Manfred Werder: 20153, actualized by Regler (Mattin & Anders Bryngelsson).
CD. Nueni Recs, 2016.
Listen to a short excerpt here.
The text is from Walter Benjamin’s essay “One-way Street, Halt For Not More Than Three Cabs”:
through excessive fatigue i had thrown myself on my bed in my clothes in the brightly-lit room, and had at once, for a few seconds, fallen asleep
The CD comes with no sleeve notes, but the quote (and thus the score) is printed on the front cover. We get as much information as the musicians did, with no post-facto explanation. Already, we’re dealing with appropriation as art: a common enough practice in visual art but still unfamiliar to music. (Sampling and quotation are forms of collage and a different matter.) We’ve all heard music inspired by philosophy but Werder’s piece is philosophy, even though it might be through some strange, cannibalistic understanding of the concept.
I’ve heard a couple of other pieces from Werder’s series, as part of the cryptic Rosetta Stone Wandelweiser und so weiter released by Another Timbre. There’s an excerpt from 2011/4 on Youtube. There’s the foregrounding of silence and ambient sound, with the musicians adding light and shade.
Apparently art is supposed to make us perceive things differently, but then there is art where we have to change our ways of perception before we can recognise it for what it is. This situation isn’t the exclusive preserve of the avant-garde. We can’t look at, for example, mediaeval woodcuts and see what their creators and intended audience saw in them, except through intellectual exertion. Regler’s actualisation of 2015/3 is something we almost cannot hear, even if we listen, even if we register the sounds.
The two photos inside the CD cover, once again, reveal everything and explain nothing. They reinforce the unmistakeable impression you get when you first play the CD. Mattin and Bryngelsson take a nakedly literal approach to the score: they set up their equipment in their studio then fall, or try to fall, asleep. Any unintentional sounds that can be heard sound truly accidental. The musicians may be engaging with the score but they are evidently, resolutely refusing to engage with the listener.
The CD is ostensibly silent, in the way that a performance of Cage’s 4’33″ is. But there are disruptions (the dynamic range on this recording is very wide) and any musical silence here is obviously the result of necessary activity in actualising the score. The extreme quiet in this performance is harsh, and a provocation. Are we listening to it the right way if we feel provoked?
Mattin, at least, has a reputation for provocation. In 2004 I witnessed him give one of the best silent concerts I’ve heard.
I thought I’d heard the piece after playing it once. Then I played it again and realised I’d been listening to something else. The distant, muffled sound of sawing wasn’t there. It must have been a neighbour doing some repairs. The very faint sound of stacking dishes is, I think, on the disc but I’d rather play the disc again another time than rewind to find out.
This piece can’t be listened to as a field recording or a version of 4’33″. It’s a performance with an uncompromising objectivity, much in the way that recordings of avant-garde music from the 1950s and 60s sound forcefully radical today when compared to more polished recent performances, which can often seem too aestheticised in comparison.
Nueni Records CD
How does 40 minutes of almost complete silence grab you? That’s what you get on this CD from Spain’s Nueni Recs, a realisation of Manfred Werder’s 20153 by the experimental group Regler, a duo comprised of Mattin and Anders Bryngelsson. Werder’s score is a single quotation from arch flaneur and mid-20th century thinker Walter Benjamin and, translated into English, is as follows: “Through excessive fatigue I had thrown myself on my bed in my clothes in the brightly-lit room, and had at once, for a few seconds, fallen asleep.” This idea of intense fatigue is emphasised by the shots of Mattin and Bryngelsson asleep in a recording studio that adorn the inside covers of the CD – overwhelmed, perhaps by the information overload of modern life, suffering from the kind of breakdown that characterises the work of that other arch-Benjaminite, W.G. Sebald.
