The soul of the vibraphone: An interview with Masayoshi Fujita

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Masayoshi Fujita is a Japanese vibraphonist and composer based in Berlin. Masayoshi first learned how to play the drums, followed by extensive vibraphone training to craft and play his own compositions. Determined not to stick to traditional vibraphone styles or techniques and theory of composition, he seeks his own vibraphone  sound and its new possibilities. Masayoshi also prepares his instrument with strings of bead, strips of foil and similar objects. The resulting sounds, akin to distortions, help expand the vibraphone spectrum without eroding the instrument’s intrinsic character or abandoning it altogether. He’s playing at several SHAPE events this autumn, including TodaysArt and Maintenant Festival this autumn. 

Can you tell us something about your background?

I’m from Kanagawa near Tokyo. I was playing in many different bands in Japan as a drummer since I was small. But nothing really happened. Eventually I established my own solo project as El Fog, which was vibraphone with electronics, beats and a little bit of dub ambient. My first release came out after I moved to Berlin.

Why did you switch to vibraphone?

The first reason was that I wanted to make my own music and I was looking for a vibraphonist to play with but couldn’t find anyone. One day, I met a professional jazz vibraphone player who gave me vibraphone lessons. Also, around that time, I noticed that I didn’t have lot of talent for drums, so I decided to change instruments.

It’s also a different way of playing – drums are perhaps more physical.

It’s similar in terms of percussion. I haven’t studied or learned anything about the theory of music, so it was all really new and difficult to me. I took lessons from a Japanese vibraphonist for 2,3 years, but I couldn’t really learn from him. I was not that much into jazz. Afterwards I just learned it by myself and I’m still learning. Vibraphone and drums are totally different. Vibraphone is more atmospheric and has a very special sound.

Has this switch also epitomised an emotional way you approach music?

I wouldn’t say it’s emotional, but I always have some images or atmospheres in my music. When I compose, I just play vibraphone. Sometimes I hear very nice chords, harmony or melody, and then I get certain images or atmospheres. I try to build a song and stick with that image or sound and replay it, and then make this phrase bigger and richer.

Is it cinematic?

Imagine that you’re reading a book written in a language you don’t understand, and as you turn the pages, you find a picture and then you can kind of get the overall idea or character of the book. And my songs are something like this. It’s not really a story, but it gives you images and atmospheres.

What does this atmosphere depend on? Is it more your momentary mood or past experience?

I guess it comes from my childhood memories, in most cases it’s connected to nature – the moon, the stars, animals, lakes, trees, etc. Once I wondered where those images come from, and I went back to Japan to visit my family and then I saw everything there – all these images that were in my head.

With nature, is it more the organic or the spiritual side that attracts you?

I would say the spiritual side. In Japan, people feel there’s a spirit or god in nature. In each tree or lake, there’s a spirit inside.

Which part of sound is most important to you?

Maybe harmony. For me, harmony and melody aren’t separate. It’s probably also because of the physical factor of the vibraphone, which has a much narrower range of sound compared to piano. It has normally only three octaves. Vibraphone has many restrictions.

But you also modify the instrument according to your needs, isn’t it?

I prepare my vibraphone. I put small plastic balls on the strings for a sizzle sound, or use hand towels to mute it, or tin foils to make noise.

You also collaborate with Jan Jelinek.

We met in 2009 and decided to make an album together. We’ve actually just finished another album which is going to be out in September. He does the electronic part with a modular synth and sound samples and I play vibraphone, sometimes with loop pedals and effects. We went to his studio for two weeks and improvised and Jan edited it and picked up the nice parts. The album is called Schaum, and there’s a story around the concept with this old picture that he came up with.

In what way does this collaboration differ from your solo project?

How we approach it is completely different. I just play with the sound and react to him. Most of the time it’s very textural. When I play with him, I don’t have these atmospheres and images in my head. But this difference is interesting.

How would you compare the Japanese and European, or Berlin music worlds?

Japan is quite different to European cities and Western countries. Classical music, theatre and dance have a huge tradition in Berlin. Lot of musicians live here, you can just bump into them in the street, like I did with Jan Jelinek. This would not happen in Japan.

I guess you could maybe walk into Merzbow there.

Japan is also more expensive, so this limits your ability to make experimental music. Many young artists realise it’s not possible to be creative in Tokyo any more, and they are starting to move back to the countryside, renting old houses cheaply and trying to make something new. And this not only goes for musicians, but also small bakeries or cafes. It was really amazing last time I went back to Japan, there were so many new interesting places in the middle of nowhere and this is happening across the country.

Is there a reason for this change?

People just started to realise that there are more possibilities and a better quality of life out there. After Fukushima [nuclear disaster], this movement became bigger, I guess, but that movement existed even before that. Many people started to think about alternative ways of living. I did the same and stopped working in Tokyo and moved back to my hometown.

