First Date: Michel Waisvisz, Alex Nowitz, Sabine Vogel 2007


Alex Nowitz and Sabine Vogel are two musician that have embraced STEIM tools in recent years. Originally, they both attended the STEIM Orientation Workshop back in 2007. Since then they have returned for residencies several times, exploring how to extend their voice through new tools.

During their first visit, they also recorded a session with our former Director, Michel Waisvisz. This is one of Michel’s last recordings – a few weeks later he was diagnosed with cancer and only recorded a few solos and one session with Tarek Atoui before his death in June of 2008.

Michel never stopped playing The Hands since its original invention in 1984. Although his style was always extremely physical and energetic, he kept exploring new sounds and new collaborations. He told me, sometime around 2005, that recently he was much more interested in dealing with subtle dynamics and delicate sounds. I imagine this was partly influenced by some of the free improvisers, like Christine Sehnaoui and Mazen Kerbaj, that he started to play with.

Listening to this recording, its actually quite impressive how the 3 musicans can shift between so many sound textures and play different roles at different moments. Usually, Michel has the advantage of being the most versatile with his wide range of samples and methods of manipulations, but Alex and Sabine keep up with him throughout the whole session. Its really too bad that this had to be the last date for them, this would of developed into a nice project.

alex and sabine
Photo of Alex and Sabine during their visit in 2007 (photo by Teun de Lange)

Here are 3 excerpts from their recording, take a listen!

direct link : firstdate_clip1.mp3

direct link : firstdate_clip2_1.mp3

direct link : firstdate_clip2_2.mp3

>> Update

Alex had sent me this text he wrote about this session:


A note by Alex Nowitz on FIRST DATE
A trio by
SABINE VOGEL (Flutes, Electronics) and
Recorded at STEIM
On October 22nd, 2007

“When Sabine and I were invited to take part at the orientation workshop at STEIM in autumn 2007, we both were very happy to get to know Michel Waisvisz as a teacher and musician. After one of his lectures Sabine asked Michel if he’d be into the idea of getting together and creating some music. It happened that all three of us had already set up our equipment in the same room. Michel was open to the idea and I thought, at that time, that this was probably due to Sabine’s straight forward and confident appearance. The real reason was another one, though. Michel was planning to go on holiday with his family. But because of his body acting strangely and the pain he experienced in his back, he decided to stay at home. In the end, the session was probably a welcome distraction for him as opposed to suffering from and thinking about his pain all the time. Some months later we all knew that the time of making this recording was about the time when his disease started to take over. We never had the chance to actually make future plans about the trio or even to discuss the recording. I had the feeling that the session was quite unique, intensive and fascinating at the same time. There was no competition going on between the three of us. Also the generation gap between us was no issue at all. Instead Michel appeared very warm-hearted and encouraging.
To me the recording demonstrates a music of distinct wit with an understanding and respect for each others’ soundworlds and different approaches to musical creation. The interaction between the three of us results in a heterogeneous music that smoothly juggles the expression of profound emotions, on the one hand, with the portraying of abstract soundscapes on the other. Maybe it is the wide array of these musical languages and the artistic potential of this trio that makes me think that it might have probably become a very exceptional one. After listening to the CD again with some distance, I get the impression that the music aims for displaying what could be described as “reflections on life and death”. This may sound pathetic to some people, but to me the musical content exposes an emotional arc that provokes an image of looking into the abyss of human existence that is torn between desperation and struggle, laughing and crying, anger and gentleness, love and rage, screaming and speechlessness.

It is possible that due to this heavy connotation it took me so long to sit down, reflect about the music and write a comment, which the current artistic director of STEIM, Takuro Mizuta Lippit asked me for. Everybody who knew Michel was shocked when he died last year in June 2008. To me, since we didn’t really meet again after this one recording, it happened so quickly, so abruptly. It was our first date with Michel, but also our last. What remains and what I keep in mind, though, when I think of him is the power that erupts when people meet – even for their first time – on an unbiased and sincere, a genuinely honest and profound human level. For this lesson, and the music, I will always be very grateful to Michel.”

Alex Nowitz,
July 13th, 2009

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