Todd's blog


Richard Devine and Josh Kay have recently launched a commercial sound design company.

Devinesound is a sound design and music production facility that focuses solely on creating utterly unique & uncompromisingly high resolution sound design, sound effect and sample libraries. We specialize in the creation of custom sound design environments & custom sound effects packages for projects of almost any nature. We provide audio content, sound design and conceptual realization for film, television, gaming systems, audio hardware/software, interactive web-based environments, and everything else in between. We are currently building a online sound library database & store from which free samples will be offered regularly.

Many of the samples on their first two sound libraries released on Sony Creatve Software - Sound Series, The Electronic Music Manuscript: A Richard Devine Collection and Pulse: Pure Analog Lifeforms, were recorded during visits to Dragonline Studio over the past two summers.

Keep up to date with Richard and Josh's activities at the DEVSND blog.

Mind Meld III

The weekend of Friday the 13th marked the 3rd annual Mind Meld gathering at Duncan Laurie's Jamestown, Rhode Island studio. An incredible assortment of audio and video artists were assembled, ostensibly to relax, but with so much talent in one place, a show or two is inevitable.

Dragonline Studio at sunset
Dragonline Studio.

Duncan's three-storey studio sits atop Bull Point, surrounded by water on three sides. The studio was built entirely out of salvaged materials. Floors made of glass block allow light to penetrate up from the lower workshop, through the main room and into the laboratory on the top floor. It is on the top floor that Duncan and his electrical engineer Gordon Salisbury have been experimenting with sonifying signals from Nature. There is an impressive array of old Radionic equipment as well as a number of devices that Gordon has developed. The visual centerpiece of the lab is the "Music Machine", an 8' tall cuboctahedron that was part of a GENESIS Bio-Entrainment Module, a bio-feedback device developed in the 1980's. The machine is now host to Gordon's Purr Generator. The purr generator is a device which generates a signal at approximately 25 Hz. This coincides with the frequency of vibrations given off by a “happy cat” and has long been thought to be therapeutic. External audio sources can be played through the machine.

Gordon dialing in a plant
Gordon dialing in a plant.

Much of the activity at the studio in the last few years has been given over to exploring signals in Nature. Based on precedents set by Cleve Backster and T. Townsend Brown, plants and rocks are fitted with electrodes or have copper leads affixed to them. Small voltages present are picked up with a variety of test equipment, including Wheatstone bridges, rate of change convertors, EKGs, and the IBVA brainwave monitor. The resulting data streams are converted to MIDI and used to drive Ableton Live.

we'll do it live
( Photo by Arrow )

For the artists that have assembled each year, the draw of a fantastic location, strange nature research and wealth of information about Radionics that Duncan possesses are too much to resist. This years gathering included mainstays; Steve Nalepa, a West Coast electronic musician, gaining attention with his forthcoming Flatlands CD/DVD and Bass Science, a dubstep project with MattB; Todd Thille ( aka Synesthete ), an Istanbul based VJ and multimedia artist currently engaged in designing new software and hardware for the explorations underway at Duncan's studio; David Lublin, of Vidvox, makers of the popular VJ software VDMX; Josh Randall ( aka Robotkid ), a Creative Director at Harmonix by day, working titles like Rock Band and Phase; Aerostatic, the Brooklyn based couple Michelle Darling and Terry Golob, who's style ranges from ambient to breakcore with some Seseame Street (both have worked at Sesame Workshop) in for good measure.

Newer faces included Brian Kane, a former member of EBN and the self described "Karl Rove of the art world, who was busy pushing his latest meme, Meat Water; Ooah, one of the members of rising stars, the Glitch Mob; Richard Devine, still recovering from a near death experience after a small wound on his foot, infected with staph, nearly destroyed his heart, came to reek sonic mayhem with a massive stack of modular synths; Josh Kay ( aka Jeswa ), who joined Richard in exploring the sonic possibilities of the studio, and a formidable force in his right as a member of Soul Oddity and Phoenecia and founder of Schematic Records; CDM's own Peter Kirn rounded out the list of performing artists.

