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alva.noto alva.noto
photo Kenichi Hagihara
Calling for a “tuning of the world”, R Murray Shafer was influenced by Pythagoras’ concept of the music of the spheres—the harmonious hum of the universe. But he wasn’t too fond of the overcrowded audio soup that industrialisation and modern living was making of the acoustic environment. While electricity is a natural phenomenon, its technological taming is the foundation of contemporary living and one of the major ingredients of this soup. So I wonder what Schafer’s thoughts would be on Sound+Electricity at Performance Space featuring performances by Carsten Nicolai (aka alva.noto) and Joyce Hinterding, both of whom use this energy source directly to conjure their sonic worlds.

Hinterding has been summoning the hum for quite a few years now. Using large, hoop antennae, she amplifies the under rumble of the electrical grid. It is a warm, caramel sound tonight reinforced by the projection showing 2 mirrored ovals of a flowing bronze substance. Hinterding’s work is meditative, the shifts of tone minimal and incremental. At some point it becomes a duet as lighting designer Richard Manner subtly brings up dim squares of light, shifting the intensity and pitch of the drone. For those of us who have spent considerable time trying to eliminate interference between lighting and sound systems, this is a perversely pleasurable moment. Patience is rewarded with the development of crackles, pops and fizzes fringing the bass tones marking the climax of the work. At its end, there is both relief and a hint of loss plus some very strange flange effect filtering the foyer voices for the next few minutes.

In contrast to Hinterding’s slow flowing release of electrical energy Carsten Nicolai’s sound consists of tightly controlled punctuations and calculations. Nicolai describes his work as “atomising...Every particle carries the same information as the bigger object it came from...a kind of micro-macro thing” (Wire 238, Dec 2003). In this performance each sound element—spit, spark and sputter—is perfectly crafted, a glistening glitch. When these particles combine, the whole becomes an intense, vibrating composition of intricate syncopations. Accompanying the sound are synaesthesic visuals of blue lines snapped to a grid, directly emulating the intersections of audio. These form strict geometries, like insanely complex architectural drawings in constant states of redesign. The entire effect is as physical as it is mesmeric. The rhythmic entwinings create primal pulses and cool melodies which entice the body to movement. Why are we sitting in concert mode? We should be dancing!

This was perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Sound+Electricity. alva.noto is an artist who manages to bridge the esoteric and the accessible. The audience comprised elements of the local sound crowd but the larger proportion were newcomers to this kind of sound event. Of course alva.noto has international appeal but are many here aware that there is also a vibrant experimental scene happening in nooks and crannies around Australia? Hopefully Sound+Electricity not only tuned us in to our contemporary audio ecology but also to the potential to expand the audience for experimental audio.

Carsten Nicolai (aka alva.noto), Joyce Hinterding, Sound+Electricity; Performance Space, March 12

Carsten Nicolai was presented in association with the Adelaide Festival of the Arts and forma UK.

RealTime issue #72 April-May 2006 pg. 31

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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