Art of a Scientist is an annual offering from Duke Department of Science and Communication. The curators pair up artists and scientists in experimental collaborations to make science and data accessible to a wider audience. The 2021 exhibit was an online zine produced by The Power Company Gallery and ran through the month of March 2021. Some people had trouble accessing the piece via the Zine so Latent to Lytic is posted below.
This year brings another opportunity to stretch my understanding of scientific data and ideas by sounding them out! I worked with graduate student Elizabeth Goins from NCCU on her study of the effects of exogenous ethanol and acetate on Karposis-Sarcoma -associated Human Herpes Virus (KSHV). In addition, visual artist Heather Sanchez rendered the process through illustrations/animation!
KSHV enters the cell via glycoproteins on the surface of the host cell. The virus is carried through the cell by a special protein, and ends up in the nucleus. The virus remains latent in the nucleus until triggered into the lytic or active infection phase. Once triggered into lytic, there is a gene “cascade” that functions as a sort of assembly line of viral replication and is cytopathic to the cell. Goins found that both ethanol and acetate accelerate replication of the virus in human cells. Acetate, which is a biproduct of ethanol in the human body, not only accelerates viral replication but can actually trigger the change from latent to lytic.
The sonic illustration begins with the song phrase of a healthy cell replete with an active lipid bilayer! A rustling, rattling sound is the virus entering via the glycoproteins. Then a new voice enters and attaches to the song phrase of the healthy cell- this is the voice of the virus. The virus adds a new melodic aspect to the healthy cell song phrase, then works into and alters the nucleas, represented by percussion. Acetate burbles into the soundscape and triggers the lytic phase. The virus is now reactivated in its own song phrase with multiple replications resounding. Sanchez’s illustrations depict infected latent cells, the virus itself, with a 40 second animation of the entire process at the end of the sonic illustration.
The data used in RISE: Sonic Sketches of Sourdough Cultures is depicted in the graph you see below. This is the Optical Density growth profile over a 48 hour period for the 8 most prevalent strains of yeasts and lactic acid bacteria (LAB) found in The Sourdough Project’s 500 starter samples. Using these data defined shapes was suggested by their similarity to the motifs of Terry Riley’s In C, a piece that continually shapes and sharpens my appreciation of timbre and harmonics.
This data set turned out to be less important in the great scheme of the final Sourdough Project paper, however by assigning chromatic pitches to the OD levels from the lowest measured amount (.0867) to the highest amount (.8816) among all 8 taxa, a unique motif emerges for each one. The intervals between sampling points/tones reveal the growth rate and expansiveness of each taxa. The notes at each sampling point when strung together create a pentatonic pattern spread out over four octaves that will be the sonic profile of each strain of yeast and LAB. Here is an example of the motif for L Sanfrancisensis, a lactic acid bacteria common to sourdough starters.
There were 40 density amounts over 4 octaves, so 10 notes were needed in each octave and two notes had to go. Leaving out C and F in a scale with G as the fundamental pushed the scale toward more dissonance, which helps to create the “sour” part of the sound. The chromatic scale runs from G0 to G5 (the scale runs from G0 to F#4, and then jumps to G5. G5 is heard only in W. Anomalus). Here is the piece that introduces the yeast voices and pattern profiles – String of Yeasts
The LAB voices are horn, synth, brass and a plucked resonant instrument. LAB do not reach levels higher than .5 on the OD scale thus are lower in pitch class range overall. Several of the yeasts soar into the 4th octave, but the LAB all stay in the 0-3 octaves as they grow slower and less abundantly.
And then there are the Acetic Acid Bacteria that have not received much attention in previous research. One of the findings of the Sourdough Project is that highly variable abundances of AAB are a key driver of functional diversity across the 500 starters in the study. The AAB also contribute heavily to starter aroma. In the soundscape AAB will take the form of sculpted noise- mixing various shades of noise with audio of watery bubbling sounds. And since AAB are drivers, percussion will be used as well. The primary AAB, Acetobactor Malorum, is represented by a polyrythmic frame drum statement.
The Yeast and LAB sonification profiles are what I call “data-driven” in that specific data points have been used to depict each Yeast and LAB voice. The AAB sonification is “data-derived” in that the use of percussion as a driver, of burbling, watery sounds as fermentation, and of post-soundscape frequency artifacts as VOCs were all suggested by descriptions of AAB in the published paper.
Three individual starters were sonified for the album. SD_522 was chosen because it may demonstrate the impact of Acetobacter Malorum on functional diversity in starter microbiomes. This starter had 6 of the 8 articulated taxa in measurable amounts and Acetobacter Malorum as the primary AAB. SD_131 contained Acetobacter Malorum and hit 4 of the 6 aromatic notes, so the last 30 seconds of the soundscape are the audio artifacts representing volatile organic compounds (VOC). SD_299 was chosen because it is mostly LAB and DOES NOT have any S Cerevisiae and very little AAB. This allowed me to play with a very different sonic pallette from SD_522 and _131.