we'll do it live
we'll do it live - Pell Chaffey Hall

we'll do it live - Aerostatic (Terry & Michelle)
we'll do it live - Aerostatic (Terry & Michelle)

we'll do it live - David Lublin & Nalepa
we'll do it live - David Lublin & Nalepa

we'll do it live - Richard Devine & Josh Kay
we'll do it live - Richard Devine & Josh Kay

Through the work of Elizabeth Keithline and Nick Bauta of The Steel Yard and Firehouse 13, the audio visual extravaganza, "we'll do it live" found a home at the Pell-Chafee center in downtown Providence. Two massive 40' wide screens were hung from the three-story vaulted ceiling. Duncan and Aerostatic opened with an exploration of signals coming from a piece of granite (seen in their Rockstar short) and a banana. Peter Kirn deftly handled Kore for his 30 minute set with reactive visuals by Synestete. Brian Kane performed selections from his triple-head av masterpiece, HDADD. Robotkid and rndm threw down a bumpin' av mashup. Nalepa and David Lublin got the party moving with Flatlands remixes, dubstep tracks and ethereal hand-held footage with Quartz Composer overlays. Ooah brought out the glitch hop with his Panty Raid and tracks from other Mob members. Richard Devine and Josh Kay double-teamed Traktor, bring the soundsystem down with meters in the red and finishing out the night with TapStereo.

Josh Kay
Josh Kay and Richard Devine.

Richard Devine dreaming of Swedish engineering
Richard Devine dreaming of Swedish engineering.

The event picked up and relocated to Duncan's studio where Richard and Josh Kay set up a wall of modular synths to plug into the different sound sources. Peter got busy writing an FFT patch in Processing and tried it out with signals coming from an onion and a lime. He also experimented with Gordon's Bat Box. The rest of the crew amused themselves with Rock Band and chatting in small groups around the bar-b-gue that sprang up on the driveway.

Beat Research - Nalepa and Robotkid
Beat Research - Nalepa and Robotkid.

Beat Research - Brian Kane and Peter Kirn
Beat Research - Brian Kane and Peter Kirn.

The group started to disperse on Sunday and everyone but Richard and Josh Kay had left by the time that Steve, his girl Arrow, Peter and I headed up to Boston on Monday night. We met up with Robotkid and Brian Kane for a show in Cambridge at Beat Research. There was a good crowd despite it being a rainy school night. Peter had much better control over his Kore set. Robotkid and I mixed visuals until Brian fired up his DVJ and played some of his AV pieces. Nalepa came in a pinstripe suit and tore up the room with Bass Science dubstep.

MIT Museum - Peter dials in the strobe
Peter working the strobes at the MIT Museum.

Peter and I started Tuesday morning at the new offices of Harmonix. We decided not to get sucked into any meetings and beat a retreat to the MIT Museum. There were good exhibits on deep sea craft, high-speed photography and sculptor Arthur Ganson.

Paul Laffoley
Nalepa with visionary artist Paul Laffoley.

The afternoon brought a visit to the studio of visionary painter Paul Laffoley. He had requested a chicken stuffed in a watermelon, potential racial slur aside, we obliged and hand delivered him a "chelon." Paul was in the midst of prepping for a 60s and 70s retrospective that is to be on display in New York in February. He was also hard at work on a Tarot deck. We parted with Peter afterwards and the 3rd annual Mind Meld came to a close.

Insects using plants as telephones

Insects using plants as telephones: "
By Roland Piquepaille | A team of Dutch ecologists has found that subterranean and aboveground herbivorous insects use plants to communicate. ‘Subterranean insects issue chemical warning signals via the leaves of the plant. This way, aboveground insects are alerted that the plant is already occupied.’ This means that by using ‘green telephone lines,’ the two kinds of insects can avoid to compete for the same plant, allowing for faster growth for both species. Fascinating, but read more…

