CT::SWaM ExChange 013 with Elizabeth Hoffman and Marcel Zaes
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clouds pattern (2019)
made of wind \[premiere\] (2020)
tines \[premiere\] (2020)
Clouds are densely symbolic; even their colors impact us: gray, dark, fluffy, light, clear, and so on. They are also visually suggestive – of abstract patterns and of images. They are ephemeral and lack edges, and, yet, they are intricately formed. Cloud patterns also refer to good computer solutions. This piece is mostly about the sounds’ internal movements in 3-D space, achieved through spectral spatialization, within -- and driving -- the overall slowly changing sound mass.
Thanks to recording and improv sessions with two wind filled friends. The vibrational energy is so densely packed yet splits apart into striations especially when manipulated with computer analysis. Woodwinds have perhaps an even more direct connection than do strings to the embodied movements of air, flapping, pulsing, gusting, flowing, ruffling, and buzzing.
I used algorithmic techniques and multi-channel mapping to create a miniature world where everything is kaleidoscopically fragmented and impossible to track. Yet it still unfolds in a strangely up-close and cohesive augmented reality-like way.
Elizabeth Hoffman's creative work encompasses acoustic and computer music. The latter includes multi-channel works, and mixed musics where the computer is instrument, composition, and structure. Her electronic works appear on the empreintes DIGITALes label. Her sound installation RETU(R)NINGS opened as a permanent, daily sounding feature of NYU's Bobst Library Atrium in September 2019. Hoffman teaches in the school of Arts and Science at NYU. Awards include those from Bourges, Prix Ars Electronica, and the the ICMA.
Moments of Doubt
Work for an amplified, low-pitched instrument
Played back in a multichannel array of speakers
“Moments of Doubt” started as a close collaboration between Marcel Zaes and Robert Black, after Marcel had heard Robert’s recorded performance of the extremely reduced and rhythmic double bass work “Opus 17a” by Hanne Darboven, played over speakers in the galleries of Dia:Chelsea back in 2017. The relentlessness, steadiness and machine-like quality of Robert’s performance, which is yet emotionally charged, was the beginning of their collaboration. Commissioned to write a new work specifically for Robert Black, Marcel started to imagine a body of machinic, electronic music – which normally Marcel calls his home – yet in this case, an entirely instrumental body of sound with no actual electronics. The machinic component is reduced to an array of algorithmically generated metronomes at different subdivisions of the main temporal unit. The double bassist, in “Moments of Doubt,” is then asked to play along these various metronomes while playing extremely fragile double stops, which lie somewhere in the middle between noise and tone – in a realm that again is inspired by electronic sound practices. The micro deviations that occur between the salient double bass patterns and the rigid inaudible metronomes, and the micro deviations between the various double stops, result in what Marcel and Robert were looking for: an overly fragile landscape of steady sound that is both reminiscent of some hidden mechanical force, and of the human traces created in the reenactment thereof. From the beginning, “Moments of Doubt” had been conceived as a multiplication of that human performer: Robert plays five voices, which were successively recorded and now materialize all around us in the multichannel speaker array, giving rise to a spatial rather than temporal sonic texture.
Marcel Zaes (b. 1984 in Bern, Switzerland), is an artist and artistic researcher, holding degrees from University of the Arts in Bern and Zurich University of the Arts, and has studied composition with Alvin Curran in Rome and with Peter Ablinger in Berlin. Currently, he is pursuing his Ph.D. in Music & Multimedia Composition at Brown University. Marcel investigates mechanical time, its politics and its socio-cultural contexts. His artistic practice encompasses installation pieces, “living installations” with human performers, concert music for ensembles and electronics, and multimedia solo performances that he calls “post techno beat music.” His works consist of assemblages of self-made software codes that act as mechanical timekeepers and human performers who they play “against.” Most of his pieces harbor an affective potential to perceive and re-think the gap between what is congenitally conceived of as “human,” versus what is conceived of as “mechanical” temporality. For his work, Marcel Zaes has been awarded a number of grants and prizes, has played numerous concerts and taken part in exhibitions internationally, worked many times as artist in residence, has had his works played by ensembles internationally, and he has published eleven albums to date. Most recently, his work has been showcased at the at ISEA Hong Kong, at the Center for New Music San Francisco, at Goethe Institute New Delhi, at House of Electronic Arts Basel, Symphony Space New York, the Biennial of Contemporary Arts Lisbon, at Cabaret Voltaire Zurich, and Columbia University in New York. www.marcelzaes.com
Robert Black tours the world creating unheard of music for the solo double bass, collaborating with the most adventurous composers, musicians, dancers, artists, actors, and technophiles from all walks of life. He is a founding and current member of the Bang On A Can All Stars. Current collaborative projects include a 10-channel audio/video double bass installation reflection on the Anthropocene with sound artists Brian House and Sue Huang, filmed at the Freshkills landfill in NYC, and Blued Trees Project an out-door, environmental installation/performance for 24 double basses exploring the tension between ecocidal fossil fuel policies and the drive for the common good expressed in environmental justice movements for Earth rights with environmental artist Aviva Rahmani, composer Eve Beglarian, and choreographer Yoshiko Chuma. Commissions include John Luther Adams (bass quartet), Marcel Zaes (multichannel bass work), Natacha Diels (bass duet), and Daniel Sabzghabaei (solo bass); Solo recordings include Philip Glass-Bass Partita and Poetry (Orange Mountain Music), Possessed (Cantaloupe Records), Modern American Bass (New World Records), The Bass Music of Christian Wolff and Giacinto Scelsi (Mode Records), and State of the Bass (O.O. Discs). www.robertblack.org
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