Better Know A Weisslich – 6 Benefits of Pamplemousses

As part of WEISSLICH Vol. 9 on 13th and 14th January 2017, the New York-based supergroup of experimental performer-composers, Ensemble Pamplemousse, will be presenting a new hour-long set of music in Manchester and London, composed and performed by their members, marking the first time they have ever played in the UK.

Formed in 2003, the pamplemousses are David Broome (keys), Natacha Diels (flutes), Andrew Greenwald (drums), Bryan Jacobs (electronics), Jessie Marino (cello), and newest member Weston Olencki (trombone). In the ensemble’s characteristically hyperbolic language, they self-define their fruit-rooted namesake (pamplemousse is the French word for grapefruit) accordingly:

(pãpl?’musjee z) (singular: pamplemousse) 1. n. an oblate spheroid 2. v. the act of dissecting and conceiving acoustic blueprints 3. adj. juicy and sweet and tender and tart 4. v. aggregating sonic possibilities into shapes of resonance, clusters of glitch, skitters of hyperaction, and masses of absurdity 5. q. Whodipousse?

Much like the grapefruit, there are several benefits, as well as side effects, of experiencing Ensemble Pamplemousse live.

1) Energy Boosting / David
Listening to David’s previously composed work is like getting a shot of Vitamin C (and a little something extra) straight into the bloodstream. It’s instantaneously exhilarating, and won’t let go. For someone who has a hyperactive mind, this music is moving along at just the right pace! For the concerts in January, David has facilitated the creation of a piece titled 🗿🎀🐛🗯 (which, for the emoji illiterate, David translates to: “Moai Bow-Tie Caterpillar Shout”). David writes that this piece is “a collaboratively written piece by Ensemble Pamplemousse. David started the process by cutting and pasting material for flute, piano and electronics from previously composed pieces by Bryan and Natacha. The piece was then sent to Andrew, who composed a cello part and then sent all the material to Weston, who wrote himself a trombone part to fit into the mix.”

Previously Experienced Side Effects:

2) Dream Enhancing / Natacha
Natacha has been writing a series of neurotic and fairytale-like “nightmares,” many of which Ensemble Pamplemousse has been experiencing since 2012, that, in her own words, “explode the minute gestures executed by performers through choreography, repetition, and counterpoint.” For January’s concerts, Natacha will be presenting her fourth nightmare in which the identity of their drummer Andrew is fractured and splintered into multiple personalities that seep into an infected set of auxiliary performers (Jessie and David) who are subjected into being “bizarre click tracks” and who are all ultimately accompanied by disco lights. Talk about vivid!

Previously Experienced Side Effects:

3) Pulpy Fulfillment / Andrew
For the last five years Andrew has been reworking a series of compositions under the title A Thing is a Hole in a Thing it is Not that are derived from meticulously notated transcriptions of complex improvisations. Each reworking is a manifestly different execution of the same idea. More fundamentally though, as a sonic experience, these pieces are extra pulpy. At every turn, there’s the possibility getting an earful of semi-thawed icey, condensed, and gritty goodness that slushes its way to and through the cochlea as a cluster of vibrations. Set in counterpoise with flickering sustained tones that allow time to process the condensed juices, the slush of compressed information melts into a fulfilling musical liquid. And, gulp!, a hole is created, into which another icey pact of pulp comes to fill. Our audience will experience the fourth reworking of this series in January.

Previously Experienced Side Effects:

4) Unparalleled Precision / Bryan
Many of Bryan’s pieces of music exhibit a laser-cut rhythmic precision, with crisp breaks and interlocking between members of the ensemble that often unfold at a dizzyingly manic pace. This is music that the computers responsible for high-frequency algorithmic micro-trading on the stock market listen to. Yes, experience Ensemble Pamplemousse and you too can make multiple, highly volatile trading decisions and transactions in the blink of an eye, or is it ear … who’s keeping track (no one, that’s who)! Bryan’s January surprise includes a new version of Organic Synthesis Vol. 1 for two groups of mechanically-controlled slide whistles that face-off with cello, percussion, and trombone.

Previously Experienced Side Effects:

5) Organised Absurdity / Jessie
Jessie’s work in general sets the absurdity of everyday activities into tightly controlled and organised musical structures, with examples ranging from an early morning radio broadcast of nonchalant DJ’s eventually encompassed in an all engulfing brightness of noise, the mechanical processing of foodstuffs, all the way to a rhythmically anticipated yet totally unexpected appearance of Boyz II Men’s I’ll Make Love to You. This is work that casts a musical sensibility across those Kafka-esq mundanities of life such as: getting the right tone for that email to a colleague who doesn’t quite understand your fabulous sense of humor, those endless handshakes in that unfortunately not hypothetical business job you never wanted, or those hundreds of wrench turns during an emergency plumbing visit. We haven’t the slightest idea what Jessie will be doing in January, and we like it that way!