You can see above an example of interaction between aboveground and belowground insects, using plant leaves as ‘green phone lines.’ (Credit: Roxina Soler, NIOO-KNAW) Here is a link to a larger version of this picture.
Let’s look first at the short Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) news release. ‘In recent years it has been discovered that different types of aboveground insects develop slowly if they feed on plants that also have subterranean residents and vice versa. It seems that a mechanism has developed via natural selection, which enables the subterranean and aboveground insects to detect each other. This avoids unnecessary competition. Via the ‘green telephone lines’, subterranean insects can also communicate with a third party, namely the natural enemy of caterpillars. Parasitic wasps lay their eggs inside aboveground insects. The wasps also benefit from the volatile signals emitted by the leaves, as these reveal where they can find a good host for their eggs.’
This research work has been conducted at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) in the Department of Multitrophic Interactions (MTI) of the Centre for Terrestrial Ecology. For those of you who don’t know what ‘multitrophic’ means, please read this page at Wikipedia. You’ll discover that ‘trophic’ comes from a Greek word meaning food or nutrition. ‘Multitrophic interactions are those which involve more than two trophic levels in a food web. The term is most often applied to interactions among plants, herbivores and predators.’
This particular project was led by Roxina Soler Gamborena, a PhD student at NIOO. Here is how she describes her expertise in plant-insect multitrophic interactions. ‘Plants and insects are part of a complex multitrophic environment, in which they closely and actively interact. However, a systematic tendency to study mainly aboveground insect interactions limited the ability to develop more predictive models to achieve a better understanding of ecology and evolution in a more realistic frame. In the project I am working in, we are interested in study the interactions between below and aboveground insects, and how they can affect each other.’
Her project, ‘A multitrophic approach linking below and aboveground organisms,’ is described in the MTI’s student subjects page. Here is one part of the introduction. ‘Recently, there is an increasing interest in studying the interaction of aboveground and belowground compartments as a whole, rather than isolated aboveground studies. It is now acknowledged that insects can interact even when they feed on the host plant in different moments and parts of the plant, and some experiments had been carried out to study the interactions between belowground and aboveground insect herbivores. The main aim of this study is to determine if the oviposition behaviour of aboveground hyperparasitoids (and parasitoids) is affected by feeding damage by herbivores in the soil, as these affect parasitoid host and plant quality, using the follow multitrophic system as target for the study.’ The above figure has been picked from this document.
For more information, you can read one of the technical paper co-authored by Soler and published in Functional Ecology under the title ‘Foraging efficiency of a parasitoid of a leaf herbivore is influenced by root herbivory on neighbouring plants’ (Volume 21, Issue 5, Pages 969-974, October 2007). Here is an excerpt from the abstract. ‘Our results show that the interaction between an above-ground foliar feeding insect and its parasitoid can be influenced by the presence of non-host herbivores feeding on the roots of neighbouring conspecific plants.’
You also can read a paper published in Oikos, another Blackwell Publishing journal, under the title ‘Root herbivores influence the behaviour of an aboveground parasitoid through changes in plant-volatile signals’ (Volume 116, Number 3, Pages 367-376, March 2007). Here is the last paragraph of the abstract. ‘Our results provide evidence that the foraging behaviour of a parasitoid of an aboveground herbivore can be influenced by belowground herbivores through changes in the plant volatile blend. Such indirect interactions may have profound consequences for the evolution of host selection behaviour in parasitoids, and may play an important role in the structuring and functioning of communities.’
Sources: The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), April 11, 2008; and various websites
Science, World News"
(Via Alternative News & Media: Daily Breaking News.)

Richard Devine's "The Electronic Music Manuscript" loop and sample library available

devinemanuscript.jpgRichard Devine, who visited the studio in July 2007, has just released a loop and sample library with Sony Creative Software. The Electronic Music Manuscript includes recordings of a number of devices from the studio, including Bat Box II, the Soul Beacon, and several other radionic devices and shortwave radios. There is also a section of video shot and edited by Terry Golob of Aerostatic.

Singing plants...

Singing plants...: "

Make Pt0612
Vanessa writes in with another cool project involving plants and Arduino, made by -

The Singing Plant is an installation that lets the audience interact with a natural plant. When the plant is touched it gives feedback in the forms of sounds and light. The more people touch the it, the more enegetically it responds. The sound gains volume and the light in the room grows from dim to bright.

Peoples reactions become part of the installation. We have seen people pity the plant. We have seen people caress it. And we have seen people dance enthusiastically around it.

The purpose is not to provide answers, but to question established preceptions of the relationship between man, machine and nature.


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Twittering plants.

[Read this article]

(Via MAKE Magazine.)