Welding Rhythms: Field Recordings to Beats

Welding was the focus of my second visit to the London Sculpture Workshop

Rather than come to the course with an intended design for a sculpture, I was keen to learn which materials could be welded together and by which specific techniques. I opted for Arc welding; the technique was quite complicated at first, we practiced welding various pieces of steel together over and over. Visibility is tricky, as soon as the welding mask goes down, everything turns black and all you can see are the sparks from the electrode, so you have to trust your judgement. Pressing the electrode holder you tease out the electrode until it touches the surface then keep the pressure moving, whilst pushing down in an arc shape as evenly as possible over the joint. Once you are happy with the weld you use an angle grinder to smooth over the join. It’s hot work, and it’s important to be safe, grounding your work and being fully protected with goggles, gloves, mask and full boiler suit, but I found there is something quite magical about the melting down of the material and creating a new strong joint!


Working with the recordings

As well as learning the process of welding, I recorded the sounds of the studio intending to rework this audio later and possibly use as part of the live MATERIALITY set. I recorded the sound of welding, it was interesting to hear from our tutor that using your ears is really important as you can hear when the welding is going right, if you hear stops and starts and sparking noises, the technique is not right and the electrode is too far away from the material to make a solid join, so listening is a key way to tell how successful your technique is.

Below you can see the Ableton session where I started to work with the welding recordings, I like to listen into clips of audio and often transpose or time stretch to find hidden rhythms within the recording through creating loops. This is a technique used within musique concrete and it is one I really enjoy as a creative tool to generate material.  The yellow track is the original field recording, the blue track is a repeated loop of a sound fragment I liked as a rhythmic loop that I have isolated transposed and EQ’d. The loop has a triplet section, to boost this I added an midi sequence of 808 kicks to push this through in the mix. You can hear this process in the sound clip below.


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