ce399 | research archive (esoterica)

Ars Electronica Archive: Timeshift – The World in Twenty Five Years

Posted in Uncategorized by ce399 on 29/08/2010

L’Espace Temporel
Passage between Analog and Digital

Sound is a process carried out over time; music is the design of this process (through sound). Music nominates periods of time particularly through historically specified aesthetic strategies and principles that are likewise reflected in the respective tonal images and structures. Moreover, sound also communicates perceptual patterns of spatial orientation. Psycho-acoustic associations of space, for example, are simulated in dependence upon frequency level—high for close proximity, low for distance. Physically speaking, space in the context of sound is linked with its own echo. According to the principle of the echo sounder (sonic depth finder/altimeter), the time between the occurrence of a sound and its echo gives rise to the imagination of a distance. Under the motto L’Espace Temporel, spaces and time-windows are also imagined in a way that reflects back sounds in the form of graphic images.

The concert evening constitutes a further development of the synesthetic procedure that was produced in 2003 in the form of visualized concerts entitled Principles of Indeterminism with reference to codes as “notation systems” realized acoustically and graphically in equal measure. The possibility of taking this initial experiment to a further, more profound level was fostered by the constellation of Ars Electronica, the Bruckner Orchestra and its conductor, Dennis Russell Davies, and their shared interest in unconventional, trans-disciplinary performance practices. The project confronts listeners with tonal spaces and time windows at the nexus of instrumental music, digital sound synthesis, live electronics and remix. In and around the Brucknerhaus, it will open passages ranging across the entire spectrum of contemporary music and soundart, and establish a linkage with the visual worlds of digital, real-time graphics.

Passage between Improvisation and Interpretation

-10 Live Electronics in a Semi-Public Space
Written and performed by Rupert Huber

As a direct reaction to the setting of the presentation of his work, Austrian composer / musician Rupert Huber interprets the situational entrée of L’Espace Temporel as a state of uncertainty between the time before the beginning and the actual commencement of the evening’s program. His material consists of concrete sounds and samples whose overwhelmingly melodious nature enters into a multi-voice, realtime-processed dialog with a transitional situation. At the beginning at around 7:30 PM, what has so fluidly formed into a piece of music is already half over, and the second half resounds when the program has already begun. Huber, whose work generally operates with a variety of artistic genres and disciplines, has coined the term “dimensional music” for the integration of real, medial and acoustic spaces into the performative process of the composition. –10 is an example of this.

Les Enfants Terribles
Phillip Glass

Les Enfants Terribles followed Orphée and La Belle et la Bête as the third part of a trilogy dedicated to the cinematic work of Jean Cocteau that Phillip Glass created between 1993 and 1996. In correspondence to the central theme of the work Les Enfants Terribles—the power of the imagination and creativity—the evocative power of music is also endowed with exemplary significance within the framework of L’Espace Temporel. Originally written for three pianos and solo vocalists (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and baritone), parts of the work are being interpreted as piano duos featuring Maki Namekawa and Dennis Russell Davies.

The visualisation Rhythm Lens by Martin Wattenberg is a performance piece that explores the relation between spatial and temporal repetition. Symmetry is an essential element of all music, but in minimalist works it plays an especially critical role. The Rhythm Lens transmutes aural symmetry into visual symmetry.

The base materials for the Rhythm Lens are images, ranging from video to scanned texts to abstract procedural textures. The Rhythm Lens then uses mathematical transformations to “symmetrize” these images, making a kind of kaleidoscope that would be impossible with physical materials. As the music creates and breaks symmetries, so too will symmetries be created and broken graphically. Like all of Wattenberg’s video accompaniments, the Rhythm Lens is a performance instrument, guided by the human hand and never the same twice.

Different Trains
Steve Reich

Steve Reich’s 1988 work Different Trains for string quartet and tape recorder is the realization of an idea to generate material for musical instruments from recordings of human voices. In this piece, Reich draws upon recollections from a period (1939–42) during his childhood when, due to his divorced parents’ joint child custody agreement, he frequently had to ride the train between their respective residences in New York and Los Angeles. However, when recollecting these trips that he perceived as “exciting and romantic” at the time, the memories of these experiences are overlain with thoughts about those trains he, as a Jew, would have had to board in Europe at the time.

Different Trains is based on recordings of the governess who accompanied Reich on his trips between New York and Los Angeles, a conductor who worked these trains, three survivors of the Holocaust and the sounds of American and European trains of the ‘30s and 40s. The intonations of the individuals’ voices were assigned to certain pitches and translated into notes that can be played by members of the string quartet. The recordings of the music made by these stringed instruments were, in turn, mixed with the sounds of the trains and the vocal sequences.

What Reich created with this approach was also described by the composer himself in a text about Different Trains: “A direction that I expect will lead in the not-too-distant future to a new kind of documentary music/video theater.”

Temps du Miroir
Ludger Brümmer

In Temps du Miroir the piano sounds are mirrored through live electronic granulation. The granulation process samples the piano giving this timbre a new expressive nature, another gestural connotation, a different time structure. While the piano is audible from the front, the granulated sounds separate from the piano into a 2D space in which they are constantly moving creating their own sphere.

Despite the fact that this work is created from different descriptions of sound, all of them are of an algorithmic nature. The sounds from the speaker are created with physical models using strings. But not only the timbre was generated with the physical model. Each musical gesture, rhythm and dynamic is generated as a result of a mechanical description. A simple repetition for example can be created with a kind of pendulum. The live part uses the piano either to trigger sounds or to be processed in real time using a granulation technique. The piano part was generated through code algorithms describing all of the parameters used. The composition is created out of 4 sections without a separation. Each of these sections performs the dominance of a specific musical aspect. One is more melodic, another more rhythmic. Despite this static identity, processes are performed to move away from a definite layout of the structure.

It was the idea of this piece to create a rich dense musical structure out of a pre-produced layer, a live interactive layer with pre-produced as well as live processed sounds and the performance of the piano player. Because all of the pre-produced structures are not fixed together they can be treated dynamically, responding to the interpretation of the performer.

On top of all these layers of sound a video is placed. This video is part of the gestural structure of the work and it is split into various parts. It is not a default, it appears like certain sound and harmonics appear and disappear. The movement of the dancer creates a supernotation of the musical structure, another mirroring of the abstract content into a physical environment. The physical Model software “Genesis” was provided by ACROE, Grenoble. The work was created at the studios of the Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe.

Triangel—Actions for a Creative Drummer and 27 Musicians
Péter Eötvös

In a conversation with Zoltán Rácz (booklet accompanying Péter Eötvös’ CD Psalm 151, Psy, Triangel; Gramofon AB BIS CD 948, 1993), Péter Eötvös explained his intentions in Triangel in the following terms: “‘Triangel’ is not the sort of concert in which the soloist is accompanied by an orchestra. Here, the soloist is the leader, a ‘master drummer’ of an African type, and the other instruments—nine strings, eight woodwinds, seven brasses, two percussions and a keyboard—are the ‘chorus’ that reacts and responds. (…) ‘Triangel’ was written for a creative drummer, which leads to the conclusion that the soloist can select those instruments that are most appropriate to his tonal world. (…) What I refer to as the soloist’s ‘composition’ is actually an exercise in hearing, in listening in. This is highly unusual in that the musician has to not only dictate but also react and decide to accept or demand a different type of sound once he has heard the answer. (…) The group is assigned tasks to perform, and the responses provided determine the soloist’s next step.”

Passage between Time and Space

In Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey based on a story by Arthur C. Clarke and in Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 film version of Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris, many aspects of the two works may well be interpreted as nascent precursors of issues that were later made theoretically explicit by authors like Marvin Minsky and, more recently, Ray Kurzweil in circles associated with AI research as well as in cyborg and VR discussions. They also crystallized in works of art. What the two cinematic narratives have in common is, above all, a metaphor of transition, the confrontation of a technical culture that is still, in many respects, based upon transport and movement with an “informational”— in the broadest possible sense—culture in which the familiar, mechanistically determined fabric of meaning begins to unravel. What Kubrik did at the end of his work by dissolving the linear narrative into a psychedelic puzzle is the way Tarkovsky proceeds at the beginning of Solaris, in which he visualizes the transfer from Earth into a foreign world. Music—György Ligeti’s Athmosphères for 2001 and Edward Artemiev’s evocative sound tracks for Solaris—is an important medium for the representation of this Other, a phenomenon coarsely associated with the future and in the face of which the familiar fails. This is not because the music underscores narratives played out in the future, but because it transcends an idea of the future indicated by a breach with the conventions of the senses by means of that individualized form that is itself derived from the breach with the conventions of notation and tonal realization.

