Stay Tuned (50:00)
cd on Baskaru, June 2014
Order and/or stream the album at
Bandcamp (also in digital format)
An audio work based on the moment when an orchestra gets in tune, before a performance. Like this. An event that I wish could last forever, which is exactly what 'Stay Tuned' is about.
More then 150 musicians and singers were asked to record an 'A' (which is the note an orchestra normally tunes to), using whatever technique or style they please. So each 'A' has its own unique characteristics, but is also a small part of a much bigger drone.
'Stay Tuned' is presented as a multiple-speaker installation, as a live performance piece and as the stereo adaptation/composition that can be found on this cd.
More than 150 musicians contributed to the project:
David Aird (Vindicatrix)
Nathan Amundson (Rivulets)
Kai Angermann (Insa Donja Kai)
Sigbjørn Apeland (1982)
Aidan Baker (Nadja)
Johan Berthling (Tape, Fire!)
Chris Brokaw (ex-Codeine, ex-Come)
Dave Brown (Candlesnuffer)
Mike Bullock (The BSC)
Daniel Bürkner (Squares on Both Sides)
Anna Rose Carter (Moon Ate the Dark)
Travis Chapman (Balmorhea)
Werner Dafeldecker (Polwechsel)
Matt Davis (Zeitkratzer, Otomo Yoshihide)
Tony Dekker (Great Lake Swimmers)
Bardt van der Dennen (Birdt)
Andy Diagram (ex-Two Pale Boys, ex-Spaceheads)
Michael Francis Duch (Lemur)
Benjamin Duvall (Ex-Easter Island Head)
Klaus Ellerhusen Holm (Trondheim Jazzorchestra)
Jacco van Elst (This Leo Sunrise)
Katie English (Isnaj Dui)
Erik Enocksson (Lakes of Grass and Gold)
Ferran Fages (Cremaster)
Masayoshi Fujita (El Fog)
Lori Goldston (Earth, Secret Chiefs 3)
Rachel Grimes (Rachel's)
Gudbjorg Hlin Gudmundsdottir (mum)
Greg Haines (Alvaret Ensemble)
Carl Ludwig Hübsch
Hilary Jeffery (The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble)
Paul de Jong (The Books)
Coti K. (Mohammad)
Edita Karkoschka (Nausica)
Greg Kelley (Nmperigm)
Sarah Kemp (Fieldhead, Brave Timbers)
Julia Kent (Antony and the Johnsons, Larsen)
Romke Kleefstra (Piiptsjilling, Alvaret Ensemble)
Jonas Kocher (300 Basses)
Are Lothe Kolbeinsen
Martin Küchen (Angles 8, Looper)
Anne La Berge (Shackle)
Simon Lenski (D.A.A.U.)
Eivind Lønning (Espen Reinertsen, Koboku Senju)
Janne Mansens (Birdt)
Lauren McMurray (Twigs & Yarn)
Violet Meerdink (This Leo Sunrise)
Alicia Merz (Birds of Passage)
Rie Mitsutake (Oh, Yoko)
Andy Moor (The Ex)
Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø
Lisa Nordström (Midaircondo)
Koen Nutters (The Pitch, N-Collective)
Lothar Ohlmeier (Not Applicable)
Marianne Oldenburg (Ode to the Quiet )
Eiríkur Orri Ólafsson (múm, Sigur Ros)
Morten J. Olsen (MoHa!, The Pitch)
Daniel Padden (The One Ensemble)
Alden Penner (The Unicorns)
Sandro Perri (Polmo Polpo)
Espen Reinertsen (Streifenjunko, Koboku Senju)
Iden Reinhart (Strië)
Bhob Rhainey (Nmperign, The BSC)
Dirk Serries (Fear Falls Burning)
Insa Schirmer (Insa Donja Kai)
Martin Siewert (Trapist, Heaven And)
Lukas Simonis (Coolhaven)
Erik Skodvin (Svarte Greiner, Dead Center)
Steven R. Smith
Jasper Stadhouders (Cactus Truck)
Andreas Stensland Løwe (Splashgirl)
Keiichi Sugimoto (Fourcolor, Minamo)
Hild Sofie Tafjord (Lemur, Spunk)
Ueno Takashi (Tenniscoats)
Martin Taxt (Koboku Senju)
Michael Thieke (The International Nothing, The Pitch)
Monica Tormell (Moon & Sun)
Eriko Toyoda (So)
Heather Trost (A Hawk and a Hacksaw)
Scott Tuma (ex-Boxhead Ensemble)
Ryan Vanderhoof (ex-Akron/Family)
Nikos Veliotis (Mohammad)
Steven Vinkenoog (Donné et Desirée)
Johan G. Winther (Tsukimono)
Enrico Wuttke (Flim)
C. Spencer Yeh
One well-honed cliché of music anecdotes is when a talented performer walks into a room, asks another player to “give me an A” and once satisfied with the sound rhapsodically displays the breath of his mammoth talents. Rutger Zuydervelt, a conceptual artist and electronics manipulator from the Netherlands, subverts that bromide in a unique fashion on this fascinating CD. Contacting a cross section of international experimental musicians, he asked for an A alright and got 152 of them transmitted to him. Zuydervelt then processed the sound snatches into a 50-minute loop that approximates both the fantasy of a gigantic ensemble tuning up as well as a mesmerizing stand-alone electro-acoustic creation.