The album is available March 30, 2021 on Bandcamp, and within the month on all other music platforms! Thank you for your support!
Glenna Batson and Susan Sentler have continued their exploration of the visual-somatic signifigance of The Fold through a number of intensives and workshops on-line during the last year. I attended a weekend intensive and found it to be an amazing healing experience which drew people from all over the world. I enjoyed participating in their Deep Dives. Since sound is so compromised on Zoom, sharing of sound explorations in The Fold has not been possible. Until Now!
About a month ago, a new sound folding idea was suggested by Cathy Moore, who has attended a number of Human Origami Jams over the years. Cathy is a retired lawyer, community activist, and dancer. She also lives with Parkinson’s Disease – actually she dances with PD. Cathy is interested in the science of Parkinson’s and some recent research suggests that one of the factors in PD is misfolded/clumped/entangled proteins at motor synaptic junctions. These alpha-synucleins are responsible in part for triggering and stopping movement, both of which are hallmark PD symptoms. So Cathy suggested we work with the idea of entanglement.
My own felt sense is that entangled folds might feel crowded and tight at first. We are enmeshed in a network of folds where beginnings and ends are less clear and accessible. There is some holding/resistance in entanglement that constrains the fluidity of The Fold. The dampening of movement creates more stability, perhaps? And while there is a sense of being caught up in entanglement, there are many nooks and crannies to be explored as well.
The soundscape begins from a place of deep muffled constraint around which arises a whispy buzzy drone. The journey of the soundscape is to explore and release/cut through constraints. Entangled strands of sequences evolve and emerge from the muffled sound. They dance and resolve or dissolve as the muffled sound is released.
On March 20, 2021, a group of us met on Zoom. Thanks to Zoom audio improvements and YouTube assists, the soundscape had fidelity and was mixed with Glenna’s voice in a way that carried our intention across the ethers. The participant feedback after the dive indicated that many people engaged with and allowed the sonic/imagistic landscape to enter their worlds and bodies. While each person articulated their own unique journey through the dive, the one common response from most everyone was experiencing “release” and “letting go”. WoW!
With Glenna’s permission, here is an excerpt from the recording of our dive into and through “entanglement”:
Carol Vollmer’s glyph above was in response to Glenna’s prompt to “doodle” after the dive. The discussion was rich and heartfull, and so much wisdom was shared. I was honored to explore sounding The Fold with this community of curious and insightful people.
If you follow @thepinkladyapplehouse on Instagram, you know that Justin Holt plays many instruments, lays down bucket loads of recorded sounds each day, and can shape these sounds into incredible cascading sonic impressions. In the picture above, you see him taking spaceship Earth out for a spin last summer! In his latest release, Junk Tape Vol 2/UFO Mixtape, The Pink Lady Apple House beams cosmic light and stirs quantum fluctuations into satisfying sonic landscapes.
My favorite track, Delighted, features a conversation between electric guitar in the right ear and Moog Grandmother in the left over a lumbering drum and basswith lots of fun percussive frills. Fashion is constructed of layers of blips, bloops, twitters braided together with a driving drum and bass that gradually lose their clarity as more harmonic content is added to the mix till all finally gurgles away. Listen to Star Map and you will know all the places he went on those summer cosmic explorations.
The Pink Lady Apple House sound draws some comparisons to the free jazz of Medeski, Martin and Woods and Sun Ra Arkestra. His process plays off of Brian Eno’s “The Studio as a Compositional Tool “as he works with reel-to-reel tapes and often plays the mixing board in real time. Justin’s playing of the Roland SP 404 is phenomenal and figures prominently on this album, along with the Moog Grandmother. TPLAH creates soundscapes of layered, lo-fi sounds that dance in/out of tune and time while merging and modulating each other in surprising and delightful ways. They sound full and interesting through headphones, iphone speakers and full sound systems.
Listening to Junk Tape Vol 2/UFO Mix Tape reminded me of a Tom Wait’s music video where he was herky jerky dancing and singing a raggedy melody, and it was so fascinating and beautiful in an off-kilter way, a realization of awkward grace! You will hear that same level of energetic, animated, awkward grace on The Pink Lady Apple House’ Junk Tape Vol 2/UFO Mix Tape available now on Bandcamp: thepinkladyapplehouse.bandcamp.com/album/junk-tape-vol-2-the-ufo-mixtape
Recommended for deep listeners, resonant advisors, and all explorers of the timbral Universe!
