Category: Uncategorized

Momus writes about ‘Ombrophilia’, The WIRE May 2009 issue

Uncategorized February 10, 2013

“……The music I love most right now is a preview of ‘Ombrophilia’, the debut album by my friend Tomoko Sauvage, due from Seattle label and/OAR later this year. Ombrophilia means ‘an abnormal love of rain’. Tomoko uses wooden cooking spoons to strike and stir Chinese porcelain rice bowls filled with water. The wobbly, chiming vessels turn tuned water into a sort of natural synthesizer, complete with organic forms of envelope, modulation, pitchbend and decay. Tomoko captures the gloopy, ringing sonorities with subaquatic mic probes, then feeds the result through digital processing. Track titles like “Amniotic Life” reveal that she’s drawn inspiration from the fluid sounds of her recent pregnancy – her own internal ‘waters’ and the new life moving within them.

This is super-quiet music, filled with something sweeter and sexier than rock’s morbid, normative love of pain. When Tomoko plays it live, water dripping from a pierced polythene bag hung from the ceiling not only adds a kind of random percussion, but scatters reflections off the lit water surface across the walls and ceiling. The result is soothing and sensual, like a long hot bath. I could soak in it forever.”

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Review and recording of a duo set with MC Schmidt at High Zero Festival, Baltimore

Uncategorized February 9, 2013

Tomoko Sauvage manipulates water droplets through effects pedals at the High Zero Festival.
Surrounded by porcelain bowls, a mixer, effects pedals and bottles of Perrier, we sat rapt with curiosity as Tomoko Sauvage took the stage of the Theatre Project with Matmos member M.C. Schmidt. Sauvage poured carbonated water into the bowl closest to her, and she manipulated and looped the movements of the water itself, accented by the tranquil clinks of porcelain. Suspended above her mic stands were paper cups filled with water. It’s a water dripping system with cotton thread periodically releasing drips into the bowls below. It was an elegant (and more palatable) solution to John Cage’s chance operations, responding to random droplets with loops and delays through a mixer.

For Schmidt’s part, he spent the first half of the duo’s improvisation clinking metal cups against the theater’s railing, which you can faintly hear in the recording above. When the Matmos member returned to the stage, he slurped Yuengling beer, which added a bit of comic relief to the very New Age-y proceedings. But his was never a vulgar response to his aquatic partner. His best touches came in washed-over synths, bringing to mind German ambient masters Cluster. I could have listened to this set all night.

by Lars Gotrich
LINK to the original article and recording on the site of NPR (National Public Radio, US)

review of “Ombrophilia” by Benoit Deuxant

Uncategorized February 9, 2013

Une grande part de la difficulté de la musique expérimentale, pour celui ou celle qui la pratique, consiste à trouver sa voie, une voie qui soit sinon unique, du moins personnelle. Non qu’il s’agisse simplement de se distinguer des autres artistes par un gimmick, un « truc » qui semble original, mais parce que c’est le principe même de cette musique que d’être perpétuellement en quête de nouvelles voies, de nouvelles sonorités, de nouvelles formes de jeu. Pour beaucoup de musiciens, trouver son instrument constitue ainsi la partie la plus difficile du travail artistique. La rencontre avec l’instrument peut alors devenir une révélation, l’illumination qui détermine une vie.

Ce fut le cas de Tomoko Sauvage lorsqu’elle découvrit le Jalatharangam lors d’un concert à la cité de la musique à Paris. Aanayampatti Ganesan, héritier d’une longue lignée de musicien pratiquant cette discipline, y venait interpréter un récital exceptionnel sur cet instrument indien rare, constitué d’une série de bols de porcelaine, remplis d’eau à hauteur variable, et joué avec des baguettes de bambou. Le son qui en résulte évoque tantôt le xylophone tantôt le gamelan, et la fluidité de l’eau permet des variations subtiles, des modulations particulières que le Jalatharangam est seul à permettre. Son charme est d’être extrêmement facile à construire – puisqu’il suffit de se procurer quelques bols – et de se prêter à toutes sortes de modifications, de prolongements. Tomoko Sauvage a ainsi remplacé le principe des baguettes de bambou par une série de goutte-à-goutte placés au-dessus des bols, et plongé dans ceux-ci des micros hydrophones captant les ondulations de l’eau et répercutant en les amplifiant les impacts des gouttelettes fracassant la surface. En imprimant un léger roulis au liquide, elle obtient manuellement, de manière naturelle, un effet étonnant de glissement spectral, une surprenante modification de la qualité voyelle du son, ce que nous appellerons plus simplement un effet wah-wah.

