1. could you just tell
us how you came to work with sound and if
you have been involved in any other musical projects previous to DSM?
Guido Hübner: My
childhood and youth had been completly visualy dominant. I got into curses
for drawing, painting and the like from about 6 years on. When being around
16/17 I had a periode in that I started to create small installations in
cardboard boxes with peep holes. In that boxes I integrated sounds from
small cassettes recordes the like every one had in the kitchen. I menaged
somehow to connect a cable directly to the tape head and used modeltrain
transformators and small motors as kind of oscilator. By the strong impedance
resulting from this connection I not even had need for a distortion pedal,
but would likely have needed 3 dolby NRís in series.
Later on I had a cassette deck to which I could connect a microphone on one channel and a line signal on the other. I used to mix by varying the distance of half a dozen or so cassette recorders with integrated speaker to the microphone. A very gestual approach, very much painterly. Few times later on I bought a Revox open reel mashine that served me until in í86 I sold it (and many more) in order to move to Barcelona with Isabelle Chemin whith who I worked with since several years.
I had been in relative ignorance to any music till that very moment I started hassle myself with sounds for that boxes, only coming across what runed in the radio or the rockín roll and swing music my parents used to hear and to which I felt more connected to than anything my classmates used to listen to. Then there had been punk and I went to a couple of concerts with a friend and discovered a completly different world also the music meant little to me. Evidently I went into the import recordshops and not only come across more interesting music, but people as well. At the time there had been a cassette only label in Berlin. The only one I ever heared of (in fact there had been two as far as I remember) and I got and accepted the offer to create a release for them. Something I never thought of. I mean I never considered this « sounndtracks » apart from the work they resulted out and had quite some difficulty with that idea. Naively I couldnít imagine any sense to get out of that isolated part until on a sudden it made some for me. My own idea of « music » was still something with a continouse beat, a melody and someone shouting on top of it. Something my own « soundworks » had been quite far from, but that I also never before considered as such.
Then my education in that field had been rather fast since the release of this first cassette and an imediate offer from another label for another one. I meet people involved in the underground experimental music of TG and everything that followed and at the same time learned from others about the contemporary (classic) music. Living in Berlin in that time gave me the occasion to see SPK one day and Xenakis the next. This has been an important support and I suppose I still profit from this situation.
I never had any other music project before, but dealed occasionaly in parallel with other people and gruops.
2. how does the components of your latest album 'Some Conceptual Obligations..' relate to each other (the text + the www-links + the CD) are they to be combined into a narrative where the different components illustrate each other for example?
Guido Hübner: The
compositions had been created during some 1 ½ year. Everything was
done only by myself unlike other releases with sounds provided by Isabelle
Chemin. I posted a CD-R of the result to Jean René Lassalle. We
work together since some 15 years. He wrote a lot of texts for our releases
and moreover for our performances and has a couple of his works on our
He came up with the text on the cover and on the site that, as I feel has the same mode of rupture and nonlinearity, maybe fragmentation that I feel important to my compositions and his text is evocative, but never works as an illustration nor telling a plain linear narrative. I personaly have an allergy towards the idea of a cinematic mode of visulisation (also merely mental) caused by the music/sound just because some might feel that the music alone is not enough. It seems to be a general consensus (also accepted amongst musicans) that music has to have a function beyond being music and that this is visualy concrete and narratively linear/causal in a cinetic sense. For me it is already enough to struggle with the social implication of music (even I play 9 out of 10 times at fridays or saturdays evenings, hence being part of the leisure entertainment business with all itís implications). My soundworld has certainly developed to more and more abstract sounds, because of people cannot listen to a repetative short soundevent with a slight modulation and a slight reverb without projecting the image of a dropping pipe. Also nearly all my sounds are from acoustic sources I treat them voluntary to a state were there origin is unrecognizeable.
The website had been done at last (overtaking parts of the coverdesign), mostly providing another approach on how the different elements of this work can be presented and read. By itís more imposed imagery it could be even more illustrative as what I consider is already a permanent threat on the coverwork. A threat that I desperately tried to avoided by using exclusively graphic elements with the exception of the fishegg on the CD itself, which sweeped from the site on the CD . It had been used by reason of its quality as being not much more for us then a black shape, knowing about itís origin only places it even more far away. Itís a bit of a tricky retroaction giving the impression that the shape contains something that is not only the shape (which is true but has no relevance in the given context).
