Live Recording "Into the Incubator Soil"

“Into the Incubator Soil” is a live recording of a single performance in November 2021. The piece was part of a larger exhibition at the Visual Art Centre of Clarington exploring mycelial networks, community incubation, waste and growth…

In the centre of the gallery artist Sahar Te built a functional oyster mushroom incubator. On the opening night people from the community around the gallery participated in creating mushroom starters and hanging them in the incubator, at the end of the exhibition everyone was invited back to collect their growing mushrooms.

Within that context, Sahar asked me to create a new sound work as a response to the incubator and the surrounding ideas.

The resulting piece is a set of field recordings, a custom SuperCollider based performance instrument, and this recording of the performance in the gallery.

Thinking about sound, compost, networks, growth/fruiting, and community, I collected recordings of the spaces in and around the incubator and gallery, in the surrounding community and parks, and of the other events taking place as part of the exhibition. The SuperCollider program uses these recordings as a raw material to “compost” and then “sprout” or “fruit” … At the beginning of the piece I deconstruct and mix together all of the recordings in their sort of “raw” form, over time slowly introducing a tuned bank of resonators that turn the “mulch” of all the recordings into “fruit”–new harmonies and dissonances emerging from the mass of sounds.

The SuperCollider program is controlled as an instrument. Eight faders are mapped to the bank of sounds, letting me control the pitch and segment/duration (start position and length) in real time. Another bank of eight faders and eight encoders controls the tuned resonators… with the two combined I can play the recordings as both sound collage and exciters for the resonators… essentially strumming/plucking the resonators by scrubbing through the field recordings and honing in on different moments of percussive attack, or sustained tone.

I’m happy to share more about the code or process if anyone is interested!


This sounds really lovely and the resonators are very “life-like”. I didn’t read the description properly before listening, so at first I assumed the resonance was obtained by playing field recordings through solenoids onto resonant objects (gongs etc).

1 Like

I haven’t yet had a chance to listen, but I’m interested in as much as you’re willing to share about both code and process (and sneakily suspect I’m not alone).

1 Like

It really does sound “alive” in that way. The resonator I built in SuperCollider is actually pretty simple. No physical modelling or anything, just a simple filtered feedback system tuned to a specific frequency. There are 8 tuned feedback resonators in the instrument, so I can really play them on a set of sliders as if they were physical things. The same applies to how the source material is playable into the resonators, giving me a lot of fluid and expressive control over how the resonators are “struck” or “bowed”…

I’m happy to answer any specific questions… here’s a bit more info in general:

When I was invited to make something for this exhibition all the artists involved had a few group discussions about the main themes and ideas we were all exploring. The biggest overlapping areas were thinking about community, locality, sustainable growth, and cycles/circular systems. The initial public workshop where we all started mushroom growing bags together really solidified some of my thinking early on… we were using waste material, pieces of existing oyster mushrooms, and a specific environment in order to create the conditions for new mushrooms to grow… i was also taken with the language around compost, fruiting bodies, mycelial networks etc.

I knew I wanted to do something really site specific, working with sound from the local area and exhibition itself. My general approach to projects is to start with an idea or phrase, and then iterate by making stuff until something clicks. For this project I started by recording that initial mushroom growing workshop, and then visiting the gallery and grounds a few times over the course of the exhibition. The performance was very near the closing date, so I had a full month to gather sounds in and around the incubator, gallery, and nearby parks and community.

I was inspired by the decomposing → fruiting process, so wanted to try to model my performance on that idea… and abstraction of that idea.

The SuperCollider script is fairly simple and based on a set of function and SynthDefs that I’ve been using and refining over a few years for different projects.

In this iteration the script reads a directory of audio files into buffers. One or more buffers is assigned to the Synth and has midi mapped controls for loop start position, duration, speed (from -2 to +2), and volume. A second SynthDef defines a tuned resonator and maps controls for input gain and volume to more midi cc’s. I create a synth for eight frequencies in a custom scale mapped to a controller.

Then it’s all performance … I can play the recordings using one bank of midi faders, and the resonators with another.