Dispositif à fois virtuose et désarmant de simplicité, il a la beauté des choses élémentaires, des choses premières, et évoque une fascination quasi enfantine pour le son de l’eau sous toutes ses formes, la pluie, les vagues, le ressac. Par delà son homogénéité extrême – de l’eau frappant de l’eau – l’instrument suggère d’autres associations d’idée : certains morceaux rappellent ainsi le gamelan, le carillon, les bols tibétains, ou encore le glass-harmonica de Benjamin Franklin. La musique qu’en tire Tomoko Sauvage, calme et méditative, appelant, sans jeu de mot, une forme d’immersion, suscite également le souvenir d’autres expériences. Le balancement régulier de l’eau, le clapotis des gouttes, les résonances légèrement assourdies captées par les hydrophones, se fondent en un paysage sonore à la fois étrange et familier. Il nous replonge dans des situations où notre perception du monde est modifiée, filtrée, par l’élément aquatique. Celles-ci sont parfois prosaïques, mais peuvent être aussi plus profondes. Les titres choisis par la musicienne pour ces morceaux sont ainsi parlant, ils vont du simple « Raindrop Exercise » (« exercice aux gouttes de pluie ») à « Amniotic Life » (« la vie amniotique »).

Tomoko Sauvage sera en concert ce samedi 24 avril à la chapelle Saint-Roch en Volière à Liège. L’ASBL Epiphonie, en collaboration avec la Médiathèque de la Communauté française organise ce concert – durant lequel se produira également le saxophoniste John Butcher – à l’occasion de la sortie de la Sélec 10.

La Sélec n°10, magazine de la Médiathéque de la communauté Française de Belgique

I hear the mermaids singing – by Lee Kottner

Uncategorized February 9, 2013

Science writer from NY, Lee Kottner wrote about my music and hydrophones with lengthy scientific explanation.

no hyperlinks – original text with links on Cocktail Party Physics

“…. Another example of the intersection of electronics and music, and my new obsession, is Tomoko Sauvage’s water drip performances. Sauvage first came to my attention through a YouTube video of her performing on waterbowls in Paris (It’s kind of a crappy quality video, so I won’t embed it; here’s a better one of her rehearsal with Scottish pop star Momus). She has a set of graduated-sized porcelain bowls filled with varying amounts of water that she plays like a percussion instrument with a couple of wooden kitchen spoons, accompanied by an electronic drone and drum track or electronic shruti box. Same principle as playing a glass harmonium, harmonica or harp (like the wine glasses in the video above): fill a receptacle with water and make it vibrate. The water acts as an amplifier as well as determining what note the receptacle “plays” by how much liquid you make resonate. The water bowls, Instead of being rubbed to make them resonate (as you also do with Tibetan singing bowls), are struck like a xylophone. The cool thing about this method is that the tone can be varied a little by stirring the water, which adds a vibrato. You can hear and see this in the Momus video I linked to above. The struck bowls have a bell-like tone similar to struck singing bowls, one that’s deeper and more resonant than glasses. Don’t try this at Thanksgiving with the jello salad bowl.

Where Sauvage’s work gets back to the ambient is in her waterdrop performances, like this one:
……
In this case, she’s using hydrophones to transmit the sound of water dropping into the bowls and hitting the bowls themselves, the water in the bowls moving, the sounds of her pouring water in, and her disturbing the water and flicking the bowls with her fingers. That kind of plooping sound the water makes pouring into the bowl is due in part to a process called cavitation (the making of a cavity), where air bubbles created by changes in pressure in the water oscillate and explode, creating teeny shock waves. Usually it takes a marked change in pressure for cavitation to occur, but fast-flowing water can do the same thing on a smaller, quieter scale than, say, a submarine or ship propeller. On that louder and larger scale, cavitation can actually erode rock and damage metal. In Sauvage’s bowl though, it’s more like blowing water through a straw: noisy but harmless. These are normally sounds you wouldn’t hear well, if it all, without amplification, and a normal mic wouldn’t help much.

Hydrophones were originally developed to collect sounds underwater and transmit them the way land-based mics do, to amplifiers and recording media. This is done with pressure-sensitive transducers “tuned” to the same impedance (how fast sound moves or propagates through a medium) as water, rather than air. Transducers turn the pressure of sound waves into electrical signals that are then decoded by the amplifier. Water is a great acoustic medium because of its density, which gives the sound waves more particles to push around, creating more pressure over the same surface area for the transducers to pick up. Because of this, even faint sounds, like shrimp clicking their little claws to stun fish (remember that shock wave?), can be easily heard underwater with a hydrophone. Sadly, now that we have the tools to hear them, some of those noises and natural songs are being lost in the noise pollution of ship traffic, which is mostly more cavitation noise when it’s not sonar or drilling.

Hydrophones are used in a number of different research areas, from studying the aforementioned sea mammal communication and echolocation and estimating their populations and feeding and migration patterns, to hunting subs, studying sound propagation and visualizing sound wave fields (pdf), and monitoring underwater earthquakes and volcanoes. Whitlow W. L. Au, Chief Scientist in the Marine Mammal Research Program at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, was recently elected President-Elect of the Acoustical Society of America, which gives you some idea of how closely the two fields are intertwined.

But this is the first I’ve seen hydrophones being used to make music. Is it mermaid music, or music for mermaids?”