Reviewer biography

Current Reviews

Review Articles

Book Reviews Archive


by Noisefold
Self-published, 2007
20 pp. N/A


by Noisefold
Interactive Futures 2007
Friday, November 16, 9:30 p.m.
Conference website:

Reviewed by Dene Grigar
Digital Technology and Culture
Washington State University Vancouver


It makes a certain amount of sense to review both a book about and performance of visual music. Noisefold, the book, archives high quality still images captured from ideal moments of the work and its written text contextualizes the underlying theory and techniques that the reviewer can consult, while Noisefold, the performance, provides the impetus for reviewing, the drive to want to tell others about it. One is mesmerized by a work of art and then seeks out more information about the artist and the work in order to know more about it.

So it is with Noisefold, the band’s, work. Comprised of Cory Metcalf and David Stout, Noisefold is a duo out of Santa Fe interested in "network performance exploring A-Life, chaotic systems, intelligent noise and visual music" ("IF07"). Their book is a well-articulated volume that details performances given by the two artists as well as the installations they have created and digital prints produced since 2005. Their performance at Interactive Futures 2007 resembled nothing of the "Jimmy Hendrix with a power drill" description found at the conference website. Rather, it was a powerful birthing of A-Life data that delighted and fascinated. Yeah, it was noisy, but when is creation ever described as quiet? Think the Big Bang taking place in a gallery in Victoria, Canada, and you get a better idea of the experience.

A small book of 20 pages, Noisefold devotes three to explaining the duo’s ideas and history. We learn that they are influenced by Castille, Russolo, Kandinsky, the Vasulkas, Wiener, and Cage; have performed in Morocco, New York, among other places; and have won numerous media arts and technology awards for their work. We also learn that they describe their art as "visual music theater where ‘lifelike’ avatars emerge, evolve and emit a startling array of subtle sounds, chaotic rhythms, and shimmering walls of harmonic noise" (2). Also presented is information about installations like 100 Monkeys, a universe of A-Life creatures that mate, reproduce, and are fed upon by predators also generating from the system Metcalf and Stout set in motion. Another installation, "Grey Crossing" uses video noise to generate grey "rectilinear forms" (6-7). The final portion of the book focuses on prints. Twenty-three images are reproduced in the books’ pages, nine of which are in full color. Of these, the ones from the Intersect series are the most compelling––the clarity of the flaming oranges, reds, and yellows against the stark black background is visually stunning.

The CD that accompanies the book provides six visual representations––what Metcalf and Stout refer to as "live cinema"––of live performances they have given. Included are ".02," "Night Blooms," "Heat Seeker," "genius loci," "Light Vessel," and "Azoth." This reviewer found "Night Blooms" the most unique of the collection in that normally free form chaotic images give way to oscillating figures reminiscent of plant life.

In the live performance at Interactive Futures Metcalf and Stout faced one another from across the gallery. In front of each were laptops wired up to cameras, projectors, microphones, and sensors. The description of the piece found on the conference website puts it aptly: The artists "mix or breed 3D forms from a database of mathematic equations to create live audio-visual structures resembling fictional architectures and artificial organisms" ("IF07"). The way in which both men gestured at the sensors during the performance as a way to create "’lifelike’ avatars [that] emerge, evolve and emit a startling array of chaotic rhythms, and shimmering sonic textures" ("IF07"), embued the experience with a sense of necromancy. What else does one call the creation of a life form from mere data but a kind of magic?

The book is not available, and the conference performance was not taped and archived. But their work can be found online at their project site at http://nfold.csf.edu/Pages/Noisefold.htm and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/NoiseFold. Unfortunately, no performance schedule is provided, but it is well worth the effort to contact them to find out when they next will perform.



Updated 1st January 2008

Contact LDR: ldr@leonardo.org

Contact Leonardo: isast@leonardo.info

copyright © 2008 ISAST