Reflections on the LAK Festival 2013

Posted in Documentation, Essay on October 9th, 2013 by admin

Photo Flora Tosti

Changing the Power Base

Around the time of the recent Female Pressure report, which called out many sound and music festivals around the globe for their scandalously poor representation of female artists, I had several discussions with the main organizers of the LAK Festival (three quarters women, incidentally) about how to address the issue. To their credit, they didn’t make a big deal about it. No “female artist showcase” or other kinds of tokenism involved. They simply selected artists they were interested in, which just so happened to place a fairly even number of men and women on the stage that weekend. Which is pretty much how things should be, in my own opinion.

What surprised me more was the turnout for the workshops. There are many ways of reaching out to potential participants of an arts and technology workshop. Written one way, with a focus on parts-catalog jargon and makerlab buzzwords, the turnout is often exclusively dudes in their mid-20′s who wear hooded sweatshirts 24 hours a day, rarely bathe and posses an obsessive interest in controlling their toaster with an Arduino or 3D-printing yet another ashtray.

Written another way, with more of a nod to aesthetics and content, or even just acknowledging a more intuitive and non-linear approach to arts-n-tech, the results are much more varied and far richer. In this sense, I guess we did something right because three quarters of the workshop participants were women–as compared with a whopping zero percent in the workshop I taught to a Danish university sound design course the following week!

I emphasize the presentation and participation of women not from a “Yeah, sisters!” kind of feminism, but rather as a barometer of how it is possible to reach out from a traditional arts or music festival power base. Age, education, race or class could be another set of many possible indicators left for another set of reflections on this or any other festival.

Photo Flora Tosti

Life in an Alienating Utopia

One criticism of the festival I have heard in several places is that it was merely “sound-for-sound’s-sake.” And this could well be valid–from the position of the passive spectator. I’m sorry if this is news to anyone, but even after one hundred years of history, electronic sound remains a fundamentally alienating dystopia for the exact same reasons it provides a creative utopia.

Namely, this is because it is no longer necessary to have the source of the sound present during its performance, and because sounds can be created which have never been heard before, both through means with which the audience has no connection visual or otherwise. Any kind of electronic sound presentation which neglects this alienation on the part of a traditional audience is doomed to failure with them. Simply put, it’s not just “all about the sound.” Not now, and not ever.

Innovative approaches to engaging the audience don’t regurgitate the 90′s “interactivity” model of waving to the machine in the proper way so that the machine waves back. Nor do they sugar-coat everything in accessible techno beats. The performer who crouches motionless behind the laptop, mixer or pile of obscure gear playing (or playing back) what one LAK reviewer simple-mindedly called “ant-war” music deserves the reaction they get from outside the small, safe confines of their scene.

Don’t get me wrong here, I love challenging, experimental music–when it is well-presented. But I simply gave up on expecting it to “cross over” to a larger audience long ago. There are very few “civilians” (as Kristina Andersen quipped to me one evening) at an experimental sound art festival, and the ones who do show up can be a cynical bunch.

Photo Flora Tosti

The Participatory Model

The “sound-for-sound’s-sake” criticism immediately falls apart when the participatory model is taken. In my own workshops, I have noticed again and again that people who would never attend an experimental concert are quite happy to play one of their own when given the chance. Other people’s noise can be annoying, but your own noise–that is sublime! So instead of trying to pack 100 people in a room to watch one self-indulgent noise artist, why not let 10 people become one for themselves for a few hours?

This is the challenge to the passive, cynical audience member… to drop the cool, “what the fuck” posture and take part in something rather than stand by the sidelines and spectate. As Tore Honoré Boe observes about his Acoustic Laptops, when people first see a wooden box with a few toothbrushes glued inside, their skepticism remains high until they actually reach inside and “touch the sound”. Then their attitude immediately changes and they find themselves captivated by their own noise.

For me, two of the most successful workshops were led by Mads Bech Paulszewski-Hau and John Grzinich. In each case, participants committed themselves to days of preparation, creating a tactile sonic installation and a blindfolded sound walk which they themselves were responsible for presenting during the festival. The workshop leaders worked with a goal of planned obsolescence, facilitating and fading into the background the more the participants became confident of their own work. These participants came from a wide range of backgrounds, from visual arts to movement to music to simple interest–as did many of the workshop participants that week. The common factor was the complaint that access to information about sound art was very hard for them to find.

Similarly successful were the CEO Bendorama circuit-bending workshop, the Syntjuntan circuit-sewing workshop, and in particular Kristina Andersen’s ElectroSqueak Club instrument-building workshop for children, all of which provided a low-stress point of contact with electronics, materials and sound which simply does not exist in arts education on the university or community level almost anywhere else. One particularly interesting turn of events came when one of Christian Skjødt‘s improvisation workshop participants installed herself in the stairwell and in her own way joined the lineup of the festival. By and large, those who came–the untrained, the curious, the non-professional–were “civilians” in the most basic sense of the word.

Photo Kristina Andersen

Let a Thousand Noise Artists Bloom

–But who is going to watch all these freshly-born sound artists perform?

–Who cares.

The participatory model is highly resistant to stage-elevation. It simply isn’t the point. For centuries, folk music has been created not by professional artists but by everyday people for their collective enjoyment, rather than to single one person out as The Artist and celebrate them alone. Why should electronic sound, the folk music of our age, be any different? In that sense, one cannot complain if there are “too many” sound artists or performers out there, since it is no longer about competition for other people’s attention. The consolation prize is perhaps more people coming into the scene to spectate on other people’s sound art performances some time in the future. Think of it as a small investment…

Photo Flora Tosti

A Deeper Sense of Contact

This kind of thinking requires a radical reboot of the traditional festival strategy of success-through-maximum-headcount, however. The participatory model is democratic in the sense that it allows direct access, and not because it sells thousands of tickets. Like being one of six pupils at a Montessori or Steiner school rather than one of hundreds at a public school, it is a deeper, more involved way to experience the art form and should be valued for that reason, and not because some “thump thump thump” put a lot of hands in the air.

Do you try to touch a thousand people in a superficial way, or touch a dozen people in a deep way? Depends on your funding model, I suppose. But moving away from one’s traditional, elite power base always requires new models. So even when it means less bodies in a room for now, I am happy to see LAK moving in that direction.

—D. Holzer, Västernorrland, Sweden 09 Oct 2013

Thanks and Appreciation

My sincere thanks to Katrine Møllebæk, Sif Hellerup Madsen, Agnete Seerup, Rasmus Cleve Christensen and the festival volunteers for organizing a great week, to John Grzinich, CEO Bendorama, Tore Honoré Boe, Christian Skjødt, Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau, Kristina Andersen, Lise-Lotte Norelius and Ann Rosén for their hard work on thew workshops, to Dani Dögenigt and Sebastian Edin for their assistance during the workshops, and to all the workshop participants for their interest and energies! Photos courtesy of LAK Festival, Kristina Andersen and Flora Tosti.

Photo Kristina Andersen

Photo Flora Tosti

Photo Flora Tosti

Photo Flora Tosti

Photo Flora Tosti

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LAK FESTIVAL 2013

Posted in Announcement on May 28th, 2013 by admin

I am pleased to finally announce that I will be the co-curator of the next LAK Festival for Nordic Sound Art in Copenhagen, over the weekend of 26-29 September 2013.

My main contribution to the festival program is a series of workshops around the theme of the “Fifth Wall”. If the well-known “fourth wall” refers to the boundary between the artist and their audience, often “broken” through techniques of meta-narrative in theater and film, the term “fifth wall” could describe the boundaries between the audience members themselves during a shared artistic experience. The Fifth Wall Workshops series for the LAK Festival 2013 concerns itself with how this boundary can be broken within the traditional festival format of performance, installation and lecture, and in a world where almost everyone has become a digital art producer. These workshops emphasize participatory situations which transform festival visitors from passive receivers to active creators of sound art. Eventually, both “artist” and “wall” dissolve away, leaving the responsibility of presenting the workshop results with the participants themselves.