Viewed from a conventional perspective that sees tangible content as cash, this CD is not exactly value for money. Rather than more for less, as austerity Britain’s corporate slogan goes, this is, instead, more of less. A whole lot of nothing, in fact. Full disclosure: I received this CD as a promo (something for which I’m always grateful, especially given that labels such as Nueni rarely have major label marketing budgets to chuck around on tons of freebies), so I’m not qualified to opine about whether it is worth spending your hard-earned on. I mean, I’m pretty open to grappling with some of the ideas that seem to bubble up out of the space as I listen – these ideas of fatigue and exhaustion, the Benjamin-esque ideas of the aura of the art object (specifically this CD), the ways in which Werder’s scores often provide a way for the mundanity of everyday life to be included in the fabric of experimental music without being reduced to tokenistic field recordings, and so on. But I wonder if I’m been so keen to engage if I’d just spent 15 quid (or the equivalent in Euros) on the thing. This, of course, opens up more lines of speculation. Having purchased a CD do I this have a right to expect certain forms of content – specifically tangible sounds, stuff you can hear, etc – from the artist? Or is intellectual, not-necessarily tangible, content enough? After all, this is a tried-and-tested approach from conceptual art, so why not here?
And what of this intellectual content? Well, let me say that I don’t exactly have great form on this particular stream of experimental music myself. Head over to the Sound Projector website and take a look at me trying to get my head round Stefan Thut and Johnny Chang’s Two Strings and Boxes to see what I mean. I’ve moved on since then, I’d like to think, and I’m slightly more plugged into what’s (not) going on in pieces like these – and indeed, why it’s (not) going on. |And there is something rather intriguing about this Regler (non) performance. That Thut and Chang release I was so baffled by was characterised by its intense concentration, an utter attention to close listening that approached meditation or prayer. This, in contrast, is almost determinedly casual, but not necessarily in a positive way. Rather than a modish punk snottiness – we don’t care if you listen or not – the duo seem afflicted by the psychic torpor that’s hinted at in the score. The few sounds that do appear are mainly the scuffs and clicks of a drum kit being assembled. It’s as if they couldn’t quite summon up the energy to get any further with their recording, lapsing into a kind of anti-lotus eaters-style stupor. Framed in this way, listening becomes an affecting, almost disturbing experience. We seem to be observing, and thus are becoming complicit in, a slow nervous breakdown.
We’re not really, obviously. The duo is fully aware of what they’re doing and it’s to their credit that they inhabit this performance so totally. (It’s as full-on, in its own way, as one of Mattin’s other role-paying extravaganzas, the Lagos noise band Billy Bao.) And the whole Regler project could be viewed as role-play, the duo inhabiting different sub-genres of the avant-garde to produce near-perfect simulacra of their typical outputs. This release is labelled Regel #5 (classical music), but you can also check out Regel #4 (Harsh Noise Wall) on Nick Hoffman’s Pilgrim Talk label, which comes adorned with quotes from Wall overload Vomir, Regel #3 (Noiscore/Free Jazz), a double CD with two hours of full-on assault. And so on. You get the idea.
I quite like it anyway – both this particular realisation and the duo’s whole approach – even though some other reviewers have found the whole thing frustrating and unrewarding. I’m not quite inclined to agree, but I could understand what some would find the duo’s approach seems somewhat peremptory. And, as a realisation of a Werder score, well, I can’t help comparing it to other recent Werder settings, by Ryoko Akama, Rishin Singh and Will Montgomery, all different yet all of them achieving a greater degree of engagement and richness than that of this performance. That Montgomery performance, in which he combines two Werder scores and creates a subtle collage of field recordings and electronics, is particularly affecting. Nevertheless, this achieves what it sets out do to. Whether or not that objective is one that’s worth investigating is less clear.
The Bilbao-based NUENI RECS. has just released its newest album and it features Manfred Werder's 2015³ actualized by Regler, the collaborative duo between Mattin and Brainbombs' Anders Bryngelsson. The score for the piece can be seen above on the album's cover and is translated as such:
through excessive fatigue i had thrown myself on my bed in my clothes in the brightly-lit room, and had at once, for a few seconds, fallen asleep
(Walter Benjamin, One-way Street, Halt For Not More Than Three Cabs, 1928)
As with other scores from Werder, it's text based, short, and extremely open to interpretation. Werder specifically wrote the piece to be performed by Regler and it seems fitting considering what Mattin and Bryngelsson have conjured up in the past few years. In 2013, simple flowchart scores led to the two creating their take on dbeat and dub. In 2014, the straightforward "Play as hard and fast as possible for an hour" instruction led to free jazz and noisecore. And last year, the two took on harsh noise wall as the various black boxes adorning the packaging acted as scores.
