05: Florasonic (Transcript)

Alex Inglizian This is a really old, like, laser gun toy. It just makes the coolest sounds.

*laser gun sounds*

Alex Inglizian It’s pretty awesome.

Craig Shank How do you feel about starting out this time?

George Drake Jr. Sure.

Craig Shank Go for it!

George Drake Jr. I’m George Drake Jr.

Craig Shank I’m Craig Shank.

George Drake Jr. And this is Everything Sounds.

Craig Shank You know what’s great when it gets cold outside?

George Drake Jr. Hot chocolate…with marshmallows.

Craig Shank Yeah, but no.

George Drake Jr. Ok. Down comforters.

Craig Shank You’re on the right track.

George Drake Jr. Being inside instead of outside?

Craig Shank Bingo!

George Drake Jr. Yes!

Craig Shank And even better, being in a greenhouse!

George Drake Jr. Oh yes, I know which one you’re talking about.

Craig Shank But we’ll get to that later.

George Drake Jr. And the laser gun, we’ll get to as well.

Craig Shank Just give it a minute.

George Drake Jr. It will make sense eventually.

Craig Shank First, we need to take you to the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago.

Alex Inglizian Uh…ok.

George Drake Jr. This is Alex

Alex Inglizian My name is Alex Inglizian.

George Drake Jr. He works at the Experimental Sound Studio

Alex Inglizian I work here at the Experimental Sound Studio. I’m the chief engineer as well as the technical supervisor.

George Drake Jr. He’s the one that showed us the laser gun. See? I told you we’d come back to it.

Craig Shank He showed us some other instruments too.

Alex Inglizian …a wooden mbira…Its intention is just to make the loudest sort of awful sound probably…that’s just a little toy flute…

George Drake Jr. Eventually, we found out what they actually do there.

Alex Inglizian Let’s see if I can remember our mission statement…we’re dedicated to the production, promotion, preservation, and…there’s one more “P.” Production, promotion, preservation, and…ahh, I can’t remember it.

Craig Shank It’s actually, “Production, promotion, presentation and preservation…”

Alex Inglizian …of the sonic arts.

Craig Shank And they really do live up to that mission statement

Alex Inglizian Not only do we have really excellent programs and public presentations, so we definitely offer that to people that are looking to become part of the community, but as well, we have our recording facilities for artists that want to actually create things and very affordable rates open to any type of project. And additionally, we do a lot of one-on-one tutorials as well as workshops. So, just towards the end of the summer we wrapped up our series of DIY electronic workshops. It was all about learning how to build experimental electronic instruments. So, stuff like that and we sort of offer those things on a one-on-one basis as well as, like, recording techniques and ProTools techniques and making recordings.

George Drake Jr. But the Experimental Sound Studio does much more than holding workshops and preserving old recordings.

Craig Shank Since 2001 they’ve had a permanent sound installation at the Lincoln Park Conservatory called Florasonic.

Alex Inglizian Yeah, Florasonic is…well, I wish you could speak to Lou about it because I’m sure he’d have a lot more to say.

George Drake Jr. He’s the guy in charge.

Alex Inglizian Lou Mallozi, who is the executive director here and founder.

Craig Shank So, we caught up with him a little later.

Lou Mallozi Florasonic is a sound installation commissioning series and it’s the only series in the U.S. that commissions artists to do sound installations in public space.

Craig Shank But still, what is it exactly?

Lou Mallozi The site for Florasonic is the Fern Room of the Lincoln Park Conservatory, which is a very large greenhouse space and it’s essentially an artificial rainforest environment. We’ve installed four loudspeakers, a very simple playback system, and then we commission artists and composers to make works that are specific to the site that reference the idea of this site in whatever form, either as a kind of transplantation of nature, as an artificial version of a natural environment, as a place of respite…

George Drake Jr. And they’ve tried to make it not seem natural, in a way.

Lou Mallozi One thing they’ve done in that space when we haven’t had a piece in there is they’ll put in a sound effects recording of that sort of environment, like, you know, birds from the rainforest or something like that. And this is exactly what we try to avoid. We’re not trying to fill out the illusion of where you are. We’re trying to find ways where the space that you’re in, the actual space that you’re in, is the point of attention for the audience and that the artist is trying to make a work where the attention is to the work, but also to the situation that the audience is in, to that environment, that particular context.

George Drake Jr. And it’s actually a pretty brilliant space for an installation when you think about it.