I look forward to sharing the list of invited workshop artists next month when everything is confirmed. Further information on the festival itself should soon be available at the following locations:

http://www.lakfestival.dk/

http://www.facebook.com/Lakfestival

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Machine Deva Soundtrack + TONEWHEELS photos

Posted in Documentation on October 21st, 2012 by admin

Machine Deva Sound Track by macumbista

Original soundtrack by Derek Holzer for the short film “Machine Deva”, by Steve Holzer (19min, 2012, TX, USA). A very abstract love story created directly on 16mm film, using familiar and not-so-familiar direct manipulation. Hand color and intervention on found footage with unusual transfer techniques put the visual experience somewhere between cave paintings and a hand-held video of a dream world.

Tracklist

1.0: brief introductions/those who cannot remember [6:06]
2.0: first mutation [4:34]
2.1: the lecture(“étant donnés”) [1:51]
2.2: take the elevator [1:04]
3.0: second mutation/the dance [4:43]

Recorded April 15-May 15 2012, RSS-82 Berlin.

Derek Holzer: analog synthesizer, electronics, pure data, organ, percussion
Steve Holzer: synthesizer(1.0), guitar(2.1)

I will have CDRs of this soundtrack and DVDRs of the film itself available in late November, and I will try to organize a screening in Berlin to coincide with this. Please note that the film itself will not appear online, due to the detailed nature of the film manipulations which lose much of their impact through compression. Unless you are lucky enough to visit a screening organized by myself or Steve, the DVDR will be the next best thing. Please contact me if interested.

TONEWHEELS France Photos



Photos from Pau performance by Alvaro Ayuso





Photos from Pau performance by Nicolas Godin



Photos from Pau performance by Sandrine Ferrer





Photos from Marseille performance by Pierre Gondard

On the Road Again…

22-26 Oct: Neanderthal Electronics Workshop, Det Jyske Kunstakademi, Aarhus DK
26 Oct: Macumbista live set, SPLAB, Aarhus, DK
29 Oct – 02 Nov: Neanderthal Electronics Workshop, Nordic Sound Art, Copenhagen DK
02 Nov: Macumbista’s 40))) birthday whiskey-sipping session, hosted by Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau, Copenhagen DK. RSVP for info.
05-09 Nov: Neanderthal Electronics Workshop, Sibelius Academy, Helsinki FI

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LAK Festival Copenhagen Documentation

Posted in Documentation on September 18th, 2012 by admin

The Rainforest project at the LAK Festival for Nordic Sound Art in Copenhagen was a complete success on many levels. The organizational team was fantastic, even without considering that this was their first ever event. While they planned for a modest 100 visitors for each day of the event, the total number turned out to be about 1500 in total. The Rainforest concert opened the festival, and continued as a live installation each day. Many thanks to Rainforest co-organizer (and true soul buddy) Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau as well as participants Anders Børup, James Brewster, Ejvind Juul Chang and Kristian Hverring for their energy and dedication, as well as to curators Jonas Olesen and Sandra Boss as well as the whole LAK team for a great weekend.

Photos by Hanne Budtz, My Lambertsen and Antonin Matejovsky. Full LAK photoset here

SNYKradio indslag om LAK festival og Regnskov 2012 by janstricker

Practice your Danish! SNYKradio interview with myself and Mads Bech Paluzewski-Hau at the LAK festival 2012 by Jan Stricker. Don’t worry, plenty of parts in English too…

Rainforest 2012 // Regnskov 2012 – LAK festival for nordisk lydkunst by My Lambertsen on YouTube.

Now Playing

swans-the seer[2012 young god]
various artists-oh, run into me, but don’t hurt me!: female blues singers rarities 1923-1930[2008 sub rosa]

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Regnskov 2012 in Copenhagen and Aarhus

Posted in Announcement on August 16th, 2012 by admin

Mads Bech Paulszewski-Hau and I will be running the “Rainforest” series of workshops at two events in Denmark next month: the LAK Festival in Copenhagen (6-9 September 2012) and the BY i BY Festival in Aarhus (14-16 September 2012). There are still spaces in both workshops, particularly the Aarhus one (which will be outdoors!), so please get in touch if you are interested at MACUMBISTA at the domain GMAIL dot COM.

