Sunday, May 6, 2012

Recent Gigs – Störung Festival

“The absolute arts are a sad modern impertinence. Everything is falling apart. There is no organization to foster all the arts together as Art”

-       Friedrich Nietzsche

 (quoted from Simon Shaw-Millers book “Visible deeds of music”)

The annual Störung Festival of isolationist and ambient music and digital art kicked off one of the best ten day periods of music I can remember, that took in also the L.E.V Festival in Gijon as well as a superb DJ set from DJ Qu. More on those later when time permits, but meanwhile, my official roundup of Störung can be found at Resident Advisor.

But to highlight and discuss some more details.

Last act on the first night was the Finnish duo Pink Twins formed of brothers Juha and Vesa Vehviläinen who are both visual and audio artists. Their set was accompanied by some extraordinary computer generated art, in particular the opening piece “Miracle” which can be found under the video links on their official website  (no sharing sadly). The music was different on the night, being denser and less comprehensible (in a good way) and sounds like it was largely derived from their recent collaboration with the Defunensemble. In this collaboration the duo recorded and processed different instrumentation to make 50 locked grooves on one side of a 10” record from which an art installation and several tracks were also derived (a megamix is available for free on their official website). Details of the release including some stills from the video are shown here:

Having been stimulated by this, and by thoughts of the upcoming L.E.V. Festival which bears many similarities to Störung, only on a larger scale, I wrote to the editor at RA and suggested that maybe there could be a semi-regular text and video feature focusing on the interaction of musicians with digital/video art. I mentioned Pink Twins as maybe too weird for RA readers (true), but mentioned plenty of other more commercial examples.

For example, Deadbeat collaborated with Lillevan, presenting the premiere of an audio-visual work at the 2011 issue of Canada’s Mutek Festival and they plan to continue the collaboration. The following video more or less totally encapsulates what I had in mind: and interview and a focus on not just the audio and neither just the video, but it also uses the video medium in itself which is a unique and powerful feature of internet-based journalism. I am also told that people don’t read things on the net, so perhaps they will watch videos instead?

In emphasising the growing importance of visual art in electronic music Deadbeat says in the interview:

“Things definitely had to progress away from a bunch of white dudes staring at their laptops on stage”

Deadbeat also mentions some of the other examples I offered in place of Pink Twins, especially Amon Tobin who’s ISAM live tour has become one of the most talked about shows in the last year.

As we shall see in an upcoming post, the L.E.V. Festival is also a fertile ground for such new visual technology initiatives in relation to electronic music.

But the sad conclusion to this was a curt and rather blunt email saying “no” with a rally against my proposed experimentalism. I will interpret this as a misunderstanding of what I was proposing and nothing else as it seems a little bit silly not to be considering this aspect of electronic music when other people are already doing it. I do, however, accept the relative technical limitations of putting stuff like this on the web. Some of the Pink Twins videos shown above are almost impotent when viewed on a computer compared to their sheer power on the big screen. But here also lies the dichotomy: the journalism is not meant as a replacement of the (live) experience, but an enhancement of it and also a way of respecting the arts, but is the technology up to it or not? In any case, a little bit of stimulation could go a long way and by that I also mean broader acknowledgement of visual artists.

One of the other aspects of the festival that became apparent was this need to have a more suitable space for listening to ambient music. This is for two reasons: one is the seemingly greater prevalence of ambient music in recent years and secondly, there is no architectural space that is suitable for it to create a comfortable and immersive environment. Standing in a noisy club is obviously unacceptable for quieter ambient music, whereas although the small amphitheatre where Störung is held is sufficient, it lacks a greater potential and is perhaps too orientated towards the stage, whereas the music essentially comes from all around, especially in Francisco López’s extraordinary set.

My idea is to create a new type of concert hall for ambient music and one that would also serve the community for general purposes. In this sense a model would be La Monte Young’s Mela Foundation Dream house   in New York, where people could enter off the street, almost as if they were going to church to pray, and escape the noise,  intensity and slavery to time by entering a floating realm of meditative sound.

Sound engineers would know better, but I would propose a circular structure with at least four doors one on each side to take away the orientation once inside the listening room. Obviously there would be a bias for entering the complex via one direction in particular, via a main entrance for example, but this is almost unavoidable. There will be no windows. The stage would be circular and in the centre of the room and speakers would be placed at the periphery facing inwards so that the performer would hear the same as the audience. Instead of seats there would be soft matting (vinyl covered mattresses for example) in several concentric layers descending to the stage so that the audience could sit or lie comfortably.

It would be mandatory to have no shoes and no possessions inside except clothes, with all objects (especially phones etc) being left in lockers at the entrance. The interior would be white walls, ceiling and floor lit only by fluctuating but dim magenta and blue lights. The white walls could also act as screens with a number of projectors firing outwards from the centre above the centre stage.

When no specific performance was being held, ambient or drone music could be channelled into the room. Visitors could come and stay for as long as they like and meditative practises could be encouraged.

Ironically I was talking about similar ideas to a Basque architect in the L.E.V. Festival. He was resident in Berlin now but a huge fan of Greek composer and architect Iannis Xenaxis and he was promising me that sound mapping technology was the future. Maybe one day the Roman-styled theatres we are used to will be for traditional concerts and theatre, but that specialist places for ambient and audio-visual music will one day exist? So to conclude by returning to Nietzsche’s quote, we will at last have a more total approximation of Art rather than the divisions that now exist.

Finally, should also show some love to Glacial Movements label boss Alessandro Tadeschi aka Netherworld who put in a lovely "classical" ambient set with some captivating scenes of the north pole and frozen tundra.

Rene Löwe aka Vainqeuer closed with a long set that was so gentle, uplifting and captivating. It was also a wonderful experience to hear a long beatless set of dub "techno" to really emphasise the textures and the potential of the music. Many thanks to all.

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