The sounds of a wanderer: An interview with Gil Delindro

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Gil Delindro is a multidisciplinary artist focused on the conflicting relationship between the ego, nature and technology. Through an extensive cross-border practice tracing filmmaking, sound, installation, performance and theatre, his work offers a detailed bridge between mediums and research perspectives, often facing concepts such as animism, time, memory, isolation, contamination and post digital conflicts. 

You are an interdisciplinary artist exploring the conflicting relationship between the ego, nature and technology. Can you elaborate?

The ego is self, the intent of an individual, but also of a species, nature is all and technology is what binds the exchange between them. These forces are at constant interplay and that is the starting point for my research. In this spirit, my work is like that of a fictional archaeologist in an unexplored world, looking for hidden geographies and time frames.  I’m trying to explore specific ephemeral moments, moving layers of matter, instability, memory, decay – things that cannot be fixed in space. Therefore, a major factor here is also time. My installations often become independent beings with their own life expectancy.

I think about technology in a broader sense. Nature is using mechanisms all the time and in the same way, human technology is the tool that allowed our evolution. These days people often forget that a tool is channelled into something, they become so fascinated by the mechanism’s possibilities that they praise the tool more than the actual purpose. It’s almost as if a painter would be more fascinated by the paintbrush than by the painting itself, or a farmer would be in love with the shovel and not the potato.  Technology has become the most exciting end in our interaction with the living world.  As a teenager, I really enjoyed Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and today the similarities are huge. Technology has become a strong and addictive drug that has people craving more apps, more laptop power, more resolution, more illusion, faster and faster. But faster to where? The equation ego – tech – nature is ruled by the tech side and the human part is losing ground. My work does not address this in a direct way, and it is neither against technological development.  I’m just an observer questioning directions and eventually finding ways to relate to landscape in a more direct and honest way.

How do you interact between these various fields and what questions/concepts do you employ?

I’m trying to work within “simple” chapters, searching for a place where the mediums lose strength and where a work can simultaneously speak in different languages. The main interconnecting point between them is sound because it is a time based element – sound is the continuous collapse of the present into the future, and most of my questions have something to do with this quality of movement and transformation in nature. Time as a spatial and sculptural element is a common ground in the different fields and projects I have been working on. I try to play with instability – by this I mean that no physical element can be fixed in space, even a hard stone comes from a fluid origin, and in my concept the world is like a floating land, where nothing can be stabilised, whether it’s an idea or a material entity.

There are always symbols and connections between my works, but one of the best examples of a piece that is not static is TAO –  I believe this piece can simultaneously speak as a symbolic, ephemeral, sculptural, spatial, sonic and technological concept.  As a time-based piece, it lasts around 23 hours, and it basically tries to assemble the cycle within the different stages of water. That process is so complex and alive that it’s like a Land Art performance, you create the conditions, but it is the organic that creates the narrative.

Field research is an important part of your modus operandi. How do you choose locations and how do you proceed with the work while you are at a certain location?

I don´t choose locations so much as they come to me. For the past 5 years I’ve always divided my time between the city and isolation, the equation changes, but most of the time I spend at least four months in very remote locations. Normally I travel alone, but in the case of the desert, everything happened thanks to a residency called The Weight Of Mountains. I have always been interested in remote areas. My process is to first arrive at a location without any intention, and afterwards discovering what you are looking for out there; the place should open you up and not the other way around.

You have spent 3 month at a residency in the Sahara desert. How was this experience?

I grew up in front of the ocean in a humid area, and ever since I remember I’ve been fascinated by water, so finding myself in the driest place on earth was not easy… but super important!  I think one can only understand the dimension of something if one is deprived from it. Water is a key element in the Sahara, the ultimate cause for this landscape, so again you have the hidden layer, a ghost or mirage. There is no place in the world where information can be reduced to such a minimum, the colours, smells, no vegetation, texture or animal noise. It sits in exact opposition to a rain forest.  That unique quality transports you to an altered state of mind. Somehow reducing the input can heighten your senses. You stand in front of this massive dune of sand and at a first glimpse, there is no movement at all,  but by amplifying the senses one can notice hidden events and  intangible processes that occur after first contact.  The desert is full of these experiences, it can be super intense. For me, this is a crucial sculptural idea, the belief that most aspects of a space exist as invisible forces and movements that constantly perish.

I’m still processing the work done there, but I’m particularly happy with Burundam, a black and white documentary that follows a Berber family living in total isolation.  I also spent long periods of time taking long distance walks and chasing sandstorms. This led me to create strange works of long duration such as Continuum and Floating Summit, where even the smallest contact between grains of sand creates the most dense percussion piece one could ever listen to.

Do you think humans have become too detached from nature in the era of the Anthropocene? How can one engage with nature in a meaningful way as an artist and human?

