Rafael Toral ft. Sei Miguel Quartet / Per Henrik Svalastog / Frederik De Wilde


02.02.2007 20:00

Event #06 is largely dedicated to the plastic processing of electric sound waves. Rafael Toral (Staubgold), the Portuguese who formerly created a furore as an experimental guitarist (and who has since retrained as a composer, electronics engineer and instrument-builder), presents his new project Space Program. Space Program represents a career turn with far-reaching ambitions. After his CD Violence Of Discovery and Calm Of Acceptance, a 15-year period of pioneering work on electric guitar came to an end.

Rafael Toral had reached a certain degree of perfection with his pioneering guitar string vibrations, and felt ready for the enormous task of building an entirely new approach to music (R.T., interview with Dan Warburton, Wire, October 2006). That includes now using silence as a starting point to shape sound. Toral built a whole arsenal of new instruments: joystick-controlled pulse generators, portable amplifiers that generate feedback, and computer-controlled sine waves controlled by Toral’s own gloves (via a system of switches and sensors). Space, as he briefly titled his most recent CD, is a first summary of that quasi sculptural treatment of electronic sound signals. So don’t associate his cosmic aspirations with dreamy ambient music.

The Space Program is as intense and focused as a game of chess. (…) it is music of action, music of awareness. (…) Hi tech bleeps sound as natural as birdsong: Toral’s rhythmic and melodic shapes are strands of a genetic code whose meaning we still have to crack. (Dan Warburton, Wire, October 2006, p. 30)

In Netwerk, he plays his new compositions with the Sei Miguel Quartet. Sei Miguel, like Toral of Portuguese descent, worked for more than 20 years in relative isolation to create an idiosyncratic trumpet sound. His reserved tones are discreet but compelling and emerged from reinterpretations of traditional jazz phrases according to the principles of John Cage. Toral himself calls Sei a specialised tone scientist, a spectrum architect, who meticulously explores how timbres can complement and complement each other (R.T., interview with Dan Warburton, Wire, October 2006). Toral and the Sei Miguel Quartet do not play delineated pieces with a clear beginning and end; they prefer to create sonic gardens – or sound gardens – where tonal purity and transparent structures take precedence over drones or elongated tonal modulations.


Rafael Toral and the Sei Miguel Quartet come from the Transmediale Festival in Berlin, Europe’s leading arts and digital culture event. They are there on the bill of club transmediale, the consistently heterogeneous festival section dedicated specifically to adventurous music and related visual arts. Per Henrik Svalastog (Rune Grammofon) is on the same bill. The Norwegian musician reconciles digital sounds with local archaic instruments like the langeleik or zither (Norwegian sitar) and the ram’s horn. With an infectious pleasure, he switches between sophisticated media and ancient instruments, between electronica and folk music. His melodies are soft and compelling; the music evokes enticing images of vast Skandinavian forests and lakes, in the familiar National Geographic style.

By Henrik Svalastog

Certain species of fish (the Apteronotus Albifrons, the Gnathomenus Petersii and the Xenomistus Petersii) communicate among themselves via electrical pulse or wave signals. The study of those fish species is linked to technological and digital developments: electrical activity in aquaria has only recently been mapped. Observation has shown that they are fish of high social intelligence that are not averse to some Machiavellian behaviour. They not only discharge their electrical energy to send signals; they also disturb the frequencies of other fish with it if necessary. Frederik De Wilde will present the next phase of his project _EOD Electric Courtship Song_s at Event#06. He is building an installation that connects bioelectric fish with audiovisual media. The computer allows him to intervene in the process himself. Via computer signals, among other things, he tries to encourage the fish’s courtship behaviour and then turn it into light and sound signals. The experiment reveals the aesthetic appeal of scientific and technological research.