The Search for Resonance
author(s): Per Martinsen
connected to: Norwegian Artistic Research Programme
published in: Research Catalogue
ABSTRACT V.1 - "THE SEARCH FOR RESONANCE" - OCTOBER 2018
«The Search for Resonance» by Per Martinsen, Research Fellow, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Faculty of Fine Arts
In my project I want to investigate correspondences between frequency and geometry in order to build an “alphabet” that can be used as a platform for creating new musical and audiovisual works.
I will use cymatic visualization techniques to look for patterns that stand out in their clarity and geometrical symmetry, and use the frequency data that cause these visual occurrences to create a musical scale that corresponds to these geometrical attributes.
I will also map out the geometrical data to build a corresponding library, so that I can experiment with using these data to compose works from a visual viewpoint, and I also want to experiment with live sound in spaces that correspond with the geometrical data from the cymatic works to see how this can be used in a creative context.
Having a background in an artistic practice that has focused mainly on very “physical” use of sound, i.e. rhythmic music usually played at loud amplitudes and with a strong focus on low frequencies, I want to explore how sound interacts with matter in a more profound way, in order to understand my medium better.
My aim is to see if I can develop new tools for manipulating matter through the use of sound both in my own artistic practice, but also for my peers within the field and others interested in the subject.
The first known significant body of work on cymatic visualization of sound was developed through experiments carried out by Ernst Chladni (1756-1827). The term cymatics was later coined by Hans Jenny (1904-1972), and later György Kepes of Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MiT carried out some further research into the field, resulting in the development of a new thermodynamic technique using burning gas inside metal tubes as a new form of visualization of sound. Later developments in the field have been conducted by German photographer and researcher Alexander Lauterwasser, who studied the effects of sound on water, and by Ron Rocco, who used sound to manipulate pattern shifts in mercury via the use of lasers. Artists currently working in this field include, New Zealand- born musician Nigel Stanford, who extensively uses visual manifestation of sound in his music and video work
ABSTRACT REV. II - “THE SEARCH FOR RESONANCE” - AUGUST 2019
A recurring dream:
I find myself inside a concert venue. Sometimes this is an actual venue that I have visited, or played at, sometimes not.
To the right side of the stage, there is a backdoor. I enter, and find myself in a corridor leading to an empty room.
The room is heated, has no windows, and feels claustrophobic. There is a small, open door in the wall on the left side of the room.
Leaning through the door, I see a ladder leading further downwards, to another room underground.
I climb down the ladder, and find myself in an even smaller, warmer, and more claustrophobic space.
There is a small table and two chairs in the middle of this room, and I can sense that someone have just been sitting in one of the chairs.
I somehow just sense this, and sometimes there are traces like a recently smoked cigarette lying in an ashtray sat on the table, or crumbs left on the table by someone who just ate their lunch there.
At the end of this room, a sound studio is rigged up against the wall. A mixing desk, with a speaker on each side.
I walk over to the speakers, and look behind them, as if to find another layer, but find that there is nothing there.
As I set out last year with my project «The Search for Resonance», I stated that I wanted to «investigate correspondences between frequency and geometry in order to build an audiovisual “alphabet” that could be used as a platform for creating new musical and audiovisual works» - a very concrete task of creating a tool for myself and others, based on rather pre-conceived conclusions of what I am about to find.
Now, after one year of delving into the material, I have realised that what I actually have set out to look for rather could be rephrased «The essence of Sound?», or «How (and why) does sound manifest in the physical universe?», or even «What am I doing here?»
This realisation has moved my focus from investigating the laws of physics governing the behaviour of soundwaves into far more fundamental existential questions of philosophy and purely metaphysical territories.
It has also moved my perspective away from that of an non-academic self-taught artist glancing into the workings of current day scientific paradigms of “hard science”, back to far more personal and highly subjective experience-based areas of investigation, areas that I, like any sentient being who have ever questioned their conscious existence in this world, am as much an expert (or a fool) as anyone else.
This return to the world of pure artistic subjectivity I find both liberating and challenging, as the confusing (and somehow unclear) concept of artistic research being both academic and non-academic in its approach made me feel unable to move forward and do what I do best: the work of an independent artist.
All this leaves me more open-ended than when I started out, although I intuitively seem to stick to my habitual ways of working, which is to seek out to constantly develop my methods and aesthetics when it comes to work with sound, music and other channels of expression, update myself on news within the world of physics and other hard sciences, and keep on investigating the vast material available on metaphysical philosophies.
The only question that arises is: In what way, if any, does this concern anyone other than myself?
ABSTRACT REV. III - “THE SEARCH FOR RESONANCE” - OCTOBER 2020
When I set out working with my project, I stated that I wanted to «investigate correspondences between frequency and geometry in order to build an audiovisual “alphabet” that could be used as a platform for creating new musical and audiovisual works».
How scientific of me.
Now, halfway into the project, I have learned that these kind of pre-conceived conclusions of what I am about to find, and how I can apply it to my work, is as far from artistic research as you can get.
But it’s not that far from how I’ve always worked, to be honest.
Things always seem to just emerge, the moment you start working.
What emerged about a year into my project, was an expanded understanding of the word “Resonance”, especially in relation to artistic processes.
Questions like: “How to create resonance?”, “Who does it resonate with?” or “Who creates the resonance?”, became more important than an artist only looking at the physical resonating qualities of sound.
Not that the physical resonating qualities of sound are not included in the project anymore.
They’ve just been given their own space.
Investigated through the eyes and experiences of another me.
One investigator turned out to be far from enough.
So I have tried to split myself, as through a prism.
Into three primary colours.
To maintain three different perspectives.
This way of projecting different self-images has made me able to look at the subject matter through new lenses - some more familiar than others.
But all refreshing in their fictitious freedom.
Getting others to do the hard work is always a smart workaround.
So now I mostly write, and let the characters make their music through me.