The musical language of this time—strongly characterized by electronic sound production—is utilized to, as it were, tonally evoke the future in the present. What the films themselves accomplish only in rudimentary fashion—namely, to derive forms of narration from their themes (and to set them in a time beyond conventional powers of narration)—has already manifested its initial concrete modes of practice today in music’s new forms of production and performance.

Edward Artemiev

As one of the pioneers of experimental electro-acoustic music, Edward Artemiev has attained the status of an icon today. Following academic training in Moscow, he became familiar with the synthesizer that Russian mathematician and engineer Yevgeny Murzin had developed in 1960. In going about exploring the possibilities of this new instrument—both its technical-compositional potential as well as its capacity to produce musical narratives and expressive tonal imagery—Artemiev quickly acquired a reputation as one of the most original soundscape composers of his generation. In the West, he is know primarily for the soundtracks he wrote for three of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films—Solaris, The Mirror and Stalker.

György Ligeti

Hungarian-born composer György Ligeti rose to international prominence with the 1960 International Society for Contemporary Music Festival premier of his work Apparitions, the first orchestral distillation of a style Ligeti had begun to develop upon joining the Electronic Music Studio at Cologne’s Westdeutscher Rundkfunk in 1957. In contrast to the highly structured, pointillistic music to be heard elsewhere, Ligeti’s work presented a new concept of shifting masses of densely detailed “clouds” of orchestral sound. Beginning with the 1958 electronic composition Artikulation, 1959’s Apparitions and his work for organ, Volumina (1962,) Ligeti’s contribution to developing a new musical idiom called “micropolyphony” illustrated rich, intense arrangements that eliminated the historical distinctions between rhythm, melody and harmony. This sound is constructed through the extensive use of sustained massive, tightly packed clusters of buzzing, dissonant intervals which evolve over time: “The complex polyphony of the individual parts is embodied in a harmonic-musical flow, in which the harmonies do not change suddenly, but merge into one another; one clearly discernible interval combination is gradually blurred, and from this cloudiness it is possible to discern a new interval combination taking shape.”

The divergent textures of serial music were further eroded by his subsequent orchestral work, Atmosphères (1961). Here the density of the orchestration becomes so great that the perception of distinct pitches and rhythms is completely annihilated. The piece established an international reputation for him, and it brought him to the attention of the general public when Stanley Kubrick used it in his film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Using his trademark micropolyphony as his starting point, in pieces such as 1962’s Aventures and the 1962–65 work Nouvelles Aventures, Ligeti incorporated speech and vocal inflections in his work, exploring the musical expressivity of these distinct sound sources throughout the rest of the decade. Other notable works to emerge from this period are 1963–5’s Requiem, which won the 1967 Bonn Beethoven Prize, 1966’s Lux Eterna, and the 1967 orchestral piece Lontano.

Passage between Moments

Musik für 18 Musiker
Steve Reich

Music for 18 Musicians is approximately 55 minutes long. The first sketches were made for it in May 1974 and it was completed in March 1976. Although its steady pulse and rhythmic energy relate to many of my earlier works, its instrumentation, structure and harmony are new.

There is more harmonic movement in the first 5 minutes of Music for 18 Musicians than in any other complete work of mine to date. Although the movement from chord to chord is often just a re-voicing, inversion or relative minor or major of a previous chord, usually staying within the key signature of three shapes at all times, yet within these limits harmonic movement plays a more important role in this piece than in any other I have written. Rhythmically, there are two basically different kinds of time occurring simultaneously in

Music for 18 Musicians. The first is that of a regular rhythmic pulse in the pianos and mallet instruments that continues throughout the piece. The second is the rhythm of the human breath in the voices and wind instruments.