To start with, I don’t really know where nature starts or ends, if we are natural beings, and if whatever we build or do is also born from nature. I believe it’s more a question of intention and overall bad processing. We can relate to this world in an infinite number of ways, and the one we are using now is just not helping us to benefit from the qualities of our surroundings. We have become more advanced in terms of comfort, but more distracted as a species, number and more disconnected. I see the period we are living as an era where our impact in all strata of the planet is evident and colossal, yet there is the individual feeling that one cannot interfere (or is either responsible) for such impact, which creates frustration.  Technology has put things on a collective move in such a way that we have lost control over it, it has become an identity of its own where networks, computational systems, algorithms and information run independently and faster than individuals. It is the first time in our history that our action as a species has become so interconnected.

It does not matter if you’re living in the desert or in a loft in New York, this machine of resource consumption affects the most remote places and species on the earth. It’s like a button that someone has turned on, but that no one really knows how to turn off nor where it will lead us. In this sense I don’t believe an individual artist or person can influence this process and engage in a “better” way of doing things. In my case, I primarily work with creating dialogues and observation points because it is a necessity, but I’m aware of my impotence, so my way is very individual. My nature also lives in my imaginary naïve place. I need the land to understand myself and although I often think about all these questions, I don’t really have solutions for them. Maybe humans do need to go against some kind of harsh wall. Sometimes I just wonder who will be here to contemplate it.

 

Bow To Each Other mix for Resonance FM

Stream a new mix by SHAPE participating Norwegian-Canadian indie pop duo Bow To Each Other, created for the London-based radio station Resonance FM as well as its additional platform Resonance Extra. The mix includes tracks from the likes of Janelle Monáe, The Smiths, Kraftwerk and Björk.

Bow To Each Other is an award winning Norwegian-Canadian indie pop duo. The band consists of Gunhild Ramsay Kristoffersen from Karmøy, Norway, and Megan Kovacs from Toronto, Canada, both based in Oslo. Megan is a songwriter, keyboardist and vocalist, while Gunhild is an arranger, programmer, keyboardist and vocalist. The band was formed when the two moved to Norway in 2010 after having lived in Liverpool for several years, where they both studied at LIPA. Their second album, My Heart Is A Target, won a Norwegian Grammy for best pop group in 2015.

Track list:

Hyberballad (Brodsky Quartet Version) – Björk
Tightrope (feat. Big Boi) – Janelle Monáe
The Fox – Niki & The Dove
Alphabet Song – Lower Dens
Genesis – Grimes
Jonny Boy – Kite
Ascension – I Break Horses
Follow Us (fest. Vonnegutt) – Big Boi
Bette Davis Eyes – Kim Carnes
The Telephone Call – Kraftwerk
Hide And Seek – Imogen Heap
Asleep – The Smiths
Idioteque – Radiohead
Song D – Bruce Hornsby

You can catch Bow To Each Other live at the 2016 edition of Insomnia festival.

Raze de Soare’s affective contamination

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During the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, a parallel pseudo wedding industry developed in Romania. Hundreds of bands emerged all over the country and the predilect sound of family events either at restaurants or at home was what is today referred to as “proto-Manele”. A mix of electrified oriental pop with local flavour, “proto-Manele” crystallised into today’s “Manele” contemporary wedding music. Raze de Soare – Albatros is a tribute EP to one of the most famous local “proto-Manele” bands, the eponymous Albatros. Here, 1/2 of Raze de Soare, Ion Dumitrescu, tells us more. Raze de Soare were nominated for SHAPE by Rokolectiv Festival.

Can you talk about the context behind Raze de Soare as well as the environment/surrounding it grew from? Is it more a tribute, irony or postmodern recontextualisation?

In the past five years, Future Nuggets has released several projects that fuse the local with the oriental. Albatros, though, are hard to integrate into Manele per se; they had a distinct sound, coming from a subculture fermented in the socialist ghetto, not around weddings and old-school lăutari [traditional musicians]. Unconsciously, the environment had already been constructed for Raze de Soare at Future Nuggets, thus the conditions were favourable. Cosima O [Opartan, the second half of Raze de Soare] was a big fan of Albatros’ early period – vol. 1 and 2 being on heavy rotation. At first, Raze de Soare was just an intention to play around with an Albatros themed song that had been haunting me. I had no plan to release though. The simple melody of Vis Împlinit functioned like an ancestral virus, there is no antibody to it, it instantly stuck and the contamination began. This is Marian Lapadat’s (main composer of Albatros’ tracks) legacy. It doesn’t matter how “original” his proto-writing was; it doesn’t matter where he drew inspiration from. There is an “elementarity” to it, it has the effect of a classic. Then Cosima came and recorded just the chorus. She had never sung before, yet her voice was a natural match to the track. We decided to make three more reworks and present them as a concept-tribute EP. So I guess you have all the variations of what you enumerated in your question – each of them is true. But at first, there was our genuine love for the music (the tribute), then the actual post-modern move (re-working, re-context), then the future – spreading the Albatros infection deep into the international realm.

