Contextual Reflection

In Chikashi's Papyrus a sheet of paper is used as the sound source, along with the performer who imitates noises the paper makes using his mouth. I found this minimal approach inspiring because it constrains the composer to think about all the ways in which the performer and piece of paper can interact. Quoting Chikashi, by 'tapping, flipping, blowing, rubbing, crushing and tearing' this single object is transformed into a musical instrument.

Similarly, Sir Robert's structure in my piece is played with bare hands by increasing, decreasing the tension, moving the position of the tubes, applying pressure. This performance avoids classic approaches used in electroacoustic music of using bows, fans, metal rods, and other objects attached or used to excite the instrument. The sounds heard are only coming from the structure itself and the performer.

For la chambre des machines Bernier and Messier are generating the sounds with 'machines made of gears and cranks', which refer back to the futurist Russolo brothers' Intonarumoris, out of a 'desire to return to the physical world in an environment of digital creation'.

The machines enable them to create sonic gestures with physical qualities, there is a visible causal relation between their actions and the resulting sound, which they emphasize with dramatic exaggeration of their movements. A classic approach to composition in electroacoustic music has been to model physical behaviour, to assemble sonic events that resemble physical phenomena and then exaggerate them. In la chambre de machines, as in my piece, part of the composition was to create a body that has such intrinsic qualities, that allow the natural creation of gestural sound, which in my composition are made larger than life through the internal resonance of the structure and external amplification, and through spatialisation with the bespoke processing effect.

This selection is from the live performance Flat Time by David Toop and John Butcher at Whitechapel gallery.

In the sequences at 00:50 and then 2:20 it sounds as if the focus is on process, human activity, without a specific development, or causality. The amalgam of sounds keep the listener interested. In my piece there is an emphasis on such constant activity, not as much as a critique of the human condition in general, as to the amount of work and fiddling that goes into creating art, music or any creative process, that generates anxiety and fear of the unfinished, while the work is in development and the artist cannot tie it down and find some peace of mind. This wasn't part of the original plan for the performance, which was supposed to be solely a sound piece. But because this was a recurring theme during the process of making most of the tools in this piece, I felt that it should become part of the performance too. What the audience cannot perceive is that the actual performance is painful at times, because the brass tubes are rough cut, they have sharp edges that attack the peripheral nerves close to the skin, punching through or scratching, but due to the amount of concentration required these are mostly ignored. The constant rumbling and murmur of the structure also make it sound like it has a life of it own. Getting the audience used to a constant but calm sound, allows for moments of increased tension to emerge from what becomes accepted as the normal.

On several occasion in his directed performance Superposition, Ryoji Ikeda is focusing on human activity, and process. There are several occasions where the operators on stage look at the old and the new. The operators inspect microfilms with analogue equipment, mainly using light and a magnifying glass. Some of the elements are more literal, such as comparing newspaper articles from different eras about similar subjects. Others are more codified, to an extent where it becomes obvious that the process is futile, exemplified through continuous rearranging of blocks of letters, onto which are superimposed patterns which form crosswords that can be read as sentences, but without meaning and changing so fast that nothing can be understood, assimilated, or made any sense of. Others are even more codified such as the projection of small black marbles, which are similar to science labs where unknown territory is played with.

I tried to make a parallel in my piece between new and old by juxtaposing the overhead projector to the modern laptop, not as critique but rather as an example of progress. Coming from an era where not only more advanced technology wasn't widely available, but also the internet didn't exist, the object has lost its value and even the purpose it was made for slowly reaches the same fate.

In these circumstances the object becomes incorporated into a new activity for its capability of projecting light onto a wall. It might bring up memories, and feelings of anxiety to the generation who had to give presentations using this device but this is not my intention.

There is also a parallel between the use of analogue devices in a digital era due to their obvious character. They are what they are, devices used to present something else, focusing on the content rather than the medium. Unlike the infusion of digital creations, where value can be easily lost, because everything ends up looking and being the same, even with slight variations, there isn't anything more to it than what you see.