Better Know A Weisslich: Kara Feely

Nobody likes being put into a box – there’s something existentially horrifying receiving an email entitled something like “thought you might find this interesting” with a link to a website or article, only to find the sender was right – I do find it interesting! – am I that predictable? I think if I ever wrote an autobiography it would consist solely of the links contained in these types of emails – a portrait of how other people perceive me.

So there’s something similarly scary about Jennifer Walshe’s New Discipline moniker, most comprehensively laid out in the May 2016 issue of Musiktexte ( Walshe says:

“The New Discipline” is a term I’ve adopted over the last year. The term functions as a way for me to connect compositions which have a wide range of disparate interests but all share the common concern of being rooted in the physical, theatrical and visual, as well as musical; pieces which often invoke the extra-musical, which activate the non-cochlear. In performance, these are works in which the ear, the eye and the brain are expected to be active and engaged. Works in which we understand that there are people on the stage, and that these people are/have bodies.”

However, if one ignores the fear of being so easily categorizable, one of the great things about this type of genre-coining and artist-grouping, is that by putting everything in one place, it allows you to find out about people whose work you really should already be familiar with – for me, one of those people was Kara Feely.

The first example given of artists working in this genre, listed in the paragraph following the quote above, is Object Collection (, the Brooklyn-based group run by Kara Feely and Travis Just. In Feely’s article in the same Musiktexte issue (, she describes four concerns of her work: JUNK, VIRTUOSITY, OVERLOAD and WRONG – ideas which seem to be fully at play in her work for Object Collection.

But wait – full disclosure – I’ve never seen any of Feely’s work live and as Walshe points out, in this type of work “we understand that there are people on the stage, and that these people are/have bodies” – and Feely’s work seems to demand this live experience. This is one of the reasons we wanted to programme it, as well as there being something palpably exciting about some of the concepts and ideologies that occur in Object Collection’s vast output of operas that they’ve been creating since 2005 e.g. their latest opera It’s All True which consists of cut-up transcriptions of between-song “random bits of noise and chit-chat” taken from over 1000 hours of live concert recordings of a single post-hardcore band and “none of the songs”:
trailer for IT’S ALL TRUE

Wait, let me back up a bit more – I think I actually first came across Kara Feely’s work in the 2015 Experimental Music Yearbook ( where the score of her piece I DIDN’T REALLY PREPARE FOR THIS BUT PROBABLY THAT IS BEST was featured. Not that I want to let facts get in the way of a good story. There was something beautiful about the thinking behind this piece – simple focused actions, layered over the top of each other, with an implicit tension built into the actions, as the score asked performers to :

“execute an everyday, mundane, household activity that is difficult to do quietly, as quietly as possible. The task can be executed very slowly, or repeated, in order to fill the time. The goal is to make as little noise as possible, but still execute the task.”


In a lot of ways it seems that the video above doesn’t seem to quite do the work justice as, in her essay in Musiktexte, Feely talks about the role of visual saturation and the agency of watching:

“Object Collection pieces are frequently an unrelenting, diffuse mass of sweaty actors moving furniture, rummaging through piles of debris, and looking impenetrably at the audience; musicians counting off on the side, ping pong balls in one hand, an instrument in the other; and lots and lots (and lots) of stuff. What is an audience member supposed to do when there’s too much to watch? I’ve always found this situation comforting, because when there is too much to watch, you get to choose what to watch. Getting to choose what to watch gives you agency, and thereby actives
how you watch. Nobody is going to process the piece in the same way, because nobody is going to be watching the same thing.”

Weirdly, this echoes some of Ferneyhough’s thinking behind the density of his own music (although probably with less ping pong balls), and perhaps explains why there are so few Object Collection videos online – video reduces viewing agency, it shows you how and where to watch, reducing the chaos.

Two of the works being performed at Weisslich tonight – New Names Not New Things (2011) and HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE FIRES OF BROOKLYN (2012) – were included in Object Collection‘s New York Girls performance ( performance) and along with the work Map Piece I’ll be excited to finally experience this work with real bodies in a real space.

-David Pocknee

Better Know A Weisslich: Charlie Sdraulig

I was once introduced to someone by a friend in the following way: “This is David, he is a communist.” A sentence in which only one of two facts is true (my actual political affiliations are a closely guarded secret, but, needless to say, I am working tirelessly to Make New Music Great Again (apparently we need to? &

One of the fears I have when writing these blogs about the performers and composers we program, is the fear of misrepresenting them. So, what is below might have nothing to do with the way Charlie Sdraulig views his work but it’s some of the things I think about when I experience it. Ultimately, you should check it out yourself and make up your own mind.

In computer game design, there is an idea called “systemic narrative”, a term used to describe narrative events which emerge spontaneously from the interactions of independent game mechanics. This is most often found in open-world “sandbox” games. In his discussion of “systemic narrative” on the youtube channel “Game Maker’s Toolkit”, writer Mark Brown discusses the emergent properties of interlocking systems in the game Far Cry 3 and 4, describing it thus

“In Far Cry 4, it’s not uncommon to see an enemy fighter tangle with a tiger, or an eagle carrying off a pig, but they’re not completely scripted sequences, just the byproduct of systems allowed to interact with one another… Ubisoft calls the game an “anecdote factory” …”

One could perhaps see Charlie Sdraulig’s pieces as similar “anecdote factories”, in which rules and systems of interactions are set up to govern the interaction of the performers. This approach could be traced back to earlier precedents such as Christian Wolff’s For Pianist /Duo For Pianists I & II, or seen in James Saunders’ recent music. But the difference in Sdraulig’s music is the reduced sphere of action in which these interactions take place. His work for Distractfold Ensemble, binary presents, on the surface, an almost undifferentiated plane of white noise. Yet within this, a whole flurry of interactional activity occurs in the relationship between the performers. At different moments, each player is asked to check on the relationship between their own action and that of another player, adjusting their playing accordingly e.g. in the violin part on page two, the player is asked the question:

Of the other players also in position one, whose volume level is closest to mine?
Listen to that player’s rate of pitch change
Is the sound changing pitch more often than mine?
Yes => Gradually increase your finger pressure.
No => Gradually lower your finger pressure.

This is a process I have referred to elsewhere as “parameter mapping” – the mapping of data from one parameter (velocity of pitch) onto another (finger pressure). Here a simple question re-orients the player’s listening and the relationship between themselves and the whole.

This set-up can also be seen in the work no one both for violin, viola and cello: score

Charlie Sdraulig, no one both (2013) performed by Ensemble SurPlus

In recent pieces, this listening is also oriented outwards to their relationship to the environment, most notably in the series of pieces individuals in environments, or the piece few, which fellow wesslich-er Michael Baldwin has written extensively about:

few performed by Michael Baldwin

and whose score contains instructions such as:

Have the continuous ambient sounds changed? If so, adjust your sounds and breath pressure so that they are again only barely audible to you.

While this might be perceived as abandoning a certain amount of control to the whims of environmental sound, what better anecdotes are there than those that arise spontaneously from the world around us?

Charlie will be performing his new work emulator (2015-16) for sensor augmented cymbal and electronics at Weisslich Vol 8 on 23rd July 2016, 8pm at Hundred Years Gallery.


-David Pocknee

Better Know A Weisslich: Andy Ingamells

There are three films which I really like, all of which have, on paper, terrible premises:

Phone Booth (2002) – Colin Farrell in a phone booth for an hour and a half.

Buried (2010) Ryan Reynolds in a box for an hour and a half.

Locke (2013) – Tom Hardy in a car for an hour and a half.

Yet all of these are fantastic films due, primarily, to the way in which their verbal description and the experience of that concept are fundamentally different things.