Previously Experienced Side Effects:

6) A Sense of Familial Belonging
Before writing this listicle, I wrote Jessie to ask some questions about the ensemble and how everybody gets along with each other. I wanted to know how they work with each other, what the day to day grind is like. During our correspondence, Jessie communicated to me that, fundamentally, Ensemble Pamplemousse is built on friendship. With her permission, I am sharing what she wrote about their ensemble because I think that it exemplifies the conditions necessary for such individual and idiosyncratic musical art to be created, and is part of what makes me so happy to be able to share their work with audiences in Manchester and London through the WEISSLICH platform:

“We are an ensemble that has always worked together first as friends. We never adopted the ensemble model that substitutes other players in when someone can’t make the gig. If one person can’t make the gig, we don’t do the gig (or we play pieces written for a specific subset of the group).

“Friendship is, for all of us, crucial and undeniable – we book shows, go on tours, eat breakfast and keep trying to find ways of being together within a creative and lively atmosphere. We are a support system, a family, a band, and a critical audience. It’s the only way we want to make music, it’s the only way we know how.”

Pamplemousse have made some incredible trailers throughout their 13 year run of music making, and their newest one in particular is something truly spectacular to behold. However, I think that the following trailer for a 2015 concert at Jack Theater in New York is a perfect illustration of the friendship that ties together these diverse personalities and gives prospective audience members a taste for how this ensemble operates:

Come reap the benefits of a fresh slice of Ensemble Pamplemousse.

– Michael Baldwin

Ensemble Pamplemousse will be playing WEISSLICH Vol. 9 along with Antonia Barnett-McIntosh & Emma Bennett, and Robert Blatt on 13 January 2017 at The Wonder Inn, 29 Shudehill, Manchester and 14 January 2017 at STYX, 5 Ashley Road, Tottenham, London. Both events open doors at 7:30pm and performances start at 8:00pm.

Advance tickets are now on sale:
13.01.2017 – MANCHESTER
14.01.2017 – LONDON

Better Know A Weisslich: Antonia Barnett-McIntosh & Ilze Ikse

“This first thing that we do when we come out of [the] womb is we take a breath. And the last thing that we do when we die is the breath runs out of our body.

“And then there’s this gap. There’s this kind of fascinating pause that comes at the end of an inhale, and it’s this space where everything drops away. When you’re giving it attention it’s very subtle, but it’s a moment of actual liberation. It’s not when you are gripped in the inhale at the end of it, but it’s more that gap that opens up just before the breath that is given.”

– Joan Halifax

Life—that space between the inhalation of birth and exhalation of death—is such a gap, an expanded gap filled with many such infinitesimally shorter gaps, what Evan Thompson describes as “hinge[s] … where the mind and body swing back and forth.”

* * *

Composer Antonia Barnett-McIntosh and flautist Ilze Ikse have come together to form life out of breath in the collaboratively developed piece Breath for alto flute. Breath was commissioned by Hubbub, inaugural residents of The Hub at Wellcome Collection, an interdisciplinary research project aimed at transforming how we as humans understand rest. In a musical context, a breath can be understood as musical rest, a moment of repose. Inversely, breathlessness can both take form from and as exhaustion. Breath is (nearly) all breath; Ilze is required to, as Antonia states, “utilise each in- and out-breath in the creation of sound,” thereby rendering her and her performance breathless, without musical rest, always intensely alive.

* * *

It starts with a breath in.

Ilze breathes in.

I breathe in.

When I listen to Breath I breathe. I breathe with Ilze, not simply alongside, but at the same time, for the same duration, and in the same direction. I switch between breathing through my nose here, my mouth there, exploring what it means to remain relaxed, sometimes switching between different ventilation circuitry responsible for the circulation of shared air, sometimes, somewhere, unsure whether or not I am breathing through mouth or nose. The physicality of both bodies becomes emphatically sonified; I merge into the form of Breath, which is essentially a life form, a living form: Ilze’s breath and body. I am stretched; breaths in Breath are not natural, they are extended and exhausting, sometimes uneven and strained. Other times, unrestrained, they swell, they compel and propel me forward, excite my spectral inhales and exhales. Nevertheless, breathing abides by a rhythmic logic, in is followed by out is followed by in is followed by out, and so forth; breaths reassuringly comfort even while their limits are pushed. They are a guide through, and glue to, the extraordinarily diverse range of sounds coaxed out of the instrumental prosthesis, an instrumentalised lung. Sounds that modulate and colour my sensation of breathing, an upper harmonic that gently brushes up against a slight whistle passing through my nasal cavity, a deeply hollowed breeze that tugs my lips an inch wider ajar. Sounds that flicker on the threshold of stability, that imbue my voice with a silent, resonating Barthian ‘grain’ — “tas sadalās, krakšķ, glāsta, skrāpē, griež: tā ir ekstāze.”

