2020020

A selection of the Trans-Siberian Railway -Sound Archive is now available on Freesound. There are 35 clips (1.7gb) and I think the gps data mapping of the recordings alone tells a nice story. I’ve included Helsinki as a part of the Trans-Siberian railway network… As it was intended when the Tsar had our rails build. The archive would work great as background noise for a train-story/documentary or for train themed games. I think some clips might work as chopped samples too. The indexing of the files is a bit messy but there are real gems in the mix. My favorite clips are:

I’m listening to them while writing and I can feel the sounds vibrating my phone, which makes the clips feel material, like thin peals of the trip. Miinas note that the archive is linked with geology (or the process of harvesting geological samples for profit) feels acute. I like that the samples have interference sounds and occasionally my hands can be heard touching the mic. The interference makes the surrounding medias physical, it shows the limits of the recording technology and adds to the appeal. There is a clip were the microphone passes an x-ray machine for example. The material disturbances make me think of Viktor Toikkanen when he pushed his laptop to memory overload glitch territory when live-coding.

Our In Various Stages of Ruins exhibition series continues at Alkovi. The current exhibition titled Toxicity will be build gradually through the end of the summer towards the fall. Currently there are photos from the Town of Asbest on display, my humble C-Cassette recording we made with Jesse titled Two Men Coughing in the Woods (2020) and a set of DIY orthopedic supports I made for my feet (mentioned earlier).

20200514

Alkovi published an interview were we discuss the work I’ve been doing related to the In Various Stages of Ruins -project. The questions were send beforehand and the interview is conducted by Miina Hujala and video edited by Arttu Merimaa. Mineral waters are mentioned and views to the wild springs we found shared. The format is interesting, Miina is scrolling the screen vertically, the timeline is progressing horizontally and to read the longer parts one needs to pause the movement.

Konsthall C made an announcement for next weeks Mineral Water Sommelier Hotline performance. Build three piezo-amplifiers and seriously sourcing a sound card for the live stream.

20200214

The Mazizone local network archive I’ve been setting up for my Raspi3+ is stable and working well. I have occasional problems connecting to it and I need to “forget” the network to reset certificates. But this only happens when I’m login in and out intensively for tweaks & edits. The device reboots daily to prevent these kinds of clogs. I haven’t gotten Gammu (to produce daily status updates via sms) working but with the reboot cycle enabled I’m confident that the device will run well enough.

I build the sound archive using wordpress and it looks fresh. Using wordpress in Mazi causes issues with the network url but this is manageable (it redirects visitors to portal.mazizone.eu which is ok for me). I’m now planning to build a funky case for the device and to make an inviting sign which will guide visitors to the network and archive. While making the website I got the idea of using ornamental patterns as illustrations. I also used ornaments in the eurorack case I build for the trip. When I was designing the case I tough the Byzantine style decorations as a reference to early natural sciences (which my work on mineral waters touches). This spawned the idea to add ornamental figures to the thumbnails of the sound files in the archive.

Each sound file (53) has a unique photo assigned to it. The photos set a mood for the content and give a hint of the sound. Photos were shot during our train trip by Iona Roisin, Elina Vainio and Miina Hujala. On top of each photo is a layer of different ornamental shapes. They twirl around the thumbnail corners and interact with things and people in the images. I’ve used Kid3 to add the images to the .wav files. If I’ve understood correctly .wav’s don’t have thumbnails but Kid3 manages to embed the data anyway. The default wordpress media playlist widget can source the images from the files and display them next to the track info.

Now there are ornaments everywhere!

I like over the top ornaments which have an abundance of detail. In Russia I can spot them everywhere. They are used in architecture (Corinthian pedestals and window frames), street lamps, fonts, advertisements, jewelry and clothes. Sometimes the patterns look familiar. Shapes I’ve seen in Russia appear to fuse Byzantine style decorations with folk ornaments I worked with during my carpentry studies. I can recognize a patterns being identical to a traditional woodcarving I’ve seen in Finland. Pirtanauhat and kauluslaudat are good examples.

I guess ornaments appeal to me because they link traditional Finnish crafts with Byzantine history and even contemporary Islamic and Arabic cultures. We visited a folk culture museum in Kazan and many of the Islamic artifacts in the collection looked similar stuff I’ve seen in Finnish folk culture museums (particularly the wooden objects). Some of the clothes looked like something my mother would want to wear. Styles I link to Bedouin folk gowns that are decorated with coins, felt really similar to Russian military uniforms which are decorated with medallions.

The ornaments I’m using for the archive and the thumbnails remind me of weeds. I think they link the archive to “ruins” which Miina is interested in. I think ornaments should be read as celebration of decay. They simulate nonhuman futures by imagening how plant life will take over architecture. They feel like archaic glitch art! Sometimes ornaments in clothes look like roots or blood vessels. I think Scandinavian design aesthetic read ornaments as a vanity but if we approach them as a celebration of decay there is nothing vane in embracing them. I hate Scandinavian design because it makes me feel ashamed of my appetite for details.

Using ornaments to decorate a sound archive, which is difficult to access – Feels right and embedding weed-like ornaments inside metadata makes sense. Here is a low-resolution sample of what the archive looks like when browsed using a mobile phone.

