petak, 21. ožujka 2014.

Herbert Distel - La Stazione: An experimental opera in two acts (1990)

Remekdjelo ambijentalne konkretne muzike sačinjeno od zvukova milanskog željezničkog kolodvora.

Herbert Distel (born 7 August 1942 in Bern) is a Swiss painter, sculptor, photographer, filmmaker and composer currently residing in Katzelsdorf near Vienna Austria. He is primarily known for his sculpture, sound art and conceptual art. - wikipedia

Herbert Distel is the rarest of composers. Music for him is a secondary concern; sound is his element, his canvas, and his raison d'être. And for Distel, sound is not a laboratory; it is a field of language, ever opening into a distant present where all of history and its weight come to bear upon a future too empty to consider. Therefore, he is in the eternal present, allowing voices and fragments of voices from humans, animals, insects, atmospheres, and even universes to penetrate the barrier of his ear. As he welcomes their intrusion, he sculpts them to speak with one another, in languid, low tones and whispers, with enough repetition so that they can understand one another but with enough interruption and diffusion that they are entwined to the point of individual disappearance. La Stazione is what some would call "ambient music." But that would be an error of genrefication. This is not music to fill a space for the sake of comfort and "atmosphere"; this is sound as music, designed to enter space and be altered by it once the encounter is made. If that space is the listener's body, then that is the field where language is created by emotional, physical, and spiritual response to the original impetus. This work is truly an enigma of spirit and of construction, it seemingly has no beginning and never ends once it has entered its destination space, it forever echoes, changes shapes, textures, and even voices, but murmurs nonetheless, incessantly bringing its past into a present that is an open, blinding question. - Thom Jurek

Herbert Distel, born 1942 in Bern (CH), is a Swiss drawer, painter, sculptor, photographer, composer and film maker. He studied lithography in Paris’ National Art School, 1963-64. He started creating sculptures with geometrical forms in the mid 1960s. In 1968-1969, he started creating eggs. In 1970, he launched a 3m long polyester egg on the West Africa coast across the Atlantic, which reached the Trinidad coast 7 months later (‘Projekt Canaris’ [+] ). The same year he installed a 22 ton granite egg along the road from Basel to Chiasso (‘Monument Canaris’ ). From 1970 to 1977, he started working on his landmark ‘Museum of Drawers’ (Das Schubladenmuseum), a found cabinet with 20 drawers each containing 25 tiny rooms where he invited living artists to contribute a miniature work of art [+]. Artists included: Arnulf Rainer, Carolee Schneemann, Mergert Christian, Pablo Picasso, Robert Cottingham, Billy Al Bengston, Joseph Beuys, John Baldessari, Carl Andre, Chuck Close, Tom Blackwell, Tom Phillips, Joe Goode, Charles Arnoldi, Camille Billops, Nam June Paik, Frederick J. Brown, Robyn Denny, Valie Export, Mel Ramos, Edward Ruscha, Dieter Roth, John Cage, etc. At the same time George Maciunas was working on his ‘Flux Cabinet’ (1975-77). From 1985-1987, Distel studied in Warsaw with polish film makers Krzysztof Kieslowski and Edward Zebrowski. In 1993 Distel and Peter Guyer completed the video ‘Die Angst Die Macht Die Bilder des Zauberlehrlings’ [+], based on found footage.
His first sound work was the 1971 LP ‘We have a problem’, based on NASA recordings of Apollo 13 astronauts, mixed with a live rendition of Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue (pianist: Peter Aronsky). In 1973, he completed the sound work‘The Love Room’, later used in his first short film: ‘A Pornographic Movie’, 1974. He was included in Morgan Fisher’s 1980 ‘Miniatures’ compilation – the aural equivalent to the Museum of drawers, when you come to think of it – with a track called ‘Toscany In Blue (Last Minute)’. In 1984-1985, he worked on ‘Die Reise’ (The trip), a stunning train and rail road field recording montage. Location recordings were made in the Zürich-Bern Intercity, a trip he recorded 10 times to get the source material for ‘Die Reise’, which also included cicadas, birds and human voices.
La Stazione: From 1985 to 1989, Distel took a series of pictures in the ‘Staglieno’ Genoa cemetery in Italy [+], photographic close ups of marble sculptures and tombs. The series was exhibited in 1990 in Bern, CH, with accompanying poems from Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. The cover for ‘La Stazione’ (The station) is excerpted from this series. Source recordings for this sound work – a masterpiece of ambient concrete music – were made in Milan’s Central Station in 1987 with the help of his wife, Gil Distel (pictured above). According to the model of Mario Peragallo’s own opera La Collina (1947), itself based on the Spoon River Anthology, each part is dedicated to an italian personality:
  • Trecentocinquantatre…to Arturo Schwarz, milanese art dealer, a Duchamp specialist
  • Torino-Ritardo
    to Malwida Von Meysenburg, who introduced Lou Salome to Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Capocaponeralearti…
    to Federico Paternina, Rioja spanish wine maker
  • … Transeuropexpress
    to Teresita Fontana, widow of Lucio Fontana
  • Diretto – Binario sette
    to Valeria Manzoni, mother of Piero Manzoni
La Stazione can thus be considered an hommage to italian art and way of life, as Distel actually lived in Italy for some time. The 5 parts’ subtitles are based on the train station’s PA anouncements. The music is continuous, so that telling which part is which can prove difficult. Recordings of clattering trains slowly stopping on arrival, doors of cars shutting, PA anouncements, whistles, people running to get their train, . . . have been processed and layered – sometimes beyond recognition – to make the industrial, lively sounds mingle in a surreal soundscape. The technique is well-known (drastically slowed down speed, multi-layering, echo and reverb sound effects, pitch modification), but the result is totally unique. Ultimately, you’re left with a bunch of questions: how does the music relates to the cemetary and Spoon River Anthology? the psychological aspects of trains (especially in Europe)? is this merely the portrait of a train station? why is it called an opera, anyway? Not that you need any answer to enjoy such wonderful music.
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Die Reise 

