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Album release concert at Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral / March 2011

  016 Cathedral Scan / performance, album, installation / 2009-ongoing  

  Click here for video excerpt  

Cathedral Scan translates the architectural plans of Gothic cathedrals into open-ended musical scores. Through a custom Max/MSP/Jitter patch, laptop and MIDI controllers, the plans are sonified in a real-time performance of image and sound. Rich organ-like harmonics and unique rhythmic signatures emerge from each graphic icon in a live scanning process.

Groups of scanners filling the sonic spectrum may act in synch, forming a single harmonically-dense rhythm, or they may scan the plans at different speeds, resulting in complex polyrhythms. Each plan is treated as a modular score, with a distinct rhythm and timbre of its own. Also, by varying the speed and intensity of each scanning group, drone-like sounds may emerge based on the “resonant frequency” of the black and white plan.

Visually, the scanning reveals the graphic structure. Smoke-like wisps appear and fade away as the scanners make each pass, suggesting a metaphor between architecture and ghost-like palimpsest. An empty white field surrounds each plan, placing them in a minimal landscape that is both flat and expansive.

Performances 2009-2011:
CATHEDRAL SCAN (organized by Celer and Tokyo Phonographer's Union), Bullet's, Tokyo
CATHEDRAL SCAN CD RELEASE CONCERT, Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, NYC
ELEKTRA INTERNATIONAL DIGITAL ARTS FESTIVAL, Usine C, Montreal Québec
BEYOND/IN WESTERN NY BIANNUAL, Hallwall’s Contemporary Art Center, Buffalo NY
RENCONTRE, Rustines Lab, Montreal Québec
CATHEDRAL SCAN v.2, Hendricks Chapel, Syracuse NY


Contents (click to jump):
  016a Full-length Album Version  
  016b Performance Images  
  016c Supplementary Images  
  016d Video Excerpts  
  016e Essay by John Massier  
  016f Review by Nathaniel Sullivan  



  016a Full-length Album Version / March 2011  

The album version of Cathedral Scan is edited from a previous live concert at Hendricks Chapel (see below), and combines the direct signal created in software with the immense natural reverberation of the performance space. Purchase a limited edition copy on the  Dragon's Eye Recordings  website.

Tracklist (10 tracks, 53:18)
Scan 01: Not Exeter
Scan 02: Not Amiens-Notre Dame
Scan 03: Not Salisbury
Scan 04: Not Luebeck_X
Scan 05: Not St. Denis
Scan 06: Not Chartres
Scan 07: Not Magdeburg-Tournai
Scan 08: Not Bourges_X
Scan 09: Not York-Standing Waves
Scan 10: Horspielstreifen

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Performance at Old St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York / March 2011


Performance at Elektra Festival, Montreal / May 2010


Performance at Rustines Lab, Montreal / Oct 2009


Performance at Hendricks Chapel, Syracuse / April 2009

  016b Performance Images  

Cathedral Scan is best suited to spaces with a relatively long reverberation time of 3+ seconds, but has also been performed at smaller art venues. If available and appropriate, the venue's own architectural plan is used in addition to others that are primarily from the Gothic period in Europe. Each performance is unique, yet often uses certain plans as structural modules, playing them in similar ways.

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32 Plan Grid


Luebeck waveform and plan


Norwich waveform and plan

  016c Supplementary Images  

Above are images used solely for press purposes, and show the plans in ways slightly different than during the performance proper. The images of Luebeck and Norwich show that by scanning the plan from top down an audio signal with corresponding rhythm is created.

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  016d Video Excerpts  

Click  here  to view documentation clip from CD release concert at the Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in New York (March 2011).

Click  here  to view audio-visual excerpt (Feb 2011).

Click  here  to view audio-visual signal from Rustines Lab performance, Montreal (Oct 2009).

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  016e Essay by John Massier  

The following is an article on the project by John Massier, curator at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center in Buffalo NY:

Blake Carrington’s Cathedral Scan performances are an ongoing work both wildly simple and utterly complex. Using architectural plans of Gothic cathedrals as his point of departure, Carrington scans the images using a Max/MSP/Jitter software patch that creates unique rhythms and timbres for each structure. Then, in a beautiful contemporary exemplifcation of the hand-rendered, this computer-generated raw material is molded and manipulated through a audio-visual performance piece that has occasionally lasted up to two hours.

While not a pointedly religious work, it borrows many religious cues in content and performance. Its electronic score, while completely contemporary, simultaneously evokes eons of history—not specific moments, but the magnificent, monumental depth of history. The music fades and swells with the purposeful emotional arc of any great symphonic work and with the cathedral images fading and transforming alongside it are like a nonstop parade of otherworldly forms. Both image and sound rely and build upon repetition, but cannot be said to be monotonous. There is a rhythm within the work that— like the droning of prayer, medieval chanting, or even slow, measured breathing—promotes a meditative state. Images pulse, and quiver, and fade, and reemerge like half-remembered thoughts. In reviewing a performance of the work, Nathan Sullivan astutely observed the non-religious religiosity of the piece and noted that “Carrington sat shaman-like, in front of the screen, lit by his electronics. The scans of cathedrals, combined with the venue and the drone of the music, imbued the performance with a heavy religious tone. At one point I looked up to read the text above the altar, which read ‘Praise Him.’”

But Carrington’s gesture is not to idealize the artist as a latter day priest, but to bring a heavily-loaded historical icon to the present moment and explore whether something sacred—however you may define that for yourself—is still in the realm of the possible. It is an elaborate and elegant drawing exercise as well as electronic sound art and Carrington’s agile manipulation of technology takes its simple conceit and seemingly cool aloofness and concoct an experience of genuine drama. His visual tone poem, concise and elegant in its construct, reveals itself to be a perpetually widening space of possibility and reverence.


–John Massier / Fall 2010

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  016f Review by Nathaniel Sullivan  

On April 3rd, 2009 I performed my MFA Thesis concert at Hendricks Chapel, the non-denominational chapel on the Syracuse University campus. It was a two-hour performance with a largely improvised structure, utilizing custom software built with Max/MSP/Jitter. A single 10' x 14' projection displayed the scans, while 4 separate sound channels filled the space acoustically. The following is a review of the show written by Nathaniel Sullivan:

The audience passed through the two-hour performance, sitting in pews, free to come and go, or to move around the space in order to experience the work from different vantage points. The sound was loud enough, but not oppressive. For the most part, my eyes remained fixed on the large screen at the front, as the scans meditatively worked over its surface. However, like the church going experience that I remember having as a child, I also drifted, to watching others, and allowing my thoughts to go inward. The music, generated by the visuals, was drone based and shifted gradually as the scan patterns unfolded. I found myself in a contemplative space, seduced by the beauty of the experience, but given enough space to cycle through my own thoughts.

Despite the non-denominational and quasi-secular auspices of Hendricks Chapel, it would be hard to ignore the religious connotations of the work. Carrington sat shaman-like, in front of the screen, lit by his electronics. The scans of cathedrals, combined with the venue and the drone of the music, imbued the performance with a heavy religious tone. At one point I looked up to read the text above the altar, which read “Praise Him”. Parallels could be drawn to durational religious activities like funeral wakes, mass prayers or group meditations. Those events induce a kind of trance state, whether wholly interior or hysterically projected. By placing these references in the context of contemporary art, the transcendent becomes another affect that can be deconstructed or reconstituted.

However large the experience gets, an elegant conceptual gesture remains at the core of Cathedral Scan. The project seems to be a secular reading on an experience weighted by religious signifiers. Carrington reduces the totalizing experience of Gothic cathedrals to information on a patch bay, and therefore begs the question of what is gained or lost in this act of transference.

The work is a simulation; a flattened, digitized representation of spaces that used acoustic and visual affects to coerce the feudal masses to accept their suffering as a pious act. Transported to the present, that experience is pipelined through software and re-projected. In the process, the spaces become conceptually cool rather than affectively hot. The scans are floor plans rather than elevations, separating us from the envelopment of the spaces, and diminishing the old-school shock and awe trademarked by the Catholic Church.

The surround sound was more structured and musical rather than random or abstract. The tones were constant and pervasive, linking it to medieval chanting, and to minimal music. However, the work constantly resists being read as a musical exercise by its conceptual relationship to the image. Simulation remains fore-grounded by the pairing of the scanned image with the manufactured, software driven sound.

Certainly spaces and affects are important to the work. After all, it is an exploration of the intersection of a particular geography with phenomenological implications both past and present. But by not transcending the present, Cathedral Scan becomes a work about the present, at a moment when what we hold sacred is becoming less tangible. As post-modernity reaches an exhaustive horizontality, the desire to reign in collective experience accelerates. Might we dare stake out a new idea of the universal? How might new collective experiences look and feel and sound? Are they even possible? By reaching back a few hundred years with the arm of contemporary technology, Cathedral Scan raises important questions of how contemporary transformative experiences may be constructed, mediated and passed on.

–Nathaniel Sullivan / April 2009


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  031 Bessarabia Ghost Tapes  
  030 Strata Systems  
  029 Performance at The Icebox for Shaping a Signal  
  028 A Strong Hand That Nonetheless Gets You Nowhere  
  027 Apple Blossom Time  
  026 Loci_Convergence  
  024 Loci_Palimpsest  
  023 The Ornithologist Ghosthunter  
  022 Erosion/Evaporation (Scan Reina Sofia)  
  021 Interview in Post New Magazine  
  020 Haeinsa_Palimpsest  
  018 High and Low (Sightlines)  
  017 Dis/continuum  
  016 Cathedral Scan  
  015 Suomenlinna Ornithological Society  
  014 Loci_  
  012 Topoextension  
  011 ATS02: Solve  
  010 Interview with Belinda Haikes  
  007 ATS01: Wisp  
  006 ATS00: Catch  
  005 Moby the Mobile Projection Unit  
  004 Avalanche at Broad Street