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Cities and Memory Dada Sounds project launch (5th Feb)

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05 February 2016 marks 100 years since the founding of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, and thus the beginning of Dada.
To mark the occasion, Cities and Memory: Dada Sounds marks a century of Dadaism by applying the techniques and practices of Dada to field recordings from around the world, bringing a Dadaist approach to the concepts of sound, place and memory and creating a new, Dada-inspired sound world.
The project has received contributions from 77 sound artists from all over the world using sounds recorded in 28 countries including some iconic Dada locations like Berlin, Paris and even the doorstep of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich.
The sounds use a huge range of Dada-inspired techniques to reimagine the sounds, from collage and abstraction to sound poetry and pieces based around the lives and experiences of some of the key figures of Dada.
Examples of techniques and approaches include:

  • Introduction of extinct languages including Ubykh, ancient Assyrian and Gothic;
  • Reimagining sounds using specially-made Intonamuri machines;
  • How to Make a Dadaist Field Recording – a rewriting of Tristan Tzara’s method How to Make a Dadaist Poem;
  • Multiple sound poems, written by artists themselves or drawn from Dadaist history;
  • Pieces bases around the work and lives of key Dada figures including Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Kurt Schwitters and Francis Picabia;
  • Pieces inspired by Orson Welles, David Bowie, Duke Ellington and myriad other sources.

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This is one such entry, San Bartolo Dada Sound poem, created by Alan Dunn and Jeff Young. “These are the century year old ghosts of Kurt Schwitter’s sound recordings. DUNN + YOUNG are Liverpool-based artists with a large archive of voice recordings and these minute-long compositions, layered over four Cities and Memories field recordings, feature frail voices, those isolated by society or left damaged by military experiments with LSD. Two tracks have been exclusively mixed for the Dada sounds project by Liverpool-based artist Martin Heslop.”
I’d highly recommend visiting the Cities and Memory: Dada Sounds website which has further details, a fully interactive sound map and a complete playlist too.
I’m delighted to be a part of this project, it’s funny because I’ve realised that I tend use a lot of these sort of techniques without knowing their origins.
The intention with this entry was to focus on a couple of techniques, namely chance and collage. I really like the collage or ‘cut up’ approach to field recordings. They are a snapshot in time which makes them unique and interesting to work with anyway. However, using this technique offers new insights by making the recording non-linear and stepping outside of time almost. The element of chance is also intriguing, it can provide movement in sound and create patterns you wouldn’t otherwise use but there’s always the inherent risk of dissonance or sounds that don’t go well together.
In this song I’ve used chance for the drums, bassline and pad sounds. The drums are generated by ‘groove physics’. This is a box containing 8 balls which are assigned a drum sample. You set the speed of rotation and duration of sample and each time they collide or hit a wall the sample is triggered. The bassline is constructed from a midi sequencer with random pattern generation and there’s a pad sound created using a midi randomator.
A drone was created using a micro loop from the sample with automation on the speed / grain settings to give some movement and variation.
There’s a synth playing a chord which has a ring modulator effect automated by physics which gives great movement in sound from the chord itself to a distorted, bitcrushed sound at times.
I’ve also used collage on the sample with ‘groove matrix’. I loaded 4 instances of the sample and set loop points. I’ve then used a random sequencer to control how they are triggered and altered loop set points, pitch and sequence parameters during the recording to give different perspectives on the sample. There’s also a tape stop effect on the drums in certain places.
I created the song in Usine Hollyhock II DAW which facilities this type of sound manipulation making the process really easy. It contains a lot of sound manipulation tools and effects like granulators, delays, ring mods with easy automation of controls. It’s a modular system so you can create your own patches and routing with virtually unlimited possibilities. It’s primarily aimed at live performance so it copes very well with changing settings with no degradation in the sound, even for maths intensive operations like granulators and delays.
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If you’re interested and would like to join in, Cities and Memory welcome submissions either as part of projects like this one or alternatively you can submit reimagined sounds of your own or from their collection. Full details can be found on their website.
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