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Text Object


Interview with Peter Luining
Stanza (stanza@soundtoys.net)

Place: STEIM, HOL, Amsterdam
Keywords: software, net.art, internet, audio
Genre: work, participatory, historical
Type: interview

Peter Luining is best known for his works "clickclub" and "FF00FF remixes". Luining's one time curating job for the exhibition "Net Affects" also got quite some positive attention. His interactive sound pieces have not yet gotten the same recognition. The following interview with Peter was made for a major upgrade of http://soundtoys.net/ . It focusses on soundtoys as art pieces and vice versa.


Stanza: Could you come up with a definition of "soundtoys"

Peter Luining: Though "soundtoys" (note the quotes) has more or less become the standard term for interactive music instruments, I don't like it. Soundtoys are easily associated with the audio visual thingies you find on more and more commercial sites to attract traffic, though there are some of them i really like, and some of them could maybe considered as art, most of them do not have concentration on both the side of the maker and the audience, something which -is- present in art works. I rather would prefer the name engines or sound engines, which I would define as little pieces of software which allow the user to make sound or audiovisual compositions within limits defined by the artist. It's also important to keep in mind there is broad variety of engines, and there is also a wide range of possibilities how you can make engines. I think soundtoys.net is good at showing this diversity.

S: What is your project for soundtoys.net and your work in general about?

PL: Traber073 (initially made for digitalekunst.nl) is a piece that lets the user make an unique audiovisual composition. As with a lot of my pieces this work has to be explored by the user. At first glance you see 9 blocks and when they hit each other you hear sound. Going with a mouse over the piece you see the cursor changes into a finger or a hand, this means you can do something with the objects... The piece that is shown at soundtoys.net exemplifies an important aspect of my work, which is dealing with possibilities to let the user make his/her own audiovisual composition. Though this is quite important to me, it is not the only thing what is my work about. I'm especially interested in exploring and subverting possibilities of the software that I use. Next I take much concern with how to present my work on the net. The process by which I develop my work is like a kind of exploration by itself, and the nice thing is that the user will also go through this "journey" of exploring when trying to find out how my pieces work and what you can do with them.

When people are talking about "soundtoys" the emphasis is always on sound, but for me the visual part of my work is as important to me as the audio part. In my work you don't see sliders, buttons or traditional controllers you identify with music instruments: you directly control components of the piece, like colors, blocks, dots, etc. which are again influencing the sound composition.

S: How long have you been working in this area?

PL: I've been making autonomous work on the net since 1996. At first I did net based installations, but I was always fascinated with the "interplay" of sounds and images. Though I was already experimenting with java applets, my real explorations of images and sound came when I discovered flash 2. Besides the fact that attaching sound to images with flash became much more easy, flash also made me work in a more abstract visual language. You could easily make that minimalist. The character of flash (vector graphics) allowed me to work full screen, and I started to work with big abstract blocks, dots, etc. You could say I used the flash esthetics to the end. Interesting to note is that someone recently told me that he saw my work as a sort of comment on the "lekkere" (dutch for tasting good) imagery you find everywhere, it was bringing interactivity back to it's basic. The thing was though that he commented on work that I made 3 to 4 years ago, that I did not make as the direct result on "lekkere" imagery. It was simply that in that time bandwidth hardly allowed big things (in size) on the net, and this was one reason to use stripped down images. The other reason was that I wanted to work just with shapes to leave more space open to imagination. So using flash was an enormous leap forward for me, but I soon felt limited by the possibilities of this software and started using director, which had and still has much more flexibility towards the use of sound. It also has another digital feel in the sense that it allows you quite easy to use a different graphic format (bitmap) instead of a vector that make flash pieces so overtly recognizable.

S: Were you an artist/ musician first who got into using computers/the net or did you respond to the net in an artistic way?

PL: No. I studied philosophy in the 80's and used a computer to write my texts. In the early 90's I started to experiment with text based animation. I did this by writing myself some lines of code. Soon after this I discovered some programs in which you could do animation very easy. From animating text I went to animating movies with images, I'm talking now about the period 1994/ 1995. This was the time I discovered the net, and I was immediately fascinated with the possibilities of this medium. Html made the creation of interactive environments very easy, even if it was at that time mostly text and simple picture based.

S: What/who has influenced you in your work? (themes, other artists etc)

PL: Two internet artists worked very inspiring for me in the beginning: jodi and antiorp (nowadays called NN). In the field of using interactive sounds I was greatly influenced by antiroms "antidote" piece, especially regarding to how sound was attached to images and the possibilities of it. My work developed from more figurative and popular imagery and sound, like disco beats, to less definable sounds (noise). The visuals of my work became more abstract (minimal): big blocks, squares, dots. For me abstract sounds (noises) were, like the use of minimal visual components, much more open to imagination. Also the internet and software like napster played an important role in this evolution of the sounds I used. Through the net I discovered music from bands like pan sonic, oval, farmers manual. On the visual side my work was influenced for the biggest part by amsterdam painters that are my friends. From them I have learned more or less to look at compositions with different eyes, and because of this I also make compositions in a different way then somebody who has some kind of multimedia education. Painters that inspired me are people like Bridget Riley, Elsworth Kelly and Peter Halley. If you look at their work you have a physical experience. I try to keep the tension of this physical experience at the level of the visual and I add noise to it to make totally immersive pieces.

S: Are there any other artists covering the same field as you?

PL: I don't know, I've stumbled on interesting engines through the years. It looks like artists just experiment with interactive audiovisual things, but for nobody this seems to be their core work. What is making my work different from most other engines is that mine are minimalist. You hardly see this kind experience. Most cases engines are trying to be somehow functional or referring to something we know.

S: What define the aesthetics of new interactive music.

Pl: I think mostly the software by which it is made and the hardware it is dependent on.

S: Does the net promotes visual awareness that is unique to it?

PL: In some ways it does. The imagery is 'slower' then television or film. The behavior of the audience (clicking) defines the experience of the audience in some ways. Computer visuals stand between sketching book and video camera, the use of it is personal, sketch like and electric. The net adds media access to this. The sketch like slowness of the worldwide web (as compared to tv and film) allows for contemplation, distance and intimacy at the same time.

S: How novel do you feel generative music and interactivity is?

PL: Interactive music has quite a history. I'm living quite near to STEIM in Amsterdam, which did much research and experiments in this field over the last decennia. The big change in this area is of course the development of the net, which first of all allows easy access and distribution of this type of music. The net plays also an important role in the way people conceive music, it allows people to make and compose music in new ways. Sound engines play an important role in this renewal. Most engines redefine the way an instrument is to or should be played, they have in most cases nothing to do with the ways standard instruments are put together and work (for example used to play notes). On the otherhand there are multiuser pieces like for example the ones did by "altzero". They allow people on different locations to make one piece of music. Another example of this kind of multiuser software using the net is a program by "de waag" called "keystroke". Though engines could be historically traced back before the www, I think the net really gave the decisive boost to them. Engines found with the net the ideal medium, especially because they are small in bytesize.

S: could you describe yourself as a multimedia artist, a net.artist, programmer, or none of the above?

PL: I see myself as artist.

S: What software do you use most and why?

PL: 2 pieces: a html editor & director. The first because the way I put something on the net is also defining the experience in an important way; the second because it's the most flexible when applied to creating and working with sound and visuals. With director you can easily compile your work to small size shockwave movies, which is important in terms of download time.

Peter Luining URL: http://www.ctrlaltdel.org/
Soundtoys URL: http://www.soundtoys.net/


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