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Music in the exhibition space

30 October 2010

Live blogging from the NEU NOW Festival // In Galerie RDV and l'Atelier, sound art fills the exhibition space. Is it music still? Who cares. It is interesting.

I am starting this blog post in the room where Trine Hylander Friis’ Voice Works is screened. It might not be proper journalistic ethics, but it is certainly an immersive experience. In the longest video, soaring voices start out in a sort of whale chant that gradually rise in pitch and then turn into something like Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna for the soundtrack of 2001: A space odyssey, while the camera floats over a seascape that changes colour from cold blue to glacially white. In another, we see shots of an autumnal forest while a voice gurgles. In the third, we only see brief flashes of the sky from a rotating camera in a forest o pening while a female voices goes from an uncertain somewhat Gregorian hymn to a lower and swifter jodeling – and in the end we see a house on fire. Only now that I see the first video for the third time, I notice that the sea actually turns upside down and back, and that the glacial white is really the colour of the sky. The voices, I discover only later, are all Trine’s own.

Trine Hylander Friis - Voice Works #2, Wood

Mathieu Crimersmois is a DJ. He already did that before he embarked upon his studies at the ESBANM, and now that he graduated, turntablism is at the heart of his work. Pitch Fiction is the image of a dj, fading into form in white pixels on a black screen, whose music slowly emerges out of the noise. This music is a reflection of his own movements, and the video is in that sense an image of an experimenting turntablist, who is at first a captive of his virtual environment but gradually assumes control of it through his bodily experience. Both the sound and the image have a material base in Mathieu’s own movemen ts and in recordings made from deformed vinyl records, but they are deformed through open source MAX/MSP software that maps sounds unto visuals.

I have now walked out of the Voice Works room, and in the main hall of l’Atelier, its chants blend with the energetic guitar machine sounds from Sex & Bytes & Rock 'n' Roll. It is the sort of musical experience that you could never have in a recital hall, and the artists hanging out seem to be enjoying it as much as I. This is what music is at the NEU NOW Festival, for although there is a category music/sound, there is nothing like a concert within the entire festival, and three of the works that prominently use sound are actually in the fine art or in the design section. Is it music still? Who cares. It is interesting.

Whose music is it, anyhow? SONOMATERIA, with its black cubes that you can place on a screen and move around to generate and transform sounds, is there for the spectator to play w ith. Mathieu, as a DJ, uses existing recordings and lets the software do part of the creation. Coded Sensation dresses up its squad in clothes made of old cassette tape, which erupt in noise as they brush  past each other and stroke other surfaces covered with tape. The guitars of Sex & Bytes & Rock 'n' Roll are played by robots. Only the voices of Voice Works are genuine, even if they stretch the human voice to something hardly recognizable as a human voice at times, and even if there is not a performer in sight. All five are examples of a radical displacement of sound art, a musical environment in which the artist has to find a place that has nothing to do with the traditional distinction between composer and performer.

As I am finishing this blog post, I am being urged out of l’Atelier because it’s closing. Strange to think that this is it. The exhibition will be taken down. The Festival is Over.

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