My mouth and nose become breathing ears. They act as hinges where mind and body swing back and forth. They turn listening into mutually exhaustive rest. They feel and hear carnal being as musical being.

This is how I listen to Breath.

* * *

Film of Ilze Ikse performing Breath

* * *

Come listen to Ilze Ikse perform Breath live on the 23rd of July at the Hundred Years Gallery, 8pm, as part of the 8th volume of WEISSLICH.

–Michael Baldwin

Better Know A Weisslich: Louis d’Heudieres’ Laughter Studies 2

A transcription, a representation, and a poetic response of/to Louis d’Heudieres’ Laughter Studies 2:

* * *

…uh, someone splashing into a pool
uh, someone making bubble sounds
uh, uhmmuhm, applause, crowd clapping
aaa baby, uhm some church bells really kind of slow and long
aaan then there’s this kind of synth sound
someone blowing bubbles into water, kind of, an, uh, electronic buzz
really high pitched bubbles
someone crumpling a piece of paper, uhm rain
uh, a kind of filtered rain
falling on the roof
tennis, someone coughing, uh…
slightly lower pitched
um, someone doing a pump
um, water dribbling?
someone panting, kind of breathing really heavily
oh! it’s a hair dryer or like a vacuum-cleaner, or like a, a machine or something
it’s quite loud
it’s getting louder
oh, filter sweep
oh!! tennis again!
church bells uh, out in the street
uhhh, and then, uh there’s a kind of, uh, low drone, uhm it’s somebody talking I think
uhm, uh, another pump going
uh, some mout(h)—
white noise
white noise getting louder
white noise getting louder
few suds in the background
uh, drums.

* * *

* * *

uh, hmm, I can’t swim
and the glare of bubbles eluded me as a child
pop pop pop, one exaggerated step away from Community and applause, take a bow
too familiar to be generalised, yes, church was slow and long
I’m told that old men become obsessed with their synths
they start making impossible spheres underwater, frying their boards, catching the waves
pip pip pip
metaphorically trashing their receipts, calming, fixating
and then fascinating, or wait, is that the right order?
um, asthmatics dread a courting with April showers, speaking ahem, croup, personally
or maybe candidly, whatever that might mean Robert Ashley
£5.97 friction fictions found online
splip splop or glarble gibpt dropp?
gnashgnawgrumble and grump, whew!
OH! wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, err, veeeeeeeeeeeee, or maybe cheeeeeee?
come again?
does that mean come closer?
p! POW
what a, a scent
the world turns, or moves, vibrates, can you feel the vibrations man?
err, peddle faster, repetition — effort can never be misplaced
wait! I was abou—
plip plip plip
wonder how my brother is keeping?

* * *

As part of WEISSLICH 7, Michael Baldwin and Andy Ingamells perform Louis d’Heudieres’ Laughter Studies 2.

Better Know A Weisslich: Cathy van Eck’s Music Stands

Music stands evoke, well, music. To evoke music is to evoke a wide and connotative range of social, cultural, political, and aesthetic associations. Music stands complicate, they: conceal, render actions opaque and subservient, trigger imagination (and make the mind’s eye anxious to glimpse beyond the veil), assert status, are practical, signify practice and rehearsal (and if your experience with practicing was anything like mine, music stands can also signify immense frustration!), suggest reenactment and repeatability even when challenged, focus the gaze of those who chose to stare at them, imply reading or review, separate, distance, and otherise, can (but do not necessarily) turn performers into musicians (or performers into actors playing musician), indicate something like duration (especially when placed in a row of ten!), induce ways of listening and codes of conduct, populate a scenography… the list could go on.

[an exaggerated representation of Andy Ingamells’ Long Piece. Photo credit: 840 concert series]

From conception, the WEISSLICH series has worked to extend and blend experimental music practices into and alongside performance art practices. And while, on the one hand, music stands are a familiar object within experimental music contexts, on the other hand, in more purely performance-focused work, music stands are less common. Music stands have the ability to instate barriers between performer and audience, creating a division that runs contrary to what I regard as a commonly held (if not misguided and/or illusory) tenant of performance art, namely, its experiential immediacy. As curators, this tension leaves the music stand in an uncomfortable position; it is something that we often discuss when thinking about the work we programme, and thus far we have maintained an equally ambivalent (at best), and, quite candidly, uneasy relationship with music stands.