The Sourdough Project data is finally starting to sing!! The paper, The function and diversity of sourdough microbiomes, is on the verge of being published and I have completed 3 pieces for an album of soundscapes based on the data and findings of the paper.
A little over a year ago, I started working with the Optical Density growth patterns of the 8 most prominent taxa in the 500 starters. Here is a link to the blog post about this idea:
Recently I revised the scale to be a multi-octave expansive scale and aligned the 40 specific growth data points with notes on that scale. Each yeast and LAB (lactic acid bacteria) now is expressed as a multi-octave pentatonic pattern. Here is the final version of String of Yeasts which will introduce the four yeast voices on the album RISE:Sonic Sketches of Sourdough Cultures to be released in March 2021. This piece features K Servazzi, W Anomalus, K Humilis, and S Cerevisiae.
Eight months ago, the Elektron Model: Samples became part of my sounding board. (Here is a blog post about some preliminary explorations- https://wp.me/p5yJTY-Ch) When the MS started having key sticking issues, and the Global Reset rendered repairs inaccessible, the sounding board landed in limbo land. During this dreamy time, I realized/remembered that I want to play Control Voltages. The MS is a audio/midi device that can sequence synths that accept digital signals. CVs are another realm entirely! Although many synths can be stimulated by both types of signals, the depth and breadth of CVs is unparallelled to my ear.
Thanks to the flexibility of Sweetwater Music and the take charge attitude of my Sweetwater Sales Agent, Paul Allen, the MS (and a little cash) was exchanged for a Make Noise O-Control!! FINALLY, I have a voltage controlled modular set up as I pair this sweet thing with the Behringer Neutron!! Here you have it:
Today is the fifth day of play with my mini-mod, and I am happily patching, playing, studying manuals and/or Patch and Tweak, and deeply listening. Here are some sound samples from my first week’s play.
Thanks to Nancy Lowe from AS IS Center near Penland School, I am “new best friends” with Mark Boyd. Mark is a sound artist who records and amplifies the “voices” of plants, ants and flowing water: the realm of the tiny vibratory world. Talk about deep listening! Mark has been using electrode sensors on plants into a Volca Synth to listen to the electrical life force within the plant! He sent me recordings of his “biologues” with Bleeding Heart and Fern, and Dogwood. The playback presents us with a lot of fast-paced random sounds. Mark is interested in transducing this data into something people might listen to. Here is an excerpt from Mark’s Bleeding Heart and Fern biologues:
Ableton Live contains numerous tools for transposing/transducing/converting sonic data. An audio clip, such as the one you just heard, can be converted into midi clips; one that renders melody information, and another that renders harmonic information. So now we have audio information rendered as 2 packets of midi information. Within Ableton, midi files can be collapsed or stretched across a timeline and still maintain the integrity of the rhythmic intervals. Midi data can be assigned to a “voice” that feels representative of the sound artist’s impressions of the particular plant that is speaking. Midi data can be fed back into a synth such as the Volca to complete the circle.
The scaling of the time frames of the midi clips is exactly what is needed to help us “hear” the biofeedback from the plants. Doubling the length of the midi clip slows the overall “tempo” and helps us to listen into a kind of river of sound emitted by the plants. Slowing down allows us to tune into a rhythmic cohesiveness that is obscured by the frantic pace of the plant’s raw electrical impulses. We inject spaciousness into the mix in just the right amount, and it sounds like something is being communicated.
After finishing the new rendering of the data, I sent this to Mark:
He was ecstatic, over the top about all the possibilities of Ableton. He downloaded the Lite version and took off with it. We had some great email exchanges and he sent me samplings of his tests and experiments with the flora around his mountain home. Here is a beautiful example with a plant in Mark’s home:
I look forward to Mark putting together an orchestra of local flora in concert in the near future. In the meantime, I am enjoying dialoguing with another human being who is listening as deeply as I am.
Here is a 8 minute excerpt from dejacusse’ hour long broadcast on Thursday afternoon July 30 from 2:48 pm to 3:45 pm. (cause I eschew ideas of “perfection”, and all her followers and gatekeepers.) Today we featured Theta Waves (frequencies divisible by 5 and 8) at 200hz and under at 108 bpm. These Sine waves were then set off in relation to each other, and filtered through flangers, resonators, delays, reverbs and frequency filters within Ableton Live. The idea is to unfold harmonics from these interactions, and enfold them back on themselves. Some pretty cool stuff emerges- not for everyone, but if you feel the resonance, that is the best! Thanks for listening if you do!
