No man steps into the same river twice

by Anders Flodin

Putting sound and images together into one unit has had an explosive development and led to major changes in the established art scene. Consequently, more and more young artists have chosen to express themselves through sound, music, video, digital images and animation. This text is based on a performance at the 6th International Conference on Technologies for Music Notation and Representation (TENOR2021), hosted by Hamburg University of Music and Drama, Germany, by the international collective of visual and sound artists Auxig based in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic. The collective Auxig consists of Polina Khatsenka, Barry Wan, Petr Hanžl and Jan Krombholz.

In this text I will use the word non-disciplinary coined by Chris Locke at Norwich School of Art and Design (UK). Non-disciplinary is a term more appropriate for developing a result or object, regardless of whether this involves one medium or several, and implies less reliance on the existing disciplines. 

Background

After the start of sound technologically coupled to image in 1900, the start of electroacoustic music in the 1950’s was a major turning point in the history of Music and Art. The possibilities of creating Music and Art with different kinds of equipment and tools developed in the twentieth century, and resulted in new forms of film, video arts, mixed arts etcetera. The idea of putting music, sound and image together was not entirely new, but existing works were hard to perform with and quite expensive to use. In the 1980s the personal computer was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but the so-called new technology also helped change the cultural statues of Music and Art. The technical development meant that others besides the artist himself/herself could both create and consume projections and sounds. The technology is easily accessible and relatively inexpensive, while at the same time having a contemporary expression.

 
No man steps into the same river twice is described by the members in the collective Auxig as follows:

The audiovisual performance implies tactics of comprovisation, where the audio performers use generative projection by Petr Hanžl as a time-based graphic score. Another side of the performance is improvisation by the musicians, where the sound sources are shared beforehand and equally distributed to be used with no limitations, so all artists develop their own authentic language. Auxig collective has a very decent site-specific approach. The recordings and video materials were taken at nature reservation Slavkovský les (Karlovarský kraj, CZ) Ohře river and are reflecting the current state of the river and its surroundings, including the low levels of water, sound pollution from airplanes and factories etc. The concept of the river flow is being reflected by developing a composition intensity from gentle, soft sounds to a massive soundfield.

Auxig https://www.klg-tenor-21.de/tenor/about/ [2021 11 13]

A short description of the performance

The collective sits in front of the screen and the performance begins with a simple but clear reference to rippling water. Horizontal projected blue and white ribbons flicker over a dark surface. It is one and the same middle-ground function layer between sound and image, where the image gradually changes to have a stronger profile similar to undulating aurora borealis. The layers between image and sound are separated from one other, where the projection over time acquires a stronger intensity and a clearer, more independent profile. The layers reunite, but this time they are more intense and narrow. White noise is combined with a clear reference to a rapid underwater sequence, where various objects flicker past. There is very little opportunity to perceive individual details, even if they are vaguely implied in both projection and sound. The projected surface is reshaped into a yellow-green aurora borealis and separated once more from the common middle-ground layer. I can see one of the members scratching on a gramophone and building up a new short iterativ sound object. A high viscosity contributes to the projection and the return of the collected sounds, which is also the final word of the piece.

Analysis

In this short description I have denoted two kinds of layers (middle-ground and foreground) which combine the two artistic expressions music and image. This requires an explanation. In many textures, the brain is able to perceive several, simultaneous layers or structures. One such layer may itself consist of several layer-elements. The layers may have different functions in relation to each other such as foreground or background in visual fields. When a performer gives prominence to one layer or layer-element over other layer(s) or layer-elements that distinguish themselves as being the more prominent, they will be said to have strong intensity of profile. When the same layer has a strong intensity of profile for a certain time, it is said to have foreground function. The layers in an ambiguous, intermediate, or constantly changing position with regard to intensity of profile, are said to have a middleground function. The layers with a weak intensity of profile, and thus less prominence, are said to have a background function.

The description of the performance from the members gives the viewer keys to the collective’s common position and work process. This holistic attitude in the creative process provides the conditions for getting to know one other’s artistic medium and favors a non-disciplinary common platform. With this as a basis, certain common agreements between the performers can be reached, such as use of foreground, middle ground and background, as well as the type of profile and shape as described in the text by Auxig:

The audiovisual performance implies tactics of comprovisation, where the audio performers use generative projection by Petr Hanžl as a time-based graphic score.

Auxig https://www.klg-tenor-21.de/tenor/about/ [2021 11 13]

The audiovisual performance implies tactics of comprovisation, where the audio performers use generative projection by Petr Hanžl as a time-based graphic score.

Auxig’s uniqueness consists of a common world of sound and images that refers to the physical, concrete and material world as a basis in a non-disciplinary direction. 

Questions of interest, albeit too extensive for this work, are what does the practitioner perceive, what does the knowledgeable observer perceive and what does the average observer perceive?

Die Frage, ob ich jemanden mit meiner Musik ansprechen stellt sich für mich gar nicht. Es ist wie der wissenschaflichen Forschung : man versucht, ein Problem zu lösen, aus interesse an der Sache, und ümmert sich nicht um den praktischen Nutzen. So ist auch die Frage, ob jemand das braucht was ich mache, unwesentlich. Ich lebe heute und hier, bin ungewollt Tell einer Kultur, und ich produziere, wird sich mit der Zeit durchsetzen oder nicht. Mann kann die Relevanz eines Kunstwerkes für eine Kultur erst im Nachhinein beurteilen.

György Ligeti https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AhKWofVV0E [2021 11 03]

(My translation: “The question of knowing for whom my music is intended, should not be asked. As in scientific research, we try to solve a problem because of our interest in it; and not for its practical application. Then the question of knowing if someone needs the music I produced and which I involuntarily made part of a culture, will only be answered in due time. The importance of a work of art in a culture can only be judged retrospectively.”)

References

Andersson, Lars Gustaf, Sundblom John, Söderbergh Widding, Astrid (2006). Konst som rörlig bild – från Diagonalsymfonin till Whiteout. Sveriges Allmänna Konstförenings årsbok 2006, Bokförlaget Langenskiöld, Fälth & Hässler, Värnamo. pp. 15-95.

Ligeti, György. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AhKWofVV0E [2021 11 03]

Locke, Chris (2006). UK Art and Design Education and Inter-Disciplinary. In Art Studies – Between Method and Fancy, ed. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Arūnas Gelūnas, pp. 61-78. Vilnius Academy of Fine Art Press, Vilnius.

Pound, Ezra (1927). Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony, Pascal Covici, Publisher, Inc., Chicago. pp. 51-52

Rasmussen, Karl Aage (1998). Kan man høre tiden – essays om musik og mennesker, Gyldendal, Nordisk Bok Center A/S, Haslev. pp. 214-222.

Electronic links

Auxig: https://www.klg-tenor-21.de/tenor/about/ [2021 11 03]

No man steps into the same river twice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKFwq5aJo5E&t=237s [2021 11 03]

Pound, Ezra (1927). Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony: http://waltercosand.com/CosandScores [2021 12 16]

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