Concept is always important when talking about Mattin and these projects as Regler have often felt like a critique on music (or perhaps more specifically, our relationship with it). Consider the weekly meetings that Mattin organized throughout November and December of last year and the questions he posed on the event page: "does music contain transformative qualities? Or is it just a soundtrack for our fucked up times? Are extreme actions, improvisational approaches and noise enough to dismantle our conditioned selves? Or do we need to radically reconsider the critical potential of these practices?" As noted on the cover for 2015³, the two are taking on classical music this time. Werder's scores often point performers and listeners to the world of sound around them. As a result, it'll be interesting to see how Regler take on this piece.
You can hear a sample of 2015³ above and you can purchase the album from the NUENI RECS. website here.
' Wenn ich von hinten anfangen darf: Regler, das sind Mattin & Anders Bryngelsson, die sich nach "Regel #3", ihrem Experiment mit Free Jazz und Noise Core, und "Regel #4 (HNW)", ihrer Testreihe mit Harsh Noise, nun bei "Regel #5" classical music vorknöpfen. Von vorne genommen, haben wir einen Schweizer Pianisten und Komponisten vor uns, der Richtung Wandelweiser und so weiter tendiert und merkwürdige Werkreihen vorlegt. Neben Stücken wie "Ein(e) Ausführende(r) Seiten 218 - 226" oder "2 Ausführende Seiten 392-406" und "Stück 1998 Seiten 624-626" & "... Seiten 676-683" gibt es als weitere Reihe "2006¹", "2009⁵", das 31 x 18-min. "2005¹"etc. Schaue ich in die Mitte, finde ich eine Notiz aus Walter Benjamins "Einbahnstraße": "Vor übergroßer Ermüdung hatte ich im erhellten Zimmer mich in Kleidern aufs Bett geworfen und war sogleich, für einige Sekunden, eingeschlafen." Und dazu sieht man Bryngelsson & Mattin wie schlafend. Drücke ich auf Start, höre ich einen Schlagzeuger mit Geräuschen oder eher noch Nebengeräuschen, während er auf seinen Einsatz wartet. Ähnlich hört man von Mattin minimalste, eher wie unbeabsichtigte, als beabsichtigte Laute. Meist sind die Atemzüge und das Grundrauschen des Raums das einzig Hörbare. Da kein Einsatz irgendeiner 'Musik' in gewohnter Weise erfolgt, muss man in dem, was zu hören ist, kleinsten Stupsern, den Atemzügen, im Grunde der Performanz eines Schlafs von exakt 40 Min. mit seinen sporadisch registrierbaren Bewegungen an den Nahtstellen von Stille und Beinahestille, das zu Erwartende vermuten. Im Sinne 'Gedachter Musik' ist also 'Geschlafene Musik' zu 'hören'. Konzeptionell erscheint mir das auf Augenhöhe mit Diego Chamys "The Fluxus Pieces", selbst wenn Motivation und Intention eine ganz andere sein sollten und die von Regler wieder eine andere als die von Werder. Bei dem ich allenfalls den Satz finde: In der Abwesenheit artikulierter Klänge werde ich dann immer stärker in das Klingende aller Begegnung aufgelöst, erfahre mich als Welt. Er hat den Hang zu klingenden Gedankenspielen, die er an Zitaten aufhängt, und ist völlig einverstanden, dass Musiker nicht spielen, dass überhaupt jeder sein Recht auf Schweigen wahrnimmt. Denn ihn reizt das Mögliche mehr als alles Realisierte und der Klang einer vorhandenen Situation mehr, als das, was er hinzufügen könnte. '
So far I quite enjoyed the music of Regler, Mattin (on guitar) and Anders Bryngelsson (on drums) in
which they "set up rules and try to do different genres of music with rock instruments", and so far
they tackled 'dbeat' ('Regel 1', see Vital Weekly 966) and 'dub' ('Regel 2', see Vital Weekly 966),
free jazz ('Regel 3', see Vital Weekly 957) harsh noise wall ('Regel 4', see Vital Weekly 983), all
with quite diverse results, ranging from the very loud to the very quiet. For 'Regel #5' they perform
a piece by Manfred Werder, from the Wandelweiser group, which is modern classical music, all about
very quiet music. The piece has a Walter Benjamin quote as a guiding principle, about how he got home
and fell asleep, for a few seconds. It's in German on the cover. Scores are open ended in the world
of Wandelweiser (as far as I know), so who knows? Maybe Regler does exactly what is required and perform
a very silent piece. What do we hear? Two people stumbling into a room and rumble about for a bit and
then, perhaps, fall asleep. Beyond the ten-minute break we don't hear much anymore, just some static
hiss and very occasional a rumble - the musicians fell asleep, as depicted on the inside of the cover.