The structure of Music for 18 Musicians is based on a cycle of eleven chords played at the very beginning of the piece and repeated at the end. All the instruments and voices play or sing the pulsating notes with each chord. Instruments like the strings which do not have to breathe nevertheless follow the rise and fall of the breath by following the breathing patterns of the bass clarinet. Each chord is held for the duration of two breaths, and the next chord is gradually introduced, and so on, until all eleven are played and the ensemble returns to the first chord. The first pulsing chord is then maintained by two pianos and two marimbas. While this pulsing chord is held for about five minutes a small piece is constructed on it. When this piece is completed there is a sudden change to the second chord, and a second small piece or section is constructed. This means that each chord that might have taken fifteen or twenty seconds to play in the opening section is then stretched out as the basic pulsing melody for a five minute piece, very much as a single note in a cantus firmus or chant melody of a 12th century Organum by Perotin, might be stretched out for several minutes as the harmonic centre for a section of the Organum. The opening eleven chord cycle of Music for 18 Musicians is a kind of pulsing cantus for the entire piece.

On each pulsing chord one or, on the third chord, two small pieces are built. These pieces or sections are basically either in the form of an arch (ABCDCBA), or in the form of a musical process, like that of substituting beats for rests, working itself out from beginning to end. Elements appearing in one section will appear in another but surrounded by different harmony and instrumentation.

Changes from one section to the next, as well as changes within each section, are cued by the metallophone (vibraphone with no motor) whose patterns are played once only to call for movements to the next bar, much as in Balinese Gamelan pieces, or as a drummer will audibly call for changes of pattern in West African Music. This is in contrast to the visual nods of the head used in earlier pieces of mine to call for changes, and also to the general Western practice of having a non performing conductor for large ensembles. Audible cues become part of the music and allow the musicians to keep listening.

World Premiere: 24.04.1976, Town Hall, New York, Steve Reich and Musicians

Passage between Sound and Image

Salutations to “Ligeterecki” (a composite) Tributes, Turbulations and remix

L’Espace Temporel is an evening for timeshifted musical travel. From fully fledged orchestras, string quartets, laptop electronics, tape and instrument playback to integrated moving images there is much to dwell on. By evening’s end there is something to reflect upon. Extol/Salvo explores a few of those options. From the implications of the original works of György Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki played, an imaginary composite is arranged in the form of new sonic textures derived from the offspring “Ligeterecki.”

This very conjunction is the springboard Christian Fennesz and Naut Humon are utilizing in these audio tribute renditions. By locating spectral clustered characteristics and re manifesting their kinetic stimuli through auditory mimesis, a fitting musical homage is paid to the inspiration of these early sixties compositions.

KkAudio-Interpretationen: Naut Humon und Christian Fennesz
Visuals: Sue Costable und Lillevan
Programmierung der Software-Tools und technische Assistenz: Peter Segerstrom, Louis Dufort, Brian O’Reilly, Peter Otto und Aloveiz y.j. Heredic

Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki stands with György Ligeti as the most significant European composer of his generation working today. Penderecki’s work has always questioned traditional musical notation, emphasizing the use of raw sound and experimental techniques of orchestration to create aural collages, scores and deeply emotive, challenging pieces which interrogate the distinction drawn between music and the non-musical. Penderecki has forged an absolutely distinct, cinematic compositional style which, for all its disregard for traditional instrumental technique, has always been appreciated by broad listening audiences not traditionally interested in the avant-garde.

Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, probably Penderecki’s most famous work, is scored for 52 string instruments. The composer evokes from these instruments a wealth of sounds, from the opening hair-raising scream and the noise of sirens to the panic and chaos that ensues.

Penderecki makes similarly innovative use of tone clusters—notes close together, that are played at the same time—to evoke both the effects and the aftermath of a nuclear bomb explosion. These disjointed sounds gradually coalesce into a veritable firestorm that then fades into the silence of death.

Threnody is a gripping lament on the senselessness of all wars. At the time of its composition, the piece represented an attempt to apply the sonoristic technique and rigors of specific counterpoint to an ensemble of strings treated unconventionally as to the manner in which the tone was obtained. The expression of this music was received by the audience in terms of solemnity and luridness, thus making its later classification as “threnody” fully justified.

