On my way out to the Global Sustainable Soundscapes Network’s first meeting in Baraboo Wisconsin, I stopped in Pittsburgh to meet with Eco Artists Ann Rosenthal and Mo Dawley. Ann has an amazing studio building just east of the city center and very generously made dinner and provided a place to stay for the night.

New York City based eco-artist Betsy Damon happened to be in Pittsburgh at the same time developing a project for the Mattress Factory, and fortunately I was able to visit with her for a while and learn more about her fascinating work. Her project involves examining waterways in a struggling Pittsbugh neighborhood that have been paved or otherwise covered, and will create an installation at the Mattress Factory that may involve something like these wonderful water projects:



Elliott listens and views the MBR park soundmap. Below is an attempt to record inside of the resonators (bat recordings in the background)

Stereo listening

Charlet Davenport gets a call

SCA intern Amanda tries a vessel with multiple chambers

Seth and Sam

Park Ranger Tim Maguire tries the stereo technique

Ranger Scott Davison opens the event with beautiful flute playing

Conservation biologist Kent McFarland discusses the white nose fungus in little brown bats

Architect and inspiration Thornton

22 resonators are now hanging in and around the new artist’s studio space at the MBR park (known as the ‘Pony Barn’). Ten are outside on trees, the image above shows one large resonator with the large solar panel array that provides power to the pony barn in the background.

The resonators are a variety of shapes and sizes, some with long tubes attached for listening and others with various chambers designed to change the character of the resonance.


Here park curator Laura Anderson listens to the difference between two designs:
The triple-chambered ‘mickey mouse’ design

and a single chamber without tube

More photos of the artist’s reception after Sunday!

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fgideas.org again.

I’ve been trying to get my head around the interesting contemporary theoretical work of Brian Holmes (more about him here). I learned of Holmes’ work through my friend Stephanie Rothenberg (see the Woodstock Digital Media Festival post below) who has gone with him on ‘derives’ that he leads through various cities (I think Stephanie said they visited several cities in mainland China together). Holmes has been involved with student activism (see this interview) and is a strong proponent of education for social change.

Early this year, he made this post about Marcuse’s dialectics of liberation in University education, and I just have to re-blog this excerpt:

Education today must involve the mind and the body, reason and imagination, the intellectual and the instinctual needs, because our entire existence has become the subject/object of politics, of social engineering. I emphasize, it is not a question of making the schools and universities, of making the educational system political. The educational system is political already. I need only remind you of the incredible degree to which (I am speaking of the United States) universities are involved in huge research grants (the nature of which you know in many cases) by the government and the various quasi-governmental agencies.

The educational system is political, so it is not we who want to politicize the educational system. What we want is a counter-policy against the established policy. And in this sense we must meet this society on its own ground of total mobilization. We must confront indoctrination in servitude with indoctrination in freedom. We must each of us generate in ourselves, and try to generate in others, the instinctual need for a life without fear, without brutality, and without stupidity.

Factor e Farm, an open source ecology group in Missouri – food AND flame effects! :) from fgideas.org

Let’s build a new civilization.

Join, or Die

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It’s been interesting getting a sense of the living history out here in New England, hearing people reference revolutionary war slogans and history in casual conversation. For example the revolutionary war slogan ‘Live Free or Die’ persists as the slogan for New Hampshire and is still relevant (see the ‘ubuntu’ plate 2 posts down).

Benjamin Franklin’s famous ‘Join, or Die’ cartoon above calling for colonial unity also persists in cultural memory so well it can be referenced in playful images like this:

and used to represent the uniting of the 5 NYC boroughs in this logo and skate video teaser below:

Das Projekt!

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The Helmholtz Resonator

As some of you know, good German engineering is something that really excites me, and I’m happy to say that for the major project for the MBR National Park, I’ve been able to riff on the acoustic design of a fascinating late 19th century German engineer named Hermann von Helmholtz. Helmholtz invented the ‘Helmholtz resonator’ (drawing above) to identify the various frequencies or pitches of the pure sine wave components of complex sounds containing multiple tones. Here is an example of how a series of various size resonators would be arranged for acoustic analysis, your ear would go into the small tube at the front:

For those of you who are interested in the physics of this concept here is an explanation:

and an online calculator to determine the resonant frequency based on the size of the sphere and hole:

The basic concept of the Helmholtz resonator, a resonant chamber with a hole, is used in many if not all musical instruments, with variously sized chambers adding to the complexity of the sound. For example, the combination of four primary resonant chambers and specially shaped ‘f’ holes in a violin body contribute to the beauty and complexity of the resultant sound of the instrument.

Other contemporary uses of the resonator are in dampening or reducing certain frequencies of sound in architecture and vehicles like motorcycles. This is sometimes also called a bass trap. One of the weirdest Helmholtz resonator stories I found is one that claimed the head of a Chihuahua formed a resonator.

Since many of the historical resonators were made of glass, I became interested in creating a series of fanciful Helmholtz resonators as a way to connect the well-established glass blowing art and industry in this area of Vermont to the soundscape. Simon Pearce is the largest glass manufacturer here, but I also discovered many incredible small glass blowing studios.

Michael Egan and Topher Kerr-Ayers

To fabricate these fanciful resonators, I was lucky to find and work with Granville-based glass artist Michael Egan and his talented right-hand man Topher Kerr-Ayers. In my opinion Michael is the most skilled and creative glassblower in this area, and a great pleasure to work with. In two days, we designed and created over 10 resonators of various shapes and sizes!

Topher at the Glory Hole

Placing what we decided to call a ‘blobe’ (pronounced like ‘globe’ meaning a blown blob of glass) on the top of a resonator in progress.

Design sketches

Some completed resonators (or ‘sound vessels’)

We will be hanging these vessels along the trails at the MBR park for a reception on July 15th from 3-6PM, then they will be placed in an installation in the Pony Barn.