This is music that is about something else and it's music that is about music, about listening. I quite
enjoyed their previous releases, but in this instance I am not entirely convinced, I must say. I am
already aware of silence, silent music and all that rattling of John Cages. I understand the concept
of silence, or the absence of it, and I simply prefer a great piece of music.
IDWAL FISHER (February 2016)
Thanks to the Bearded Wonder
over at RFM I now have two releases from Nuen Recs to listen to. Or not
as the case may be. Two releases that were deemed unsuitable for
dissemination at RFM due to the fact that the Bearded Wonder declines to
put the boot in anymore, something to do with positivism and
preservation of the id. No fear, where Beardy fears to tread I done my
welders clogs and start jumping around in broken bottle glass.
Fortunately for me the Campbell bunged me a Hession/Stefani release that
did more than enough to reverse the damage.
Things didn't start well with cursory listens revealing most of the Wender release to be nothing but silence. Not absolute silence as recorded in an anechoic chamber of course. No, no no, that would be too easy. But I'm an attentive listener these days and with the new hi-if still tickling my eardrums I decided to put aside a precious Saturday afternoon to get to the bottom of what was actually going on here. Now I'm no stranger to silence in the area of recorded music and have great affection for people like Bernhard Günter and Francisco López, musicians who have chosen to work at the very bottom of the audible scale [my eternal memory of Gunter is a picture of him cupping a dried leaf to his ear as if listening intently to his slow desiccation, but I digress]. 2015³ is a work by the Swiss minimalist composer Manfred Werder as interpreted by the Swedish duo Regler. Something to do with Werder giving them a line of text by Walter Benjamin and telling them to get on with it. The results are a 40 minute track that for the first ten minutes sounds like someone setting up a drum kit and for the next thirty minutes is nothing but virtual silence. The inside cover shows someone asleep at the drum kit and someone asleep on the floor in front of an industrial lamp [all part of the interpretation kiddoes]. I can only assume that the recording is that of the drummer setting up his kit so as not to awaken his partner before turning on the lights at 40.00 resulting in this conversation:
‘I tried not to wake you during the recording’
‘It's ok I'm a heavy sleeper’
‘We've done. I’ve pressed stop’
‘Did it work?’
‘I think so’
cmmagazine (Saint Petersburg, 26 May 2016)
Вот и встретились “тролли” современной экспериментальной музыки! Швейцарец Манфред Вердер (Manfred Werder) является одним из самых радикальных композиторов (если не самым) сообщества Wandelweiser, а дуэт Regler - это Андерс Брингельссон (Anders Bryngelsson), известный по Brainbombs, и Маттин (Mattin), уже давно славящийся непредсказуемыми выходками и провокациями на сцене. Да, при чём здесь Вердер? Дело в том, что дуэт реализовал его пьесу 2015 3, произошло это в марте 2015-го года в Стокгольме. Альбом вышел на баскском лейбле Nueni, и так славящимся неординарными релизами, но этот задирает планку ещё выше.
В первые минут восемь мы слышим некие приготовления к чему-то, редкие звуки передвигаемых предметов, перешёптывание, прочие посторонние и немузыкальные звуки. А дальше музыканты начинают дремать, а может и вовсе спать. Слышны шорохи и дыхание, иногда задеваются микрофоны, покашливание, какие-то посторонние гудения случаются. Всё заканчивается на отметке сорок минут ровно.
Красота повседневности, на которую не обращаешь внимания в суете дней, выставлена нарочито пустой, почти бессмысленной. Полагаю, многим будет сложно найти здесь музыку, а может её здесь и совсем нет. Тем не менее, простота, с которой сделан этот альбом, не может не очаровать. Это либо очень-очень наивно, либо слишком заумно. Грань каждый определит для себя сам.
После стольких лет редукционизма хочется ещё тихой музыки? Получите её от Вердера и Regler и помяните добрым словом.
2015 Nueni CD