Sunday, June 21, 2009

KNM's House Musik


Last night, we spent the evening at the Siemens factory at Kammerensemble für Neue Musik's annual House Musik event. The event was spread out over a few buildings. One building had a lo-fi dodecahedral sound system consisting of piezos and metal shelves. There was a conveyor elevator like the kind you see in old movies that carried different musicians with various homemade electronic instruments in a circle. Different sounds could be heard as each lift passed. In the courtyard were different installations. There was a speaker on a swing that would make sound when pushed. An air-conditioning unit was converted into a sound piece with an old rusty zither modified with a guitar pickup, ping pong balls, and feathers. The fan would create random sounds and drones that were fed to an amp inside the unit. Then we went over to a high-security factory floor where they manufacture large scale dynamos for wind turbines. In this industrial setting we heard four compositions in various sections of the factory. They were as follows:

Workers Union, by Louis Andriessen:
  • This piece set the industrial groundwork for the other pieces and introduced the factory setting. Quick paced, melodic, and slightly aggressive, it was performed with flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, french horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, percussion, violin, cello, and contrabass.
d-balancing - Composition/Installation for 6 Channel Subsonic System, by Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag:
  • With microphones directing the sound of a spinning dynamo (elsewhere in the factory for safety and for better audio control, seen via a camera and large lcd screen), the frequencies and sounds generated were projected through a 6 channel system. As the industrial setting rumbled with bassy tones, contrabass, tuba, bass clarinet, and piccolo gradually and spaciously added to the rich and consuming layer of sound.
Scrape, by Juliana Hodkinson:
  • This was composed for cello, amplified metal plate, and audio playback. KNM Cellist, Ringela Riemke, positioned on a pile of wooden pallets, played a thrashing, yet oddly ambient piece. Her cello and feet were positioned on a rusty metal plate. The cello's vibrations carried through to this plate creating distorted effects. As she rubbed her foot over the metal surface, harsh scraping sounds were generated. All of this was accompanied by a digital ambient track. Juliana is actually friends with my friend Nina who is an electro-acoustic improv musician currently teaching at UCLA. (Check out her band soNu.) Nina is the one who tipped me off to this music event. I got to meet Juliana and talk with her after the show.
Unreasonable Strains, by Christopher Fox:
  • This last piece involved musicians playing their instruments from various places around the space instead of a centralized location in front of an audience. We were surrounded by a bass clarinet, alto saxophone, french horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, and electric guitar played with a laser pick. Various distant layers came from various directions creating a near a pensive or lost and searching feeling, perhaps through a fog, all with an electric drone from the guitar. A friend of mine, who also came with me to the performance, had actually worked with this composer a few years back and she got a chance to speak with him a bit about composing in Berlin.
The overall experience was wonderful! The setting of a high-security industrial factory and the musical compositions complemented each other extremely well! It was a very impressive event. Afterwards, Mandie went home, inspired, to work on some of her art projects, and I went out with some friends for some Vietnamese food and then to a bar after a short stint in a very crowded club. I have lots of new electronic components that I picked up yesterday and hope to have some interesting projects coming out soon!

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