Oliver Beer / Rubén D’hers / Nicolas Field / Julian Sartorius / Michael Schmid / Konrad Smoleński / Rutger Zuydervelt
The old Van Borssele town house in Bruges has been the site of the Stedelijk Conservatorium (City Conservatory) since the late 19th century. The house’s former parlour now serves as a waiting room where students gather in silence before classes begin. This brightly lit space, with its rhythmic pilasters and a view out to the garden, acts as a funnel for auditory stimuli. Sounds channel in from all corners of the building, filling the parlour with a characterful blend of orchestral tones. The rattle of percussion and snatches of song, piano and flute quiver through the room. For some a cacophony, for others a relaxing auditive experience reminiscent of the warmup before the pre-performance tuning of an orchestra.
The exhibition Orkest! focuses on the interplay between different sound works. The works echo themselves, interact with others nearby and complement each other in the in-between spaces. The overall effect sometimes sounds like a protracted symphony, an endless composition that seeks to grip time, bring it to a halt and forget it ever existed. Orkest! has been designed as a sculptural ensemble, taking into account the architecture of the Netwerk building and the route taken through it by visitors. By moving in and amongst the different works, visitors perceive contrasts and changing dynamics, effectively creating their own unique scores. Visitors are invited to sit on the benches and listen, just as in the waiting room of the conservatory.
Orkest! brings together eight installations by international artists for a three-month-long sound journey. Upon entering Orkest!, visitors are immediately ‘tuned’ to the environment, first coming upon an ear-opener as opposed to an eye-opener.
Our ears are often overtaxed, causing us to close ourselves off from the profusion of sound we encounter in our everyday lives. Before a classical concert begins, one can hear the tuning of the orchestra. This sound — the din of the public combined with that of the tuning of the various instruments — has the effect of tuning one’s ears, as it were, for what is about to come.
What if one were to take this exciting sound and stretch it into a continuous drone?
Rutger Zuydervelt presents Stay Tuned, a sound installation for eight speakers that incorporates a variety of instruments, techniques and styles.
In this piece, more than 150 musicians and singers tune to concert pitch (the note ‘A’ or ‘la’). The result? A virtual orchestra, in which the individual contributions are as important as the collective sound. Visitors are free to move through the installation space, wading through the sound of the orchestra as it tunes up, every step influencing their perception of the sound and the tone of the drone. An experience in which time seems to stand still.
Rutger Zuydervelt (°1978, Netherlands) is a graphic designer, musician and composer. Since 2004 he has worked under the name Machinefabriek. His music reconciles ambient, modern classical, drone, noise and field recording, aspects of which he combines to create ‘films without image’. As well as being a prolific musician — with now almost one hundred releases to his name — Zuydervelt is becoming increasingly more involved in the areas of dance, film and installation.
In his work, Konrad Smoleński (°1977, Poland) uses performance, photography, installation, video, sound and sculpture in collaborative performances with other visual artists and musicians. He lives and works in Warsaw and Bern. Smoleński’s work has an international reputation. His work has been exhibited at Manifesta 9 in Genk, Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Performa 13 in New York and more recently at the Polish Pavilion of the 55th Venice Biennale and the Volkspaleis 2014 in The Hague, where Smoleński created a monumental installation in the Zuiderstrand Theatre.
Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More is a sculptural instrument that plays a piece of music each day, written for two bronze bells, two speaker walls and a resonating object. In this case the object is a drum kit that will be played at the opening event by Julian Sartorius. The composition links the rich, symbolic sound of the bells with the abstract sound of echoes and resonating noise. Making use of delay effects, Smoleński presents a world in which history slows to a halt. This monumental installation was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2013. The sound of the bells has been supplemented especially for Orkest! with the sound of both the drum and the seven other installations that make up the group exhibition. Smoleński uses the changing sounds of the whole exhibition as a sound source for his stretched-out symphony.
The sound performance Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More takes place every day at 3pm.
Julian Sartorius (°1981, Switzerland) is a unique percussionist who has collaborated with the likes of Nils Petter Molvaer, Rhys Chatham and Sophie Hunger. This year he played a captivating solo in the Netwerk gallery during Drums ‘n Friends Again and presented his first visual work.
The video and sound installation Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen is a continuation of his Beat Diary project. For this project, he created a new beat every day for a year, utilising different surfaces and contexts: bridges, trains, trees, lifts, balustrades, etc.These 365 compositions have been released in the form of the Beat Diary Box, which contains a vinyl record and a book of photographic documentation. Sartorius’s installation consists of six speakers and three screens that each show loops of varying lengths, creating a triptych in which new beat and image combinations constantly arise. The title refers to the poem Wünschelrute by Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff, a German poet and writer from the Romantic period. ‘Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen’ translates as ‘There sleeps a song in all things’, or as John Cage put it in the fifties: ‘Everything we do is music’.
Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen
die da träumen fort und fort,
und die Welt hebt an zu singen,
triffst du nur das Zauberwort
There sleeps a song in all things,
as they dream on unheard,
but the world stirs and sings,
when you utter the magic word.
Oliver Beer (°1985, England) is an artist and filmmaker. He is interested in music and visual art, the relationship between time and space and the way in which a voice can influence architecture and vice versa. In his artistic practice, these interests manifest themselves in fascinating performances.
