The project: Make a phase composition based on the sounds of three switches.
Record the audio of three objects in your home or workplace that have on/off switches. Capture the unique sound of them being turned on and off. For each of the switches, record several seconds of this on/off action so you can create loops of a steady pace. Then create an original piece of music that employs phase shifts — that is, in which the tiny distinctions between loops create noticeable patterning as time progresses. You can use some light processing, but the sense of “switch-ness” of the source audio should never be lost.
With this project I’m using Samplr on an iPad Air. I recorded three different switch samples, all from pull chains. One was from a troublesome fluorescent light fixture in the deepest storage area of our lower level – that got the most texture. The second was from a single bulb switch near the laundry. The third involved two switches for a ceiling fan and it’s light, and these were pulled at a faster but uneven tempo. I used a Zoom H1 mounted on a mic stand on a chair, and recorded each switch for about 20 to 30 seconds.
In the Samplr project I doubled each loop and ensured that loop’s twin was not reading the same areas – also, one loop had a slight bit of reverb and the other didn’t.
Composition was recorded live, direct to Zoom H1. It took me a number of attempts to create something I liked. Ultimately, I started simple, added samples in the middle added a light touch of reverb, and in final third I withdrew different loops until ending abruptly. There’s a bit of hum in the background – I can’t tell if that’s from the fluorescent sample or a bad cord from the iPad to the H1, possibly both.
After 80 seconds, it gets wildly rhythmic, but a couple of loops keep a more steady pace and seem to punctuate the denser rhythms with a bold presence. The piece begins to withdraw after 2 minute and 30 seconds.
I can’t believe nobody had used “Switched-on” as a title by the time I made my piece. It was too irresistible. An alternate title I considered using was “Bad Chain Puller” (after Captain Beefheart), which is probably funnier.
More on this 101st Disquiet Junto project (Make a phase composition based on the sounds of three switches) at: disquiet.com/2013/12/05/disquiet0101-analogbinary/
More details on the Disquiet Junto at: soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/