Friday, March 2, 2012

The Intersection

It may interest you to know that I have a Bachelor's degree in Studio Art.

Art and Science have never seemed to be separate to me, a position held by some quite respectable minds over the years.  In my view, both are ultimately about applying a process of experimentation and refinement to a problem, until a solution is arrived upon.  Over time, others build on that work, and expand it into a deeper understanding of the world.  

That process and the blurry division of Art from Science sometimes pops up in a very elegant fashion.
Take, for instance, this:

I haven't yet looked into the actual apparatus, but I can make some educated guesses.  The "tone-arm" of the turntable is set to slowly track in across the slice of tree.  Instead of a stylus, it has a high magnification digital camera (hence the very bright light).  The image is then treated as raw sound data and fed into a sampler, where it triggers a piano sample.  Variation in the ring produce different notes: dark areas such as old injuries or burns produce bass notes.  Lighter areas produce higher notes.  The distance between them determines the timing, hence the cacophony of notes produced by the second "album", which is much more tightly grained. The width of the features may determine the sustain of the note.  

I quite like it, as it transforms the events in a tree's life into a music of sorts; the thin darker rings at the end of the growing season and impending senescence contrast with the light spring wood, injuries pop out any time they occur, and uneventful periods of even, continuous growth are silent.

(tip o' the hat to friend and cultural maven Theremina)

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