20200128

I’m working on a Trans-Siberian Rails and Stations 2019 sound pack for Freesound.org. Currently adding descriptions and meta-data (locations & tags) to the files. I have some three hours of raw material to work trough (excluding a 40 min interview with our train steward, which I wont release unedited). Majority of the clips are 5 min long and they focus on complete work cycles (eg. break check at a station, bathing in a toilet) and ambiences from different locations (eg. restaurant wagon, cabin by night). Majority of the sounds were captured during our 180 hour return trip Vladivostok-Helsinki.

There are a some Trans-Siberian train related clips and a lot of train sounds on Freesound. Martin Sadoux has released a nice collection Russia Trans-Siberian Train in 2018. He has a good recording from the open third class wagons (which I don’t have). The collection I’m prepping will compliment previous releases well. I’m particularly proud of my recording of a break check at a station and I also collected a lot of interesting announcements. I also have some special sounds like the rattling of a samovar (using contact mics).

Miina made an interesting remark about my collection. Finnish explores of the early 20tieth century collected geological samples in hopes of tapping to natural resources and items made by other cultures or groups to develop ethnic narratives. Bringing stuff back home and displaying it for the public was an important gesture in the process of producing cultural capital for the developing Finnish state. Displaying stuff others had made here, illustrated our distance. The act of displaying stuff and material, validated the work of the explorers. Many ethnographic museums got started this way and the contemporary souvenir business echoes this.

My delight over a break-check sound, is a delight over a conquest of a rare resource. Field recordings can be identified as a geologic-like-wealth! Controlled distribution of this material makes it possible for me to harvests cultural capital. Could this process be put to good use? I don’t see hope in returning to esrek-like lisencing models. How could I share the material in a non-exploitative manner? Emphasizing movement to location: Playing the sounds in a Finnish train as the train is moving?

I’ve sometimes explained performances as condensed behavior which is informed by a site: A particular performance is only possible in a particular situation. This idea works better in Finnish: “esiintyminen” means acting, exhibiting or performing and is very close to the word “esiintymä” which means a geological deposit of ore. My condensed behavior on the Trans-Siberian railway trip made it possible to harvest documentations of events, where the train and people of the train performed in interesting ways. I was mining these event using my recorder.

Spotted interesting eurorack projects on the Freesound blog. CTAG Strämpler is a module which connects to the Freesound API and allow users to download sounds directly from the service. BeagleBoom works the same. Really interesting and specific devices.  I’m tempted to make an eurorack module which would only play sounds of particular event. A module dedicated to playing news reels and interview covering a specific public protests or animal? YLE should make something similar for their archive.

Saw Earth (2019) Nikolaus Geyrhalter at DocPoint festival. It was a really dull film which failed in its attempt to hide the fetishization of mining equipment and wastelands. There is nothing wrong in exploring toxicities. The directors attempt to disguise their interest into a moralistic sermon was perverse.

20190925

Vladivostok was the capital of pirates and brand cannibals. People looked stylish and the city center felt energetic. There was a pedestrian boulevard for tourists with Asian food novelties and gift shops. Visitors were from South-Korea and there was a lot of them. The city revealed itself as the South-Korean equivalent of what 2001 Tallinn was for Finns. Dolce, Supreme, weird Japanise sneakers with self illuminating laces. Referencing construction work and nuclear power. All straight from Chinese factories across the bay. All the goods in open street markets were tainted with a light layer of oil, it was meant to give the vinyl a shine but collected dust.

The cities makings were visible a stroll away from the boulevard. Away from the Kawaii shops, trams raddled like wheelbarrows, the pedestrian paths faded away and broken city heating pipes busted boiled trash fumes across the hilly skyline. Blockhouses like snakes, wrapped around hills as morbid rims. Solidified polyurethane dripping eternally from building seams. Cars moved furiously, using intuitive mutant patterns as lanes, in a choreography which echoed a collective death wish or lust for life. I loved it.

The city made me understand contemporary Russian infrastructure as the decaying corpus of the ex-soviet, presently habituated by a thin layer of privatization. The streets are rubble but people had pretty cars and clean albeit faintly oily Italian shoes.

Our one night show in Zarya felt really nice. The exhibition was more coherent and I enjoyed the videos in the screening more. Total atmospheric mean (2010) by Maija Timonen felt very fitting to the trip. Her analysis of a Shakira music video provided a ground to read styles which women are exhibited in Russian popular medias (that I’ve seen along our route). It has something to do with violent self-objectification and how this renders bodies non-penetrable and non-cavityish. I had some technical difficulties but apparently the audience didn’t notice any. My statue-stretch-poses were perfectly vague and I used my grandfathers voice as an underground cavern. It was porous and missing limbs. A line of men cued to have a taste of the water I prepared.

We are now on route to Moscow. Elina is working with a canvas for a text, photo, etc. piece. She’ll use the train and it’s movement trough the continent as a display. What I know of the work so far makes me think of our group as an Alkovi gallery in motion. Katja managed to aquire her more canvas material. The canvases will be delivered to a station stop on the way! Iona is working on her notes and Miina is reading. I’ll boot up my eurorack after Khabarovsk and attempt to link it to the train using piezos. I’ll also record noises and ambients of the trip.