Curves is a continuation of previous collaborations between Shackle (Anne La Berge: flute and electronics, Robert van Heumen: laptop-instrument) and Männer mit Motoren (Sven Hahne: computer and video, Matthias Muche: computer and trombone). For the past three years they have come together for short intensive working periods to develop their own collaborative methods for interactive image and sound improvisations.
Curves falls under the umbrella of Shackle's Shackle Affair and Shackle Bits projects. In these projects they combine guest performers and/or silent film excerpts with the Shackle System. La Berge and Van Heumen developed the Shackle System as a self-designed digital cueing system which operates as a third member in their duo. The system consists of a series of musical sections that are proposed semi-randomly by an interactive computer program. The section proposals include descriptions of sound material, timing, dynamics and other musical parameters. Players are free to cancel propositions and request new ones at any time.
Muche and Hahne started working together more than 10 years ago. Their initial focus was to extend Earl Brown's and John Cage's ideas for using visual symbols as graphic scores. They fashioned their own versions of this by using abstract moving images. Since then, Muche and Hahne have continued to work on a software-system that translates audio into images in the most direct way possible. Their remarkably intimate and personal collaboration Männer mit Motoren (Men with Motors) evolved out of their annual festival for intermedial performance Frischzelle with the international ensemble Timeart. Their name is inspired by the critical theoretic reflection of media arts and our society's technological progress.
The idea for Curves evolved during collaborative work sessions in 2015, where the four artists researched methods for interacting with Hahne’s visual material and for building protocols to sample and re-sample audio, using both acoustic and electronic instruments. By combining both composition and improvisation, and acoustic and electronic sounds, the two duos have formed a shared workplace. All four of them are seasoned composer/performers.
They plan to research and extend their boundaries of real-time audio-visual performances during their upcoming work periods on the Curves project.
In the fall of 2016, Shackle and Männer mit Motoren worked closely together, culminating in a residency in Cologne and concerts in Stadgarten Cologne and Splendor Amsterdam. The starting point was a setup with four performers playing improvised music, in some way guided by external information, whether this is a networked computer system like the Shackle System or a 'composed' series of scenes in the projected interactive visuals. These visuals were responding to the sound of the four players. During the residency they researched the various subjects as mentioned in the extended project plan
Sonification of Hahne's video scenes, creating dynamic feedback loops. The images are controlled by the sounds of the four players and the sounds of the sonified images are fed back into the image.
Control of the video images by the players as an extra control layer added to the sound-to-image mapping.
Transitions between the video scenes and strategies to coordinate changes in the music and the images.
This is a compilation of the concert at Stadgarten on October 30 2017:
These are photos from the concert in Splendor, Amsterdam on November 16, 2016:
This is a video demonstrating the sonification of the video images:
Below are screen-recordings of Hahne's video's responding to Curves rehearsal sessions. The audio is raw and the panning is extreme. Nevertheless, this clip gives a realistic impression of how the video responds to the sounds.
Shackle and Männer mit Motoren have had two electrifying performances in 2015. Both were at the Kunsthaus Rhenania in Köln, a buzzing building that houses visual and sonic artist workspaces. The performances were supported by the ON-Netzwerk Neue Musik. The first was on May 12 at the end of a 2 day studio collaboration and the second was on 29 August as part of the Strom IV festival. Both performances were on incredibly hot days in Köln. The audiences sipped beer as the players cavorted through musical playgrounds, sometimes spacious and sometimes raucous.
Shackle is Anne La Berge on flute and electronics and Robert van Heumen on laptop-instrument. Their aim is to explicitly and subtly exploit shackling in both concept and material. This extraordinarily inventive duo has a way of making music all their own. At the heart of their duo is a self-designed, cutting-edge digital cueing system which operates as a sometimes visible third member. Both prodding and reactive, the Shackle System suggests musical directions and textures that open up a fascinating array of sonic choices for La Berge and Van Heumen to play with and against. With Shackle Bits the duo includes silent film excerpts in their performances as yet another ingredient for improvisation. The excerpts are controlled from the Shackle System in a second layer of timing that provides the duo with yet another improvisational complexity.
