In the Mist of an Arcane Pop

A Radio broadcast produced for the ABC Classic FM, The Listening Room. The work was funded by an Australia Council New Media Arts Fellowship in 1997.

‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ by Robyn Ravlich.

Robyn Ravlich, the Executive Producer on this project at the ABC’s The Listening Room reviewed the work amongst others in her essay, ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ ….
‘[Start review] Two other radio artworks come to mind. One again draws on donations or contributions, this time from those willing to sing in the shower and submit a recording to composer Thomas Fitzgerald for inclusion in his radiophonic composition Shower Songs (2004). This explored climate change and drought, very much in evidence in Australia at that time, as well as a metaphorical drought caused by the drying up of individual musical expression. Shower Songs joined Damian Castaldi’s ABC artist-residency work In the Mist of an Arcane Pop (1997) in responding creatively to rising concerns about global warming and climate change. In the Mist of an Arcane Pop builds a cinematic sound world of environmental mismanagement by greed, the destruction of the Amazon forests, and the proliferation of unnatural forest fires. “Hello, bright spark”, a seductive voice calls, “gotta light?” With catchy rhythms and beats you could dance to this creation, animalistically invoking the spirits of rain and clean air. These works suggest a context for me where Talking about the Weather might be placed and considered – they are occupying similar airspace, but there’s a further key to be found in the artists’ collaborative body of work and certain modes that are emerging in it. [End review]’

In the Mist of an Arcane Pop soundscape is included in THE CREATIVE EAR. The ABC’s The Listening Room and the nurturing of Sound Art in Australia. A dissertation presented by Donald F Richards in fulfilment of the requirements for his degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Artist’s Abstract:
We live in the mist of an arcane pop. In the mouth of a secret fire. We monitor and crackle and self-destruct as the lungs of the world ignite. “The latest satellite information reveals ……….”, “there we’re body parts everywhere and absolutely no survivors”. In a battleground, an inner city sub-station, feeding back data from a satellite truck. It’s a daytime obsession or lunchtime release as we watch ourselves, monitor ourselves, doing what we do to ourselves.

Audio Excerpts

Short excerpt 1
Short excerpt 2
CD cover project description & artwork

The sound design and compositional techniques employed in the creation of the work include:

1. Live and random recordings from a sensor driven space where improvised body movement triggered an electrical signal to an analog to midi digitiser, computer and digital sampler. The light, heat and movement intensity levels created by my body were converted from electrical performance data to MIDI bytes by an I-Cube digitiser . This was then processed on a computer within a Max patch and output locally via an ensoniq asr-10 sampler. The sensors used to capture signals and transfer data included: short range proximity, temperature, contact pressure, illumination level 1 & 2 and an LED actuator. 

2. Sound synthesis of single mono digital audio files sampled or generated and processed on the computer using Tom Erbes SoundHack software for multiple audio processing. Using the binaural filtering process in the SoundHack software I have experimented with the listeners spatial perception of an audio signal simulated at a possible twelve positions around the head; at, below or above ear level. This has been done using a HRTF (head related transfer function) as a filter, a function for each position around the head. These HRTF’s were obtained by Durand R Begault, using methods described in “3-D Sound for Virtual Reality and Multimedia”.

3. Sound synthesis and processing of digitally recorded single note frequency tunings on aluminium bars.

4. In the mixing and editing of this work I tried to combine abstract and concrete musical terms and explore the manipulation and placement of dynamic combinations of multi-textured and layered environmental sounds, percussive rhythms, processed voice, digital samples and electric guitar. I wanted to manipulate organic, found and processed sounds separately, clustering occasionally but not always compositionally bound together.

Sketch of constructed instrument (large tuned aluminium bars, resonators & platform) & compositional notes