With the participants including guitarist Oren Ambarchi, trumpeter Nate Wooley, singer Eric Chenaux, tubaist Hild Sofie Tafjord and accordionist Andrea Parkins, the resulting textures take on many sonic hues. Blending, stretching and reassembling diminutive timbres into an oscillating drone no instrumental intonation is easily identifiable However there are times that string buzzes, percussion clashes and guitar and piano tremolo resonations can be sensed. With the performance undulating in moderato yet disciplined waves, sibilate vocal exhortations are additionally prominent. Establishing that this is music, not a technical exercise, Stay Tuned torques to a climax in a final sequence as not quite inaudible phrases meld to create a drone that’s part blues melisma and part ecclesiastical drone; and that’s further segmented into high and low-pitched tones. Still the fade finale is insinuated so subtly that it appears as if the piece could start up again within a nanosecond.
Give this one an A for execution as well as concept.
It’s a purely functional exercise, but it’s a beautiful one. When the orchestra all align upon an “A” note to get in tune with one another, every individual instrument dials into a shared understanding of time and space. A door of opportunity opens and promptly shuts; the orchestra are deemed to be “in tune”, and the “real” music commences shortly after. Here, Rutger Zuydervelt extends this moment of alignment into 50 minutes, calling in over 150 musicians (who never congregate, submitting their contributions remotely) to bring the piece into being. I walk through the doorway.
The music and I are constantly orbiting eachother – the psychological aspect of my listening experience ferments and unfurls, while the piece itself slides gradually through stages of transition. I’m drifting down a seemingly endless hotel corridor, with each section devoted to a particular category of instrument; fine strands of string tone trail like loose hairs into a chorus of brass, accompanied by voices that wobble and gulp like seahorses. The drone and I become intimately acquainted. Every microtonal discrepancy starts to sound like a chasm of misunderstanding, while all of the bumps and notches that define timbral shape are magnified in my mind’s eye, with the vibraphones at 25 minutes plonking upon the horizontal wire like ovular raindrops. As my scrutiny intensifies, the supposed moment of alignment starts to feel like a rabble of individual voices swooping in and out of phase.
The exercise loses all function. I come to the realisation that the orchestra are never really in tune, and that to focus too intently upon the differences is to be stranded miles down the corridor, too fixated on moving forward to consider turning back. I reach 35 minutes and the overtones become unbearable, like black slugs upon a plank of pure white – the scrape and pluck of strings become violent flecks of attack, dragging the music away from its quest for absolute synchronisation. What’s amazing is that the sense of expectation never leaves. Stay Tuned is an act of preparation; a held breath, or an vase held aloft before being dropped, preluding a piece that never actually comes.
Stayed Tuned is a new & lengthy drone composition over-seen and conceived by Rutger Zuydervelt (better know to most as Machinefabriek). The single 50 minute piece on offer here is based around a drone played in the A note(which is the normally note that’s used for tuning up). The track is built around recordings made by around 150 musicians & singers; and these are slowly layered and subtle manipulated by Zuydervelt to create a truly majestic and hypotonic drone work.
The piece started off life as a multiple-speaker installation-with each speaker playing the sound of an instrument-group continuously. The speakers were spaciously placed, so visitors would literally walk through the orchestra. While wandering, the focus shifts from one instrument-group to the next. As the listener moves through the installation the drones sonic character changes slightly, taking in each instrument details, imperfections and characteristic. It’s a simple idea, but it really does work in a most captivating way.
For this CD version Zuydervelt has created a stereo mix of the piece- so instead of physical moving through the sound, Zuydervelt leads us through the sound of one instrument-group after another. Praise must be given to the wonderfully recording & definition of the drone through-out, as each instruments sonic identity is clearly defined in its sound.
