Norbert Collaborates, Farmers Market Adventures, Russell McGee’s Play, Brown Bag

Norbert Herber’s Underwater Recording Adventures

Lately, Professor Nobert Herber has been getting his hands dirty . . . in more ways than one. He has teamed up with fiber artist Rowland Ricketts, a professor in the School of Fine Arts. They have been working on a collaborative piece for the upcoming Grunwald Gallery show called “Waveforms,” a regional show featuring sound art.  What brought them together?  Norbert and Rowland are both fascinated with capturing change, transformation, and behavior. The working title of Norbert and Rowland’s piece is “Immanence,” as they focus on exploring the subtleties and gradations of a complete process that leads to a finished work. What exactly does it entail? “I had an idea to work with fabric or thread and dye, but I wanted to track the rate and amount of saturation in the wicking process,” says Norbert.  In other words, the idea was to translate the wicking process into sound. As the dye would move, the saturation and distance traveled would modify the frequency makeup of a single, synthesized tone and alter its character. The process was meant to bring attention to color, seen and heard as timbre. Initially, pieces of fabric were permanently dipped into vats of dye. Over time, as the dye wicked upwards, Norbert tracked the wicking process with electronic sensors.

Both Norbert and Rowland were fully aware that the project basically involved moving a science lab into the art gallery.  However, time constraints eliminated this possibility. So, over the summer, Norbert and Rowland recorded all of the various steps involved in preparing indigo dye: growing, harvesting, drying, and stomping the leaves. They also recorded the sounds of submerging fabric in the indigo vats and rinsing of the finished pieces. “Because liquid was so crucial in these processes, I wanted to capture those sounds in a unique way,” says Norbert. However, there was one problem.  High quality underwater microphones are very expensive and Norbert needed another solution. He had read about the technique of using a condom to “waterproof” a microphone but never had an excuse to try it until this project came along. This lead to the purchase of a pack of un-lubricated condoms and a simple tape recorder microphone for about . . . $14.  Mission accomplished.
Not fearing unorthodox methods in their approaches, both Norbert and Rowland also have other projects in the works. While Rowland is working on another show that will overlap with Waveforms, Norbert is working on an iPhone/iPodTouch app called “Baby Reindeer.” According to Norbert, “Baby Reindeer is really simple: you launch it and it plays. But it plays differently every time and drifts in and out of various moods, making it ideal for music to accompany reading, writing, sleeping, and other activities in which you want to listen to music that sets a mood, but doesn’t necessitate your full listening attention.” We look forward to seeing more interesting projects from these two creative minds and you can find out more about Norbert and Rowland’s collaborative process here.
Listen to audio from “Immanence” here:
Rowland Rickett’s website:
A Morning at the Farmer’s Market

I’ve spent the last five years of my life in Bloomington, and I’m embarrassed to admit that in those five years I’ve never once visited the farmer’s market. It has never been a conscious thing. Friends and colleagues never fail to fill me in on their bountiful Saturday morning hauls, and on numerous occasions I’ve been on the receiving end of some really great dishes made with farmer’s market produce. Maybe my incredibly poor dietary habits are to blame. (Kraft Mac and Cheese anybody?).  Maybe Saturday morning was just too early. Whatever the reason I had failed as a Bloomington resident to experience one of Bloomington’s unique offerings, so when I received this assignment, I had no more outs. I was finally going.

I walked outside to a cool 67 degrees, the perfect temperature for separating men from their money (or so says my boss). As I made my way to city hall, traffic was thick, both with pedestrians and cars. Parking around the farmer’s market, like most Bloomington affairs, can be tricky. Most street parking spots around city hall are 2 hour only and are enforced on Saturdays, unlike most other parking spots, but I was fortunate to find one close by.

The farmer’s market takes place in the Showers Common, right outside the Showers building on N Morton Street every Saturday from 8am to 1pm. On the paved common were rows of tents and folding tables set up in front of pickup trucks, usually manned by between one and three farmers. The colors of the handmade signs and the various produce stood out against the grey background of an overcast sky, and the sound of upbeat bluegrass music was coming from a tent set up on the eastern side of the market.  Everything about it felt like Bloomington. Visitors included older folks in button up shirts and slacks, young couples with young children, hippies in dreadlocks and flowing skirts, and IU students taking notes for classes. Everywhere you looked hugs and handshakes were taking place as friends and acquaintances ran into each other, intentionally or not. For whatever reason shirts with animals on them were in abundance; reindeer, dogs, cats, and eagles. I even saw one older gentleman channeling the spirit of the Three Wolves with a wicked wolf T-shirt.