Perhaps one could add to that list the following performance:

The Ticklish Subject (2013) – Andy Ingamells is tickled for an hour and a half.


Sol LeWitt claims in his “Sentences On Conceptual Art” that “Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.” He is wrong.

People often talk about “conceptual” art work as if reading the description of a work is the same as experiencing it; as if someone’s detailed first-hand description of being attacked by a shark is the same as being attacked by a shark.

And a loosened concept of authorial ownership allows me to claim that the last shark attack was actually a work of art by myself. Or Andy Ingamells.


At its best, Andy’s work joyfully shows the beauty in the most banal ideas through a finessed execution. Take, for instance, his recent Composing music for 11 minutes dressed in 18th Century costume (2015) for ensemble and video, in which that act of composing becomes the sounding result, the process of writing resonating through the ensemble as they echo the construction of the notation in realtime.

Here, as in the best of his work, Ingamells directs us outwards towards several historical markers, the “18th Century costume” of the title worn by the composer and the musical material, and the contrast of candlelight with the harsh blue iridescence of the laptop, creating an historical anomaly.

Other times, the idea is so simple that only the most inept execution could kill it, such as his much seen Solo (2010), which combines pornography, masturbation and slide whistles to a sublime degree.


There is:

music which doesn’t take itself too seriously

“music” which doesn’t take itself too seriously

music which doesn’t take itself too “seriously”


“music” which doesn’t take itself too “seriously”.

Andy Ingamells does a bit of all four.

Much like the work of the squib-box group of artists, Andy’s work plays at the corners of visual art, music, and comedy – a trend perhaps most obvious in his Packaged Pleasure (2015), a 27-minute video combining many of his works into a hilarious meditation on vanity and narcissism.

Packaged Pleasure (EXCERPTS) from Andy Ingamells on Vimeo.

Included in this work are extracts of several previous works worthy of mention: His Bowmanship, Tape Piece and a realisation of @textscoreaday’s #180: “Run 10km to a concert hall & immediately go onstage. The piece finishes when your breathing has returned to normal.” He was one of the contributors to the @textscoreaday project and performed the première of this work which involved him running 10km to a concert in Huddersfield with 3 bike horns in his mouth.

As part of WEISSLICH 7, Andy will be performing Bowmanship, Shh, and Tape Piece.

Better Know A Weisslich: G Douglas Barrett

The ideas of a “cannon” and a “canon of works” have one thing in common: to use either seems pretty outdated. However, it would seem churlish to ignore the popularity of a particular work and its prevalence in concerts, even if we baulk from referring to it as a “classic” – a word which, whether referring to a musical work or a car, seems designed for middle-aged white men. One work which has become a frequent feature of concerts of experimental music is G Douglas Barrett’s A Few Silence (Location, Date, Time of Performance), a work which would classify as being over-played, if it wasn’t for the paucity of experimental music concerts and, more importantly, the way in which its construction is so contingent upon environment, performer, and instrument that each iteration reveals a new type of richness. A Few Silence engages with several recurrent aspects of Barrett’s work – transcription and the grid.

A Few Silence asks the performers to textually transcribe the environmental sounds over a five minute period and then to play their transcriptions using a pre-selected set of musical instruments or objects. The work forces the performers to articulate the nature of their listening, transcription and playing in a way which necessitates the insertion of multiple perceptual, imaginative and material grids between the original sound and its re-creation, resulting in an abstracted version of the original which foregrounds the traces of its cognitive and physiological journey. In the same way that a No-Input Mixer tells us how a particular mixer hears and “speaks” through the articulation of silence, Barrett’s piece uses the “silence” of environmental sound to show how a performer hears, how they describe that hearing, and how they interpret that description.

The idea of the grid comes back in his Derivation series of works, in which this abstraction is fed back into itself in a way that spirals each consecutive iteration further and further from its origination. Each work in the Derivation collection of works is a transcription of the previous one in the series, like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, each foregrounding its mode of listening and mode of transcription. a quantization of a quantization of a quantization…

Much like David Kant’s Happy Valley Band ( series of works, in which the disparity between human and machine listening is highlighted through performances of computerized transcriptions of popular song, here the aim seems to be to crowbar the act of transcription from any pretence of a faithful replication of “reality” and instead use the resulting void as a space for creativity.

Which brings us to the work being performed at Weisslich 6 and 7 A Few Marlenes (Where Have All The Flowers Gone), here, once again, the grid re-asserts its presence; Marlene Dietrich quantized and filtered through the physiology of three different performers. Film asks us to fill in and interpolate the movement between the 41.67 milliseconds that lie between each frame of a movie run at 24 frames per second. Here that grid is increased and orchestrated, and somewhere in that gap something else occurs.


Better Know A Weisslich: Solomiya Moroz

Recently I have started telling people that there is a short story by Jean-Paul Sartre about a virus which lives in the vocal chords of humans and is transmitted to others via the host speaking a specific language. This is not a Jean-Paul Sartre story, in fact, it is the plot to the video game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. All this is to say that you don’t need a dead French philosopher to present a good idea, and that, much like this piece of writing attempts to do, sometimes approaching big ideas from oblique angles can illuminate facets that would otherwise be unseen. In her bigger, collaborative music-theatre works, Solomiya Moroz frequently does this – tackling big concepts with surreality, absurdity and a studied childishness (like being told about linguistic parasites by a man named “Skull Face”). In Short Wave Apocalypse or the Box, a collaboration with Eva Aukes, Marko Ivic and Margherita Bergamo, concepts of digitization and militarization in the work of Paul Virilio are combined with the caped adventures of superheroes and phone sex. The result marries recurrent aspects of Solomiya’s work – gestural controllers, theatre and multimedia – in a parade of increasingly bizarre theatrical, choreographic and musical episodes that points to the material from a distance, through a mist of dada-ed abstraction.

Superheroes and the Apocalypse teaser from Solomiya Moroz on Vimeo.

As well as her work as a composer, Solomiya works as an improvisor, flautist and electronic musician, frequently performing her own work and that of others. Continue reading “Better Know A Weisslich: Solomiya Moroz”

Better Know A Weisslich: Leo Svirsky

Leo’s probably one of the smartest people I know. His work as a pianist betrays an omnivorous taste that borders on the encyclopaedic. As at home thundering through Stockhausen’s Kontakte as the most delicate Beuger or the most bombastic Beethoven. He is a relentless promoter of new pieces, both as a performer, and as the host of an intimate and uncompromisingly long and quiet concert series held in his front room, which attracts a calibre of performer that belies its humble setting.

His compositions lie within the wandelweiser tradition. Often a single page holds a set of carefully chosen pitches and a small set of instructions. Take for example, his exquisite Trauergondel (, in which tiny fragments of Liszt gently float against each other inside the ghostly and transparent exoskeleton of the original piece, or For John McAlpine ( for small ensemble.

Two of his largest works set texts by Paul Celan, Atemwende ( and the more recent Tenebrae (, which was premiered in Dusseldorf this summer; an “opera” in which harmonies unfold with a meticulous slowness.

As an improviser on accordion or piano he is active in the Dutch free improvisation scene and has released records with the violinist Katt Hernandez ( and his more jazzy group Trialectics (

His roles of pianist, composer and improviser reach a nexus with the album Songs In The Key Of Survival ( Sparkling and morphing piano improvisations sandwich a set of what I am ill-advisedly calling “singer-songelweiser” voice-and-piano compositions which resolutely refuse to play ball. Simple patterns and lost-connection cellphone silences leave songs on pause before another relentlessly pessimistic lyric reminds us that “the glass is half piss” or “critique itself becomes impossible”.

