My aim was to record a number of cnc machines, lazer cutters and Objet Connex 3d printers at AUTODESK's, Pier 9 workshop where i've been artist resident for the past 3 months. I really wanted to find out which ones are interesting sound wise and suitable for modular synthesis sound processing techniques and then to apply the resulting sound bites to electronic pop musical structures within my group Chicks on Speed (for our forthcoming album, to be released in 2017).
The workshop machines i recorded included: CNC HAAS MILL, WATER JET, DMS 5 AXIS, BAN SAW, OBJET CONNEX 3D PRINTER, RAUTER, LAZER CUTTER & TIG WELDER which all became sound generators for analogue sound modulation and humorously also became new types of machine musical instruments belonging to the new and expanding field of Expressive Machines Musical Instruments (EMMI) the creation of novel robotic musical instruments to achieve an experimental music vision.
The sound filtering took taking place at Robot Speak, Haight district, San Francisco, where i'm carried out a series of workshops and jam sessions with Jordan Ginsburg and Epic Jefferson.
I'm hoping my experiences with recording these amazing machines and the first experimental outcomes can inspire others to get into seeing their machines as more than just devices to cut, add, fix, mesh and form. You could say my intractable is like a diary of the process i explored and i hope to inspire others, rather than provide a step by step guide of how to do exactly what i did, as everyone will approach recording their machining processes with different intentions and outcomes.
Step 1: Shadow a Friend on a Machine to Start Testing Out What Mic Can Work Best
For my first sound check in the workshop I was lucky to find artist technologist and co-artist resident Neil Mendoza and "shadowed" him on the water jet to carry out some of my initial tests. I think its important to work with someone else to start with, so you can focus on getting precise recordings with exceptional sound qualities before doing both the machine operation and recording yourself. Niel was in the process of building a complex and creative automated rock band machine...some of his parts for this were being cut on the water jet. I recorded Neil through his process of setting up the tool paths on the water jet through to the cutting stages.
Step 2: Recording Techniques With Hydrophones on the Water Jet and HAAS MILL
I chose to use a hydrophone to record with, after some preliminary sound checks with the motions and functions of the water jet including placing the hydrophone on the actual metal whilst it was cutting and then in the water 30 cm deep, i decided its better to put the actual hydrophone 50 cm under the water at the opposite end of the bath to where the cutting was actually going on. The reason being is that it was too "hot" when recording so close to the material and actual jet propulsion.
Step 3: SOUND DEVICES Recording Device Co Kyle Machulis
As a recording device i used Sound Devices, mainly due to the very kind offer from Kyle to lend it...which i have to say is one of the best i've ever used. The learning curve is slightly more than a zoom recorder, but totally worth putting in the extra time for the end quality.
Step 4: Recording the HAAS Mill With Co-artist Resident Jennifer Jacobs
Initially the legendary HAAS was proving a little tricky to record, mainly because it has a
self contained cabinat which is flooded with cooling fluid during the tool pathing process (end mill subtracting metal material). I needed to devise a way to have a self contained waterproofed recording device and pick up sound vibrations close to the cutting tool, but out of the way of its tool path, I decided to use a waterproof bag by Drypak which can be purchased via amazon.
Step 5: Following Chung Around the Workshop
co-artist in resident Cheng was the most active in the workshop and i followed her around a lot, she was extremely patient! always repeating cuts, welding joins or angle grinding over and over for me....thanks Cheng! you can see some of the recording's going on in the stills.
Step 6: A Sound Byte of the Resulting Experiments in Sound
I took the sound files to Robot Speak, a modular synthesis hub in San Francisco. Jordan Ginsburg was very kind to lend me some of his modules and do a short jam together....the test recordings were very promising and will be continued once i have more recordings of other machines, such as the HAAS and DMS 5 axis, plus using directional microphones to pick up external sounds (recording on 2 chanels). Here's a video of some of using some modules to put effects on the field recordings, including Ring Modulation and granular synthesis sequencing through scrubbing finely through some of the sounds.
This is the first taster of the composition with the workshop field recordings and more is to come, so stay tuned and look out for a song release in 2017 via www.chicksonspeed.com.