Regulars at our events will note that we have used music stands in the past, and because of the blurry space that our concerts occupy, we do not take a dogmatic position with regards to inclusion or dismissal of this object. Continue reading “Better Know A Weisslich: Cathy van Eck’s Music Stands”

Better Know A Weisslich: Carolyn Chen’s Adagio

…perhaps I am looking at living maps that outline a way of emotionally and
facially navigating any listening experience…

On the face of it, Carolyn Chen’s Adagio is a deceptively simple piece. A performance of the piece presents three or four performers wearing headphones and making slow-motion facial expressions over the course of seven minutes. Seemingly absurd, Chen’s piece is perplexing and has challenged me to think anew the dynamic relationships between facial expressions, slow-motion movement, copying, and private/public activities of listening.

To be more specific about what is going on during a performance of Adagio:

  • A group of performers listen
  • They listen while wearing headphones
  • They listen to sounds being sent through headphones
  • For each performance those sounds take the reliable and reproducible form of an excerpted recording of Sergiu Celibidache’s remarkably slow expansion of Anton Bruckner’s adagio from his 7th Symphony
  • While listening, the performers slowly move their faces (each an assemblage and territory of emotional expressions) in tandem with the recording
  • Their facial movements translate, project, and give body to a simultaneously private and communal experience, amongst the performers anyways, of listing to Celibidache’s recording wherein “phrase [is stretched] into environment”
  • Their facial expressions wander through a Romantic environment

Because the headphones conceal the sound of the recording and Carolyn’s facial guide is memorized/embodied, during the performance an audience is confronted with an ‘incomplete’ picture of the work. The diagram above [click to expand] is designed to illustrate not only the intricacies of the work that underlie the construction and performance of Adagio, but also serves to represent terminology I have adopted in constructing a response to what I think is a fascinating question that this piece poses: What might it mean to an audience to be presented with powerfully evocative expressive and emotive facial expressions that are unexplained, where headphones privatize listening experiences and paradoxically tether facial expressions to the implication of sound (an idea of listening) and the external reality of silence?

In my search for an answer to this question, I started thinking through an idea I had that a presentation of this piece is an invitation to participate in voyeuristic listening, a following of someone’s private and intimately emotional and facial relationship with some assumed sonic referent. Relatedly, I contemplated the idea that the piece excavates bodily listening practices and reflects them back onto the audience. However, my readings of Chen’s piece subordinated the foregrounded facial expressions to an assumed and precise sonic referent, ignoring the fact that an ontologically discernible aural reality has been deliberately obfuscated by the use of headphones. Instead of assuming that the headphones signify some specific sonic referent, I became interested in the idea the headphones could more generally signify a type of personal listening experience detached from any particular sounds. To me, this shift in emphasis from facial expressions being beholden to some particular listening experience restores primacy to the facial expressions and imbues their movements with a sense of agency.

It seems appropriate to focus on the facial aspect of Adagio given the fact that a performance of the piece is essentially a retracing of Chen’s facial wandering through her listening of Bruckner’s music. In conversation with Chen, she describes her attraction to Celibidache’s interpretation of Bruckner for the way that phrases are stretched into environments. In making Adagio I imagine Chen facially wandering through the Romantic landscape of Bruckner, retrospectively making notes from her journeys, and mapping those journeys onto Bruckner’s score to form a guided dérive for other people. By withholding the exact musical terrain trekked during a performance of Adagio and presenting only the performers’ facial movements, I have the sense that the piece presents an audience with of a living map for grafting, through emotional and facial steps, leaps, pauses, distractions and fascinations, the terrain of Celibidache’s environment onto the general experience of listening. The performers of Adagio become scores for future listening experiences. This is a model of listening where faces hear and modulate their environment.

To illustrate the full ramifications of this idea, I offer an anecdote recounted by Guy Debord about “a friend [who] had just wandered through the Harz region of Germany while blindly following the directions of a map of London.” To be clear, what I am suggesting is that a performance of Adagio could be détourned, read, and utilized as a psychogeographic map for listening to any other musical or sonic landscape in resonance with another human’s facial wandering through one of Bruckner’s sonic cathedrals. For me at least, this reading makes sense of the seemingly absurd situation of a ‘loud silence’ in Adagio. It expands what the piece means to me; it expands my appreciation of the facial facets of performance in general; and, perhaps most importantly, makes me excited to present this work for an audience of other thinkers, movers, and feelers who will undoubtedly respond to the piece in their own unique way.