What was the motivation behind recontextualising the band Albatros and Manele, per se? Was it more artistic or activist?

I define these two options in other terms: Transgression through love (affect) or transgression through ideology (reason). They both work somehow, yet if you want to transgress your own culture and venture into worlds that are not your class and cultural environment you have to connect at an affective level. Usually – common knowledge says – music is a good medium, a good bridge through which to access other cultures, but in the case of Manele, I don’t think it has worked. A whole segment of society in Romania, (right-wing) intellectuals included, recoils at the first note of Manele. As soon as the orientally modulated Gypsy voice pours from speakers, they run away. The ideological racism prevents them from opening their ears. Their mental ecology doesn’t allow the oriental groove to take over their body.

Over time, Future Nuggets has tried different ways of bridging different worlds. One of the political perils that one has to take heed of, is that as you “re-work”, in terms of sound, textures and overall atmosphere, it can also function as a sort of cultural translation. Trying to translate Manele to middle class Western-oriented listeners, to “psychedelise” what is already quite trancy, but not understood culturally as such in their (our) sphere. And at some point one can notice that urban, informed, middle and upper-middle class people would love Steaua de Mare or Raze de Soare, but they won’t go to a Manele club even if it were the last nightclub in town. So how does transgression work? How far can we transgress our own Umwelt? One can immerse him/herself, but one can truly stay immersed only when affective contamination is involved.

Can you talk about Future Nuggets, the label you run and release Raze de Soare records on?

Future Nuggets is in a perpetual, yet consistent drift. I’m really excited about Plevna, which is finally out, the first 10″ from a Romanian label since 1973. It took 6 months from to go from “pre-order” status to “in stock”. But what does time mean in the outernational realm? “Losership” principles demand to let go of keeping up, to give up regularity. It took Horatiu Serbanescu 2 years of southeast sonic alchemy to produce this untraceable sound. Soon, a record by Renato din Sălaj will be out. Renato also needs to be put into context. His collaboration with Future Nuggets was possible thanks to a music project involving state prisons. The project was coordinated by Andrei Dinescu, Horatiu Ș, myself and a few others that took part. It was called Shamanelism (it happened somewhere in 2013). But uncertainty looms. First we wanted to put forward the music (the affect), then we will add the hardcore social context and the politics that need to be addressed.

Can you describe your live sets?

It depends on the project. I’ve been part of several live arrangements and they were different each time. Raze de Soare has a minimal setup, in the tradition of Albatros – three people, one on keyboard, one voice, one guitar. It relies on the performative side, on representation, on queen Cosima’s magical presence and eerie voice.

 

TOLE mix for Resonance FM

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Listen to “Move in with Me” – a mix by SHAPE participating producer TOLE, created for the London-based radio station Resonance FM as well as its additional platform Resonance Extra.

Even though it’s presented as a mix, “Move in with Me” rather resembles a large plunderphonics-type collage piece: the chosen tracks were mashed together in a meticulous manner, where seven tracks sometimes make up not more than a minute and a half (the track list, provided below, will guide you through). The piece was created over a longer period of time, gluing together averagely three minutes per week.

TOLE aims to create compositions rather than tracks, force rather than melody, and shifting details rather than clear patterns. The music project of Berlin and Prague-based visual artist Martin Kohout, TOLE combines ideas from his artistic practice and research with his own recordings and production. He was nominated to the SHAPE platform by Prague’s art center MeetFactory. He will be playing at the RIAM festival in Marseille (October 7 – 29).

Track list:

– 00:00
lfelliott – neotibicen tibicen
Bernard Parmigiani – Capture éphemérè
Tru Heru X Doja Cat – Lord Cooler
Ross Dekker – Givenchy (Acapella)
Tuk – Low Carb Love

— 02:00
Mhysa – I Get My Money (BBHMM4SERENA Edit FT Joseline Hernadez)
Yoshitaka Hikawa – Oyez
Mr. Mitch – Dru (Peace Edit)
Ian William Craig – No Cradle for the Whole of it
TLC Fam – Skim Sam (dbn dance)
NHS Allstars – Nostro Hood Anthem (Sylvere remix)
Datach’i – Flex Membrane

— 03:55
Hanali – Harder Or Hardness (Kazuki Koga’s Rebooted)
Air Max 97 – Progress And Memory (Neana Remix)
Rosy Parlane – Willow
Ziúr – Nails
Lil Donald – Wat U Mean Freestyle

— 08:45
Final Fantasy X (OST) – Hymn Of The Fayth
Final Fantasy X (OST) – The Sending
TOLE
Roy Werner – live at MIT 4.14.15