By this gesture the set returns to the text that shares itís concern for form with the music, but not transcribe its contents into a ticket for another territory. Every expression creates and engulfs itís own matter.
I think the music - it comes first, here for the CD - the www-extension
and the texts relate to each other because we do things in parallel directions,
with similar ideas about composition, and for a common project. On another
hand each work exists separately too.
Associations are let free, there is neither an illustration nor a narrative. I transformed my texts listening to the music, and I hope to bring with
them some small things which are not in - could complete? - the music, but not necessarily. In words I like to deal with memories, dreams,
emotions, a Ądance of thoughtď. I feel I work on texts a bit like Guido works on sounds and Isabelle on forms/pictures: complexity, transformations, ruptures, abstraction, multiple points of view, conceptualization, random parts, concreteness of the elements of the medium (for me: words), etc
Isabelle Chemin: :The
relation between the text and the site issues from one priority expressed
by the author Jean-René Lassalle: « I want people to read
this text in a loop ». It was very important to have this possibility
to read again and again through the text, to enter the wordsícomposition
in different (?alternative) ways.
For the conception of the visual part, I decide to create a visual loop in a likely manner. I proposed some key words , picked from the text, that can be selected at each position of the loop when people rest with the mouse on one position.
Creating a loop was not intended to mean to construct a slow and boring environment. Therefore I decided to illustrate the loop with a sort of little, strange (?odd) form running through the text like the sounds and the words are running in my mind. It's not something meant to identify, only the dynamic of the shapes was determinant at each position.
G.H:"I personaly have
an allergy towards the idea of a cinematic mode of visulisation (also
merely mental) caused by the music/sound just
because some might feel that the music alone is not enough. It seems to be a general consensus (also accepted amongst musicans) that music has to have a function beyond being music and that this is visualy concrete and narratively linear/causal in a cinetic sense."
This is interesting, the eternal problem with live electronic music is that it's often so *boring* to watch, so some people add a video backdrop to their music without considering the sound/visual relationship that it creates, how do you deal with this in concert?
I have years of creation
of performances with Isabelle Chemin behind me. This discipline generaly
allows to develop every element : visualy, audio or other in space or in
time in complementation and usefull relation with each other. At least
this is the way it should be also many practical constraints can become
obstacle to that ideal. Since some 3 years now I do nothing, but music
and it wouldnít occure to me to add anything to it and especialy not for
the sake of distraction. It seems obviouse that with music everywere were
we go and with very clear intention behind its massive diffusion the capacity
to listen and to listen for the only pleasure of doing so, or better being
aware of a possible pleasure in such a specificaly isolated activity is
difficult to maintain 1*.
It seems to me that art, culture is viewed now as a ready to consume plus to the everyday life not something inherent and necessary to it. It has become a kind of mental tourism to oppose the ordinary, common, mondane and the less supportable this gets the more dissimulating sensation and spectacle are in demand. Senses have become so saturated that not even serial killers can satisfy the audience anymore. The question the artist faces is if he wants to play the game or if there are other priorities, higher ranking matter to his creation that count more then just spending a good time 2*. I believe the creator has to be exigent and the more he is to himselfs the more he can be to his audience. It has to be defended that effort is mutual in order to get out the most of a work and thatís not done by simply adding unessential extras to it. What we are heading for canít be advertised at least not through illustrative imagery. One has to be distinguished and demanding a discriminating audience. Were this is possible it can become an experience otherwise it is nothing but a job.
Anyway I expect that with the quantity of efforts done of fusing sound and image, driven by what ever intention, there should be the one or other creation were the both are complementing and work out well. I canít remember anything recent, but vaguely do i.e. an Antigroup « concert » a couple of lifetimes ago with nothing but tv sets on stage feeded with different videos of fire in saturated colors with a vertical mirror split. This was intense and far beyound being mere decoration and therfor left its trace. So, I wonít pretend the fusion could never be satisfying, but I wouldnít go for it as a possibility if I couldnít be sure that both can attain the audience attention with similar concentration. Of course one could do music less demanding, but thatís not what Iím looking for.
