Posted by jan on January 14, 2010 at 05:36 PM
FELIX & HIS MACHINES
It's all about aesthetic and sensory pleasure. Felix’s Machines are music making sculptures. They were constructed in his bedroom and exist to facilitate music by translating rhythmic audio structures into a three-dimensional visual show.
"Although my medium focuses on the development of acoustic sounds, I am continually inspired by electronic music - the countless abstractions act as blueprints for the construction of its acoustic counterparts. I aim to build a space where artificial and dream-like environments can become a reality." FT
Where are you from? How did you get into acoustic sculptures?
I am from Brighton. I got into acoustic sculptures though an obsession with electronic music and a background in fine art.
What was the first thing you modified /built /repaired?
My parents’ piano. I built a mechanism that allowed it to draw. Playing it would produce a graphic recording, one that displayed inaccuracy in human performance – A kind of ‘reverse-score’
Was it clear from the beginning that you wanted to work as a visual artist and create music at the same time?
I have always liked doing both. However, it took a while to find a medium to practice them simultaneously. During a year of an art foundation I began trying to incorporate music making into the paintings and drawings I was doing. After changing my mind to pursue a degree in sound, the call for a visual aesthetic returned.
Did you have to take piano lessons?
I started piano lessons when I was 7. After repeatedly being unable to learn how to sight-read, I turned to jazz improvisation. I stopped practicing at 17 when I realised that taking the piano apart was more fun.
Your work is very scientific. What's your technical background?
My technical background is limited. I went to a Steiner school as a kid. This meant I wasn’t spoon fed anything above the most basic levels of sciences. This is probably the reason I am so interested in all that now.
What are your favourite tools and why?
I’ve just bought a lathe. I should be able to make some more challenging machine parts.
You have mentioned that your machine just keeps growing and growing... Have you started thinking of a way to adjust your machine for travel? Or have you found ways to make the same sounds with other materials?
The time I used to spend on its growth has turned into rebuilding and developing its original sections. This eliminates the amount of maintenance it needs from me during a live show or exhibition. Back when building it in my London flat, I didn’t think that it would leave the room, ease of travel was not on my mind. I certainly take that into account now with the newer improved additions.
There are many ways to create similar sounds with different materials. For example: a motor brushing a drum skin at high speeds can produce a convincing horn like sound.
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The main machine aka heart instrument is at your parents’ house. Is there a chance, that they are gonna take over the whole house? Like building a music house with different installations in each room would be awesome...
Yep, that’s the general idea.
Do you have a certain vision of what your instruments should sound like?
A robot built to successfully replicate a human performer would be a technological milestone, but for the purpose of pushing musical boundaries I think it is important to build machines without the need to match us. Instead they should exist to test what our senses can deal with.
Your machine is hooked up to the computer through an interface. Did you build that from scratch too?
At first I did attempt to build my own. Then I got bored with the electronics and came across a suitable and affordable interface online. Now with the help of my computer programmer friend, we are currently re-designing what I use to provide extra mechanical functions and more power. I wanted to continue making music with software that I am used to. ‘Logic’ is the best for me, but sometimes I play with ‘Bidule’
Did you think of your machines as art from the beginning, so it was just logical to go to the Sound Art at The London College of Communication, was this part of your thesis?
The framework for my machine building was developed pre-university, but the method was refined during the course. The machines were a kind of synesthetic experiment. Having a background in fine arts and sculpture, I was naturally inclined to make them look good. My thesis discussed the possibility of music performed by a machine being equal or better at evoking emotion in the listener.
I like the idea of listening to a piece of music getting something new from it every time. This is a reason that I take inspiration from fast and complex electronics. With the machines, lights highlight every single sound. That with its size and physical nature guarantees a discernable unique experience of a set composition every time.
Please tell us your secret to getting cables and connections organised. Do you draw a switching circuit?
There is absolutely no organisation whatsoever.
How did the Converse collaboration start? Which collaborative artists for the spring 2010 were the most inspiring from your point of view?
I think after the YouTube success of my machines film by Tom Mansfield shot last year, there was a fair amount of circulation in the advertising world.
There was an interesting and diverse selection of art for the Converse campaign; personally my favourite was the sculptures by Gabrielle Sellen.
Warp's electronica group 'Plaid' did a collaboration project with you in Bordeaux this October. How did it all come together?
I am delighted to have worked with Plaid. I grew up listening to their music and was surprised when they asked me if I’d like to collaborate! I have been quite protective of allowing others to compose with/for the machines, but I didn’t have to think twice about getting Plaid involved.
Any future plans with labels like Warp? Are you going to do a record with a certain concept? Do you already have a name for it?
I am hoping to release a concept album early next year, but not on Warp.
What's the next step? What's in the pipeline for Felix’s machines?
Sir Edward Elgar’s great great great granddaughter just gave me a harmonium. I am going to see how many noises I can get out of it.
j to the m production: words jk, photos marchi marchell
more info: www.felixsmachines.com
Felix takes part in the Converse creative platform. Fueled by the mission to be an advocate and catalyst for creativity, the Converse initiative will travel across the region, spotlighting creative acts in art, music and skate while encouraging everyday creatives to take part in the process.
more info: www.converse.de/felix
Watch the Felix's Machines clip exclusively on LoTV (right column)!