Lou Mallozi That space is open 365 days a year from 9am to 5pm. It’s free to the public. So, the demographic of people that go through is a really wide demographic. It’s, you know, kind of the demographic of the city, in a way.

Craig Shank So, did we leave anything out?

George Drake Jr. I don’t think so.

Craig Shank Well there’s only one thing we have left to do.

George Drake Jr. And what’s that?

Craig Shank Check it out for ourselves!

George Drake Jr. Good call. You lead the way.

Craig Shank Alright, so you walk in and the first thing you notice is that it’s really…

Alex Inglizian …humid. Humid and, like, kind of like, hot and wet in there and…

Lou Mallozi  …even though other parts of the space are relatively humid and warm, you’re struck by it when you come into this space because it’s a bit closed off from the rest of the rooms around it

Alex Inglizian So you walk in, actually above it.

Lou Mallozi …sort of small patio, almost, kind of platform…

Alex Inglizian You can sort of look over it and you can see down into the space and you walk down some stairs.

Lou Mallozi …about six steps down…

George Drake Jr. There’s actually ten.

Craig Shank Yeah, we counted.

Lou Mallozi There’s a double stairway. You can go one side or the other.

Alex Inglizian …and there’s a pathway through the center of it.

Lou Mallozi …that winds through in a kind of “S” shape through the space.

Alex Inglizian Also, there’s like a little waterfall that you hear.

Lou Mallozi …and you also become aware that there are these small fountains…

Alex Inglizian …giant prehistoric ferns….

Lou Mallozi ….in the space. There’s one that you really notice primarily on your left side when you walk in this direction.

Alex Inglizian You feel like you’re in a prehistoric jungle.

Lou Mallozi The piece that’s in there now is by a German clarinetist named Michael Thieke and it’s called “Holzmusick.”

Alex Inglizian What that translates to is, “Wood music.”

Lou Mallozi …which means, “Wooden music.”

Alex Inglizian If you listen to just this regular jazz musician playing the clarinet, there’s all these small sounds that they make that maybe aren’t intended.

Lou Mallozi It shifts in the timbre of the instrument based on real subtle changes of things like embouchure and fingering…

Alex Inglizian …the clicks of the keys…

Lou Mallozi …tiny little sounds like little bits of clicks and chirps…

Alex Inglizian ….little breath sound through the reed…

Lou Mallozi …breath control…

Alex Inglizian …before the note comes out…

Lou Mallozi …breathy sort of drone qualities to it…

Alex Inglizian In his work, he really focuses on those alternative techniques…

Lou Mallozi …started working with different microphone techniques both in and around the instrument to draw the details and also some kind of almost spatial characteristics of the instrument when he was playing it…

Alex Inglizian …and intending to actually make those sounds with the instrument…

Lou Mallozi …but also recordings very close to the instrument and at the interior of the instrument. So, it’s really the generation of what’s happening in the instrument as a space….It occurred to him that what he is doing when he plays the clarinet is introducing warm, moist air into a wooden environment and that this was oddly similar to what happens in the Fern Room.

Craig Shank Seriously, it was really hot in there

George Drake Jr. And that day were wearing sweaters.

Lou Mallozi We had all of this plant life and you have this warm, moist air, and it’s the interaction of those things that kind of creates the space that you’re in.

Alex Inglizian It is mixed really, really low. So, you kind of really have to focus to hear it, which I think is kind of nice for the piece.

Lou Mallozi …and then using all of those materials, he’s edited them together and mixed them together into this piece that takes place in the fern itself.

George Drake Jr. As always, you can find out more about the Experimental Sound Studio and their Florasonic project from our website, everything sounds dot org.

Craig Shank There you can also learn more about the show and listen to previous episodes.

George Drake Jr. The music on today’s show was provided by Fumosonic.

Craig Shank Not to be confused with Florasonic

George Drake Jr. You can find out more about the music you hear on our show and how to submit your own music at our website as well.

Craig Shank We’ve had great responses from you on iTunes. By rating or reviewing the show you’ve helped us move up in the rankings.

George Drake Jr. You’re really helping us out and we can’t thank you enough, really.

Craig Shank We’d appreciate more ratings and reviews if you haven’t yet, whenever you get a chance. You can find the link at our website, everything sounds dot org.

George Drake Jr. Until next time, I’m George Drake Jr.

Craig Shank And I’m Craig Shank.

George Drake Jr. And this is Everything Sounds.

Leave a Reply