4. Männer mit Motoren | Live at Animax Bonn by Maenner mit Motoren
In the section of programmatic machine fixation Männer mit Motoren could be seen as one of the most absurd examples. As if the risk of performing as a trombone-laptop-duo would not be enough, the two artists and founders of the Frischzelle Festival for intermediate performance, Matthias Muche and Sven Hahne consequently follow their vision of a true fusion of acoustic music, electronic music and computer graphics. Both finished their studies of media art at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne, where they met. Previously Muche studied music in a 'classical' manner at the Music Academy of Cologne and Hahne was producing electronic music in the deep swamps of the early nineties underground electronic dance music movement. People like John Cage, Oscar Fischinger or Herbert W. Franke were mental godfathers in the development of the highly complex audiovisual instrument, Hahne and Muche are continously evolving.
Chuck is a video by director Maarten van Rossum, available on the Shackle Stick.
6. TIMEART – featuring Männer mit Motoren live at Echoraum Vienna / Austria
The ensemble develops its own tools for audio analysis and graphic visualisation, implementing a variety of technical tricks and avoiding ready-made software in the process. This aspect of their work further highlights the ensembles authenticity and originality. It shapes space on an abstract level and creates a universe of synaesthetic depths, which the audience take away with them. The virtual projection space is juxtaposed against the actual, physical space and the musicians within it. The ensemble’s repertoire draws on Hahne and Muches abundant knowledge when planning their intermedial, music theatre performances. Above all, it is the talent of the musicians, the skill of the die-hard programmers and media technicians, combined with the spontaneity of the performance, which distinguishes them as a unique phenomenon in the contemporary live scene. This project is generously supported by the Federal Foreign Office, the Goethe-Institut, the Kunststiftung NRW and the Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Anne La Berge's career as flutist/improviser/composer stretches across international and stylistic boundaries. Her performances bring together the elements on which her international reputation is based: a ferocious and far-reaching virtuosity, a penchant for improvising delicately spun microtonal textures and melodies, and her wholly unique array of powerfully percussive flute effects, all combined with electronic processing.
Many of her compositions involve her own participation, though she has produced works intended solely for other performers, usually involving guided improvisation and text. She also uses these compositions that work with a flexible combination of imposed musical situations and electronics where performer/improvisers are an integrated part of the music making process as material for workshops and masterclasses. In addition to creating her own work she regularly performs in other artists’ projects in a range of settings from modern chamber music to improvised electronic music.
Sven Hahne studied computer science at the Technical University in Karlsruhe and media arts at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. In 2004 he founded together with Matthias Muche the festival for intermedial performance Frischzelle.
Within the duo-project Men with Motors, the quintet Nanoschlaf and the Timeart Ensemble he works on a form of composition and improvisation, whereby sound and image become one homogenous artistical expression. His works cover a broad range of disciplines, including realtime/nonrealtime, videos, sound-installations, film-musics, as well as sensor-development, cybernetics and experimental brain research.
Robert van Heumen is a composer and improvising musician using an extended laptop-instrument to perform highly immersive and hyper-dynamic electro-acoustic music. As a musician, live sampling is his main tool. With a joystick and other tactile controllers, live sampled source sounds are gesturally manipulated and reworked within open ended narratives.
Van Heumen is continously researching new strategies for live sampling and looking for the perfect balance between free improvisation and structured music. The laptop is used in an instrumental, tactile way, connecting action to sound like any acoustic instrument, and is used live as well as in the studio to generate sonic material for electro-acoustic compositions. Van Heumen is performing regularly with his band Shackle (with electro-flutist Anne LaBerge) and various ad-hoc groups. He's using realtime audio-synthesis software SuperCollider and STEIM's live sampling software LiSa.
Matthias Muche lives in Cologne and works as a trombone player, composer and media artist. He studied Music and Art at the conservatories of Cologne and Amsterdam, as well as at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. In his projects he experiments with symbiotic, intertwined auditory and visual compositional processes, and concepts presentation formats which motivate, intensify and feedback one another.
His work with dancers and multimedia artists, as well as with jazz, contemporary, and multicultural music groups is representative of the great variety and flexibility of his artistic work. His activities also include master classes all over the world. Muche worked with Misha Mengelberg, Sidsel Endresen, Larry Ochs, John Tilbury, Elliott Sharp, Michel Doneda, Nate Wooley and Robyn Schulkowsky, having concert tours through Europe, China, Japan, India, Australia and the Middle East.