G.H: "For me it is already enough to struggle with the social implication of music (even I play 9 out of 10 times at fridays or saturdays evenings, hence being part of the leisure entertainment business with all itís implications"...
How do you mean, have you been 'forced' to play in front of drunken friday night crowds? (there was an interesting discussion about a similar problem on the 'microsound'e-list some months ago where it was revealed that many people seem to expect some kind of 'performance' when they go to a concert and some get provoked when all they get is someone sitting behind a powerbook staring at the screen the whole show.)
Guess the answer is already
partialy present in the former paragraph. We played in pubs and squats
in theaters and contemporary art galleries and museums and had the same
show in front of most opposite audiences in one day interval. Anyway what
can causes difficulties is that one is supposed to be there for the same
reason then anyone else. Space, locality turns to instantly perceiveable
conformity of its users to pretend difference to other spaces. Clubs as
museums are like supermarkets, they all have the same produce only the
shelfs are differently arranged. This situation creates expectations and
we are not necessaraly present nor motivated to satisfy them. The demand
for sensation, ceremony, celebration is excessively growing and at the
same time it has to remain in established forms to be recognized as such
and we feel we have little if any concern with all that, are there for
a completly different « mission ».
The one wants red curtain and musicians in tuxedos the other needs the sweat and smashed amps, desires easy to meet and thatís at least something one can talk about till the next weekend. All this opposed reasons to be present can create interesting, ideed intensive tensions, but Iím not interested in such confrontation and certainly not if it starts dominating the situation.
However, are concerts in that visualy nothing is going on (thus like concerts of electro-acoustic music since 40-50 years, in which thereís little more than a spot on the surrounding speakers) meant to be an escape for todays electronic musicians or is it meant as a provocation, or anything else ? Apparently thereís little difference between someone lifting a fader on an old analoge synthesizer or someone dragging a mouse. At least a recently attended Mazk concert appeared visualy close to one of Esplendor Geometrico more then 15 years ago, merely watching feets tapping beats. So whatís going on ? Are thus labtop shows opposing expectations or are they just going the easy way (at least I havenít heared anything musicaly exciting in that direction and this could become an argument). Or is there a change in the audience going on for what reason they attend a concert. Maybe itís only that noise, electronic or what ever term to be coined has become so commen, but also preconceived that an audience joins in that comes through noise via commercialy acceptable and prepact versions framed by a steady off-beat and accompained by a 365 days a year halloween fanatic.
For my own recent experience I have to say that the situation is occasionaly difficult to menage, but this has nothing to do with the equipment used or the way to deal with it. Itís more that sometimes there is already so much noise in a space we feel we have nothing to add. On the other hand our compositions are of so fast dynamic variation and successive alternations of moods, strong peaks and sustained silences that attending people often witness to us to be baffled, even stressed by being keeped in prolonged tention because they canít get hold of a significant characteristic other then its immediate disappearance. Itís somehow unconfortable and attracting the same time. With the right P.A. this can become very physicaly, maybe is performance enough or makes one obsolete, maybe even turn the spectator into the performer. However, no one ever asked us why we donít jump on our equipment or burn our CD-Rís on stage. We even played several times from behind the audience, thus right in front of the speakers the same way like them and it seemed nobody missed us neither a projected artefact of ourselfs. 3*
I strongly believe that listening can become a kind of performance, meaning a purposeful, very singular act and thus an rewarded experience. But this needs a context that canít be established everywere at anytime and against all odds. To me it seems that an accord is necessary between the opposed parties of musician and audience that allows to isolate the event from preceeding ones. A bit of cleaning the head out seems necessary before that can be established. That this isnít all the time possible is not only a problem with the audience, itís also a problem of the organisation. Dispite their most welcome intention one can not expect they are able to anticipate the particularities of every group they invite and even if they could they have to deal with to many contrains as well.
We in any case have many good souvenirs and concerts are a good way to meet and exchange ideas and opinions with very different people. Some that already know you, other that never have heared anything even only close to it. I wonít miss that.
G.H: "My soundworld has certainly developed to more and more abstract sounds, because of people cannot listen to a repetative short soundevent with a slight modulation and a slight reverb without projecting the image of a dropping pipe. Also nearly all my sounds are from acoustic sources I treat them voluntary to a state were there origin is unrecognizeable."
