Entries Tagged as '2008 The Listening Array'

The Listening Array: Audio

February 19th, 2008 · No Comments · 2008 The Listening Array

spectrogram of decoded sounds from a Russian selcall system [source]

One fascinating find in our research into this project was the existence of “Numbers Stations:” radio stations of unknown origin which broadcast strings of spoken numbers over shortwave radio in various languages. We had unknowingly crossed paths with this idea before, in Wilco’s album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which takes its title and many of the samples from a particular numbers broadcast.

Numbers stations are quite mysterious and have a dedicated following of shortwave radio enthusiasts and decoders. The running theory is that these stations are transmitting nearly unbreakable coded messages, but no one really knows, because no official agency will acknowledge their existence. Here’s a story NPR did on the phenomena in 2004.

The Listening Array: Set Lighting Tests

February 16th, 2008 · No Comments · 2008 The Listening Array


Here are some working photos of our lighting tests over the last couple weeks.

The Listening Array: Essay

February 13th, 2008 · No Comments · 2008 The Listening Array, Writing

on the set at The Listening Array photo and video shoot

I have spent my week listening to secret tapes from Kennedy’s office during the Cuban Missile Crisis and reading the transcripts of Reagan and Gorbechev’s Cold War dinner parties in Reykjavik, Iceland. It all boils down to espionage, really, and the bug the Russians put in the U.S. seal at the American embassy in Moscow. That seal, plus fifty-year-old listening devices and gold halos in historical art: that’s the jist of this project.

It doesn’t necessarily make sense, and that used to bother me, back when I was suspicious of postmodern art, before I started making serious art myself. Yet it does make a kind of sense when you see it all in context. This project we’re working on is called The Listening Array: a term that refers to a series of microphones connected in different intervals that correlate data to determine position. It’s a device used for spying. It’s also exactly what it sounds like: an arrangement of things that are used to listen. In this project, it references both meanings.


The Listening Array: Editing the Video

February 11th, 2008 · 1 Comment · 2008 The Listening Array


When we filmed The Listening Array last week we used a steadycam, a device that helps you hold the camera steady. This was our first time using one, and we found out it’s a LOT harder than we anticipated. Walking is an up-and-down sort of thing. Getting the camera to move in a way that avoids that–even with expensive gear–is extremely difficult, and practically impossible with our limited experience.

Our best takes have jerks and bounces. Normally we would hand animate them out. We do a lot of micro-editing like this. By animating the video’s scale, position and rotation in the opposite rate and amount that the camera jerks, you can theoretically remove unwanted camera movements. The problem, of course, is this takes a painful amount of time, patience and knowledge.

This is the kind of action, that in a perfect world would be done automatically by a computer.

I’m pleased to report that this time has arrived. To our delight, the new version of Apple’s Final Cut Pro has this feature and it works extremely well, even on aggressively complicated movements.

Final Cut Pro on our Apple Computer took 30 minutes to analyze our two minute clip’s motion and then mathematically altered the motion so the camera appears to move perfectly smooth. Almost too perfect. Amazing. In the clip above I’ve deactivated the “auto zoom” that hides how the computer fixes the clip. You can see how the computer smoothes the camera movement by looking at the clip’s edges constantly rotating and scaling.

The Listening Array Invitation

February 8th, 2008 · 3 Comments · 2008 The Listening Array

The Listening Array, 2008, Megan and Murray McMillan: a photo, video, and installation exhibition

Here’s the image for the show invitation. We leave for LA on Feb 22 and when we get there, we’ll build the installation that houses the video on site. There will be a public lecture on Wed, Feb 27 and the opening is on Thurs, Feb 28 at Whittier College.

This is the first time we’ll have been back to LA since we moved out east, and it’s going to be so great to see people, sunshine, trees that bloom. Here, now: it’s snowing.

New Project Title: The Listening Array

February 3rd, 2008 · 3 Comments · 2008 The Listening Array


Our current work in progress has been titled, The Listening Array. Thanks to a fantastic cast and crew, we had a great video and photography shoot on Saturday. We’re still editing the final images, but the image above is somewhat close to what a final images will look like.

Behind the pipes, performers are stationed listening. We’ll release the video (which we’re now editing) online for a limited time when the exhibition opens later this month in LA at Whittier College.

New Project: Set Construction 7

February 1st, 2008 · 2 Comments · 2008 The Listening Array


Nulco Lighting, based in Pawtucket, has generously agreed to lend us a very nice chandelier for the our video shoot on Saturday (thanks K. and C. and to M. for the recommendation). We’re installing it today (needless to say, we’re tripling the amount of hardware holding it up).

New Project: Set Construction 6

January 31st, 2008 · No Comments · 2008 The Listening Array


The tubes are gold and surround the dinner party-goers — in the spirit of a nimbus or halo in historical art. The least expensive and most effective option for that much gold (don’t laugh): thirty cans of spray paint. There was a real nimbus of gold floating in our studio for a good 12 hours after we painted.

New Project: Set Construction 5

January 29th, 2008 · No Comments · 2008 The Listening Array


This photo is after the set is built, but before we painted the tubes gold. One piece we’ve thought about a lot is Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St Theresa. Bernini is one of those influences we come back to frequently.

New Project: Costume Design

January 26th, 2008 · 2 Comments · 2008 The Listening Array