This year, at Manchester’s FutureEverything digital arts festival, artist duo James Bulley and Daniel Jones installed the third iteration of their sound installation Maelstrom. Based in south-east London, the pair’s practice challenges the limitations of sound, music and systems. This particular work, composed of a dozen speakers, emits a musical score using data sourced from the Internet in real-time.
We hope it provokes some thought as to the overwhelming amount of data that is present in our everyday lives and the way in which it’s exponentially increasing. The work also allows the viewer to acknowledge the process of listening
Dazed Digital: How did you both get involved with FutureEverything this year?
James Bulley and Daniel Jones: Daniel exhibited work here in 2008 as part of SoundNetwork, a north-west based sound art collective, back when FutureEverything was called FutureSonic. This year, Maelstrom seemed an incredibly good fit for this year’s participatory theme, especially in the way it uses crowdsourced material in real-time. The 1830 building at MOSI is a wonderful building to install the piece in and provides an interesting physical counterpoint to the piece’s sculptural aspects.
DD: And yet in Maelstrom these sculptural elements play a passive role when considering the overall aural experience. How is the score for Maelstrom composed?
James Bulley and Daniel Jones: The score is written as an octet for eight different instruments. The software constantly searches and uploads raw material containing each of those instruments. This arrangement includes double bass, cello, french horn, violin, piccolo, flute and two varieties of drone.
DD: If you’ve got all these different instruments going, what sorts of control systems are in place to curate what sound is being projected and when?
James Bulley and Daniel Jones: The software we created is continuously searching for material tagged with each of those instruments. It analyses the sound content based on frequencies, separating it into microscopic pitched fragments which are then triggered by their related notes within the score. There are also some spatialising elements that shift and rotate the audio around the spiral twelve speaker system.
DD: Considering all the audio in the work is borrowed, have you encountered any copyright issues?
James Bulley and Daniel Jones: Ha! Good question. This comes down a very grey area of copyright law. We’re not too worried about this – the fragments are so tiny - we’re talking milliseconds - that they are unrecognisable. Not only that, but the piece is not being recorded, or broadcast, so the only way you can experience it is to be at the installation itself!
DD: What do you hope that visitors to the exhibition will take away from Maelstrom?
James Bulley and Daniel Jones: We hope it provokes some thought as to the overwhelming amount of data that is present in our everyday lives and the way in which it’s exponentially increasing. The work also allows the viewer to acknowledge the process of listening.
James Bulley and Daniel Jones’ ‘Maelstrom’ will be displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester as part of FutureEverything until 10 June 2012