The 150 collaborators play a vast range of instruments, going from string & wind groups, through to pianos, electric/ acoustic guitars & various types of voice sounds. So even through this is all based around one single note, it never becomes tiresome or monotonous as the instrumental players are always shifting.
With out a doubt Stayed Tuned is one of the more rewarding and re-playable drone based releases in recent memory, and well worth a look even if your not normally a fan of the drone genre.
Labels and genres are thrown around a little bit haphazardly these days, where a term like drone music can relate to everything from Tony Conrad to Eluvium or even something like Windy and Carl. Clearly there’s something of a diversity within their approaches, often using a technique or genre merely as a launching pad for their own unique ideas and interpretations.
So it’s interesting when someone goes the other way, paring down their individuality and becoming more purist in their approach. More purist that is with 153 other people.
Little can be more true to the dictionary definition of drone music than the initial half of this project by Dutch sound artist Rutger Zuydervelt, who also records under the name Machinefabriek. Machinefabriek is best known for his ambient electroacoustic and experimental work on labels like 12k, Type and Important.
There is only one note played on this entire 50 minute piece. An A note. It is played by 153 artists including Oren Ambarchi, Benoit Pioulard, Stephen Mathieu, Nils Frahm, Tim Catlin, Aidan Baker and of course numerous others. Zuydervelt uses them as his dream orchestra and weaves a web of sound between them.
The project stems from an installation that Zuydervelt presented at Sounds Like Audio Art in Saskatoon (Canada) and Into the Great Wide Open in Vlieland (The Netherlands). It’s about walking through the orchestra, where Zuydervelt played each recording on a continuous loop with speakers positioned to form an orchestra allowing folks to move from one instrument group to the next, controlling the mix as they go. Inspired by the tuning of an orchestra, he’s enlisted some of the more traditional sounds you’d expect like woodwinds, strings and brass, as well as elements like voice, processed accordian, zither, harmonium and electric guitar. Then of course some of these folks are using extended techniques with their instruments.
It’s a remarkable work of stasis, here initially the development comes from the subtle variations in texture, though as the piece progresses the approach changes and it works itself up in density and urgency, particularly when it begins to mix disparate elements of his virtual orchestra together. It’s hard not to be amazed by the way Zuydervelt has mixed this, there’s a real subtlety in his approach, the way he moves between the different instrumentation is almost sensual – betraying a deep love of the not just the instruments themselves, but also the orchestral form which these sounds echo.
Whilst there’s initially a certain peaceful Zen like quality, the cumulative effect of stasis can also become fatiguing – even after the 25 minute mark where the sustained notes change in modulation and much shorter notes are integrated including percussion, insistent piano and sawing cello. Some notes are sustained, whilst other instruments are quickly plucked or beaten. It’s something of a welcome relief, the tension of holding a similar sounding drone with only subtle variations can be wearing, where you begin to wonder if this orchestra will ever manage to get tuned up. So whilst it maintains its central premise, the introduction of disparate elements makes it much more engaging musicality. Particularly when the voice becomes more prominent around the 40 minute mark, with multiple vocals drones and curiously a spoken word piece that discusses the labour market barely within earshot.
It’s here that you truly begin to comprehend the skill and beauty of Zuydervelt’s work, not just in recreating an individualistically determined multi channel experience into a stereo mix, but in doing the audio equivalent of picking you up and taking you away, before putting you down again where you began – with the voice recreating the zen like drones at the beginning.
It’s truly a compelling sonic work, where the subtle disintegration of the uniformity of the drone elements initially make it all about textures and modulation, moving from feeling like a (admittedly pretty amazing) science project and unburdening itself into a real live musical composition freed from constraints. Yet then in what I can only assume is some form of peculiar magic, and thanks in no small part to the power of the human voice, it moves from being merely a musical composition into a profound spiritual experience.
Inspired by the tuning up of an orchestra prior to a performance, Rutger Zuydervelt (AKA Machinefabriek) assembled Stay Tuned first as an installation in Canada and then the Netherlands in 2013. Using 153 musicians from the worldwide avant-garde to each provide a drone in A (or a vocal warm-up), each speaker arranged in the installation played the loops endlessly while visitors wandered among them from sound to sound.
