TransAcoustic Festival, Auckland, 8th-11th December 2005 - (casual) review

::: location:

Here's a rough review of TransAcoustic Festival held in Auckland in December 2005. It is actually comprised of a couple of emails sent to the aus_noise yahoogroups mail list and the audio foundation NZ mail list, so is casual / informal in manner & language. (but I like it this way!)

I've added joel stern's review which was also posted to aus_noise. he wrote a formal piece for RealTime magazine also which is available @

joel runs the otherfilm festival in Brisbane. there's a piece on this @ or visit

for more details, search for transacoustic on this site to see the other entries.

official documentation of the event is available @

huge thanks to Zoe Drayton & the NZ Audio Foundation for organising such a great event!


hey guys, thanks to those on aus_noise for performing at the TransAcoustic Festival in Auckland over the weekend. I went along last night and really enjoyed the performances, as well as the seminars in the afternoon. I have some photos from the sat night performance uploaded - unfortunately I only had my cameraphone so the quality isn't that great but u get the idea.

ps here's the link to the sydney experimental film night I couldn't remember the name of at the time - "camera obscura". I think it's run by Keir Smith (& others) who did the great 'history of machinima' session/screening at electrofringe earlier this year. not sure if they're related to mu mesons archive, but perhaps so. it is a small world afterall.


(reply from LB)

thanks for the photos - though it looks like a
performance rather empty of perfomers - did you shoot
the setup or were there very few people? Can you
comment on the aussie contigents performances (Abject
Leader, Botborg, Robin Fox)?


yeah the photos are mostly setup and the tables after the performances. it was dark for the actual performances and my cameraphone isn't the best in full light let alone no light so not many crowd shots I'm afraid. I probably should have taken my proper camera or video but am never sure if people allow it or not.

I only made it to the Saturday shows - there were two sessions at the Art Gallery in the afternoon and three performances in the evening.

here's some of the notes I took (apologies if I heard things incorrectly & they're not coherent)
stella brennan spoke about her paper "Visual Musak - from Lava Lamp to Screensaver" - she spoke of some historical experimental cinema performances; some entries in the "Expanded Cinema" book by Gene Youngblood (intro by R.Buckminster Fuller); highlighted some examples of World Fair/Expo art including the "Labyrinth" large scale film projection in 1977 (projecting film vertically rather than horizontally) and the early beginnings of IMAX cinema and the people involved in it; "animated sound" project; telefunken project cd; of "connecting to ideas of all enveloping environments"; chemical brothers film clip "...landscape responding to your emotion"

or, if you have time, take a listen to it via this site:
(not the best audio quality either I'm afraid) I believe there'll be a video of the seminars available for better representation of them. (I just record things to listen to them again later, so don't worry about the quality too much I'm afraid)

Robin Fox was really interesting - he spoke about his work with oscilloscopes/cro's (you're probably already familiar with this?) - he feeds the inputs with harsh sounds often using nyquist foldover frequencies & using a library of sounds created in max/msp. I've used cro's before at work measuring tv signals but haven't got them to make beautiful animated images such as he was getting out of it. I heard everyone really enjoyed the performance the night before (I missed it unfortunately). one of the physicists in the class was really animated during the talk and had comments/questions afterwards. he also spoke of John Rose's perspective/observations on laptop performance in relation to virtuosity and limitations of human performers (hopefully I have this correct) - when an audience watches an instrumentalist perform they have certain preconceptions about what sounds should be heard and how good they think they could be, which are then sometimes surpassed, hence the performer becomes a virtuoso. but with a laptop/computer performer, because there are no limitations on the possibilities the computer brings to the equation it is harder for people to relate to the performance as much as watching a traditional imstrumentalist. he also showed the external controllers he uses with max/msp. and spoke of experimental cinema using oscilloscopes in the 1960s (Mary Ellen Bute). experiments of Ron Pellegrino who created still images from an oscilloscope, but who didn't like the sounds used to create them. then he spoke about "sound to shape" and synesthetic relationships of images and music and some of his mother's experiences with synesthesia. and 3d, immersive environments "looking into sounds". and finally he spoke a bit about the lasers he's been working with lately and some of the safety aspects involved. is one site which has more info on some of these things.

in the evening there were performances by The Professionals, Adam Willets and Abject Leader.

