In late March Will Parker (who posts on Twitter as @mono_on_) asked if anyone had a list of quarter-tone equal temperament frequencies. Since we weren’t able to find one, we made Quarter tone frequencies.pdf

For those with a numerical bent wishing to calculate other divisions, substitute the twelfth root of two with the number of intervals you need. For quarter-tone equal temperament we used the twenty fourth root of two.

Note that this only works for equal temperament tunings. Disciples of Harry Partch must look elsewhere.

Giant Feedback Organ - Southbank

As some of you will know, we have been building an instrument for the Southbank Centre. Our instrument is one of four created for the Wondrous Machines installation in the Clore Ballroom, as part of their Pull Out All The Stops festival. As ever, when given the opportunity, we were in charge of “Bigger, louder, lower” and have produced a huge version of our feedback organ – aptly named the Giant Feedback Organ. Our instrument creates three very low notes: C1, Bb0 and F0.

The other instruments are a sight / sound to behold too and they all seem to compliment each other very well.

There are formal performances of Wondrous Machines – a suite of pieces by Pete Flood and Andy Mellon of Bellowhead – at the following times:

Saturday 22nd – 1.30pm and 4pm
Sunday 23rd – 11am and 1.30pm

We plan to be there so come and say hello if you spot us!

Lastly, the instruments should be in situ in the Clore Ballroom for a while, so you can come and have a go sometime. Much fun!

Pull Out All The Stops

Yesterday we had a meeting to discuss our trajectory over the coming months and we thought we would share our plans with you. We tend to highlight finished work but we realise it has been a while since we updated here and much has moved on.

We have decided to concentrate on a small handful of projects for now, as follows:

If Wet

We launched an event in Sam’s village hall last year. If Wet is a monthly sonic exploration event, where artists come to talk about and share their work. It was one of the most fulfilling things we have been involved with as MortonUnderwood, so we intend to carry on this year. To find out more about how we plan to proceed and what we got up to last year: ifwet.org.uk/documentation

If Wet

Giant Feedback Organ

We have been building a Giant Feedback Organ to feature in the Southbank Centre’s Pull Out All The Stops festival. Our feedback organ will be played alongside three other commissioned instruments in a composition written by members of Bellowhead.

This instrument makes a righteous racket and we have found various interesting ways of controlling and adapting it for other “non-musical” uses. We plan to continue developing this as a core project, for use in a variety of guises and settings from concerts to sound art installations, and possibly even Sonic Graffiti pieces.

Giant Feedback Organ

A Word In Your Ear

One of our favourite pieces we completed last year is A Word In Your Ear, which is currently doing the rounds at Town Hall Symphony Hall Birmingham (THSH).

Our plan is to build a touring version of this with a number of carved ears and mouths for people to leave and receive recorded messages. We hope this might start with a commission for a permanent piece at THSH.

A Word In Your Ear

Music

We made some music together last year, including our Field Augmentation release on RHP. We have plans for a further release inspired by this and hopefully tying in some work with EMS in Stockholm, where Sam is currently a Guest Composer. We also have studio work planned.

Making music makes us happy, so we intend to do a lot more of it.

Field Augmentation

Plus

There will be some other bits too, such as a Sonic Graffiti commission for Monomania Festival and some noise box workshops but the areas above will form our main focus for the time being.

A Word In Your Ear

Our Sam is Artist-in-Residence at the Town Hall Symphony Hall Birmingham (THSH). It’s a pretty bold step for all involved and it has been interesting seeing how things have developed so far. It was their Board Meeting last month and we presented a piece as an introduction to Sam’s work at THSH.

We took an idea that Sam had used in some of his Sonic Graffiti before and developed it based on an idea David had to make it more “human”. It’s a box through which you can record a message for the next person; the idea being that you listen to the previous message, spoken via the mouth, and then record your own message, via the ear – then pass it on.

David came up with the idea for the form shown in the picture above and Sam came up with just the person to make it. That’s how stuff generally works at MortonUnderwood, greater than the sum of the parts.

Here’s a blog post on this and some of Sam’s other exploits this month at THSH, oh and here daft little demo of the piece in action:

Field Augmentation - cover image

Field Augmentation – cover image

A short while ago we posted a video, entitled Making “The Bells”. This documents the recording of one piece from our debut release on RHP, which is out now and available to purchase here.

We are pleased with the result and wanted to present another example with an outline of how it came about.

Castlemorton, Sam Underwood
A drone piece built from just one sound: the rave signature “Hoover sound”. Recorded at the site of a notorious rave, which led to the introduction of the Criminal Justice Bill.
10:05

On this debut release by MortonUnderwood recorded sounds are introduced into to an existing soundscape through a battery-powered amplifier. The final pieces are field recordings of these “augmented soundscapes” in which post-production is limited to topping and tailing, adjusting levels and equalisation.

There are six tracks, three from David Morton and three from Sam Underwood. The total running time is around 47 minutes.

We found the process and results rewarding and hope this will be the first of a series. This release is limited to 50 handmade copies on CDr, in a distinctive A5 package. Details on the release and the basis of each track are contained within. These are selling so if you want a copy, GO!

We hope you enjoy it.

Field Augmentation - packkage

A brief extract from the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent series (broadcast on the 2nd of April 2013) on the German town of Markneukirchen. It sums up the kind of musical instrument maker we aspire to be:

A generous friend has loaned us a Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printer. Obviously (since we live and breathe musical instruments) this means we have been busy printing mouthpieces. Saxophone and tuba mouthpieces, to be specific, since these are instruments with which we are familiar. Our video demonstrating where we are with our tuba mouthpiece experiments (or more accurately: where we were a couple of weeks ago) is our most played to date:

We’ve also made our first working alto sax mouthpiece:

Sax mouthpiece

So far the process has been relatively straightforward: find a 3D model, tweak it to our requirements, and print. One of the next stages will be to make our own CAD models from scratch, rather than building on the work of others, but we’ve learned a great deal from these early experiments.

The model of Makerbot we have on loan only prints in PLA (Polylactic Acid), a relatively low melting point biodegradable plastic perfect for rapid prototyping work, but which is suitable only for a fairly limited range of finished products. However the Makerbot’s owner plans to upgrade this machine to the new Makerbot 2x spec in the near future. Then it will be able to print using ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), a much tougher material.

Even without hardware upgrades we’ve seen rapid progress. One problem with 3D printing hollow objects like mouthpieces, is that the patch of material in contact with the plate on which the piece is formed may be quite small. As a consequence the work-in-progress can come unstuck before the build is completed. When this happens the result is best described as a “spaghetti mess”.

To overcome this we use what Makerbot refers to as a “raft”; this is an extra layer of material that sticks the work to the plate. The problem then is that the raft has to be removed and the area smoothed, especially if it’s part of the mouthpiece where the lips contact (we tried building one the other way up, so the raft wasn’t on the mouth end, but that caused other problems.). Here’s a tuba mouthpiece with its old-style raft still attached:

Tuba mouthpiece - raft

A new version of Makerbot’s Makerware software came to our rescue. This makes rafts that are much easier to remove. They come away in one large piece, rather than the many small fragments of the older style, and don’t leave sharp points behind. So easy are they to remove that the one on the left came off before we could photograph it in place:

Sax mouthpiece - raft

It still seems fairly remarkable to be able to print 3D objects like this, but we are unlikely to try to compete in this field; there are already plenty of decent plastic mouthpieces, many of which which cost very little.

We hope to use this rapid prototyping method to develop augmented mouthpieces. We already have a number of ideas on paper and we will post more on this topic when we have interesting results to show you.