That sounds like an intriguing installation; but for the disc version Zuydervelt offers up a 50-minute stereo mix (whether a 5.1 or similar mix was ever considered is an intriguing possibility) which reveals its own take on the concept behind the piece, drawing the listener into a long-form drone which reveals its own particular charms. One fun game is to try and guess who is playing what – is that Aidan Baker‘s electric guitar and John Butcher‘s sax? Maybe it’s Andy Moor and Thomas Ankersmit respectively? How about that trumpet fragment — maybe it’s Andy Diagram or Nate Wooley‘s samples thereof; and is that Julia Kent or Lori Goldston playing cello?It might be Daniel Padden muttering his way through the instructions (or maybe an end-user agreement — the actual content barely matters) for some gadget or other, or perhaps Daniel Bürkner? Someone who knows each musician well and can successfully identify the difference between Anna Rose Carter or Heleen van Haegenborgh can have a field day with their avant-starspotting; and while the list of players and singers runs from Aird and Ambarchi to Yeh and Youngs, it’s probably more relevant to enjoy the performances on instrumentation from accordion to zither and their arrangement instead.
Slipping into the feel and tone of the drone and the procession from each instrument to another, together or layered, Zuydervelt curates his own particular guided tour through the tuning up of what is effectively an immense virtual orchestra in waiting. Waiting for what? As Samuel Beckett might have his characters reply, “Ah, yes…” — for there is not Godot here. Instead, the expectation is the thing itself, the end result is selected by Zuydervelt in a way which the installation visitors could choose for themselves to be different on each visit and to be more or less unique to their own perception, chosen route and time taken to follow it through the speaker arrangements. Mediated as the CD edition is, it’s no more so than any other composition, and the disc is of course as much a different experience as it is an artifact to the installation; but no matter — where the first is (more or less) site-specific, the second is dependent on the listener’s preferred environment; and needless to say, headphones make their usual immersive difference to how this recording is perceived.
Listening to Stay Tuned is somewhat like having time put on hold, of motion in abeyance and of anticipation frozen in time, and thanks to the skilful editing and selection of where and when the layered instruments and voices arrive, hold and depart, the piece makes its moves in a gentle swell, procession and unfolding of tones. There’s a ceremonial feel to Stay Tuned, perhaps arising from the associations between droning, chanting and plainsong with religious rituals worldwide; but whether secular or sacred at heart, the music Rutger Zuydervelt and his many friends and collaborators offer up here is often also serenely blissful.
And perhaps the third one qualifies also as modern classical music? At least Rutger Zuydervelt releases this under his own name, rather than his Machinefabriek moniker. Maybe a hint that he wants to be a serious composer/conductor? He's at the stage with his own orchestra here, no less than 152 musician took part in this - and I'll mention none of them - who send it an 'A' note on their own instruments - laptop musicians didn't take part - which Zuydervelt distributed on a bunch of speakers (with the music as loops) as part of an installation in a forest. People could literally take a walk through the orchestra. Here, on CD, you can't take a walk through the CD, but Zuydervelt created a standalone stereo mix. The way it sounds, this could, as easily be a CD by Phill Niblock on Touch. Very drone like, very minimal and of course, absolutely beautiful. In the second half there is a lot more happening than on your usual Niblock record, mind you, Zuydervelt is not a mere copy cat.
Here he uses a lot of the instruments to drop in and out it seems a like collage of sounds, but then embedded in this ever sounding, gorgeous back drop of a drone. I don't think any of the involved musicians would recognize his own 'A' in here and there is most certainly not the 'A' in a circle of anarchy around here, as Zuydervelt composed a very strong piece, very classical also, even when it would be difficult to get all of these musicians on one stage and have them play the same thing. Yet, one never has the idea of listening to a computer treatment of acoustic instruments. It never sounds mechanical. I think it's about time he worked with Zeitkratzer and stretch his abilities as a serious modern composer!
Imagine a single 50 minute track album with contributions from more than 150 artists....
I can't even begin to list names here but you should definitely check the list on the Bandcamp page - I'm sure it'll raise your interest to find out more about Rutger "Machinefabriek" Zuydervelt's project"Stay Tuned".
Before listening, it may help to know some more about the background of this project: "More than 150 musicians and singers were asked to record an 'A' (which is the note an orchestra normally tunes to), using whatever technique or style they please. So each 'A' has its own unique characteristics, but is also a small part of a much bigger drone."
It must have been a hell of a job merging and mixing all these contributions into one single drone piece dedicated to an orchestra tuning, but the result is a beautiful homogenous, and indeed orchestral sound... as if all musicians are playing their "A-note" together in a concert performance. The drone has an organic flow, because Zuydervelt introduces all sounds ordered by groups of instruments. Also, all contributors play "real" (meaning "orchestral" here) instruments: no synthesizer or electronic devices are included - which is remarkable in itself because most (if not all) contributors are artists working in the 'experimental' musical fields, which often includes electronic treatments. But not here!