In his so-called “sonoristic” period of the early 1960s—represented by pieces such as Threnody, Fluorescences, Polymorphia, and others—Penderecki employed a compositional system whose axiomatic concept was not a single sound, but sound matter in its totality.

Christian Fennesz

A composer and improvisor of electronic music and the guitar, Austrian-born artist Christian Fennesz has spent the last decade amassing a collection of recorded works as notable for their musicality as for their abstract sound design.

However, the expressiveness of Fennesz’s work does not just lie in his ability to “play technology” to musically identifiable ends. There is an equally significant factor of placement, of location in his work that makes it meaningful from a poetic perspective, as well as providing it with a sense of geographic grounding and context. Having released two albums oriented around the idea of physical location—1999’s plus forty-seven degrees 56’ 37’ minus sixteen degrees 51 ‘08, named after the grid of his hometown on the Austro- Hungarian border where the album was composed, and 2004’s Venice, Fennesz’s output has a particularly autobiographical feel to it which makes its invocation of the future (through its technological mediation of emotive and song oriented music) much more of a physicalization of sound for all of us to listen through. His recordings are released through the Touch and Mego labels.


FLÜUX:/TERMINAL is a bipolar performance that SKOLTZ_KOLGEN have named “dyptique rétinal.” As in all of their work, their research here has established a point of contact between sound and image. But FLÜUX:/TERMINAL pushes the dialogue between these two elements one step further: Their performance creates a dramatic trajectory, fuelled by the panoramic tensions (left/right) between hearing and seeing.

FLÜUX:/TERMINAL projects images onto two screens, in a parallel visual body of luminous particles, photographed or filmed images and wire frame displays. As stereophonic visual representations, the two screens are the alter egos of the audio, which is also divided into two. The sound sources (left/right) are desynchronised and propelled into separate channels: the lefthand channel excites the left-hand image; the right-hand channel excites the righthand image. The image is distorted, bearing the marks that the sound imprints upon it, and becomes the fossil of the sound.

A bipolar experience is therefore built by catalysing the lines of tension between two independent but related audio and visual worlds. Their dissociation in one instance and their synchrony or symmetry in another establish space-times that seem to float in weightlessness. These suspended moments are succeeded by fresh charges of energy that are massive and intense.

Noisegate Remix
Adapted from the Installation NoiseGate, by Granular Synthesisemix
Naut Humon / Tim Digulla

NoiseGate Remix is a performance work reconfiguration of a 1998 installation piece by Granular Synthesis, the Vienna-based duo of Kurt Hentschlager and Ulf Langheinrich. In June of 2000, they invited Naut Humon and assistant Tim Digulla from San Francisco to participate in a night of remixes produced by Creative Time in New York City. Inside the Anchorage venue at the base of the Booklyn Bridge, Granular Synthesis had transformed the huge barren concrete walls into video projection surfaces depicting oversized human heads in virtual “caged” captivity, amidst a rumbling subsonic sea of ominous, mobile frequencies. As this denaturalized, disembodied human image is repeated in several antechambers, one had the sensation of passing through an unusual zoo where the subjects were confined people whose behavior is mechanically altered by the captors’ machines. Going back to the inspiration of Granular Synthesis’s earlier opus MODELL5, and finding a bridge between that and the architecture of isolation found in Noisegate gave us an open invitation to mesh out a chronically destabilized visual dub version. Gone were the mysterious green toned hues of facial tissues so prevalent in the original installation. The sound was thoroughly replaced as well, except for the occasional breathing effects that Granular Synthesis had recorded. Spasms and shifting time stutters of the figures were further agitated and re-framed to exaggerate outbursts of color and light. By degenerating the flaws, we were regenerating a paradox. Machines that were once certain were becoming less recognizable. We were not so happy anymore …

Thanks to:Tim Digulla, Chris Musgrave, & Scott Arford for their technical help in additional AV editing and consolidating film shooting material. Highest appreciation goes out to Granular Synthesis, whose stark images formed the foundation of this transconfiguration.

Translated from German by Mel Greenwald


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