The Professionals were up first - they make sounds from photo-sensitive devices. the photos of polystyrene boxes with the breadboards & circuitry are from their performance. they also fed back sound into the video on a couple of monitors, though I wasn't sure if this was part of their performance until towards the end when the constant blue light started getting affected by the sounds into the stripey video similar to Botborg performances I've seen in the past (at electrofringe this year). I couldn't see exactly what they were doing as I was sitting behind the other benches, but I could see a torch being shone onto the boxes and sounds corresponding to the flashing light and then chirpy noises sounding when a lighter was lit. it was good to see they'd gone through the whole creative process and made the devices which they then used to make the sounds.

Adam Willets was up next. he had solar powered (well, desk lamp powered this night) 'robots' housed in clear plastic christmas decoration balls, one of which was resting on a saucer which was in turn sitting on the strings of a guitar (actually, I think it was a guitar - I was too busy looking at the bots to notice the stringed instrument). the other was placed on tinfoil on the bench. there was a camera projected on the screen so we could have a better view of what was going on. the bots twitched and flipped themselves under the light. at first I thought it was due to the sound as well, but I asked him afterwards, and they move due to the light. but the motion of the bot on the saucer made scratchy sounds on the saucer, and vibrated the strings underneath to create the sounds which then went through the pedals etc.

Abject Leader were last up. I really liked the films and watching Sally change the film & filters and feed the film through the reels (sorry if I have her name wrong) was like watching a dance alongside the film as she reached from one to the other to add a filter here or adjust a lens or piece of film there. the music was really nice too - it matched the visuals really well. I wasn't sure if the music and film were interacting with each other, as I couldn't see how they'd done this from my seat if it was, & I always like to know how things work. so I asked but they were two separate parts of the performance, apart from hearing the film projector as a backdrop to the projections, which worked in well with the music.

I couldn't make the sunday night or thurs/friday night performances, so sorry I missed the Botborg/Robin Fox performances, but I met a couple of nice Aucklanders there who made me feel welcome and mentioned they'd enjoyed the previous performances and said that it was cool how many different perspectives had been brought to the festival based on it's theme. has the artists bios and programme if u haven't seen it already.


joel stern's post to aus_noise :

to clarify yr comments about the audiovisual relationship in abject leader:
sally and i are working according to a more traditional film sound logic,
ie. the images do their thing, the sound do their thing, and it's up to the
audience to recognise points of contact between the sound and image. the
only symbiotic aspect is the amplified 16mm film projector.

the first two nights of the festival were really excellent aswell..

andrew clifford performed a very static and contemplative piece using neon
bulbs and radio interference. radio's were given to audience members
throughout the venue, creating a diffuse and subtle morphing sonic

bees and spandex were sam hamilton (auckland musician, orgniser, he will be
in australia in jan performing up and down the east coast) and eve gordon
working with multiple 16mm projectors, electronic sounds, and a guitar
jammed underneath a spinning projector reel, creating a lovely harsh stringy
loop. a great performance in the expanded cinema tradition, complete with
technical problems and chemical solutions, and great cutup and handmade film
material - if you looked closely you could make out kangaroos and elephants

botborg will be familiar to most of the aussie readers....
kiwis got their first taste of the botborg phenomena and responded with the
predictable combination of awed confusion and rapturous pleasure. these guys
have taken thier audiovideo signal feedback trick to such an advanced level
now that it is genuinely frightening. at times i felt as if i was trapped in
cronenburg's others it seemed like the image was busting to
get off the screen and attack the audience..

ok, thats my review of day 1, kath already did day 3. maybe scotty sinclair
or joe musgrove want to have a go at day two of the fest.