How do sounds and frequencies affect us?
For its 16th edition, CTM – Festival for Adventurous Music and Art shifts our focus from music’s symbolic and cultural significance and interpretation to the use and functionality of sound and music as affective forces. From January 23 to February 1, 2015, CTM 2015 – Un Tune aims to engage with the direct bodily effects of frequencies, sound, and music, as well as these phenomena’s synergistic effects with other sensory stimuli. Artistic experimentation with the affective and somatic effects of sounds and frequencies opens up possibilities of tuning and de-tuning the composite that interconnects body, matter, energy, and (musical) machines – and of exploring our perception. More on the Un Tune theme here.
The festival returns to its recently established constellation of some of Berlin’s most exciting nightlife and cultural venues, including Berghain, HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Kunstquartier Bethanien, Stattbad, and Astra. Supporting a vast and visceral music programme, CTM’s daytime Transfer programme regroups an exhibition, installations, the Discourse series of workshops, talks, and screenings, the 3rd edition of the MusicMakers’ Hacklab, and more.
As always, CTM will be held parallel to and in collaboration with transmediale – festival for art and digital culture – taking place at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Together, the two partner festivals constitute the world’s largest platform for reflection on new technologies and digital culture.
The first wave of confirmed CTM 2015 artists are:
with many more to come …
CTM 2015’s music programme kicks-off with an Opening Concert on 24 January, with the latest work by Soundwalk Collective with American photographer Nan Goldin and video artist Tina Frank. "A Memoir Of Disintegration" is a sound composition based on David Wojnarowicz’s homonymous and provocative correspondence that explores and captures existence at the margin of society in 80’s underground New York City. Rebelliously struggling against conformity and materialism, multidisciplinary artist, writer and activist David Wojnarowicz was one of the most potent voices of his generation. An intense and dark journey over street life, drugs, art and nature, politics, friendship and acceptance, the live performance features Nan Goldin interpreting the most expressive excerpts of Wojnarowicz’s writings. Soundwalk Collective perform a live musical score thick with jarring physicality juxtaposed to a sound memento of field recordings from New York City throughout the past two decades. With live visuals from video artist Tina Frank.
Released on Mille Plateaux in 1995, Alec Empire’s Low On Ice (The Icelandic Sessions) is a unique monument of atmospheric poignancy and sonic radicalism. It was created in 1994 in a single session in Iceland when, immediately after a festival appearance with his band, Atari Teenage Riot, Alec Empire “drove with buzzing ears to the great outdoors, seeking an exact opposite experience” in which to experiment with his minimal analogue equipment. Low On Ice is the outcome of an enhanced state that was intensified through the interplay between post-festival exhaustion and immediate exposure to a harrowing winter environment, spiraling the artist’s mind into an isolated, multi-day creative process dissolved in time and space:“I felt like having crashed into the ice of a lake, drowning in cold water, freezing to death, looking at the sky and the earth through the ice.” Twenty years later, the full 175 minutes of previously unpublished material is to be released as the triple-3xCD Low on Ice / The Complete Icelandic Sessions on Geist Records. The work has also evolved into a live A/V performance piece created together with laptop performer, violinist, and video artist Zan Lyons. Low on Ice sees its world premiere at CTM 2015.
CTM is excited to bring back repeat collaborators Emptyset for the world premiere of “Signal”, a radio-based performance working directly with ionospheric propagation as a live sonic sculptural process and compositional tool. Bouncing real-time radio broadcasts across the ionosphere to integrate atmospheric noise into an analogue signal chain, with “Signal” James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas examine the transmission of basic elemental sound sources and experiment with their ornamentation through external environmental and atmospheric conditions. In doing this they evoke the affective power of the atmosphere above and around us. Produced in collaboration with Deutschlandradio Kultur / Klangkunst, the project will be developed into an album release following its configuration as a live performance.
