Final Artistic Presentation: Dans les arbres & The Electronic Mirror

Final Artistic Presentation: Dans les arbres & The Electronic Mirror

Performing with Dans les arbres as part of my final artistic presentation was part of the plan from the beginning of my project. Originally I planned for two performances with similar conditions: the same room and the same instruments. I envisioned this would help illustrate the Calder comparison and how our performances refer to each other.  

I decided to skip this pedagogically motivated mode of argumentation, and instead plan for one performance that would be as close as possible to a normal situation for us, and one with alterations that have been tested during my project.

My listening is different in retrospect. What I am being drawn to when I am listening now may be different from what evoked my attention then. Here is what I hear now, mainly focusing on my own contribution on stage.  

Concert #2: Dans les arbres & The Electronic Mirror, 22 April 2015

PA system
PA systems alter the playing situation on stage. Not only does it change the dynamics. If it is loud, it can almost eliminate the dynamic range of the instruments. Everything is big. Small details get big. The instruments sound bigger and larger in the hall than they do on stage. I sometimes listen to the other instruments, and my own instrument via the room, via the PA system, not directly on stage. So much of what we do is about proximity. That the sounds we play are near us, between us and that they coalesce and form composites near us. This disappears a little with a PA system. This, needless to say, changes the communication on stage. A PA system is such a heavy and dominant filter that it has to be considered as a 5th member of our group. We generally prefer to perform without PA systems. We are more in control of our music that way.

Before my project started in 2011 we had performed with a PA system only in a handful of situations. For those situations we mostly tried to sound like the acoustic us, only bigger. In Bergen in November 2012 we performed one of our first concerts with PA where we did not try to sound like an amplified and large version of the acoustic us, but instead we accepted to explore and to dive into the less known. For this concert we also added some electronics: Christian played a Blofeld-synthesizer, drum machine and effects; Ingar added a drone commander which is small device with oscillators and filters; I added a Folktek Drum Scope – a synthesizer with effects, filters and oscillators; Xavier added contact microphones and effects. We all played a lot during this concert. I, for certain, played a lot more and a lot more actively than I do in a more traditional, acoustic Dans les arbres performance. But it was still transparent. We were considerately ruthless, gently brutal, violently humble, discourteously astute, impolitely discreet, carelessly observant, as the Note to self in Invitation asks for. We played with more stops, more pauses, too. I believe that this performance informed our next acoustic performances. It gave us a wider dynamic range, also when playing without PA. Here is a short excerpt from that concert:


The idea of performing with a PA system, or with some added electronics, was pursued during our second tour of Japan that took place in 2013.


Electronic Mirror
I decided that a second performance with Dans les arbres, as part of my Final Artistic Presentation, should include both a PA system and electronics. And I wanted it to include the ‘electronic mirror’. Sound engineer Stig Gunnar Ringen worked on spatialisation of Ingar’s percussion and my ‘electronic mirror’. And we decided that the PA system should be loud, not just a subtle amplification of the sound on stage. Fill the room!


Listening in retrospect:
Again, the beginning is sparse. It is like we are throwing out sounds to see if anything happens to them. It is not happening a lot. Or perhaps it is too much happening. To me, something changes at 03:30. As if what we do is a bit more persistent from here. I think it is the repetitions, the continuous sounds that form a more stable layer of activity. The repetitions on guitar from 05:22 and onwards, combined with the murky glissandi in Ingar’s timpani, the repeated piano from 05:59 and Xavier’s haunting circular breathing from 06:20 hints at a, to us, customary walk into vertigo. A strong referent. That walk, the building of that continuum is interrupted and almost stops at 06:50, but continues at 07:13. With Ingar’s tuned ceramics at 07:50 the combination of materials is referring and relating to a lot of previous improvisations. It is as if I can look into the scale, trusting that this section will last for a while. I can see and hear that I am trying to break up the slowness a little with short events from the ‘electronic mirror’ at 08:20, 08:24, 08:46 and onwards. Copycat. Christian’s electronics at 09:40 is extending our customary sonic palette. His seemingly independent rhythmic loop around 10:25 and onwards has a lot of nudging. Adding sounds to the loop. Removing. Ingar occasionally joins in on that from 10:53. I am joining in on that at 11:13. Xavier creates shades on a background layer. Christian continues with the bass motif and joins Ingar on 11:17 forming a piano and ceramics composite. Another strong referent. Around 12:30 I notice that I have bled into that composite, too. Almost unnoticeably. The ‘electronic mirror’ is shading in the background. Playing a fast loop / cluster with the same ceramics from a previous recording. Pitching and slowing it down during the decrescendo. Christian’s fierce and determined sforzando at 14:51, 15:06 and onwards, seems to trigger higher activity level. Copycat. Independent loops in piano and guitar. It is as if Christian and I are trying to maintain balance in the emerging chaos with our repetitions around 17-18 minutes. Christian’s bass drum sound from 18:24 and Ingar’s cymbal loop keeps the momentum. Clarinet and cymbal bleed and gradually more independent. Deep and loud bowed guitar. The textures from 22:30 and around 24:40 are new to us. The guitar drones at 25:26, 25:49 are much bigger with a PA. They fill the room. The change from ‘mirror’ to guitar at 25:26 is an attempt to avoid fade. The following sparse part is arranged better than the beginning of the concert. Why? How? Each sparse contribution seems to be well timed and better tuned. Even the stops. It is also part of an established continuum ­– a scale. The opening part was not.

My tremolo from 29:17 has the same pitch as Ingar’s bowed bowl and a deep drone. I focus on the melody. It is more evident at 30:52. Together with Xavier. Decrescendo towards silence. Even the border of silence is loud with a PA system. Slow and long crescendo. Repetitions, nudge. Polyphony of tempi. Continue to repeat. Wait and see. Don’t push

Video documentation of the performance: