Jonathan Heilbron, double bass
47° Darmstadt Ferienkurse
August 15th, 2014, Kunsthalle Darmstadt
A series of three works with vibration devices embedded in musical instruments has been produced in the frame of the 47° Darmstadt Ferienkurse (“Expanded Music” workshop, coordinated by Simon Steen-Andersen).
The piece shown in the video is the Ghost Study number two, called Perturbance, and written in close collaboration with the double-bassist Jonathan Heilbron.
After a session with the performer, where I recorded a number of percussive interventions he made on the body and strings of the instrument, I reordered these gestures from the most inharmonic to the most stable spectrum (the A string of the double-bass). While building the electronic track (which was supposed to be played back through the vibration speaker), I created different reverberations of the percussive gestures. Some of this reverberations were infinite, and I could use them as static sounds which were triggered by the percussive interventions of the performer. The overall path of the piece lead to the final, loud 55 Hz sine wave emerging from some bowed notes. The A string was thus shaking, and placing the finger on the string made the timbre of the resonance change with the pressure of the finger. At the end of the piece, this resonance seemed to be stopped — as torn off — and re-activated by sudden gestures of the hands of the double-bassist “muffling” the whole instrument. Both this theatrical situation and the reverberations in the previous interventions were quite effective in giving to the instrument a life of its own. The interaction between the performer and the double-bass (the man and the artifact) was not anymore one-directional, but the instrument responded almost consciously to the stimuli of the instrumentalist, and seemed to make decisions of its own.
Being the instrument itself, and not a separated speaker, the resonating surface (electronic tracks can be sent to contact transducer embedded in the instruments) which emits sound, it’s often difficult to perceive (acoustically) the difference between an instrument played by a human and an instrument equipped with vibration capabilities. This way of augmenting the capabilities of an instrument leads to new possibilities in composition for instruments and tape and live-electronics, in a way reconsidering and reframing the live-electronics practice.