Electronic music has always been a stamping ground for tinkerers and inventors, and new hardware and software always was a major driving force in its development. Musicians who build their own instruments are in the vanguard of this phenomenon. In contrast to the common perception of electronic and digital music as something immaterial, the technology, equipment and components that make it feasible are very definitely material factors, and hardware, operating systems and programmes in fact possess very specific characteristics.
American pianist and composer David Tudor has understood this better than anyone. He has developed numerous electronic sound generators and believed that an object-specific sound potential and unique new musical forms are inherent in every one of them. These reveal themselves however, only during the construction process: "I try to find out what’s there – not to make it do what I want, but to release what’s there. The object should teach you what it wants to hear".
This evening we present several artists who have adopted Tudor’s "Composer Inside Electronics" approach and research the material "essence" or "being" of their machines. Technology becomes in this regard the "incalculable other", a "living partner" in dialogue with the artist. This also necessarily alters the artist’s conception of his own role: he now becomes the initiator of open, dynamic, unstable processes and does not simply decide and define, but makes discoveries and must react.
"Tabula Rasa", a performance by Christian Marclay and Flo Kaufmann, is an audio-visual experiment that takes an unpredictable course. It begins with an unwritten vinyl disc from which Marclay elicits sounds that are simultaneously taken up and electronically modified by Flo Kaufmann, who then cuts them onto a raw disc. He then hands this new recording to Marclay, who uses it for further audio manipulations that are in turn modified again by Kaufmann ... and so on. Each disc cut by Kaufmann carries the traces and layers of previous "sound generations". In a certain sense the final disc produced contains the entire performance yet cannot reproduce it as such.
Marko Ciciliani is a virtuoso of the no-input mixer. Intricately manipulating feedback amplifies the sounds inherent in the mixer’s own machinery. This results in an extremely sensitive, dynamic and not easily calibrated system, in which the smallest changes trigger dramatic effects.
The Optical Machines duo uses refined electro-mechanical constructions to generate abstract, rhythmic images, the soundtrack for which is based on material garnered from the noise of the machines themselves.
Xavier van Wersch could be nicknamed "the Frankenstein of electronic music", for he puts together used electronic components to stir to life bizarre creations with unadorned interfaces, most of which can be played by intervening manually in the board, circuitry or components.
hans w. koch uses the laptop as an instrument in a wholly unexpected style, whereby its constitutive elements are creatively rubbed up the wrong way.
"Tabula Rasa" is kindly supported by Pro Helvetia.