesn’t impede, but adds to the merging. I remember at some point the podcast centred around the story of this suicide victim who had decided to jump from a bridge into this cove, but 3 seconds into the fall realized  he didn’t really want to die. Miraculously he was saved by a patrol boat…they had used some ocean wave sound effects for this portion of the podcast and I found myself looking around as I was running alongside actual water – an inlet of the ocean!…Even emotionally, the listening experience really coloured my presence – at some point the podcast was about this woman who has a rare syndrome where nothing seems real and she kept asking the doctor if she was dead and this was afterlife, because nothing seems real. I found myself with goosebumps and looking around all of a sudden seeing this sunny, happy people trail in a really ominous way, grasping desperately to determine it it all seems real to me!

I find music even more so does this to a place – imbues it with “meaning” – emotional content, mood – and that, it is not a stretch – is a common experience consuming any kind of multi-media. Space/place is *always* given an emotional context – and as such – meaning – through music.


Reivew – Sound Level Meters for the iPhone

February 25, 2010 Posted by Milena D

Just wanted to share two apps that I recently discovered for the iPhone. I was looking and trying to sift through various audio tools that are of decent quality given the hardware limitations (of which I am yet to educate myself).

One of them comes from Faber Acoustical I haven’t personally tried it, but it looks really good. So good, I had a dream about it (#nerddreams, what can you do). The Suite is $9.99, while the Sound Level Meter app standalone is $19.99, while a smaller app called dB is only 99 cents. As I don’t own any of them I can’t tell why the price disparity, as “dB” is a fun all-in-one snapshot of life – takes a picture with the date, time and dB measure for posterity. Some guesses are that perhaps “dB” doesn’t have A/C scale-weighting or other typical pro-SLM settings. However, in my opinion, unless you have a pro SML (those are in the vicinity of thousands of $$$) it might not be worth spending $20 on an app that you can’t calibrate professionally. I still think I’ll buy dB though, it’s too cute. And the Signal Suite, looks pretty good.

The other SLM comes from Studio Six Digital and is simply called SPL. I already bought that one ($8.99) and it’s quite good I think, readings seem accurate and stable, too bad I had already stored about six values before I realized the trim (the calibration setting) is set to +17.5 dB as default. Boo. I’ll have to redo those. Studio Six Digital also suggest a pro-calibration but offer that a typical trim would be +7 dB on the internal iPhone 3GS mic. I will give that a whirl.

Dare to Dream

Here is what I would ideally like – and why, oh why doesn’t it exist: A sound level meter app that comes with a signal noise generator for accurate calibration; many more slots for saving readings, a image capture capability with annotation (create a complete aural postcard of a place!); an embedded Spectrum and RTA visualization with each reading; A capture function – record dB readings or just peak values over a period of time; and an export function to export all the beautiful data in some great format to my computer.

Is that too much to ask?