Posts Tagged ‘Florian Hecker’

Christopher Nosnibor

Digital release date: 18th December 2020

Physical release date: March 2021

Released as part of a series of collaborative releases between INA GRM and Editions MEGO, this is something of an unusual package, in that it’s presented as a split LP, but is also sort of two separate LPs. – digitally, they’re being released separately, but the vinyl version is split. Given the length of each contribution – in the 20-25-minute zone that neatly corresponds with one side of a 33rpm vinyl album – it makes sense, and certainly more sense than splitting a continuous piece in two over a 45rpm 12”, or the economics of a pair of one-sided albums.

Hecker – Florian, not Tim – contributes a work of ‘computer-generated sound with resynthesized situated texture recordings’. It’s a rumbling tempest of a composition, the crashing of digital waves against a hard shore of tightly-packed circuitry that rolls and thuds. A sonar pulse is rent by tinnitus-inducing drill-like whirr, and over the course of its twenty-five-minute exploration of toes and textures, Statistique Synthétique becomes quite a challenge – one that you may find yourself drifting from and struggling to maintain focus on at times, while at other wishing you could zone out a bit more instead of having an incessant buzzing and crackling piercing your brain.

I often find that with experimental instrumental works that do place such a strong emphasis on texture and that whole ‘cerebral sonic experience’ for want of a better phrase, that my mind does tend to drift while listening. It’s a challenge as a reviewer to critique something that’s so intentionally removed from the domain of overt musicality, or using a combination of music and words (or even not) to express or article something. Because precisely how does one engage with it – or, to consider another perspective, how is one supposed to engage with it? What does the artist want to convey to the audience, what kind of dialogue are they striving to create? Works like this certainly aren’t preoccupied with emotional responses or striking that kind of resonance that’s so integral to music with even the most vaguely ‘popular’ leaning. It’s not a matter of technical competence, at least in the sense of musicianship: there’s no breathtaking virtuosity on display in the world of electronics – and when I say ‘electronics’, I mean laptop and circuitry, not electropop or whatever. And so this is almost purely cerebral, and I’m forced to reflect on the way certain sounds, pitches, frequencies, and textures make me feel, what they do to me – how much treble and fizz makes me tense, how much s just quite exciting. Here, Hecker pushes all the buttons, literally and metaphorically, and I find myself twisting and turning in varying degrees of discomfort.

The objective, apparently, is to stove got ‘a properly hallucinatory state, that is to say to a meeting point where the object and perception dissolve into each other, in a sort of transcendental field.’ I might not quite be reaching that peak, but it certainly has some kind of effect.

Okkyung Lee gives us howls and yowls and overloading circuitry that bleeps and barrels, and of the two pieces, it’s the sharper, and more abrasive, and is also perhaps less nuanced. That’s no criticism: there’s a dense roar that tears from the speakers and there’s a tangible sense of volume. Everything creaks and groans and stammers, as if the equipment is about to buckle and blow under the weight of so much noise all at once.

This fits in context: Teum is intended as ‘a truly telluric moment’, the expression of ‘where tectonic movements and shear stresses become music’. ‘If the earthquakes were, as we thought in the 18th century, due to underground thunderstorms,’ observe the liner notes, ‘there is no doubt that this piece of music, both celestial and continental, could have been their audible manifestation’.

And there is no question that this is a musical work with a strong sense of physicality. The sound veritably heaves and shudders, a gut-lurching low-end heft you feel as much as you hear.

There’s a lot going on here, and there are – so it seems – some wild brass explosions rioting in the distance at some point amidst the churning sprawl. Again, this isn’t about emotional resonance, but how it touches and effects the listener on other levels.

These two works are distinct and different, both sonically and intent and purpose – and consequently, their effects are different too. But equally, the difference can be attributed to the different forms, and textures, with Hecker’s composition being sharper, more abrasive and, I suppose, more overtly ‘computerised’ than the denser, earthier piece by Lee. But for this, the contrasts are complimentary, and the two sit side by side and back to back nicely, and make for a perfectly-pitched double dose of discomfort.

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Editions Mego – EMEGO226 – 24th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest work from Florian Hecker, A Script for Machine Synthesis is described as ‘an experimental auditory drama and a model of abstraction’. The press release continues, explaining that ‘A Script for Machine Synthesis presents a complex simplicity that spirals in an unending manner as an audio image of the uncanny valley. It is the third chapter in the trilogy of text-sound pieces Hecker has collaborated with the philosopher Reza Negarestani. A resynthesized voice outlines procedure as procedure itself unfolds… The suggestive encounter with a pink ice cube is a conceptual point of departure for a scene in which linguistic chimeras of descriptors are materialized through synthetic trophies, mental props and auditory objects. Exeunt all human actors, A Script for Machine Synthesis is an experiment in putting synthetic emptiness back into synthetic thought.’

I’m reminded of a number of theory-based text works centred around automation and abstraction, ranging from William Burroughs’ cut-ups and Brion Gysin’s permutations, to Philippe Vasset’s 2005 novella, ScriptGenerator©®™, via Stewart Home’s experimental audio piece, ‘Divvy’, which used computer-generated voices to read the two simultaneous narratives. The concept of the removal of the author from the creative process is nothing new, and while a robotic takeover may have been more greatly feared in science fiction works of the 1970s and 1980s, the fact of the matter is that the threat is greater now than ever before – but people are generally too wrapped up in reality TV or killing themselves just to make ends meet and to pay the bills that the technological developments of the last decade or so have gone largely unnoticed: instead of a seismic shift, the takeover has been gradual and insidious.

A Script for Machine Synthesis exists in a strange territory between territories, or, more specifically, times. While drawing heavily on the paranoias – and, by its sound, technologies – of preceding decades, it’s very much a contemporary work in terms of its concept if not so much its rather retro-sounding execution.

A Script For Machine Synthesis is not an album one listens to for its textual content: it is a drab, monotonous work which centres – aside from the introduction and credits – around a single track some fifty-seven and a half minutes in duration. Slightly fuzzy monotone voices narrate the process of the process in the style of technical manuals, and lecturing a highly complex theory in the driest, dullest of styles, while bubbling synths and electronic scratches and bleeps provide distracting incidentals which aren’t quite distracting enough to break the monotony. It’s hardly riveting from a sonic perspective, either. At points, the words become practically inaudible as digital distortion and file corruption disrupt the audio. Skittering, warping interference do more than interfere with the audio flow, but create a certain cognitive dissonance which engenders a sort of subliminal tension: I find myself growing twitchy and jittery, manifesting in increasingly awkward head-scratching, and a difficulty in sitting still. It could just be a unique individual response, ad of course, any experiment will produce different results with different subjects, but sitting by candlelight with a relaxing pint, I can’t readily identify any other factor which may explain my growing discomfort.

This is, of course, the ultimate synthesis of theory and practice, and more than anything, the experience of listening to A Script For Machine Synthesis bears strong parallels to the digitally-generated screeds of text published by Kenji Siratori in the late 90s and early years of the new millennium. That is to say, it’s a concept work which, while far from enjoyable, is undeniably admirable in its audacity and its absolute commitment to explore the concept at its core to its absolute end. This is art.

 

Hecker - Script