Regsnkov 2012 is a contemporary re-interpretation of David Tudor’s series of compositions from the 1970′s entitled Rainforest. It uses various types of sonic transducers to play live sounds through a selection of resonant, found-metal objects in the performance space. A matrix mixer allows the sound from any of the performers to be sent to any of the objects, creating an immersive, tactile and spatial sonic experience.

The project is developed in a workshop format with up to 8 participants over a period of several days. The participants will work from the bio-acoustic model of an actual rainforest, where it is necessary for each species’ survival that they can both hear and be heard within their own niche of the busy forest soundscape.

You can download a PDF of information about the project here: http://macumbista.net/files/rainforest_overview.pdf

Other up and comings:

28 Sep – [w/Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez] Basic Electricity, Berlin DE (more on this soon!)
9-13 Oct – TONEWHEELS, Le festival accès(s), Pau FR
17 Oct – TONEWHEELS, RIAM Festival, Marseilles FR
22-26 Oct – Neanderthal Electronics, Danish Art Academy, Aarhus DK (TBC!)
29 Oct-02 Nov – Neanderthal Electronics, Nordic Sound Art, Copenhagen DK
05-09 Nov – Neanderthal Electronics, Sibelius Academy, Helsinki FI
16 Nov – TONEWHEELS, VisionSonic, Paris FR (TBC!)

Now Playing

crippled black phoenix-(mankind) the crafty ape[2012]
wovenhand-live at roepaen[2012]

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Video: nonlinearity III

Posted in Documentation on January 3rd, 2012 by admin

nonlinearity III from macumbista on Vimeo.

Q: So what do you do?

A: I make sound instruments that no one’s ever seen before, and then I teach myself how to play them.

Q: Do you play them well?

A: Well, if no one’s ever seen one before, how can they tell if I’m playing it badly or not?

Triple soundbox-drone nonlinearity study, constructed and recorded during my 2011 residency at the Danish Institute for Electro/Acoustic Music, Aarhus and edited during a shorter residency at MOKS, Mooste. Glam-rock, audio-responsive soundbox built for KT.

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Three Instruments Dec 2011

Posted in Documentation on December 29th, 2011 by admin

When people ask me “so what do you do?” these days, I usually reply that I build musical instruments that no-one has ever seen before. And then I teach myself how to play them. The benefit of this is that, if nobody has ever seen the instrument played before, they have no way to tell you you are playing it badly!

During my last couple weeks in Aarhus, I worked on three small instruments with various degrees of success.

INSTRUMENT A: LAKRITS-KALIMBA



I have always loved Ranjit Bhatnagar’s Instrument-a-Day project, so when time came to bring a small, throw-away gift for the traditional Danish Julefrokost at DIEM, I took an hour to whip up this lakrits-box kalimba. The keys are made from streetsweeper bristles found in the gutter. I have no idea who ended up with it.

INSTRUMENT B: SOUNDBOX(GLAM EDITION)




Quite a few of these SoundBoxes have been rolling out of my studio lately. This one in particular was made for my friend KT, and was played at the 09.12 gig with Krishve. It has a sound-responsive silver-lining, so to speak. Some really incredible drones happen when using the spring-reverb-contact-mic, and I’ll be posting a sound-video soon of what that is like.

INSTRUMENT C: SERGE GATOR CLONE



Slightly more complicated than the previous two, this is my attempt to clone a Serge Gator synthesizer module, mainly using circuit boards provided by Ken Stone. The Boolean Logic and Pulse Divider sections work perfectly fine, the Divide-by-N Comparator section works about half-way, and the VC TimeGen Clock section doesn’t really function at all yet. However, I ran out of time so the next free moment to look at this will be in mid-January when I return to Berlin from Helsinki. Expect updates and sounds then…

Current Location:

Happy New Year from south-east Estonia!!!

