Selected Works vol.9

1) Bern, 2019 03 08 (live) (31:00)
at WIM Bern (concert/conference room)
modular synth, field recordings
2 channels, 2 pa systems with subwoofer
recorded by Ilia & Eric Ruffing

2) Saint-Petersburg, 2019 11 20 (live) (36:32)
at Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design (big exhibition hall)
modular synth, field recordings
2 channels, 2 pa systems with subwoofers
recorded by Ilia & Sergey Komarov

Link to listen on bandcamp:

Эссе на русском языке:

Selected Works vol.9 continues the theme of the previous release. This is a continuation of the work with a modular synthesizer as the main source of sound, field recordings that complement the space, room acoustics affecting the music, and different speaker systems at each concert.

At these concerts in Bern and Saint-Petersburg, I’ve paid attention to working with a stereo signal. Building a panorama of sounds in real time sometimes led to the fact that the left and right speakers sounded independent of each other, as if played by two musicians. I must say that this is not without its truth: often the feedbacks in the signal circuits of the synthesizer seem to play on their own, but I just have to tame these electronic animals. Working in stereo is unusual for an instrumentalist (for now I can’t forget that I am a saxophonist), because traditionally an acoustic instrument is a mono signal, and the thinking while playing always comes from this fact. Electronics allows you to try to overcome this barrier, but you need to think about the sound in a completely different way.
The concert in Bern is an example of a classic chamber concert of experimental music. It was a small room, more of a kind of an office than a concert venue. A sufficient amount of natural reverb helped the sound to “open up", and party basses coming from outside were blended with field recordings and synthesizer noises. Under these conditions, it was possible to create a good contact with a small audience, that listened carefully and, importantly, paid attention to the sound around, that was becoming a new sound environment. I try to pay attention to this in order to interact or ignore these extraneous sounds; they can distract both the musician and the public. My set was the second in a concert, this made it possible to think about the situation while listening to the first set.

A major role in creating a sound space was the use of field recordings. An attentive listener will notice that one of the field recordings was already used on the previous album on the track «Saint-Petersburg, 2018 12 22 (live)». This same field recording affects music in different conditions in different ways. Some recordings merge with synthesized sounds, while others can break through and dominate. Sometimes an interesting effect can be achieved through barely audible field recordings, this technique expands the surrounding space, merging with the sounds in the room.

The set in Saint-Petersburg was held at the CyberFest-12 festival at the Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design. A huge hall, which served as a place for the installation of the festival, but at the same time preserving its own atmosphere, at least by the fact that students-artists worked at the second level until the start of the concert. It was a little scary to break the idyllic place. I walked through the galleries and the hall itself, trying to understand how the sound would spread, but it was hardly possible. From my place I heard a close sound, the acoustics of space responded somewhere further. 

Sergey Komarov, curator of the festival, kindly agreed to walk around the room with the recorder during the set, the second recorder stood in my place, there is also a linear signal in the mix. The concert was attended by Boris Shershenkov, a sound artist from Saint-Petersburg. I asked him to recall that performance and impressions, and then listen to the recording and share thoughts about the situation of listening to the recording.

Boris Shershenkov: To write about an event that happened almost half a year ago is a non-trivial task. The work of auditory memory, as it turned out, reveals significant differences between various types of sound analysis and perception mechanisms such as timbral and melodic hearing. In this case, memories of the structural properties of a work / performance and tonal characteristics such as melody, rhythm, vocal articulation, are replaced by the memories of feelings not only auditory, but also of a complex set of imagery.

The memory of the first part of the performance is inseparable from the image of the festival exhibition. The lower level of the hall was filled with a maze of objects, rooms and partitions, among which a pair of small speakers and a table with electronics turn into an ordinary and almost unnoticeable exhibition showpiece. Thus, the performer himself becomes the same element of the exhibition audience as his listeners.

Everything changes when I’ve changed the location and moved to the second level of the hall. On the upper gallery the acoustics of the dome of the hall began to influence the sound allowing it to infiltrate the most distant corners. The sound as well as its listener break out of the grip of the plywood maze filling both the room itself and the focus of listeners attention. Competing with multiple acoustic reflections it loses some of the properties given by the musician and / or instrument, but acquiring in some sense a lot more by involving the space itself in the process which emphasizes its rich character and dramatic changes in dynamics.

During the listening of the recording the chain “memory – image – sensation” is replaced by the chain “sound – association – impression” which is similar in structure but practically opposite in meaning. A common element of these sequences is the emerging impression and internal image which become a kind of comparison criterion.

The first part of the recording in this sense was a pleasant surprise, exposing the unusual approach to audio track creation. This recording sounds like an attempt to find a compromise between the testimony of an accidental listener and the author’s statement of the musician.
The material develops slowly. Delicate quasi-random sounds of field recordings and natural noises dissolve in the volume of the hall and react with subtle synthetic admixtures, the concentration of which is steadily increasing.

The upheaval in the sound material at the 15th minute of the performance almost coincided with my movement and the changing of the hearing point affected the perception of the track.
However, it’s no less interesting on the recording to observe the electronic chaos beating in Ilya’s hands, which then burns out, loses its hardness and seeps through the fingers as tonal sounds.

The synthesizer passages pass through the rough hum of the crowd, like a liquid flowing around the granules of a carbon filter. The sound freeing itself from impurities and exposing a clear structure of almost ritual character which is rapidly decaying under the of entropy onslaught by the end of the performance.

I immediately begin to wonder about the differences between live performance and documentation. With this particular recording, I had no radical goal of showing the acoustics of the room at any cost, albeit at the expense of artistic value. Therefore, a recording mix is ​​still a mix with the aim that it can be listened to and enjoyed while listened to. Actually, this is the main task during the performance also: to make music with the help of sound, which is influenced by many factors, one of which is the notorious acoustics of the room. However, I do not know what the listener thinks and how he listens.

Interestingly, memory can hardly recreate what exactly was heard and what sound material was used. Which leads to the fact that music and sound exist in space to create some kind of sensation, not in order to recall that it was this at the 3rd minute, and it was that at 27th minute. I can only hope that I, as a performer, and the listeners will be on the same wave, as they say.

In the recording, the attention vector shifts towards what was played, what material was used and how it was used. It is really difficult to understand what happened in the hall during the performance, especially in those moments where field recordings are mixed with the sounds of the public. The focus of attention is replaced and a new space is created. A recording space as a record, and not as documentation of what happened. And then the music played becomes another music placed in a different context, the context of private listening.

Thanks for organization of the concerts to Sebastian Rotzler and Sergey Komarov; Boris Shershenkov for the detailed comment; Lauri Hyvärinen for the proofread.

Ilia Belorukov, May 2020