Composer Herbert Distel has created a montage composition of movement, a line, albeit not a straight one, through time and space via the sounds of a train from its compartment as it moves through different terrains and settings. First there is the rush out of the station, movement along the rail out of the place of origin. Here acceleration, in order to provide distance between that place and the destination, is commenced upon with pure speed. The urban environs provide resonance in the blur and whir of engines and cars click-clacking over tracks and ricocheting off buildings. As we move with Distel and his electro-acoustic tape modulations and wind machines and synthesizers, the density of urbanity gradually gives way to the chirping of crickets, cicadas, and the sounds of birds, a human voice now and then. The train is a violent intruder upon the natural sounds that envelop silence. But just as quickly we emerge from these spaces in time and place into others, leaving only the reverberation and echo in our wake; silence and its adornments return. Finally the train gives way to the oppressive density of night and echoes are merely ambient patters as the track sounds disappear in to the Aether. It is true, Distel has given us an atmospheric music that takes sonic montage, creates a structure, and then leaves it in flux for us to do with it what we will. Like Arthur Honegger before him, the sounds of our century -- and in Europe the sound of a train is far more pervasive that it is here -- have become the backdrop of art, in this case composition. Die Reise is a wonderful work of sonic sculpture; it demands attention while leaving us distended somewhere between place of origin and psychic destination. - Thom Jurek

Soundtrack (52:30) 2004
Herbert Distel remixes Die Reise & La Stazione

Originally commissioned in 2004 by a japanese choreographer, this remix version of Herbert Distel‘s own‘Die Reise’ and ‘La Stazione’ was broadcasted on ORF, WDR and Deutschlandradio in 2007-8, but remains unreleased on disc format at time of writing. The music is kindly offered by Herbert to the readers of this blog – for more info on Herbert Distel see my Wikipedia article. Composed for dancers and video, this ‘Soundtrack’ (pun intended I assume) is a subtle and nuanced mix enhancing details from the originals and adding dramaturgy in the process. The result is a kind of psychological landscape and less of a train trip or portrait of a train station, since the train sounds are used as a rhythm element here and no more as a psychological, hypnotysing sound. Actually the train sounds only appear 15 minutes into the mix, evidence of a new direction given to the whole project. The work is divided in 2 parts, the first one (till 39:00) being a remixing of ‘Die Reise’ whilst the 2nd part (starting 39:00) is sourced from ‘La Stazione’.
The 15mns opening sequence is a kind of surreal vocals+insect chorale. A female singer returns at 23:00-24:00, a heavenly voice amid the concrète music sounds. Generally speaking, this mix stays true to the original ‘La Stazione’ project, that is to say an opera (ie a composition for voices), enhancing and stressing the role of vocals in these 2 sound pieces. Another prominent element are the numerous electronic sounds brought into focus compared to the originals. Distel deliberately re-install his sound work in the electronic and musique concrète canon. And maybe the cheerfull motorcycle engine at 47:30 signals another, noisier trip altogether. Obviously ‘Soundtrack’ is a fine addition to the 2 previous works on train sounds and the ensemble makes for a perfect trilogy.
On a side note: Possibly inspired by the legendary Distel soundworks, in 2004 Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia commissioned Jan Schacher and Marcus Maeder to create a sound intallation in a train compartment joining different swiss cities where art events took place. A temporary travel agency was launched called ‘Transient Travels’ [+], booking tickets for the ‘Sound Train’ and in 2005 Maeder released the soundtrack for it on his own Domizil label [+]. The works of COH, AGF and Ilios are relevant to the train travelling theme, while others are mere electronic journeys. But you would think there is definitely something special between the swiss people and their trains.
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Herbert Distel.
Museum of Drawers. 1970-77.

Chest of drawers containing miniature works by various artists, 

Herbert Distel adopted the role of the museum curator when he invited artists from around the world to contribute miniature works for display in the tiny "galleries" of his Museum of Drawers. The drawers in this found cabinet are filled with five hundred works by a wide range of artists, some well known, like Picasso, others obscure, creating a comprehensive survey of artistic currents in the 1960s and 1970s. According to Distel, "Museums, especially museums of fine art, are places where we become conscious of time. Like a preserving jar, they have the task of conserving and presenting a subject curdled with time--the artwork. But through and behind these works the artists appear, falling out of the screen of time, as it were, and become immortal." -

The restoration of the Museum of Drawers by Herbert Distel from Jeremie Maret on Vimeo.

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