The video Mum’s Continuous Note shows a moment of intimacy with the artist’s mother. She sings the note ‘la’ for three minutes without taking a breath, as an ode to the beauty of sound and harmony and the emotions they can evoke. In the subtitles, the singer explains — though not without humour — her apparent virtuosity, her circular breathing technique, and the emotional potential of the harmonies that she creates with the aid of a blue ukulele.
Rubén D’hers (°1980, Venezuela) is a musician and sound artist based in Berlin. His work centres around the use of the guitar in sound installations, performances and improvisations. His work has been shown at ZKM Karlsruhe, Neues Museum Weimar and Weart Festival in Barcelona, among other places.
Chords Tunnel #1 is an installation that creates a sound tunnel using 40 acoustic guitars, 40 small DC motors, 800 m of speaker cable, textile and a computer. The guitars, which D’hers has borrowed from private individuals in the local area, form the basis for his sound tunnel. D’hers has tuned the guitars in four different modes. The speed of the motors fluctuates in waves and, together with the sound, guides visitors through the tunnel. Moving through this peaceful sonic landscape, the overlapping tones gently shift from one chord to another.
Michael Schmid (°1973, Germany) is a flautist and one of the permanent members of the Ictus Ensemble. He also works on a freelance basis for different conductors and ensembles, including Musikfabrik, Nieuw Ensemble and Radio Kamerorkest Hilversum.
beat fucked ELF is an installation comprising a bass flute, microphones, speakers and a digital mixer. It explores the hidden music of a bass flute without a performer. Here, the flute hangs from the ceiling and resonates in the most simple way, being ‘played’ by feedback in the reverberant space. Sound — picked up by the microphones, which are mounted on the flute — sings from the speakers all around the space. Each microphone is placed at a harmonic node, producing a unique feedback tone. The effect is heightened by a recording device that amplifies the dominant resonances of the acoustics. The microphones perform an ambiguous dual role as both sound sources and observers. The score is played through a digital mixer that controls the microphones. Press PLAY to begin.
Nicolas Field (°1975, England) lives and works in Bern, Switzerland. He studied percussion in Amsterdam and The Hague and is the co-founder of N-Collective, a group devoted to the development, support and promotion of adventurous music. In 2008 he began to go beyond his work as a musician and composer by starting to work with visual art and sound installations, too.
Shimmering Beast is an upside-down triangle (5 × 6 m) of forty-five glistening cymbals on cymbal stands, brought to life with the use of bass transducers and light. This monumental and visually stunning array produces a shimmering sound as the vibrating floor causes the cymbals to lightly brush against one another. Shimmering Beast was created during the artist’s residency at the Swiss Institute in Rome and was shown as part of the Needcompany show Caligula.
Michael Schmid & Nicolas Field were artists in residence at Netwerk in 2014. Here they present the work they created together.
Missa Cuiusvis Toni is a masterpiece of early Flemish polyphony by the 15th-century composer Johannes Ockeghem. This piece is remarkable in that it has no fixed key and can be sung in all church modes (cuiusvis toni): Protus, the first mode with final note re; deuterus, the second mode, with final note mi; tritus, the third mode with final note fa; and tetrardus, the fourth mode with final note so. Whichever mode is chosen, a coherent and logical piece of music is produced. The Ensemble Musica Nova recorded the work, led by Lucien Kandel, in 2011. The sound installation All Tones by Michael Schmid and Nicolas Field plays the four modes — processed and mixed for twelve speakers — simultaneously in the same space. The result is a marvellous contemporary work, full of atonal music that exposes the layers hidden between the various tonalities. Flemish polyphony 2.0.
The exhibition Orkest! will see the entire Netwerk building played as an instrument. The scope of the opening night extends even further, with the entire city of Aalst as the stage. The exhibition will be officially opened from the roof of Netwerk, with a concert for 23 foghorns by Heleen Van Haegenborgh, and the installation by Konrad Smoleński will be accompanied by a live drum solo by Julian Sartorius, which will in turn become a part of the installation.
Heleen Van Haegenborgh on the roof with foghorns Signaux
Pianist and composer Heleen Van Haegenborgh chose foghorns to accompany the piano pieces on her début CD Signaux. She discovered Raoul de La Roch Aymon on YouTube, a Frenchman who collects ship horns. From his collection of more than 300 horns, she selected 23, which when combined span a range of two octaves. She then had the Frenchman construct a piano that could be used to operate the horns. The resulting foghorn organ can be heard for kilometres, there of course being no volume adjuster. Compressed air is pumped through each horn in the array when its corresponding key is pressed. The operation of the keyboard is a binary process. This means it’s all or nothing; each horn blows or remains silent, with no middle ground in between. The horns assume their characteristic tones as their sound travels through the open space, in this case that of the city of Aalst.
Julian Sartorius drum solo
The installation Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More by Konrad Smoleński makes use of the sounds of all the works in the Orkest! exhibition and incorporates them into a unique orchestral performance. On the evening of the opening, percussionist Julian Sartorius will play a drum solo as part of Smoleński’s work. This solo will in turn be recorded to be used as an additional audio source for the installation. The drum itself will also become a part of the work — in addition to the bells and speakers — adding another resonating object to the daily performance.