— 11:25
Kent Loon – Greenland
HABIBIBOI – Mood
LING – 44 Blue

— 15:00
Theo Burt – B1 (Gloss LP)
Yasuaki Shimizu – Kono Yo Ni Yomeri
Ralph Sheckel – Tony Gave a Picnic
ALOG – Son of King

— 22:00
Kablam – Nu Metall
Alley Catss – 3ro
Howie Lee – Flame Fighters
BayAka boyobi music with bobé spirits calling and conducting the music
Thomas Brinkmann – Agent Orange
Marc Anderson – Frog Chorus at Chandlers Creek
BaAka men singing in the forest [5/21] (Central African Republic, 1987)

— 29:30
The Automatics Group – Eric Prydz, ‘Call on Me’ (Retarded Funk Mix)
Basic Rhythm – Raw Basics
Andrew Spencer – Spotted Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus dryas maculatus)
Blue Stork – steedish

— 33:45
Kamixlo – MONTANADELAMUERTE
Resla – Cucurrucu

— 36:15
Dviance – 2sik2breathe
Minit – Now Right Here
Lucky Dragons – Typical Hippies
Arthur Brown & Leon Craig – The King of England

— 44:55
Trevor Lee Larson – Our Building On Fire
qwqwi – soup

— 47:15
Samuelspaniel – Close 2 U
TOLE
Enrico Boccioletti – From Settlement to Nomadism (1st movement)
Hiele – Apax Pernod

— 49:15
Soda Plains – Rushes
TCF – f5e78f64c0973944d1970966bf50dad73e0ade3307
FKWINR – playground, Hoi An, Vietnam, May 4, 2013
Emp. Moe – Duck Duck Loose
Machinefabriek – Blue
Cool Sounds – Stuck in the elevator of a broken time machine
tropical interface – harvest machinery

— 56:35
Bodyweight – WOWZA
Susumu Yokota – Flying Cat
Cheryl E. Leonard – Bats at Lake Havasu

Artwork by Martin Kohout

Mix by Ignatz for Resonance FM

Ignatz is a singer and songwriter from Belgium. Ahead of his upcoming show in Budapest (UH Fest, October 2-9) he’s prepared a mixtape of music that he currently enjoys, ranging from Blind Own Wilson to Bridget Hayden. The mix was broadcast by the London-based radio station Resonance FM as well as its additional platform Resonance Extra.

In 1910, the illustrator George Herriman created the Krazy Kat comic strip. Ignatz, a vicious mouse, was Krazy Kat’s arch enemy, and his favourite pastime was to throw bricks at Krazy Kat’s head (who misinterpreted the mouse’s actions as declarations of love). Belgian artist Bram Devens uses Ignatz as his alter-ego, and comes armed with his own pile of bricks; sparse, emotive songs born of the human condition, wrapped in effects, corroded by tape, driven forth by improvisation and spontaneity.

Ignatz’s songs stem from a familiar stripped folk framework, with Devens’ delivery recalling the louche primitivism of V.U. or Henry Flynt – but these songs sound inverted, cast adrift, their cool touch belying a stymied heat beneath the surface. Where Devens’ fretwork is adorned, it is executed with a refined coarseness. Autonomous loops entwine each other. Songs brush past percussion, bass notes, or a scant keyboard motif. A voice recedes from the heart of the song into a dislocated, cracked drawl.

Track list:

Blind Owl Wilson – Sloppy Drunk
Daniel Bachman – Song for the setting Sun I
Spencer Dobbs – Pleasure
Bridget Hayden – When I was in my prime
Stan Hubbs – Juggernaut
Maki Asakawa – Blue Spirit Blues
Catherine Ribeiro & Les Alpes – Paix 
Cultural Amnesia – The Wildlife of the tranquil Vale

Nik Nowak: ‘What we would have called freedom is called privacy nowadays’

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Born in Mainz and based in Berlin, Nik Nowak’s sound objects combine the aesthetic qualities of sculpture with utility or functional objects, and explore urban or military phenomena at play in everyday life. Among Nowak’s notable recent projects is “Panzer” (tank), a minidumper with caterpillar wheels that is transformed into a mobile sound system pumping out 4000 watts of audio.  Other recent works include a diverse range of “Mobile Boosters” (portable, flexible sound systems developed in response to the increasing anonymity of life in virtual space) and “Echo,” a sound installation  in which so-called “echo drones” interact with visitors, recording their speech and playing it back in different ways.  His new collaborative project SCHOCKGLATZE is the distillate of a longstanding collaboration between artists working across the frontiers of several forms. We visited him in his Neukölln studio in summer 2016. He was nominated for SHAPE by Sonica Festival.