In another premiere, Emptyset will present their sculptural works “Imprint 1-3” and “Asymmetric Sound Panels” within CTM 2015’s exhibition. Cast in stainless steel, the 3 objects of “Imprint 1-3” were produced by modulating materials with low-frequency audio signals at extreme levels of amplification exceeding the thresholds of safe human hearing. The artefacts carry the impression of sound at its most forceful and sculptural, exhibiting a frozen sonic impact made under conditions out of the reach of human experience. “Asymmetric Sound Panels” uses a pair of large, free-standing speaker panels constructed from a dense grid of embedded drivers to examine multi-speaker diffusion patterns, architectural intervention, and electronic component thresholds. The installation explores the circuitry and sonic properties of the speakers themselves and centrally integrates them into the compositional process. It pushes the operational limits of the components beyond their working thresholds to create fractured sound, thereby reappropriating the speaker itself as an instrument.
Craig Leon is best known for launching the careers of many artists. The Ramones, Blondie, Richard Hell, and Suicide all owe their unique sound design, perceived as completely new and strange at the times of their release, to his studio wizardry. Even further out there, however, are the sounds Leon designed for his own now legendary solo synth albums, Nommos, released on John Fahey's Takoma label in 1980, and Visiting (Enigma, 1982). Both were re-released in the summer of 2014 as Volume 1 of the Interplanetary Folk Music series by NY-based RVNG International. Nommos is a concept album inspired by the creation myth of the Dogon tribe of Mali. Through cosmic sound washes and metallic polyrhythms that fall in and out of phase, Leon transports listeners to the birth of an entirely different universe descended from amphibious, hermaphroditic alien visitors, which the Dogon named Nommos. Says Leon: “it's not an overt attempt at African music, but it does use very basic African rhythms as a root. I tried to get the earliest things we had on the planet, not in terms of sounds, but in terms of the simple modal chords and melody lines." (interview with The Wire). For CTM 2015, Craig Leon presents the German premiere of Nommos in collaboration with Cassell Webb, and an acoustic ensemble.
London duo James Ford and Jas Shaw, aka Simian Mobile Disco, return to CTM in support of their new full-length, Whorl. Remembered as a CTM 2013 highlight, SMD combine their recent move into highly textured atmospheric soundscapes with their signature body-moving dance tracks on the festival’s Tuesday night at HAU1, offering a preview of the weekend club programme to come.
DJ, sound researcher, and female:pressure network founder Electric Indigo joins forces with visual artist Thomas Wagensommerer to produce an audiovisual exploration of a granular microcosm, titled “Morpheme”. Ranging from slowly-modulating crackles to pounding beats and sharp flashes, the multichannel surround-sound work is entirely composed of sounds derived from 9-second audio recording of a phrase from a talk by cultural theorist Sadie Plant at CTM 2014: “To let noise into the system is a kind of fine art in both cybernetic terms and in terms of making music too.” In de- and re-constructing Plant’s phrase, the work confronts cybernetics, where the “art of controlling” is challenged by the unassailable resistance of chaotic noise.
Swedish artist Peder Mannerfelt will appear in support of his first solo release from this past year. Formerly working under his techno alias The Subliminal Kid and known as half of Roll the Dice, Mannerfelt has also collaborated with Fever Ray and remixed artists such as Massive Attack and Bat for Lashes. As suggested by its title, Mannerfelt’s debut full-length, Lines Describing Circles (Digitalis, 2014), enters more abstract and experimental territory. Slow paces, heavy percussion, and thick, mantra-like beats play with listeners’ perception and skim between chaos and order, hypnotism and piercing awareness, linearity and cyclical form
In Meshes of Voice, Jenny Hval and Susanna, two of the strongest and also most opposing Nordic voices around today, weave a completely different narrative. Whereas Hval’s solo work goes to great lengths to disturb with kinky tangles of body, gender, sexuality, and mind, Susanna strides through vocal landscapes of grace and stark austerity. Together, however, these two powerful singers create such a powerful effect as to provoke the question: “do voices merely interact, or can they do more than that? Can two voices become one?” (The Quietus) Supported by a 3-piece band, the duo weaves a surrealistic choral saga that begins as the narrator wakes to find “I have lost my soul” at the bottom of a lake. Their tale twists through vast dream states, mythological allusions and impressionistic analogies, matched with a web of monumental ballads, harsh noise topographies, and fragmented art-rock.