This brings to mind the collaboration CD 'Geosynclines' that you did together with ERG(j.ronsen, m.northam) and MSBR(koji tano); it evidently has a very distinct 'DSM-sound' to it, and i've heard that ERG wasn't pleased with their contributions being processed beyond recognintion, do you have something to say about this?
Finaly we are talking
music ? ? ? The story is that I got the material of ERG and MSBR that they
already processed mutualy. I have done 2 pieces with ERG before that will
be soon published on a CD with other collaborations. Michael let Koji listen
to a copy and they agreed it would be interesting if I alone would carry
out the final composition. Such a decision of course implies a certain
tolerance. It will never become what you expect. To be precise I havenít
done that much treatment on the sounds, but getting in fact 2 different
kinds of relatively static sounds, distinct mostly by the huge difference
of volume and intensity, I mostly had to face the problem of sounds simply
masking or dissolving in each other. Thus I used a lot of equalisation
and bandpass filters of getting only the material out of a sound that functions
well with the others and eliminated everything else. That often resulted
in flat dynamics thus I processed them as well and occasionaly used spatial
enhancers to place sounds in different distances. What so ever, my use
of cut & paste is certainly what shapes things most and is certainly
opposed to what ERG and MSBR are recognized for.
Itís not so much an actual processing of a sounds as when adding delays or modulations to a sound, but i. e. just fading in a sound that had a straight atack before can make it completly unrecognizeable also every other parameter remains untouched.
What was interesting was that also they couldnít hear all steps towards the final pieces we had communicated quite a quantity of emails in which I told how things go and alredy when receiving the proposition I told what I was interested to do. What now has become the « distinct DSM sound » realy depends more on the way I carry out composition as what the actual inividual sound sounds like. In collaborations with Toy Bizarre and RLW as well as one with Artificial Memory Trace on the above mentioned series of collaborations I have done nearly nothing on the actual sounds. Itís all in the spliceing and arranging of the fragmented material. There are very view moments were there are no ruptures and then there are at least some slower alternations going on. I also like to use silences, not so much as quieteness, but as dense counterpoint, a charged, heavy silence. If I believe the reviews, all this has through the years become kind of a trademark to DSM. A degree of complexity in the composition is essential to me. I like to listen and relisten pieces on which I still discover things after many times. I like surprises, a certain discontinuity, unpredictable changes, etc. Many music I hear out of our circuit leaves me disapointed mostly because the compositions are so poor. All concentration is on the sound, but itís understood after very view listenings and becomes quickly tireing and uninteresting.
On the said CD with collaboration are works with ERG, The Oval Language and Artificial Memory Trace and I wish to continue with Toy Bizarre, the people of THU 20 and others. Letís hear what they will have to tell.
What are your current projects, any new releases coming up?
There had been pieces on
compilations by Kein Babel/Artefakt (Berlin) and the one accompaining the
Elektnoiz journal N°4 by MSBR Rec. (Tokyo). A third one is supposed
to be published on a compilation by Erratum Musicale (Strasbourg). The
three create a kind of tryptich. Another piece will be on a compilation
by Harbinger Sound (Nottingham).
Thereís a Ď8 inch on Spite Records (USA) coming out and Iím loking for a label for the CD of collaborations, I continue the series of works on processed acoustic instruments started with the single « drum » on Povertech with a pieces on trombone and work on a piece entitled « the CD-player in my life » for Piano, Saxophone, Violine, Accordeon and a CD-player for each instrumentalist to be presented by the Zeitkratzer Ensemble in june and we will play in Berlin in may and Barcelona in july.
1* How often you got told that this or that music is very suitable to do or to accompain this or that other activity ? Indeed some record titles already encourage such a perception.
2* Michael Northam once told me that he beliefes that the highest ranking motivation for doing music amongst people he know (when living back in Austin) is to impress their friends.
3* Itís not that I conceive the music I do the way it is for gathering this kind of effect, itís just the way I like it and the way it makes sense to me and obtaining this effects this way is very satisfying. Of course especialy for concerts we experiment with intensities, orders and duration of pieces and try in that way to direct a certain way to perceive our work, but I believe we would rather let a piece besides then to sacrafice it. Certain pieces simply wonít work out live.