Nik Nowak: At the moment I’m building a new Sound Tank. Over the course of the past two years, I’ve kind of reworked a couple of sculptures. In 2007, I built two drone-like tanks, and in 2014 I rebuilt them into real, autonomous robots. Right now, I’m building a more complex version of the Sound Tank. It will have way more possibilities to fold and unfold.

Are these all artists’ studios around here?

I actually move to different places, depending on my work. Right now, the new piece is quite heavy – it weighs 2.5 tons. I was in a studio on the first floor beforehand, and that didn’t work anymore as the original Sound Tank weighs 1.5 tons on its own. We are going to put this new version in a sea container and will ship it to Miami soon.

[In the studio] The panting on the wall is from your work, Echo, isn’t it?

Yes, it’s a copy of the painting, Echo, by Alexandre Cabanel from 1874. The original painting is in storage at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and I had a copy of it made in China. I sent a digital file of the image to an online oil painting service and then had the result presented in a Berlin museum as part of my Echo installation. If you want, it’s a copy of a copy finding its own reality as an original. The Echo installation also included two mobile ground drones – little tank-like robots that were moving freely in the exhibition space and that were able to recognise you via sensors. One gave you immediate feedback of every sound you produced, vocally or mechanically. Every noise that you produced was sent back to you in a directed sound beam so that you would hear your own echo. But no one else would hear it, other than what is audible in a natural room echo. It was weird and irritating because it was a permanent feedback loop of yourself in a public space. It was also a comment on social networks, where you always find yourself in a kind of a hall of mirrors – feedback that looks like feedback from the outside, but is actually a pre-selected environment which you have created based on your own traces and choices. The other drone was recording sounds that you produced and sending these to a huge sound system. The concept behind it was the shift between privacy and public life, a contrast between life on social media and in the digital age versus how it was before.

So your works are comments on contemporary society?

I don’t know if they’re political, but they definitely reflect the reality that we live in. The Echo installation was also connected to another, even more specific project called Delethe, which is about the deletion of online personal data. Delethe is a collaborative long-term project founded by me, the lawyer Philipp Brandt and the late curator Peter Lang, offering a service where you can commission a law firm to delete all your data after you die. This project lives in the grey zone of European and global rights, so it was about testing how far we can get in making the claim. During the years whilst we were working on it, a lot happened in terms of European personal data protection rights. When we started in 2009, the discourse around these rights was only starting. My son, who is eight, will grow up in a world where the permanent sharing and being in a global network creates a totally different reality to the one we grew up in.

I guess being on this threshold of a digital native – digital immigrant gives you a more critical distance…

I can think about a reality in which I was not permanently part of a network, a grid. Questions about freedom, privacy and publicity can be thought about very differently. What we would have called freedom is called privacy nowadays.

Are we at a point of almost losing it?

As an artist, you have a chance to work from a perspective of resistance.

But I guess the digital realm is also fleeting; it can be erased easily.

There are several questions related to archiving and cultural memory. Content that’s archived in print or hand-written form will only be copied to a digital format upon request; otherwise, it’s going to disappear. The mainstream demands what’s going to be copied and delivered to the future. This is also connected to the question of who is or should be doing the archiving and who decides what is important to remember or cultivate. What are the parameters behind it? Is there a right of forgetting? Some groups want a law that would give an expiry date to every digital file. But you would probably lose a lot of historical documents that way, and maybe memory would become the privilege of an elite.

Your work is more physical, though.

It is, but it deals with communication and sound, which is both physical and inconcrete. Sound is my main medium aside from the machinery that produces it. I think a lot about its potential as a cultural catalyst or a tool of manipulation in political and subcultural movements.

Does your interest in the military (especially tanks) originate from your childhood? You mentioned growing up next to a large military base in Germany.

The whole military motif definitely has something to do with the appearance of heavy military equipment in the area where I grew up in, and around Mainz. The post Cold War scenario around the time of the first Iraq war has resonances of WWII and post-colonial geostrategic interests, and left a schizophrenic impression of the simultaneity of peace and war. When the tanks returned from Saudi Arabia, they left traces of desert sand from in front of our kindergarten and on the streets. The war zone and the peace zone were connected through media images and the war machinery. Even though the military had been enormously present during the time when I was growing up, we lived in an optimistic sphere of belief in a peaceful future. As kids we did however have the terrifying intuition of the continuum of war. Today, the omnipresence of war is even more present through the delocalisation of war and an era of worldwide terror.

Can you talk about your fascination with mobile sound systems, also in connection with drones?

I’m fascinated with the fact that mobile sound systems are bound to their physical environments and their social and political circumstances, and that they have the potential to be cultural catalysts. Mobile sound systems have been a global phenomenon since mechanisation in the 19th century. The nonlinear history of mobile sound systems could start, for example, with early mechanic organs and automatic pianos, which brought music from the interiors of the elite to the public space and the masses.

