NMK Xmas Lecture

Introduced by Prof Liz Goodman of Smartlab, the event drew about 60 people, many from the academic world. They were better informed than I on the subject matter to be covered.

Sadly in her introduction the Prof attempted to speak over a video with a music soundtrack - visual & audio overload.

However, I'd not realised how Smartlab devote part of their time to enabling people with disabilities to communicate via tech that otherwise wouldn't be able to. As someone with a profoundly disabled daughter, this struck a chord with me and it was astonishing to see glimpses of their initiatives.

The second speaker was presenting her doctorate work on audio & visual imagery as it affects womens clothing (or something). At this point I was drowning amongst art academics, having no idea what was going on - art eats itself whilst making a racket! And these people get taxpayer funding to do this. Perhaps if I was smarter I'd get it or maybe I need a chip on the other shoulder to become more balanced.

Amusing moment when the video playback for one of her "narratives" using an apple mac struggled to play the file - no one other than the artist realised it wasn't meant to be that way until she apologised for the corruption of the composition. That's modern art for you - look at a mop in the corner and applaud the artists creativity and subliminal message, only for the embarrassed cleaner to walk in and remove it

One Smartlab installation is "world scent" for world peace. An artist collected the democratically chosen scent of every country of the world. These were then mixed in relative proportions to populations of those countries to produce a world scent. The installation was awarded a Unesco prize for peace, at least I assume that's the spelling. Of course, I may have misheard and they were perhaps describing the smell.

Finally, Martyn Ware gave a talk. According to the event notes "Martyn is best-known as a seminal 80s pop icon and co-founder of The Human League and Heaven 17. As record producer and artist, he has has contributed to recordings totaling over 50 million sales worldwide. More recently through the Illustrious Company - his recent creative venture with Vince Clarke of Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure - and his current Arts Council supported art project, the Future Of Sound, Martyn has developed a reputation as a convergent media 'Svengali' - working with and and showcasing some of the latest developments in immersive media and emergent technologies."

He demonstrated a 3D (2 level) surround sound (4 speakers in a square config, at ground & floor level, 8 speakers in all). He was then able to swing the sound through 3D using a joystick. The software can move 16 objects in the 3D space simultaneously to create a sensory environment. He terms it sonic sculpting and sonicimaging in a soundfield.

The biggest soundfield he's done was a 200m square operated over 48hrs through which a million people passed in Mexico City. Each sound composition was 2hrs long & many used the sounds of Mexico City. So real was the effect people were ducking as imaginery objects passed through the square or turning towards conversations.

He does a huge amounts of work with disabled people to help use sound & tech to enable them enjoy new experiences. They have created a sensory room from scratch in Bath, replacing the traditional sad installations I am only to used to at various institutions I've taken my daughter to.

The University of Virginia has recreated Rome from 400AD in 3D that you can wander through at street level inc every building and Martyn is doing the sound track as you wander through, hearing Rome around you.

He's worked with Sissel Tolaas who is a smell artist who has digitised 17,500 smells at the molecular level and can reproduce them accurately. In one case she digitised the sweat smell of 6 men from different parts of the World & recreated them in a single place - there were notable differences apparently.

Martyn's also working on transmitting 3D sound across the internet so that you could immerse yourself remotely in sounds from around the world within your own home.

In July 2008 he is hoping to do a soundlife of london in Leicester Sq.

One astonishing story he dropped in was about ancient Celtic tombs in Ireland where it was discovered they all resonated at 111htz - with the help of Cambridge Uni it was discovered this is the actual frequency which can put you into trance! How on earth ancient civilisations knew this let alone engineered it so precisely into tombs with what we assume are primitative facilities I have no idea.

The talk wasn't at all what I expected but was fascinating. Indeed the whole evening was enjoyable as I found myself unexpectedly immersed in a new environment.

posted by John Wilson @ 10:25 PM Permanent Link newsvine reddit


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