Category: personal news


On Trees and Sounds

The english translation of my essay “On Trees and Sounds” is now available for download on my homepage. I wrote the text for the July/August 2010 issue of the German magazine “Neue Zeitschrift for Musik”. It takes the old question: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”, credited to George Berkeley, as a starting point to reflect on various ways to define the term sound. Here are the first two paragraphs:

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This koan-like question is often quoted in texts on sound and perception, and the answer given is often a counterintuitive no. The argument is as follows: a sound is something created in our brains when our ears perceive the vibration of molecules. Consequently, a sound is nothing but a mental representation in our nervous system, while the sound waves outside our ears are simply part of a larger physical continuum of vibrations. A sound is a product of our sensory apparatus: without ears to hear, no sound.

A similar case can be made in terms of acoustic communication: the production of a sound runs through the classic stages from sound source via medium to recipient. The movement or vibration of a sound source generates sound waves in a surrounding medium such as air, water or solid objects. The sound waves spread concentrically and reach the recipient, who then translates these fluctuations in pressure and density into electrical pulses and perceives them as sounds. If any one of these stages is missing, then there can be no sound. In the absence of a recipient, as in the abovementioned forest, though it is possible to speak in physical terms of a transfer of energy from the falling tree to the surrounding medium, acoustic communication in the sense of an exchange of information does not take place: without a recipient, no transfer of information, and thus no sound.

To read or download the full text please head to my homepage. The text was translated by Nicholas Grindell.

Balalaika and Hang Samples

Some Updates on my homepage: I have put some free downloads up of Logic EXS Instruments that can be helpful in film music production. The latest sample set covers a Balalaika with two playing techniques. Last year I uploaded a sample set of the unique instrument hang. Some more stuff will follow over the next months.

Tonight Ismael Ivo’s new dance theater choreography “Sacre du Printemps” will be premiered in front of the impressive temples of Paestum close to Naples, Italy. Over the last 4 weeks, I wrote a musical introduction for the piece with insect and volcano sounds that refer to the location close to the Vesuvio and Vergil’s “Gerorgics” which already mentioned the rose of Paestum about 2000 years ago. The behaviour of bees played an important role in the roman society, their life was supposed to be a model for human community. In the opening scene of the choreography a dancer is bathed in honey and Ismael wanted to have a mystical and ethereal music accompanying the ritual. This is an excerpt of what I came up with:

The countertenor Martin Wölfel sings the original latin text of Vergil refering to honey and the female choir was performed by Almut Kühne. Here are the lyrics:

Haec potior suboles, hinc caeli tempore certo

dulcia mella premes, nec tantum dulcia, quantum

et liquida et durum Bacchi domitura saporem.

At cum incerta volant caeloque examina ludunt

contemnuntque favos et frigida tecta relinquunt,

instabiles animos ludo prohibebis inani.

Nec magnus prohibere labor: tu regibus alas

eripe; non illis quisquam cunctantibus altum

ire iter aut castris audebit vellere signa.

Everyday Listening

Hugo Verweij runs the blog Everyday Listening which quickly became one of my favourite spots on the internet for sound-related findings and reflections. Hugo is a composer and sound designer but also gives lectures at the Utrecht School of the Arts, which might be the reason why his site is so well informed and focusses on the mediation of sonic ideas instead of the navel-gazing and self-promoting many blogs of composers and musicians indulge in (like mine I suppose…). Since February Hugo runs a series of “Five Sound Questions” on a weekly basis where many artists contributed their answers and revealed some intersting insights in their personal views on listening, favourite places for their sound qualities and sound-related childhood remembrances. I was happy to answer his questions as well (ah, here it is again, the navel-gazing…).