The Futurists, like Luigi Russolo, included the sound of industrialisation in works for classical orchestra; in Brazil the Trio Electricos appeared, which over the decades grew into the size of enormous carnival sound trucks we know today from the Carnival of Rio; Jamaican sound systems played an important role in the independence movement of the 1960s; and the Mic Men in Trinidad and Tobago use old military loudspeakers mounted on old cars to play Indian oldies in order to remember the historical departure from their homeland. Mobile sound systems have the potential to catalyse cultural processes and can be tools to place autonomous concepts of identity, beside the grit of the main stream, into public discourse.

How do you perceive the relationship between the military and art in general?

Art as itself has no relationship to the military. Art can be anything. Although in history, artists have worked from different directions, either as part of a resistance or in support of the larger powers. Art reflects the power dispositive of its time. The military, its strategies, its critics and hackers is an element of the dispositive and can be used as a motif for an art piece.

You’ve worked with musicians like The Bug, and Chicago footwork producers (such as DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn), all of whom focus on bass. Can you talk about these collaborations and why you chose them in particular?

I met Spinn and Rashad in 2012 in Bucharest at the Palace of the Parliament built by Ceausescu, where they performed in the context of the Rokolectiv festival. I exhibited the Sound Tank there. Being part of a rave on the rooftop of this crazy mega building with the history of a totalitarian regime was impressive and left the feeling of being part of a global generation and movement that has the potential to bring change. We decided there in Bucharest to do the first Panzer Parade in Berlin, which we realised a few months later. At the same time, Spinn and Rashad also started working with Kode9, who shortly beforehand provided a text for my first catalogue. What Kode9 and I have in common and on what note we met is obvious, I guess. Later, Kode9 and Toby Heys brought their AUDINT project to my exhibition, BOOSTER art sound machine, which I curated for the Marta Herford Museum in 2014. I produced the second Panzer Parade this year with Scratcha DVA and Ikonika, as a demonstration against the export of weapons to conflict areas.

The Bug and I share ideas about the potential of sound. I met him when he moved to Berlin. I always loved his frequency arrangements and the sirens he used in between his tracks when he performed live. Inspired by this and Arseny Avraamov’s Symphony of Sirens, which I was introduced to by Lothar Baumgarten, I commissioned The Bug to create a piece for the opening of my Echo exhibition at Berlinische Galerie. I asked that the piece only use sirens and echoes, to produce an endless, swelling drone. We called it Sirens – from Avraamov to King Tubby

 

 

Audio: Laura Luna live at MUTEK Montréal

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Listen to a live set by Mexican-born, Prague-residing sound artist and musician Laura Luna, recorded at the MUTEK festival in Montréal, where SHAPE had its first showcase beyond Europe.

A multimedia artist turned composer, Laura Luna de Castillo deals in atmosphere creation, eschewing staid actualities for magic realism and darkly imagined cosmic travels. Part mysterious raconteur, part technological phenom, Castillo coaxes elegantly entangled texture and complex emotion out of her machines.

A photographer turned video and film artist, in 2013, Castillo began to experiment with music: perceiving sound as a powerful art form for enhancing memories and narratives – she recorded sounds around her that triggered emotions and memory fragments, building them into a rich tonal music. Galvanized by those field recordings, Castillo centralized sound in her work. Using field recordings, a modded Atari computer, a gameboy and various synths, she constructed her own sounds to describe fantastical scenes and narratives, creating soundtracks for sublimely fogged-in worlds inspired by the sort of science fiction that deals in the eerily heart-rending. Consequently, her music takes listeners deep into emotional, dream like journeys, where feedback, error and accidental programming play with layered intentional melody, field recordings and vocals.

Castillo’s music works in concert with her tech heavy multidisciplinary projects – audiovisual performances, object creation, installations and interactive works. Her 2014 album Isolarios, featuring her own cover art, emerged from an artistic and personal generative, mnemonic process unsurprisingly suited to a career artist. Her synths come on in washes and blips, she makes melodies that growl or float, building in movements evocative of a non-traditional classical music textured in electroacoustic noise. Live at MUTEK, Castillo employed motors and mechanisms, pedals and processors, alongside curated samples and audiovisual machines of her own devising.

She was nominated to the SHAPE platform by Prague-based art center MeetFactory.

Audio: Voiski & L’Ocelle Mare Live

Listen to full-length recordings of live sets by SHAPE artists Voiski and L’Ocelle Mare, recorded at the 2016 Paris edition of Les Siestes Electroniques.

Just like last year, the Parisian installment of the Toulouse based festival Les Siestes Electroniques enabled musicians an exceptional access to the audio collection of Musée Du Quai Branly. These selected musicians were invited to sample a set of resources of an unsuspected wealth and subsequently replay it during a free, open-air event. These recordings document the outcome in the cases of both SHAPE acts of the festival, namely, Voiski and L’Ocelle Mare.