Here’s a fantastically restrained recording of some of the tracks from Songs In The Key Of Survival dovetailed with free impov:

-David Pocknee

Better Know A Weisslich: Robert Blatt

As part of our Better Know A Weisslich series, we are profiling American composer Robert Blatt, currently based in Miami, where he runs Inlets Ensemble (

Robert’s work was performed in WEISSLICH 4 back in October 2015, when this profile was originally written, and he’ll be appearing in person, performing, as part of WEISSLICH Vol. 9 in Manchester and London 13th and 14th January 2017 along with Ensemble Pamplemousse and Antonia Barnett-McIntosh & Emma Bennett.
I’ve known Robert since we studied together in The Hague between 2008-2011, and it’s always a pleasure to present his music, since it encompasses such a huge variety, yet manages to attain a consistently high quality across so many styles and media.

Some of my favourite pieces are the sprawling, multi-layered, metaphorically-rich, alchemical music-theatre works, he wrote in The Hague, such as Sacrament or: Meanwhile the earth has intercourse with the sun, and is impregnated for its yearly parturition (2011), and Nuit or: That which is below is as above, and that which is above is as below. (2010), both of which married an expansive vision to an aesthetic of financial pragmatism I’ve rarely seen matched; both performances, unfortunately, are barely documented – you really had to be there…

As well as these monumental compositions, his installation work is extensive, encompassing the destructive Guitar Swing (2013) (, in which a suspended guitar acts as a mechanically-controlled battering-ram to destroy a wall of sexually-explicit vinyl album covers, and the more conventional sound-art works such as Elements (2013) ( and Utility Poles (2014) (

Then there are the interdisciplinary performance pieces, often performed with Acid Police Noise Ensemble, such as Pars Pro Toto (2011) (, a collective composition which sprawled over several rooms, and the loud and violent Lucifer, The Scapegoat (as part of Stockhausen Serves Terrorism (2011) which led to the Dutch police shutting down the concert.

Technology as aesthetic mediator makes frequent appearances in his work, sometimes manifest through algorithmically-generated scores, of which the most extreme versions occur in the relentless computer-aided creativity of The Art Of Production (2013) (, as part of the New Fordist Organization exhibition and the epic, completist Forty-Three Thousand Five Hundred and Eleven (2015) for solo guitar ( In other places, technology occurs in the creation of new instruments, such as the Light Organ (from Glass Onion (2012)), a contraption of light-bulbs contact-mics and computer, coupling light and sound ( Elsewhere, technology appears as a mediator of listening, in works such as Three Blind Mice (2014) ( or Walking Listening (2014) (, both of which use specially-built electronics to change the performers’ relationship to the environment, themselves and their fellow performers through the use of white noise to map a space for blindfolded performers, or the algorithmic control of a listening walk via a small box with GPS, delivering walking and listening instructions via LCD screen.

Yet another part of his output deals with small works that use simple means to generate complex results, such as his Change series (2011-) of coin-flipping works, a brevity present in his contributions to the @textscoreaday twitter feed. Other smaller, intimate works defy easy documentation, such as the beautiful Empathy for two performers ( or site-specific works such as Orangerie Geometry (2014), written for the Darmstadt Orangerie.

And finally, there are those works that deal with brutal sheets of noise, such as the recent Igneous (, for four performers with stones, tiles and video written for the Rock, Paper Scissors series of three concerts he organized in Miami ( Oryza Sativa ( (2010) for two electric guitars, hammond organ and rice, and Discriminate Brutality (2011) (, for two prepared electric guitars.

For those reading this as potential Weisslich concert-goers, hoping that this post will illuminate Robert’s output in such a way to that would allow them to know what to expect when his work appears on the next Weisslich concert, it is probably clear by now that his output manifests such stylistic and instrumental diversity that any single piece I attach below will be a hopelessly one-sided encapsulation of his work. So, instead of picking a piece that is similar to the one you will witness, I’ll just pick one of my favourites: the strikingly simple, but effortlessly beautiful L’Ascension (2012) for solo piano, played by Leo Svirsky:

– David Pocknee