Noise Machines with Noise Orchestra

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Noise Machines with Noise Orchestra

Join Noise Orchestra at Test Card tonight for a live demo and series of performances using the ‘Noise Machines’ – sound and light circuits – they have have built with a host of Manchester interdisciplinary artists.

Noise Orchestra are Manchester based sound art duo David Birchall and Vicky Clarke. They have been developing a series of electronic ‘Noise Machines’ that can translate light into sound. These machines are synthesizer units such as drones, delays and sequencers that include light theremin circuitry.

In August 2016 Noise Orchestra were awarded an Innovate UK grant to research and develop these machines to help them answer the following question:

“How can light-noise synthesizers expand the creative possibilities of using light and gesture in performance and music making?”

Working in collaboration with Brighter Sound, this research project aimed to test and develop these Noise Machines with electronic musicians and interdisciplinary artists.

For the first stage they looked at the sonic features of the machines to see how they could be improved. A crack team of Manchester musicians were put together to road test the machines in a series of Brighter Sound focus groups, giving feedback on:

  • sound and timbre of machines
  • waveforms: types/ manipulation and signal flow
  • gestural parameters and playability (LDRs/buttons/knobs/switches)
  • functions and sonic parameters (filters/eq)

The second focus group saw a mixture of returning participants and new faces testing the latest features – a VCO and low pass filter – added to the machines following initial feedback.

Some really interesting conversations came out of this session, discussing points such as the tactility and materiality of the machines, the labelling of the pots/parameters, the possibility of creating graphics or icons rather than traditional labels, and how the machines could talk to each other, switch each other on or off or be controlled by the light of another.

Here’s a recording of the second group’s feedback…

In the third focus group David and Vicky were able to show the group new circuit designs including the VCO-LFO-LPF setup and early tests for drum circuits. The group had some fantastic suggestions and discussion points especially around the element of control in performance. For example, is it possible to loop or hold a particular timbre or sound? Can the light be controlled by a switch so that the artist is able to reproduce a particular sequence of events or sounds during recording?

Check out the group playing with the machines…

They also discussed the potential of creating randomised polyrhythms but also having the option to sync or combine steady rhythms with random sounds over the top.

Here’s a recording of the third group’s feedback…

We’re can’t wait to see and hear the Noise Machines in action tonight, and we’re particularly looking forward to seeing how talented artists such Michael-Jon Mizra and Brandon M. Bizzle use the machines during live performance. This is only the first stage of machine development – we’re all very excited to see what Noise Orchestra do next!