STEIM studio residency Jan.23.-31. / performance at puntWG Jan.30.+31.
“…of cannibals” (text by Götz Rogge)
is a project that combines visual projection with theatrical speech using the active role of a given space resonance. The spoken word (and other sounds) is simply recorded, played back and rerecorded until it has desolved into an entropy of musical overtones. The I’m sitting in a room thing as Joel Ryan rightly called it, referring to the great conceptual piece by Alvin Lucier of 1970; another prominent example of the transformative role in resonance is Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Solo for Melody Instrument and Feedback Loop (1966).
For the last ten years I have been researching the flexibility of an acoustic entropy, often in collaboration with the composer and musician Olaf Rupp(BeastieShopBeach). Setups have been varying in number of sound sources and even entered the environment of a forest whisper, 2005 Hörspaziergang Saarbrücken).
At STEIM we directed our focus on creating a setup that would sustain a live performance; turn the space into the instrument (at first glance this seems easy, but it literally takes days to probe into the unique reverberation).
the words –
The truely poetic motiv of information as spoken word dissolving into the abstractions of overtones and viceversa has something of self-propagating or self-devouring. In order not simply to exhibit a known effect, but contextualize a metaphorical meaning into our performance, we adapted parts of an essay by Michel de Montaigne ‘Of Cannibals’ from 1562 (frenchp.404/engl.p.285). This text from the early modern period describes the social life of natives in the new world (Brazil) as a true paradise. There is no lying, treason, dissimulation, avarice, envy, detraction, indulgence; these ‘barbarians’ kill and eat their enemies for revenge, but in a completely rational matter. Montaigne, who had never been to the new world himself, tried to mirror the attrocities of his own culture through the purity of these “primitive people”. By today’s standard of a waning morality his essay is often quoted for the failure of relativism, by conservative philosophers and the church. For us this is a good enough reason to pull the peg from the drain of ideology and feed the vortex of our performance with different sorts of propaganda and their disillusions.
Naturally during our week at STEIM we were occupied mainly with elaborating the technical audio set up. Thus, for the two nights at puntWG, besides Montaigne we ended up with a rather odd mix of speech by L.F.Céline, M.Houellebesq, three letters of racketeers, Transhumanism and a lottery of 1000â‚¬ … Now – not only from an occult point of view – this assemblage of text still needs a bit of research.
“nothing remains; only my thought” – german racketeers: pure disillusion
the sound –
The audio equipment consisted of two microphones (Neumann), two speakers (Macki), a Nord Modular and a laptop running LiSa/junXion in combination with several midi controllers. Obviously the quality of microphone and speakers are crucial to the outcome of a defined feed-back. Still, more sophistication makes it often harder to handle. I have experimented on mono set-ups that played along beautifully for days with a good resonace without the need of interference. At puntWG we had to balance certain frequencies permanently, sometimes feeling helpless without a realtime analyser. The equalizer being the microtonal keys of the instrument: a damping down or raising of a certain frequency can cause other signals – after several generations of entropy – to overmodulate. That means one has to almost foresee the slightest tendencies. Most subtle was the EQing of the mics.
Joel Ryan made a good suggestion of using narrow pitch shifters instead of an equalizer (billiard with eggs?), but we couldn’t try that one anymore.
Alltogether: there were so many influences on the set up that someone could easily write a PhD.
the visuals –
The projection creates an athmosphere of contemplation in colour, structure and rythm. Rather than adapting the rereproduction theme, I chose a simple multilayering of stills in permanent succession, that produces a flow of highly abstract, subtle moving tableaux. It supports the somewhat organic process of a hidden nature. The images consist of close ups of an elemantal world – plants, stones, water – dispersed by historical and contemporary visions of paradise, to keep a level for sudden association.
Technically this is realised in Keyworx.
the performance –
The presentation “of cannibals” is flexible between installation and show. The two nights at puntWG had a duration from 60-80min plus the 15min of entrance with sounds at the bar, barking of dogs and singing in the audience was incorporated and build a first hum for the beginning.
The space had been cleared but for the microphones and the speakers to an empty playground. Texts were in French, Dutch, English and German. Happily the wonderful french artist Frédéric le Junter supported us with his obsession for singing, and incorporated some of his smaller obscure sound objects. In addition Tobias Klein played contra-bass clarinet, so we transformed a big variety of singing, lamenting, shouting, hissing and lecturing in the diverse languages together with sounds spread into the room. The multilayering of speech rose in times to noisy clusters that spread again into an ambient flow. It seemed some people felt slightly intimidated (the dogs for sure) and couldn’t grasp the fatally humorous side of the presentation…
To this kind of ritualistic act, precise timing is everything, but most important for future presentations is a further stabilized reverb, that allows for full concentration on the semi-theatrical performance.
Thanks to STEIM for supporting the creation.
to view a 15min sample of the show please click here / quicktime7 req.