In preparation for this years All Senses Festival, September 25th-30th, the Figge Art Museum, Ragged Records, and Curious Music team up to present “The Roedelius Cells” installation in the Figge’s Grand Lobby. The Roedelius Cells is an immersive audio experience, created by Grammy-nominated composer Tim Story, and featuring original piano recordings by Hans-Joachim Roedelius. The program is an unconventional cycle of pre-recorded pieces, constructed by Story from thousands of short extracts of Roedelius’ piano recordings, and reproduced via 8 discrete audio channels which will surround the Grand Lobby’s interior space. Since each of the equidistant speakers reproduces a unique layer of each piece, the combinations that visitors experience as they explore the sound stage coalesce and evolve in unexpected, unrepeatable ways – essentially extending the act of composition to each individual participant.
“Extraordinary…a highly-successful celebration of the work of two internationally-recognized artists… Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the installation was the high number of visitors who stayed throughout the entire duration of the hour-long audio cycle, often remaining well into the next before pulling themselves away from this immersive and deeply satisfying visitor experience.”
– Scott Boberg, Manager of Programs at Toledo Museum of Art
In the course of recording several music projects over the past decade, long-time collaborators Tim Story and Hans-Joachim Roedelius captured many hours of Roedelius’ intuitive solo piano improvisations. Rediscovering these extended recordings years later, Story began treating them more as building blocks than finished compositions. Recombining very small edits of this material into layered, evolving patterns, Story painstakingly built compositions solely from the source piano recordings, but which bore little resemblance to Roedelius’ originals. These short, repeating, interlocked layers – consisting of thousands of fragments , each often just a few seconds in duration – create a syncopated, shimmering interplay more reminiscent of Steve Reich’s structured minimalism than Roedelius’ expansive lyricism. Bits of extraneous noise and conversation from the casual sessions occasionally get swept up into the evolving loops, creating a kind of eerie human percussion. To extend the act of ‘re-composition’ to the listeners themselves, Story incorporates a playback system that spreads the individual layers discretely amongst 8 speakers, so that travelling through the physical space changes the fundamental perception of the cells’ interactions in unique, evolving and unrepeatable ways.
“I’ve always been fascinated how we humans continually create order out of randomness, how our brains construct ‘compositions’ out of the haphazard sounds and visuals of everyday life. Creating audio art from ‘found sounds’ is nothing new, composers of musique concrète and audio collage have been doing it since the advent of audio recording. But what if these found sounds were not recordings of events in nature or industry, but rather bits and pieces culled from someone else’s musical performance? This ‘music made from music’ is often radically removed from the original piano pieces played by Joachim – but though his performances have been mercilessly chopped, interrupted and rearranged, the innate lyricism and delicacy of his playing magically survive.
“Systems music of this kind depends so much on the audio content that is subjected to the process. In Cells, the exclusive use of piano – one of the most universally recognizable of Western instruments – encourages the listener to both focus on the conceptual process itself, and engage with the work in a more viscerally musical way. Most importantly, this familiarity allows Cells to quietly subvert expectations of what ‘piano music’ can be. Like the pixels in a video image (or the dabs of color in impressionist painting) that dissolve into abstraction the closer one approaches, so do the cells surrender their cohesion and re-coalesce into new patterns as listeners explore the soundstage.
“The word cells was chosen deliberately – it refers both to the audio building blocks layered into each composition, and to the word’s organic biological meaning– the intensely personal expression that seems to flow so effortlessly from my friend Joachim’s musical DNA. So, whose music is this, anyway? There’s no easy answer, but by encouraging the listener to become collaborator, and fundamentally reinterpret my reinterpretations by the way in which he or she moves through these cells, I hope to bring the act of ‘composing’ full-circle.”
Grammy-nominated American composer Tim Story has been called “a master of electronic chamber music” (CD Review, USA), and a “true artist in the electronic medium” (Victory review, USA). Through three decades of influential recordings and live performances, Story’s unique blend of careful composition and innovative sound design has garnered a dedicated worldwide following.
Austria-based German composer Hans-Joachim Roedelius has profoundly influenced generations of musicians in a career spanning more than a half-century and over 100 solo and collaborative recordings. From his groundbreaking duo Cluster with Dieter Moebius, to his genre-crossing solo works and collaborations with luminaries including Brian Eno, Roedelius is recognized as one of Europe’s most important sound pioneers. Equally at ease with the most abstract of electronics and the most evanescent of piano solos, Roedelius has exerted an indelible, global impact on ambient, electronic, experimental, and wholly undefinable genres of music. Longtime friends and colleagues, Roedelius and Story have collaborated on many musical projects, including the acclaimed albums Lunz (2003), Inlandish(2007), and Lazy Arc (2014).