We tend to visualise the end result very early in the project, often over a beer, with each of us trying to come up with something better than whatever the last person said.
We don’t typically have a plan or schedule worked out in advance. Or ever.
What is #UNRAVEL?
#UNRAVEL is an Internet-reactive, story-telling musical installation with an unreliable memory. Members of the public uncover stories from a Narrator’s past by choosing vinyl records from his collection and playing them on a custom record player. The stories are soundtracked by robotic musical instruments and evolve and warp according to everything from the local weather to opinion on twitter.
Tell us the starting point for the collaboration?
A call for proposals, a discussion in a pub, and a desire from FOUND to extend our earlier work (e.g. Cybraphon) to include a narrative element.
What tech/programming languages/platforms did you use and how do they make the installation work?
Inside the record player we have a Mac Mini running five different software elements: a Processing program creating the dials on top of the installation; Python scripts analysing weather information and carrying out sentiment analysis of live twitter feeds; an enormous Ableton Live set containing the narration and MIDI files for all the music (320 minutes); a MAX/MSP patch that analyses audio coming from the record player to determine which record is playing and where in the record the needle is; and a MAX patch that coordinates all these elements through a mixture of OSC and internal MIDI. In addition there is an Arduino that is connected to an electronic barometer and three passive infra red sensors to detect body movement. The individual instruments use over 100 of FOUND’s own custom robotic beaters and levers connected to J-Omega MIDI boards.
Can you describe the process of development and your team dynamic?
We tend to visualise the end result very early in the project, often over a beer, with each of us trying to come up with something better than whatever the last person said. We tend to assume that we’ll find a way of making even the most outlandish suggestions work, without thinking too much about how hard it will be. The remainder of the project largely involves regretting this.
Each of us tends to specialise in a different area of the project at different stages (e.g. software development, electronics, hardware manufacture, aesthetics, music, web design etc.) but this is quite fluid, since none of us really knows how to do any aspect of the work properly. We don’t typically have a plan or schedule worked out in advance. Or ever.
What was your highlight or light bulb moment of the whole project?
The lightbulb moment was probably the very first idea of imagining how our memories are shaped by the stories we tell, and how the way we tell those stories are shaped by the audience we tell them too. The rest kind of flowed from there really. Other highlights: seeing how Aidan Moffat had approached the brief when he showed us the first drafts of the different “versions”; getting the vinyl to work after a *lot* of failed attempts; seeing the record player with the dials in place for the first time.
What are your next steps/new projects?
We’re working on quite a few different things at the moment. Firstly there’s more to come with the #UNRAVEL project including a gig at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (details below) an exhibition in London in September and an app version to follow. We’re also working on a souvenir for the 2014 Commonwealth Games as part of the Scotland Can Make It! project (http://www.scotlandcanmakeit.com/) which will be unveiled at an exhibition at The People’s Palace, Glasgow (7 September – 13 January). As a live band, FOUND have quite an exciting 6 months ahead of us including a tour of China, a gig in Moscow and a tour of Scotland with King Creosote in November.
#UNRAVEL Live, Wednesday 15 August, The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh. Live sets from FOUND + Aidan Moffat, Bill Wells + Aidan Moffat, Lomond Campbell, River of Slime. DJ sets by Papi Falso. Live visuals by Simon Kirby and Tommy Perman. Tickets are only £10 and are available from bit.ly/unravellive
Can you give an example of work that you admire that is inline with your ethos and approach to arts and innovation?
Cardiff and Miller’s work is wonderful, especially their Opera for a Small Room, which manages to make inanimate objects feel deeply engrained with something living and emotional. Tristan Perich’s work, such as 1-bit Symphony, is brilliant in its clarity of concept and perfect execution. The product design of Dieter Rams is a constant source of inspiration/envy.