Friday, May 01, 2009

From Brussels with Love...


I went for a nice long weekend to Brussels last month - had a really god time walking my legs off and taking photos of all the street art, stencils and architecture my camera could hold.

I managed to catch a short performance by Tape That (part of the N collective) which was soothing and amusing. If I can find it I'll scan and post their set list/programme later.

They play recordings they've made and perform very short bursts of sound. I had the pleasure of chatting with them a little. i asked how they decided their recordings were the correct length - they stated that they were a little like the mini-tiles one might get when shopping for carpet - just enough to get the point across. Concise.

I visited the Museum of Musical Instruments too. The building is quite special - the exterior being covered in art-deco flourishes, the interior had several floors of instruments from various countries and cultures.

Before going in I was a little wary, fearing large rooms with silent instruments being preserved and not played. This was and wasn't the case.

Most of the instruments were in glass boxes or behind red ropes, but the solution was that every visitor was given earphones which played sounds of the (selected) instruments when you stood in front of them. All of this was transmitted wirelessly - a very ambitious and generally successful way to deal with the issue of people coming to see and hear the instruments. Well worth a day of your time if you are interested in sound and musical instruments. The collection is huge and the grouping of instruments by family makes it easy to see connections and variations as the instruments have developed over time.

I wished for more sounds though - several instruments were so alien I couldn't imagine what they sounded like and wasn't offered a sample which was a little frustrating, but I guess I just wasn't imagining hard enough.

Thankfully there was electronic signal interferance from some transmissions which I enjoyed. Sadly several of the interactive pieces in the basement were not functioning - I hope to go back and play with them in the future (I also hope that some day I'll get to play their selection of early electronic sound devices).

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