Tonight’s theme is electronic and electro-acoustic improvisation, with the limelight on performers who develop music spontaneously and remain constantly in quest of unpredictable elements and never-before-heard sounds. In contrast to John Cage, who sought to relegate the artist as subject to an ancillary role, musicians who consciously choose improvisation give centre stage to their personal perception, communication skills and sensitivity, within the ambiance of each specific venue. Improvisation is to a greater or lesser extent "free", depending on how far pre-programmed conceptual and technical parameters come into play.
Music from the Tron Lennon duo, nominated for this year’s transmediale award, emerges both, from the spontaneous communication of its members, Paul Bell and John Ferguson, and their individual interaction with the singularities of their instruments: turntables, guitar and self-built electronic gadgets.
Soloists such as Robert Piotrowicz and Thomas Ankersmit face the challenge of their hard to control instruments alone. Next to the additional saxophone played by Ankersmit, each of them works with modular synth-systems capable of generating an infinite number of different sounds and complex audio patterns. Using cables to patch together the various modules of the instruments, endless variations can be programmed, which in a live performance is not without its dangers: to overlook only a single step in the process can catapult the show in unexpected directions, far from the players’ original intentions, which poses them a new artistic challenge.
Today’s graphic programmer-environments such as Max/MSP or the free software, Pure Data facilitate customized construction of digital instruments, based in part on the emulation of analogue electronics yet also an extension and digital counterpart of these. Peter Votova aka Pure has for years already been programming complex sound generators for his improvised live performances, during which he experiments with dynamic drones and dark sound tones to conjure eerie atmospheres. He recently bid farewell to the mouse/monitor-interface and turned his attention to a more intuitive approach. Using haptic controls rather than monitor displays, he relinquishes visual control and relies only on his ear and his training.