Come and pour over Chen’s map at performances on 23rd April in London and 30th April in Manchester and let me know what you think afterwards. In the meantime, you can watch Chen alongside Clint McCallum and Ian Power as they perform Adagio in the video embedded above. And if you’re interested in giving my proposition of the piece a test, you may find it interesting to mute the video (to remove background hiss) and listen to some other music or sounds of your choosing while copying one (or all) of the performers’ facial expressions…

Or perhaps you’d like to try my proposition with this equally intriguing video made by Ensemble DieOrdnungDerDinge in preparation for performances of Chen’s Adagio in which they wander through an excerpt of Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra:

-Michael Baldwin

Better Know A Weisslich: Samuel Stoll

Continuing the Better Know A Weisslich series inaugurated prior to Weisslich 4, we return to introduce Weisslich 5’s two featured artists: Samuel Stoll and Alice Purton.

First up is Samuel, a hornist and performer currently based in Berlin who will be performing Georgy Dorokhov’s counter-exposition-I, Stephen Crowe’s Tenvelopes, and a piece that him and I collaboratively developed titled Buzzed.

At every turn, Samuel is a surprising, versatile, and fascinating musician. Be it his eclectic repertoire, his unencumbered performance installations, or the extensive list of collaborators he has worked with, one gets the sense that Samuel is constantly renewing himself through his artistic practice. Searching the internet for ‘Samuel Stoll hornist’ can lead you down a rabbit hole of performances including, but not limited to: a man getting wet with his horns as he wades through a fountain, an archive of a man opening mysterious envelopes as prompted by a disembodied voice, a dazzling feat of gymnastics located between embrouchure and French horn mouthpiece, and this (which I still don’t really have words for).

Following something of a similar journey across Samuel’s wide-ranging output is precisely how I initially became aware of Samuel. One day, I had noticed that a new recording of Ray Evanoff’s Negotiating the Absolute Location of Buoyancy (that dazzling feat of gymnastics mentioned above) had surfaced. Captivated by the dexterity exhibited in Samuel’s performance of the piece, it wasn’t long before I was deep into a clickhole. On the other side, I was certain that I wanted to know more about this musician. The excitement that leapt across in his performances, the audacity and eschewal of modesty, a daring embrace of vulnerability in performance, all tempered by a palpable virtuosity combined to form an extremely attractive and rejuvenating personality.

So, I sent him an email, and off on another musical journey I went.

In a way that mirrors how I came to know Samuel – through the documentation of his performances – and also facilitates long-distance collaboration, we established a practice of exchanging media. This involves sending back and forth packages variably containing video and audio recordings of us musicking, text scores, suggestions for ways of listening to and looking at what we send to each other, and so on. These artefacts of performance/exchange in turn inform how we understand each other’s musical sensibilities, and in part constitute compositional material for finalised pieces emerging out of our collaboration.

Although I have since meet Samuel in person multiple times now, my feeling is that our relationship is somehow irrevocably conditioned by a type of digital logic. More fundamental though – our relationship is primarily performative. And so, as a way of giving potential audiences a taste for how Samuel and I work together and understand each other, as well as offering something like an insight into the piece that we have collaboratively developed, I present the following montage/teaser made up of some of the media that Samuel and I have exchanged with each other.

-Michael Baldwin

Better Know A Weisslich: Beavan Flanagan

Bangers for your belly, romantic apples, and this futuristic pedagogic resource:

‘What is This Thing Called Trumpet?’ (2014)

Welcome to the musical mind of Beavan Flanagan – another composer featured as part of our Better Know A Weisslich series in the lead up to our 31 October concert at Hundred Years Gallery.

Beavan is a Canadian composer currently based in Manchester where he is pursuing a PhD at The University of Huddersfield. Beavan writes music for instrumentalist and electronic mediums, and starting from 2013 began making experimental sound art. I became especially interested in his music with the first of his experimental sound art pieces, No Chance Music, a web-based piece that feels an awful lot like playing the sound art lottery – just as hopeless as the national lottery and with a reward equally fleeting as it is rare. Continue reading “Better Know A Weisslich: Beavan Flanagan”

Better Know A Weisslich: Eleanor Cully

Continuing the ramp up into our next Weisslich concert, we present the work of British artist Eleanor Cully. Eleanor has been active as both a composer and performer of contemporary music, and as a visual artist. She currently resides in Huddersfield where she is completing a masters degree in music composition at The University of Huddersfield as part of the Centre for Research and New Music (CeReNeM).

viola drawings (2015) by Eleanor Cully

Continue reading “Better Know A Weisslich: Eleanor Cully”