Gasometer Mono Performance
“The Gasometer Universe” is the title of my winning composition for the MONO competition organised by the German Association for Electroacoustic Music in 2007. Algorithmic composition techniques and live performance came together in this piece that is inspired by ideas about the origin of the universe. I performed the piece for the first time on 15 & 22 September 2007 at the Gasometer Oberhausen, Germany
Gasometer Universe (MP3)
The Gasometer is a 117 meters high Gas-factory from the 1920thies in Oberhausen, in the heart of the Ruhr area in Germany. These days it is used as an exhibition space and a touristic attraction. Composer Frank Niehusmann organized an international competition in cooperation with the DEGEM (German Association for Electroacoustic Music). The challenge was to write a mono composition especially for this space. My piece “The Gasometer Universe” was selected to be performed September 15th and 22nd, along with pieces from the following composers:
– Knut Aufermann (D)
– Hiroki Nishino (J)
– Jobina Tinnemans (B)
– Ge-Suk Yeo (D)
– Florian Zwißler (D)
I performed the piece live using midi controllers, game controllers, sampling programs and algorithmic software such as STEIM’s LiSa, Algorithmic Toolbox, Max and Kontakt. The piece worked really well in the space and it was an amazing experience standing in this huge tank playing my sounds at a massive volume. What a thrill!
Thanks to all the organizers, participants, Jeroen Meijer and Willem Meeuwissen for the documentation and most of all to the organiser Frank Niehusmann who did a great job.
About the piece:
I imagined the inside of the Gasometer as a universe in itself. The reverb is spectacular thanks to the enormous size of the building, even suggesting infinity since the sounds seem to go on for ever. In my composition I explored size and distance expressed in sound, inspired by concepts that scientists have developed to explain the origin of the universe: singularity and the Big Bang theory. The sonic and acoustic qualities of the Gasometer gave the possibility to investigate extreme contrasts and large distances in sound. Also I wanted to work with an idea that has always fascinated me when composing: sounds or musical gestures that are made out of a lot of different tiny single sounds, each of them constantly and slightly shifting position, frequency or volume.
Singularity is described by Bill Bryson as: “a spot so infinitesimally compact that is has no dimensions at all” (Bill Bryson A short history of nearly everything, page 27). This spot, which contains all the matter that later expanded into our universe, is much smaller than a proton, and a proton is already an infinitesimal part of an atom. “The first lively second (…) produced gravity and the other forces that govern physics. In less than a minute the universe is a million billion miles across and growing fast. (…) In three minutes, 98 percent of all the matter there is or will ever be has been produced.”
The piece started with a “Sonic Big Bang”, a very conglomerate of all the sounds I used later in the piece, condensed as if it was a singularity exploding. After this I slowly unraveled this “knot” of sounds, repeating different versions of it while taking out sounds and making the pauses between the different sounds longer, playing them gradually at a lower volume, as matter expanding in the void to form a universe of sound. Slowly the different sounds became recognizable. Throughout the piece there was a long development from extreme density to a very minimal presence, and from a very high volume to a very low volume. I arrived at a point where I wanted the audience to become aware of the lowest possible volume of sound where it is still possible to hear them, like the faint signals that we detect from galaxies millions of light-years away. Playing sounds at a very low volume in this space is something I was particularly interested in because of the reverb/echo character of the Gasometer, and the amazing sensibility that our hearing has. The sounds I used were mostly short, to play with the contrast short sound – long echo. I looked for a great diversity in sounds to have the ability to explore different atmospheres, they are the atoms that formed the Gasometer Universe.
MONO was organized by DEGEM (German Association for Electroacoustic Music) in cooperation with Gasometer Oberhausen GmbH, promoted and supported by Deutscher Musikrat, NRW Kultursekretariat Wuppertal, Energieversorgung Oberhausen AG, ICEM Institut fur Computermusik und Elektronische Medien der Folkwang-Hochschule Essen and Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR).
Pictures: Jan Jacob Hofmann, Roald de Boer and Willem Meeuwissen.