For several years, Voiski has struck a singular path in techno music, oscillating between experimental projects and the production of tracks marked by his signature style. Within the large spectrum of his interventions, Voiski stands out for the rigor of his infinitely repetitive loops. These, combined with acerbic drum beats, construct an analogue excitation that carries his music to the heart of futurist and sentimental layers.

L’Ocelle Mare, meanwhile, is the solitary project of Thomas Bonvalet initially focused on the nylon string guitar, taking short, dynamic and abrupt forms and limiting itself exclusively to the acoustic possibilities of the instrument. A radical posture, it constantly threatened to put itself at an impasse, or being forced into metamorphosis and movement. Bonvalet’s guitar thus became less and less identifiable. At the periphery it absorbed the sound of objects (metronome, tuning forks…) deviating from their common usage, integrating and splitting up their breath and sounds to reveal a new fleeting form.

You can catch Voiski live at Unsound Krakow and L’Ocelle Mare – at the musikprotokoll festival in Graz.

August news from SHAPE platform

Read about upcoming concerts and lectures at participating festivals of SHAPE – the Creative Europe supported platform for innovative music and audiovisual art. The Hague’s TodaysArt festival has announced its program, whilst Skaņu Mežs and Rokolectiv have prepared special events in September.

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The month of September will be opened in Riga – the first showcase of the month will  be a special free-entry event by Skaņu Mežs, one of the two coordinating festivals of the platform. Since 2006, Skaņu has been participating in Riga’s White Nights, a cultural forum that calls all local initiatives to host night-long free-entry events. As always, Skaņu Mežs will participate with a seven-hour concert program on September 10, presenting what can be considered a mini-festival, comprised of very (genre-wise) diverse performances. The SHAPE platform will be represented by four acts: Venezuelan DJ and producer Hyperaktivist, British bass music producer Spatial with an audiovisual show, Janus-affiliated DJ and post-grime producer KABLAM as well as Austrian bass clarinetist, improviser and composer Susanna Gartmayer.

Next up, the platform goes to Romania, where Rokolectiv festival will host its second special SHAPE event, titled SHAPE Bucharest (September 15 – 17), gathering seven SHAPE acts, some with alternative projects, like the Raze De Soare-related Utopus or Stine Janvin Motland’s interactive installation Subjective Frequency Transducer, which registrates and regenerates the internal resonance of the performer. Charlotte Bendiks, We Will Fail and Syracuse will participate; such acts as Orphan Swords and Andi Stecher will give their first performances as part of SHAPE. The event will also feature a lecture by artist Maria Guta, titled Working with VR & POV.

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On September 22 – 25, The Hague’s multidisciplinary modern creativity festival TodaysArt will have its 2016 edition, and, this time around, will relocate to the city centre. What to expect? The usual adventurous yet unexpected experience of a diverse selection of performances and concerts, club nights, installations and public space interventions and the Bright Collisions symposium program. As part of the festival, the SHAPE-participating visual label ANTIVJ will be featured with the world premiere of a new performance, staging astrophysics as an immersive audiovisual performance. The project is being developed with – and will be performed live by – renowned electronic musicians, scientists and creative coders. The SHAPE part of TodaysArt 2016 will also feature audiovisual artist Julien Bayle, Norwegian DJ Charlotte Bendiks, Editions Mego-related electronic music composer Klara Lewis, vibraphone player Masayoshi Fujita, light-and-sound installation artists Nonotak, DJ crew from label BAKK and Polish acts We Will Fail and Piotr Kurek, nominated to the platform by Unsound festival.

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The month will be rounded up with somewhat of an early start for Austrian festival musikprotokoll im steirischen herbst, which will present French free-form experimental music project L’Ocelle Mare, run by guitarist Thomas Bonvalet, in a separate concert evening at the Kunsthaus Graz on September 29 on the occasion of the opening of the musikprotokoll sound art exhibition „The Logic of Angels”. All the other musikprotokoll concerts will then take place from October 6 to October 9, with further performances of SHAPE artists. Also, on September 30 KABLAM will play at the club panamur event series of steirischer herbst. As musikprotokoll is curated and produced by ORF, the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, all the SHAPE concerts will be recorded and presented in its channel Oe1, in October and November. And, especially for the aforementioned  station, Stine Janvin Motland is currently producing her first radio art piece, commissioned by Oe1 Kunstradio. You’ll be able to listen to it on September 18.

For updated programs of October festivals from the SHAPE platform, such as UH Fest, Unsound, Insomnia, Skaņu Mežs, RIAM and Maintenant, don’t hesitate to visit the Event section of our homepage.

The latest episode of SHAPE platform’s monthly radio show is streaming online, and features interviews with Jackson, Hyperaktivist, Orphan Swords and ANTIVJ:

Photos by Juris Justs (#1), Maxime Michel (#2) and Susana Velasco (#3).