Also worth noting is that the original concept for this project is a multi-channel sound installation, where visitors could walk their way between the different speakers, thus creating their own composition (there are some short videos of this on Rutger's website ). The Baskaru release is a stereo adaptation from all the contributions for this installation.
If you think a continuous performance of a single "A"-note could hardly be interesting enough to keep your interest for the full 50 minutes, you owe it to yourself to try it out. I'm sure you'll be surprised. Ánd amazed! I suggest you start by looking at the list of contributors more closely.
De negende dag van de maand maart in het jaar 1960. Yves Klein dirigeert een kamerensemble in rokkostuum. Het speelt zijn werk Symphonie Monotone (1949). Precies twintig minuten is een D majeurakkoord te horen, gevolgd door een exact even lange periode waarin niet wordt gespeeld. Anno 2013 lopen bezoekers vrijelijk door Rutger Zuydervelts installatie Stay Tuned: een wandeling door een 'orkest' van luidsprekers. Clusters instrumenten die allemaal een A spelen zijn te horen. Het lopen verandert het geluidsbeeld. De tijd waarin niet wordt gespeeld zou je erbij kunnen denken.
Voor de uitgave op cd heeft Zuydervelt - ook en wellicht zelfs beter bekend onder zijn artiestennaam Machinefabriek - een mix van vijftig minuten gemaakt. Daarin hoor je zijn 'ensemble' van 153 muzikanten de A spelen. Het is een orkest met leden als Nate Wooley en Oren Ambarchi en instrumenten als strijkers, blazers, elektrische gitaar, piano en stem. Het is Zuydervelts monotone symfonie, lichtjes verschuivend alsof je rondstruint tussen de spelers.
Klein zag het kunstwerk in zijn symfonie in de 'stilte'. Daar waar zijn symfonie dus niet bestaat en eigenlijk ietwat stiekem - provocatief bijna - ook de tijd verslaat. Als je je eenmaal bewust bent van de aanwezigheid in afwezigheid van de symfonie is die immers niet te vangen, ook niet in duur. Stay Tuned doet op een andere noot hetzelfde én is de inverse van Kleins werk. Het stuk benadrukt duur, het speelt met noties van tijd en ruimte, bevestigt en beklemtoont tijd door er juist wel te zijn, zeer aanwezig, precies vijftig minuten lang. Toch raakt Zuydervelt ook aan het efemere karakter, het etherische van Kleins vide (leegte) die onaanraakbaar en tegelijk waarneembaar is. Waar je Klein mee kunt dragen en hem hoort als je eraan denkt, blijft de resonantie van Zuydervelt als een trilling die door een mantra is opgeroepen (ook) onbewust naijlen: een schitterende yin en yang van de monotonie dus.
Machinefabriek is het inmiddels legendarische project van Rutger Zuydervelt. Eigenlijk is het meer een instituut voor de betere experimentele muziek, want je kan van hem werkelijk van alles verwachten. Het is niet zozeer een kenmerkende sounds die hem typeren, maar veeleer de ongelooflijke variatie binnen het elektronische en experimentele spectrum. Het is één van de weinige artiesten die topkwaliteit en kwantiteit blijft leveren, zonder dat je precies kunt duiden wat precies de Machinefabriek sound is, hetgeen elke release verrassend en spannend maakt. Een bewijs voor dit alles is toch wel weer zijn nieuwste werk Stay Tuned. Dit is één lange track van 50 minuten waarop zo’n 150 (van Peter Broderick, Julia Kent, Michel Banabila, Erik Skodvin en Bird tot Aidan Baker, Greg Haines, Alicia Merz en Rebekka Karijord), veelal bekende artiesten meewerken, die allen de A toon mogen spelen op hun instrument. Dit combineert Zuydervelt tot één lange compositie, die heel veel weg heeft van die gigantische gitaarorkestraties van Glenn Branca. Alleen zit dit dan net meer in ambient en drone hoek. Op bandcamp vind je de volledige, imponerende gastenlijst waarover Zuydervelt mag beschikken. Het levert hoe dan ook een overdonderend geheel op, dat je hieronder in z’n geheel kunt bewonderen. Een luisteravontuur dat z’n gelijke nog moet ontmoeten. Wat is Machinefabriek toch een ongrijpbare heerlijkheid in de hedendaagse muziek.