Once again I find myself back with Ableton Live. A couple of posts ago, my sounding board was set and I was starting to put some things together in Elektron: Model Samples along with Ableton and the Neutron. Then a couple of the trigger keys on the Model Samples started sticking. This is comparable to a sticking piano key. At first, I was OK with having this be another random possibility within my workflow, but more triggers got in on the act, and I couldn’t tell which keys were sticking, and that random possibility became a more fixed probability. So for now the Model Samples is boxed up waiting to go to the technicians at Sweetwater whenever they get Elektron techs back at the shop. This is my last purchase from Sweetwater! I am miffed that this is taking months to resolve and I am left with several ideas in early development within the Model Samples that are now on hold. Instead of wasting energy being miffed, I am turning to some new ways to play in Ableton.
Under the Audio Effects subfolder DJ and Performance within Ableton Live, there are One Knob effects racks capable of creating dramatic changes to any sound when the One Knob is turned. The changes are achieved by placing several different audio effects in a rack and then using midi map to attach a variety of parameter changes from each effect onto the One Knob. The parameter ranges can even be adjusted as to how big a change the knob sweep brings. After working with Audio Animation Clips/Envelope Generators, this seems like a promising new direction to explore.
My favorite One Knob Rack is Fade to Gray, which houses a three band EQ and a Ping Pong Delay. Here are pictures of each of these effects:
Turning the One Knob lowers the mid frequency band of the EQ Three by 6dB while the low frequency and high frequencies sweep toward the midrange as the wet signal and feedback swoop up to 95%. Now a tiny slice of mid-range frequencies feeding back on itself goes into the Ping Pong Delay, where the signal and feedback go to 95%. All of these changes are happening over time and in relation to each other. While the end result is a thin and distant decaying echo of the completely subdued orginal signal, every stop along the One Knob sweep renders new sonic terrain. So cool!
Now I am inspired! What sorts of changes can be wrought in this environment? I want to make One Knob Racks that sculpt the sound in interesting ways! Start simple: made a few changes in the Fade to Gray letting in some lower range frequencies on the EQ3 and bringing the crossing frequencies together at a lower bandwidth. So this Fades to Throb rather than Gray. I suppose I should have picked a color- it would be Blue, Fade to Blue. Throb describes the end result more clearly, so that is the name!
For several weeks now, I have been making, testing, throwing away and saving One Knob Racks. My project contains an audio track with sound samples from Ableton and from Library dejacusse. That track is routed into another audio track which contains the One Knob Racks and is routed to the Master output track. With this setup, the original audio track signal goes directly to the One Knob track, so the original audio is heard through that track. When I close all the One Knob Racks (there are seven so far but I forsee hundreds) no sound comes out the Master track. All the frequencies have been gathered and are being held within the racks. One type of improvisation might be to slowly unveil the original audio by opening the One Knob Racks a bit at a time. When they are all completely at 0, the original signal and all its frequencies are now sounding through the One Knob track and out to the Master. So much potential here!
But wait, there is more! There are a couple of tracks hanging around over beside the Master Track. These are Return Tracks. The original audio track and the One Knob track both have two Sends knobs that send signal to the return tracks. This is another way to add some effects processing to a signal and also have it be available for all the tracks. As it turns out, the send knob on the original audio track can bring that signal forward through the return track even when all the One Knob racks are closed! This is sooooo cool, because as the One Knobs are opening, some of the original sound can be brought up into the mix to give listening ears some direction and excitation. The return tracks can also have effects on them. WoW!
This is exciting for me because it aligns with everything I am creating right now. I seek methods for including all frequencies in the sonic pallette, for rendering frequencies in as many dimensions as I can tune into, for conveying information/data/quanta via sound, and for creating diffuse, diverse sonic delights. I tune into joy and delight in many strange waveforms.
I am drawn to the idea of unFolding, uncovering, and revealing which this method opens up to. Also, the idea of integration and disintegration, which I started exploring over 10 years ago with Unhinged Melody (which later became Circuslocution with iBoD). The idea was an 8 bar upbeat riff that started as individual random sounding notes and slowly came together. Every note has its place and it eventually gets there with some extra notes for good measure! Each One Knob Rack will shape the sound into particular forms, then as one Rack feeds into another, the various level settings create new sonic relationships within the original audio.
Creating these One Knob Racks is teaching me so much about each audio effect in Ableton and what it does. The other part of this will be the sounds that pass through the Racks, what will they be? And then there is the order that the Racks are placed in to maximize the interplay of the Racks as they pass the sound around and through themselves.
Here is a quick journey through some of the sonic territory these knobs can uncover! The original audio is Eleanor Mills playing harmonica and me talking and playing uke. Listen for those times when the original sound is hard to distinguish.
Today I worked with a 8 second clip of Jim Kellough’s digital horn and here is the result: