Friday, 30 January 2009

Poême électronique, Edgard Varêse and Le Corbusier 1958

In my last post I discussed evoluon, a science museum built by Philips in Eindhoven and whilst looking through the liner notes of a Varêse CD, I saw his Poême électronique was also written for another Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World Fair.

The pavilion was designed by the studio of Le Corbusier and the lead architect of the pavilion was Iannis Xenakis. Visitors would enter through curved corridor, stand in a central chamber for the eight-minute presentation, and exit out the other side.

The presentation had images conceived by Le Corbusier and music by Varêse. The music was constructed by splicing together (on tape) pre-existing sounds and played through 425 speakers placed throughout the pavilion. The speakers were triggered to sound at specific intervals so the piece never sounded exactly the same at any location.

Varêse worked at the Philips laboratories in Eindhoven to produce the montage of sounds and it must have been quite spectacular to hear the 360 degree sound space.

The multimedia presentation, complete with images and music, can be played below:

Here's an mpeg version to download here (85mb).

Unfortunately the pavilion was soon demolished but the more familiar Atomium remains.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


Evoluon was a museum of science and technology in Eindhoven, that closed in 1989. Although I never visited it, it was an unique hands-on museum much like parts of the Science museum is today, in London.

One of the reasons I know about evoluon was because of a film shown repeatedly in the early 1970s as part of BBC test transmissions. Colour television was being introduced at that time in England, and the BBC would show short colour films that TV engineers used to set up TVs during the day (there was no 24 hour TV then :-)) - it was always one of my favourites.

What is interesting about this film, apart from the waves of nostalgia it induces, is the sound track with many electronic sounds and early voice synthesis interspersed with groovy late sixties music. I wonder if Kraftwerk saw this?

part 1

part 2


Friday, 16 January 2009

Metro/Underground maps #1 Moscow

I love metro maps, here's the first in an occassional series, Moscow.
Click the image for a larger view.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Getting it right

Last November I was asked to design a book about health issues for refugees called Getting it right. I received a printed copy the other day and I've posted some pages below.

One of the challenges in designing this kind of book is that you don't have much to work with other than type, and perhaps one or two colours. You can usually use images on the cover but you can't get away with using photos as decoration or fillers (there's a limited budget for buying or shooting photos or for printing in 4 colour for example). It is often a matter of understanding what the book is about, how people will navigate through it and then getting the grid and the type right – the rest follows on.

The Wire review of the Lani Singers CD Ninalik Ndwadi

I've just received a copy of The Wire review of the Lani Singers CD Ninalik Ndwadi. I'm playing bass on 8 tracks.

When the Dutch quit West Papua in 1961, that mineral-rich land was soon occupied by Indonesian forces. Since then 400,000 West Papuans have been killed by the invading militia. Once you encounter that sickening statistic in the liner notes to Ninaluk Ndawi (Freedom song), it's impossible to hear the artless charm of this music without a profound sense of human vulnerability and a sense too of human resilience and dignity. Benny and Maria Wenda, the Lani Singers, grew up in the remote central highland region, where the Lani people still lead uncomplicated lives. Most of Wenda's family were killed during an air bombardment. Subsequently, he attended university, was imprisoned for voicing resistance to the regime, and eventually escaped with his wife to the U K, where they run the Free West Papua Campaign. They harmonise over basic guitar and ukulele accompaniment; Roger Harmar adds occasional bass. The song structures bears the singalong imprint of European missionary music, although at times - notably on "Umameke Dearowakod" - an indigenous vocal tradition surfaces. These are modest, understated songs but they bear the weight of the worst and the best in human behaviour and are deeply affecting.

Sounding the site

This week I became involved in a new project that will result in a performance on the campus of Sussex University (above) called Sounding the site. Here's a description of the project that myself and others are working towards.
Sounding the Site is an arts event, planned to take place on the University of Sussex campus on Friday 24 April 2009. Loosely based on the theme of Homer’s Odyssey (the epic tale recounting the adventures of Ulysses as he island-hops his way home to Ithaca after the Trojan War) Sounding the Site will lead the audience in a journey around the campus, pausing at six different ‘Islands’. Each ‘Island’ will be created by a different group, and will present the audience with an experience (lasting around five minutes) in which word, image and music/sound are creatively combined. The whole journey, which will take around 1.5 hours to complete, will be accompanied by a chorus, providing a narrative thread to link the Islands together.
I'm writing a piece for one island and maybe doing some graphics or artwork depending on how the project develops. I'll post more when the project gets further along.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

one cat, eight fish

Welcome to one cat, eight fish, this my first post here at blogspot and I hope to share with you and discuss my work in graphic & information design and what can only be described as other stuff. As you may know, I'm also a musician and composer so the blog will cover some of the music projects I'm involved with in a little more detail than I've done previously at other places.

I have many interests that feed into my work and I was originally trained as scientist, so I hope to blog about science, politics and anything else that confronts me in my life.

I discovered that the main problem in setting up this blog was finding a name that hadn't been used by someone else. So to set the record straight, I have one cat and eight fish and they can see me typing this....