Certain sound worlds can penetrate somatic tissues so deeply that they turn those tissues inside-out. Gazelle Twin, an artist fascinated by the duality of decaying body / healthy mind, “was interested in recording [her]self to give the impression of the listener being internalised.” Her visceral musical project comes to Berghain on a separate night and downplays the acoustic element of her vocals to instead favour “a constant element of breath-based percussion and gasps which helps get a cross a sense of anxiety – which is usually experienced in the mouth, throat, and chest.” (interview with The Wire).
Swedish artist Klara Lewis will perform in support of her album ETT (Editions Mego, 2014), described by The Quietus as “one of the most startling albums to have seen the light in 2014.” Through her esoteric electronic textures, Lewis de-contextualizes found sounds and field recordings and creates discrete glimpses into her own highly personal landscapes, which are marked by their subliminal narratives, delicate miniature ecosystems, delirious winds, and a giddy, disorientating quality.
Pierce Warnecke and Matthew Biederman present the world premiere of “Perspection”, a series of audiovisual explorations of the limits of our sonic and visual perception. Anamorphism and illusions of three-dimensional objects are projected onto two separate screens, placed orthogonally from one another, and exploring the primacy of the line vs the primacy of colour. Rotating hypersonic speakers sweep the audience with narrow beams of sound, confusing the senses by navigating between interactivity and synchronisation, extreme dynamics and static drone moments, and the very dimensions and characters of the physical space created by the interplay between light, sound, and colour.
Having performed at previous CTM events together with Mika Vainio, Kevin Drumm, and Axel Dörner, Lucio Capece appears on a separate night with the world premiere of a solo piece. “RX-11 Space Drum Machine” is a composition using sine wave generators and drum machines that feed into a PA system as well as into a swarm of balloons carrying bluetooth-enabled speakers. By distributing the various output channels of his instruments throughout the spatialized speaker array via time delays in the signal paths as well as through the specificity conferred by the HAU 2 building’s resonant properties and the random variations generated by chance movement of the balloons in the air, Capece engulfs the listener into a complex landscape of overtones and constantly swirling beats. The disorienting and engrossing spatial ecosystem takes on an uncontrollable sonic life of its own, destroying any sense of a precise focal point.
Elisabeth Schimana's “Höllenmaschine” journeys into the depths of a monstrous sound machine, the Max Brand Synthesizer, built by the young Robert Moog and based upon the ideas of Austrian composer Max Brand. Beginning in 1957 and requiring more than decade to build, this “machine from hell” is seen as the forefather of the famous Moog Synthesizer. At the same time it embodies the legacy of the overlooked Max Brand, who died in 1980 in Langenzersdorf, Austria, the same town where this synthesizer is kept operational thanks to the Max Brand Archives. Elisabeth Schimana’s composition brings the enormous and technically punishing instrument, whose operation requires two people (in this case pianist Manon Liu and synth patcher Gregor Ladenhauf), to full potential. Coaxing the listener into a machinic alien sound world, Schimana unleashes a dense mass of subharmonic frequencies overloaded with disharmony, noise, subtle spectral and temporal shifts, and exposes the formidable energy radiating from the machine’s powerful electrical circuitry.
Returning for a 2nd edition, the CTM 2015 Radio Lab explores and experiments with intersection of live performance and the medium of radio. The lab hosts two projects commissioned by Deutschlandradio Kultur – Hörspiel/Klangkunst and CTM Festival, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut, ORF musikprotokoll im steirischen herbst, Ö1 Kunstradio, and ICAS/ECAS – International Cities of Advanced Sound. Two commissioned projects – "Always Here for You" by Claire Tolan, and "In the Darkness of the World" by Sol Rezza proposing unusual ideas for pairing the specific artistic possibilities of radio with the potentials of live performance or installation will premiere at CTM 2015.
Stay tuned for the next wave of artists, to be announced in November!