I spotted MA student Sean Connolly and his friend Sarah by the entrance. Both farmer’s market veterans, Sarah gave me the vitals before heading out: biggest farmer’s market in the state, produce along the south side, artisans set up by the fountain, cooked food on the northwest side. As we strolled past the various stands, Sean filled me in on the idiosyncrasies of the market that a first time visitor like myself wouldn’t know. He pointed out the place to get the best cheese, and told me about the farmer who grows neon yellow watermelon and the accompanying weird sensory experience of eating neon yellow watermelon. Like many who visit the market, Sean tends his own garden and grows food with seedlings he buys from the farmer’s market. For Sean it’s all about color. It keeps him interested. Why buy green basil, when you can buy purple basil which looks much prettier in the garden?

We found Norbert Herber next to a bin of watermelon, fresh coffee in hand. Herber told me he always buys his coffee from the farmer’s market, as it’s always ground the day before. He also noted that the market is a great spot for his family to meet up with friends before he dashed after his son to buy a pumpkin.

Baby Watermelon Cucumbers

Free samples were in abundance and I munched happily on cheese cubes, berries, and even something called baby watermelon cucumbers. As I browsed the various offerings, watching the farmers making deals, and talking shop with each other and the customers, I was struck, for I think the first time in my life, by how much people care about food. Not just in a survivalist sense either. These farmers talk about their squash the same way they talk about their pets. And it isn’t only the farmers. The visitors pick over the produce as if they were picking out an engagement ring. They study it, hold it up to the light, squeeze it, and ask for a second (and sometimes third) opinion before putting it down and looking at the next specimen, all the while talking to the farmer about their growing techniques, the dish they plan on making later in the day, or their previous experiences with that farmer’s produce. They know which stand to buy their tomatoes from, which farmer has the best garlic, and what price they want to pay for their watermelon. I would never expect to be able to go up to a Kroger stock boy and talk about the relative merits of Stouffers Macaroni and Cheese vs. Kraft, but here, that kind of behavior isn’t just normal, its expected. The amount of care that goes into producing, selling, selecting, and buying food at the farmer’s market is remarkable. Just watching the process made me, the prototypical consumer of the college student diet, want to not only eat better, but care about the food I was eating.

When I was a kid, my mom used to make (and still does) wonderful chocolate chip cookies. Whenever I would ask her what ingredient makes the cookies so good she would always give me the same answer, “love.” After visiting the farmer’s market I have a feeling that that the answer applies to more than just mom’s cookies and that those who frequent the farmer’s market have been in on a secret that took me over five years to discover.

Russell McGee in All My Sons

Ever since high school  MS student Russell McGee has been heavily involved in theater. He’s worked as an actor, director, and playwright, but after 18 years his theater career is coming to a close.   The Cardinal Stage Company’s production of The Arthur Miller classic All My Sons will be McGee’s last performance as he makes the transition from the stage to television and film. McGee plays Frank Lubey in the WWII drama. “I have a minor role, I am the comic relief,” McGee admits.

The play revolves around an American family struggling with the realities of war on the home front, and the consequences of decisions that are made during war.  There is “lots of emotional turmoil going on,” McGee says. Despite the emotional turmoil occurring on stage, McGee has had a positive experience working on All My Sons. Unlike many local production companies, Cardinal Stage Company employs equity actors, giving McGee the opportunity to work with professionals, and opportunity he has so far enjoyed. Likewise, the show’s preview performance received a standing ovation, something that has only happened twice before in McGee’s Cardinal Stage experience.

All My Sons runs through September 18, and you can purchase tickets at this location

Brown Bag Presentation

This week’s Brown Bag featured Professor David Waterman, recently returned from Oxford, England, and his work on the current economic state of the media.  Along with graduate student Sung Wook Ji, he will be presenting his data analysis at a conference later this year.  You can listen to the full audio here:

Are the Media Shrinking?


I will present joint work in progress with Sung Wook Ji, Dept of Telecommunications. We find that combined revenues for 10 major media in the U.S. have steadily declined as a proportion of overall economic activity (GDP) from about 1999 to 2009 or 2010, approaching the lowest levels reached since 1950. For individual media, we find the same general pattern, with exception of television and video games, whose revenues have so far kept pace with GDP.  We also find a marked overall shift away from advertiser toward direct payment support for the media over the past decade.

We consider 4 possible reasons for these revenue trends: shifts in consumer media usage; more difficult copyright protection; failing advertising business models, and of particular interest in this study: reduced costs due to more efficient Internet distribution. A preliminary analysis of U.S. Census employment data for media industries since 1998 corroborates the declining revenue trends, but suggests that media production has declined less than have media distribution and exhibition functions.


Nicky Lewis:  Norbert Herber’s Underwater Recording Adventures, Brown Bag Presentation

Mike Lang: A Morning at the Farmer’s Market, Russell McGee in All My Sons

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