Today I took the step of making public, a piece that I began nearly two years ago. Zwitscher–Maschine is a “twitteropera” – a piece for soprano and piano quartet in which the “libretto” consists of 120 tweets collected from various sources – a kind of portrait of the internet. My original plan was to create a section a day for 120 consecutive days. Things turned out quite differently though. The sections took far longer to create than anticipated and halfway through the composition I decided to start all over again: A twitter piece the creation of which has been anything but immediate.
Many years ago, while living in The Hague, I would walk across the roof of my apartment to visit my neighbour Mendel Hardeman. Mendel began by studying music but ended up making films. Together with his partner Susanne Dick he spent seven years making The Sea of Pilgrim Antonio. It’s a documentary telling the story of a utopian community in a remote drought-ridden region of Brazil – its founder, and his followers, killed by the Brazilian army, leaving a prophecy that the dry wilderness of the Sertão would one day become a sea – a prophecy that showed itself to be true.
Today, wondering about the task of these self-imposed words over and above everything else in my life, I got to thinking about Willem Boshoff who, as part of his 370-Day Project, was capable of completing a woodcarving with symbols encoding his evaluation of how well he had carried out six self-imposed tasks for the day, after having run a marathon. Each morning for over a year he would record, on 370 species of wood, the tasks for the day (duties, recreations, sacrifices) and follow them up with a carved evaluation in the evening. A meditative journal in wood.
This evening on the way home, while waiting for a pizza, I had a few minutes to grab a much needed espresso and make a 3-minute sketch. Nothing fancy, just a quick record of those moments. I thought I’d give writing a text in the same manner a go. Not too many edits or rearrangements – just a letting the words flow and accepting the (imperfect) shapes that arise. There’s something to the directness of it that provides a pleasure of its own.
Now, later in the evening, red lights from a distant tower wink at me through my workroom window.
Today the Danish Composers’ Society held its annual summer party.
Composers can be an interesting bunch. These are people that have chosen to spend large amounts of their lives in their own company. That’s what it takes to create the things they do. There is of course the flip side of all those hours spent alone – intense rehearsal periods and close collaborations with musicians, music is after all a communicative, social art. And then there are gatherings like these: besides the networking and prizes and all of that, an opportunity to enjoy fine food and wine and connect with ones community.
Every once in a while I enjoy checking in on Robert Henke’s monolake website. Interviews, texts, bits of music and code, insights into building electronic instruments and installations – all shared in an easy open manner. I guess I started around the same time I began using Ableton – which must be around ten years ago.
I noticed that he’s performing Lumiere II, an audiovisual composition for lazers and sound, in Johannesburg this evening as the opening event of the Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival, just around the corner from where Unyazi, the first African electronic music festival took place ten years ago.
I’ve been walking around for the past two days with the deep black and white contours of René Burri’s “Men on a Rooftop” etched into my mind. Taken in São Paulo by the Swiss photographer in 1960, it is also an image that has haunted writer Teju Cole for many years, so much so that he embarked on a quest to reconstruct it. He tells the tale of that attempt in the latest installment of his photography column in the New York Times.
“The photograph isn’t what was photographed, it’s something else,” as he quotes in the article. “It’s about transformation.”
Today I caught a snatch of lyrics from a Leonard Cohen song playing in the backgound:
I hear that you’re building your little house
Deep in the desert
You’re living for nothing now
I hope you’re keeping some kind of record
From Famous Blue Raincoat it turns out. I’m not sure what the song is about, haven’t investigated either. What the lyrics triggered were thoughts about the pervasiveness of documentation in today’s culture (these words included) – even in the desert living for nothing. Experience has worth when documented. John and Merlin talk about this in a recent Roderick on the Line.
Followed up with the latest episode of Roderick on the Line today. John Roderick talking about feeling overwhelmed by the musicianship of others and finding the unique constellation of his creativity in the face of all that surrounds him. Makes me think of Pelle Gudmundsen Holmgreen wondering how he should continue after Bach. How do any of us overcome the inertia of creating something in the face of today’s overabundance?
Otherwise, in the process of working on a little article covering my speech-melody transcription techniques, and thinking approaches to transcribing the world, I’ve dug up this woodcut by Albrecht Dürer.
Richard Devine’s Harmonic Symmetry Modular Patch popped up in my SoundCloud stream a few days ago and I’ve had it on repeat ever since. The five minutes of unassuming music don’t immediately strike one as a modular patch. There’s something infectious about it though. It just sounds incredibly good – besides the fresh beat and cheerful tonality the sounds have a wonderful crispness and definition. Richard’s provided a thorough description of what’s going on with the modules and a link to a video of the take as well. Fascinating. Apparently all that gear does get you to a place a laptop won’t.