Silence Radio 2.0

After a one-year-break,  Silence Radio returns with an edition of sound art in various forms ranging from documentary, fiction, electroacoustic composition, field-recording to soundscape. I contributed a track called “A Pot Calling The Kettle Black”. In the piece a strange woman (singer Almut Kühne) makes funny noises in the kitchen while she is dealing with frying eggs, drinking some mineral water, making a cup of tea and cleaning the dishes. Ambivalent kitchen sounds are mirrored in sounds from other origins and it seems as if she slips away while she is doing the kitchen work. Many of those sounds are somehow related to water and fire, therefore the title which is an old english saying about someone being hypocritical. Wikipedia provides the following definition: “The pot is sooty (being placed on a fire), while the kettle is clean and shiny (being placed on coals only), and hence when the pot accuses the kettle of being black, it is the pot’s own sooty reflection that it sees: the pot accuses the kettle of a fault that only the pot has, rather than one that they share.” I thought along these lines when working on the piece. Other sound “pastilles” were submitted by artists like Francisco López, eRikm & Eric La Casa and Alessandro Bosetti among others. Here is the complete track list:

A POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK ___ Andreas Bick
Whoever likes to play with sounds likes to play with words.

UNTITLED #242 ___ Francisco López
No title, no comment, no meaning, not only one.

LE FILTRE DE RÉALITÉ ___ eRikm & Eric La Casa
The two sonic Erics meet Jacques Brodier and his ionic instrument.

MIDI MINUIT ___ Pali Meursault
Investigation by night into a sci-fi-like contemporary soundscape.

DEAD MAN ___ Alessandro Bosetti
After all the samurai of love is a very casual person though he’s got to live his life as a dead man.

TRUE BROMANCE ___ Bérangère Maximin
Tribute to boys’ pure love by a resounding girl.

LAURENT MAÏS ___ Sebastian Dicenaire
Laurent Maïs has got a revelation of love in front of his flat screen.

BARMAZ OU BALI ___ Kaye Mortley
A rough cut daydreaming snapshot mixing Switzerland with Indonesia.

AIR CONDITIONER No.8 ___ Nick Sowers
Domestification attempt of domestic white noises.

STROMBOLI, UN VOLCAN SUR LA MER ___ Irvic D’Olivier
The power of volcanic myth is universal.

Ismael Ivo prepares a dance choreography in Naples, Italy. 2 week ago, the dancers for a new contemporary company called “Les Danceurs Napolitains” were chosen and the staff met for the first time. After I worked for Ismael’s dance piece “the waste land” last in year in Venice, I’m happy to also be part of this new project. Premiere will be on July 16 in Paestum, probably in front of this huge temple, a really unique location:

Ismael speaks in this video about “the waste land”, the choreography based on Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps” for last years Venice Biennale with additional compositions by myself.

I’m happy to announce that my radioplay after Roland Barthes’ famous book is finally finished and will be broadcast on March 19 at 11:05 pm at German public radio WDR3.

Roland Barthes died 30 years ago after a car accident in Paris. “A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments” is possibly one of the most ambitious and intelligent texts on the philosophy of passionate love, still of great relevance just as before. In this radio adaption I superimposed his glossary of love with Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther”, Barthes’ principle witness and supplier of keywords for passionate love. Thanks to outstanding performances by the actors Sebastian Blomberg, Ludwig Trepte and Hannah Herzsprung and with the help of a lot of friends and the people of Berlin providing words for the definitions of Barthes’ “figures of thought” I hope we can follow the racing minds of lovers in an unusual and fascinating radioplay. For both Barthes and Goethe, the lover is someone who stands outside society. He lives in an “unreal” world, in an illusion that becomes his truth, while what other people call “reality” he experiences as an illusion.

“Love is blind: the proverb is false. Love opens its eyes wide, love produces clear-sightedness. […] What the world takes for ‘objective’, I regard as factitious; and what the world regards as madness, illusion, error, I take for truth.” (Roland Barthes)

Please read or download a longer essay on the piece on my homepage. You can listen to the piece here as online livestream via iTunes or Windows Mediaplayer. There is a simultaneous 5.1 surround sound broadcast, the link is on the right hand side on this page. The radioplay is in German though…

For those who speak German: I composed the music to a radio feature about The collapse of the Historical Archive of Cologne. There are broadcasts on several German radio stations during the next days, details can be found here.