Now Playing

ättestupa-begraven mot norr[2010]
barn owl-lost in the glare[2011]
barn owl-shadowland[2011]
sunn o)) + nurse with wound-the iron soul of nothing[2008]

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Aarhus Wrapup

Posted in Announcement on December 6th, 2011 by admin

DKJ and Splab present an evening of esoteric drones, nonlinear distortion and time travel:
MACUMBISTA (us/de) vs KRISHVE (dk)
20:00 Friday 09 December 2011 * SPLAB Mejlgade 32 – 34, 8000 Århus C
splab.dk * macumbista.net * krishve.com
with thanks to det jyske musikkonservatorium

The Wrapup

After four months of a lovely little house, a good studio and a decent paycheck (all in the same city!!!), the jig is up in a few short weeks. By the time my residency here in Aarhus concludes, I will have done 5 workshops, played 5 concerts, built more than a half dozen sound boxes and a couple synthesizer modules, produced one sound-video and recorded more hours of synthesizer improvisations than I will ever have time to edit.

Here’s Tore “Origami” Boe, mi amigo noruego and proud owner of a brand new SoundBox during his evening for DJM/DIEM:

I leave Aarhus on 21 December, spend a few short days in Berlin and leave almost immediately for Riga, Mooste, Tartu, Tallinn and Helsinki. I had initially planned to do one more Rainforest piece here in Aarhus before I left, but it had to be postponed until the spring. So I will do an informal improvisation with Krishve at SPLAB as a going-away of sorts. Wish us luck and see you all in 2012!!!

Now Playing:

aluk todolo-ordre[2011 ajna offensive]
asva-presence of absence[2011]
bonnie prince billy-wolfroy goes to town[2011 domino]
corrupted-garten der unbewusstheit[2011]
falls of rauros-the light that dwells in rotten wood[2011]
king midas sound-waiting for you[2009]
kinit her-divine names[2010 brave mysteries]
leviathan-true traitor, true whore[2011 profound lore]
oneohtrix point never-replica[2011 software]
pharaoh overlord-out of darkness[2011 ektro]
the skull defects feat. daniel higgs-2013-3012[2011 thrill jockey]
the skull defects feat. daniel higgs-peer amid[2011 thrill jockey]
wolves in the throne room-celestial lineage[2011]

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SoundBoxes Aalborg Workshop Photos

Posted in Documentation on November 20th, 2011 by admin

On Friday the 18th of November, 2011 I worked with a group of students from the Jutland Music Conservatory Aalborg to create a collection of simple soundboxes. Each is made up of a contact microphone, a half-watt audio amplifier, a speaker and perhaps some body contacts to “bend” the sound of the instrument.

Much of the day was spent in learning the circuit and construction. Following this, the students began to experiment with integrating their own, personal found objects. At some point, we threw all the boxes into a grand piano and things got a bit crazy. I’ll have to remember that trick for later on!

We also experimented with passing the feedback sound around from box to box, before unleashing the instruments on the unsuspecting student bar that evening. It’s always amazing to see the transition from befuddled audience member hearing someone else’s noise to enthusiastic feedbacker/mic-scraper entranced by sounds of their own making.

Thanks to Christian Skjødt for organizing the whole shebang, and to Edit Emese Vizer for the pancakes!


















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Neanderthal Electronics Aarhus Photos

Posted in Documentation on November 7th, 2011 by admin
















Thanks to DIEM for inviting me and to all the students for working their asses off. Look at those Danes go! Seems like they had a good time. Wonder if all that beer I bought them had something to do with it?

In other news: I turned 39 last week. A year short of the big four-o))). I spent it in Copenhagen contemplating hard labor with the films of Phill Niblock, getting polyrhythmic with the Afro-noise of Cut Hands/William Bennett and getting my ears good and scrubbed by Lasse Marhaug. Here’s to many more such nights…

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