Stephen Christopher Stamper

Artist and immigrant living and working in Helsinki
stephenstamper at protonmail dot com

Info

Stephen Christopher Stamper

01 statement right half

Artist's Statement

Stephen Christopher Stamper is a British-born artist and immigrant living and working in Helsinki. Through sound work, installation and performance, Stephen has explored themes of decay, memory and obsolescence, the body and its relationship to illness, the manipulation and execution of code by machine, and extreme metal music culture.
Curriculum Vitae

02 respiration right half

Maatuu uinuu henkii (Respiration Field), 2019


When the artist Teemu Lehmusruusu asked me to come up with the sound for Respiration Field, the only guidance he gave me was that he wanted a drone, and that he wanted to avoid any obvious “breathing” sounds.
A recurring theme throughout my work is the use of simple sine waves. They are the basic building blocks of more complex waves – any sound can be decomposed into, or built up from, sine waves.
For Respiration Field, I wanted to create a “field of sound,” one where the individual tone of each separate chamber would combine with all the others – alternately interfering constructively and destructively – generating a beating, a pulse, suggestive of life and the repetitive cycles of inhalation and exhalation.
Now for the technical bit!
Attaching an exciter directly to the glass turns each of the five chambers into a resonator. The mixed output of two sine wave generators – one fixed, the other variable – drives the exciter. Initially, the two sine waves begin in unison – that is, they share the same frequency – but as the carbon dioxide levels inside the chamber fluctuate, the variable sine wave generator, controlled by the chamber’s carbon dioxide sensor, slips out of unison with the fixed generator. This difference in frequency generates a beating, perceived as a periodic variation in volume. The greater the carbon dioxide levels within the chamber, the faster the beating.
Due to the multi-directional nature of the resonating glass, the beating tones from each chamber mingle and interact in varied and unpredictable ways as the listener moves around the installation.

03 intimacy right half

Intimacy, 2017


As an artist and performer, the computer has been my main instrument since the early nineties. Throughout that time I have often struggled with how to perform with it in front of an audience. I have always felt at a remove, unable to forge that intimate connection that some musicians seem to have with their chosen instrument. Things began to change when I stopped relying on third-party software and began to create my own instruments with the open-source audio and video programming environment Pure Data, although I still felt that there was a disconnect between my physical gestures and the resulting audio output.
I finally had an epiphany of sorts after accidentally routing the input from my laptop’s built-in microphone straight back out through the built-in speakers, resulting in an angry howl of feedback. In that moment my laptop became a harmonic oscillator: an electronic amplifier connected in a feedback loop with its output fed back into its input. The position of my hands near the built-in microphone acted as a kind of frequency selective filter, with every tiny movement or gesture sculpting the sound in real-time. The physical properties of the laptop, its size, shape, position of the microphone and speakers, even the angle of the screen, all became part of the instrument. It was no longer just about the abstract layers of computation going on within.
As my ability to perform with this instrument relies on the interaction between the laptop’s built-in microphone and speakers, any external amplification is out of the question. Instead I propose an intimate performance, one where the audience can concentrate on the delicate, high-pitched sounds produced by the laptop’s tiny speakers. In fact, due to the extremely unstable nature of the sounds produced by audio feedback, everyone in the performance space will become a living, breathing part of the instrument, with even the slightest shuffle, cough or whisper having the potential to greatly affect the output.

Sketch for Electric Guitar, Laptop and Electromagnetic Interference, 2015


Sketch for single coil pickup electric guitar, monophonic pitch tracking sine wave oscillator, three randomly reversible audio buffers and electromagnetic interference.
Review by Marc Weidenbaum at Disquiet.com.

Threnody for Elementary Satellite 1, 2015


Accompanied by Sputnik 1’s mournful beeps, two quarter-speed tape loops – taken from a vinyl copy of the 1981 The Music of Cosmos soundtrack – trace a slow elliptical orbit around the record’s run-out groove…
Piece composed for the third edition of Gwaith Sŵn’s Sonic Darts radio show, first broadcast on 7 September 2015 on Resonance104.4fm. The theme for the show was space and science fiction.

The Swallows of Chernobyl, 2015


An audio piece consisting of a loop of birdsong passed through a “side-chain” gate triggered by a geiger counter. Whenever the geiger counter triggers the gate a tiny piece of the loop is “ducked” (silenced). Eventually all traces of the birdsong will be erased from the loop.
This piece was inspired by a Scientific American article about biologists researching the effects of low-dose radiation on living things by studying common barn swallows within the exclusion zones of both Chernobyl and Fukushima.

07 echoic right half

Echoic, 2014


The genesis of this album came from a shoebox full of old cassette tapes I had been dragging around for well over 20 years. Containing recordings made by my friends and I, these cassettes had slowly morphed from a type of hastily scribbled musical sketchpad into a tangible form of long-term memory: fragments of thoughts and ideas encoded deep within the tape’s magnetic subconscious.
Fearful of losing these precious memories, or at the very least the means to retrieve them, I pulled my barely functioning Walkman out of storage and began the long and arduous task of digitising this irreplaceable archive.
An unforeseen routing issue saw the sound of a 22-year-old living room rehearsal pass through my current live performance set-up. A jumble of digital filters and delays suddenly became my laptop’s echoic memory: audio from up to four seconds ago began to resurface, overlaying the present, forcing me to re-hear once overly-familiar sounds in an entirely new way…
Listen to the full album on Bandcamp.

Binary Modulation, 2013


This performance consisted of an Asus Eee PC 2G Surf running Debian Squeeze plus a Maplin Telephone Pick-Up Coil plugged into a Behringer Eurorack UB502 Mixer. The Eee PC was turned on and the following commands were entered via the command line:
cat /lib/modules/2.6.32-5-686/* > /dev/dsp
./howse/self "/bin/ps" "-ef" > /dev/dsp

The Book of Job/You Suffer, 2013


The Book of Job, commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Old Testament. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God and, finally, a response from God. An oft-asked question in The Book of Job is, "Why do the righteous suffer?"
You Suffer is a song by the British grindcore band Napalm Death, who are credited with defining the grindcore genre through their blend of hardcore punk and metal musical structures, aggressive playing, fast tempos and deep, guttural vocals. The song has earned a place in The Guinness Book of Records as the shortest recorded song ever. It is precisely 1.316 seconds long and consists entirely of the lyrics "You suffer, but why?"
The Book of Job/You Suffer consists of a plain text file, containing all 42 chapters of the King James Version of The Book of Job, imported as raw data into a sound editor at a rate of 76190 Hertz in order to produce a burst of audio precisely 1.316 seconds long.

Small Victories