In a quest to find the right place for technology in my artistic practice, I’m realising that the point may simply be that I can “do more” using computer-aided tools than is possible by hand.
For a recent project I found a place for some simple software in analysing the spectrum of a piece of music to use as the subject for a drawing.
It started with a musical work (constructed from found sounds) created by a fellow student (https://www.instagram.com/spungles/), which I adopted as the subject for work that developed over some weeks. I was inspired by the work of Cornelius Cardew, a composer known for his use of non-standard (and notably geometric) notation to document his compositions.
Initially I wanted to discover the structure of the music as some kind of grid, inspired by Agnes Martin’s methodical paintings. I also like how she would leave behind the graphite framework beneath her over-painting, a reminder of her underlying structure and process.
I began from basic spectrum analysis using an OpenFrameworks library to perform a Fast Fourier Transform on the audio stream, and plotted out the results on a time graph.
I’d found some structure to use! The music had a fairly subtle repeated motif that showed up in the spectrum. The output also visualised the overall shape of the audio over time.
Sketches of course. Lots of sketches and experiments to find a language that I could use to make a visual work from my collaborator’s original sound piece.
When I mixed colour with a graphite underpinning (thank you Agnes Martin), and water flowing down in the direction of time, it felt like I almost had the beginning of something.
Finally the pieces started to fall into place.
I returned to my simple music analysis program and made it plot something similar to the structure I’d been drawing by hand using graphite.
Around about this time, an Axidraw pen plotter that I’d had on preorder for some months finally arrived!
Now I had a way to join together my software tools with a physical making process, something that appeals to the printmaker in me.
After making some trial runs using black ink drawn by the plotter using a fountain pen, and combinations of coloured brush pen, charcoal, pigment powder and water, I felt ready to make something a little more finished.
More work on the software followed, until I was able to drive the plotter to make the grid structure on A3 cold press watercolour paper:
And then various media layered over to make the final piece.
I suspect there’s a series lurking in here, based on different types of music, but for now I’m leaving the idea as is. A first adventure with the pen plotter, and my first glimpse into using software as part of a material exploration.