ponedjeljak, 10. studenoga 2014.

Roland Kayn - A little Electronic Milky Way of Sound

Klasika "kibernetičke", fraktalne elektroničke muzike (kad na tebe više utječu informacijske znanosti nego drugi skladatelji).


The broadcast of "Milky Way" can be listened to again via the following links: PART 1 PART 2

The Roland Kayn channel on Youtube

Radio broadcasts of WFMU (I)
May 22, 2010 - De Concertzender - A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sounds part 1 to 11
May 29, 2010 - De Concertzender - A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sounds part 12 to 19 Radio broadcasts of WFMU (II)  

Roland Kayn was born in Germany in 1933 and started composing at an early age. He was just 20 years old when he won first prize at the festival of 20th century music in Karuizawa, Japan. Performances of his composition Aggregate (1959) resulted in him becoming persona non grata on the concert stage. Shortly after working in electronic studios in Poland, Germany and Italy, he joined the Gruppo Nuova Consonanza and this crucial detour into improvisation with Franco Evangelisti, Aldo Clementi and Ennio Morricone helped him find his definitive musical direction. Kayn decided to pursue his musical quest through composition with the intention, strange as it may seem, of excluding the composer as much as possible. He concentrated solely on electronic and electro-acoustic music from 1970 onwards.
From an early age, Kayn was influenced by information theorists rather than other composers, and it was as a result of this that he started using the term "cybernetic" when describing his music. Basically, Kayn would design networks of electronic equipment and then develop a system of signals and commands that it could obey and execute. Words like "melody", "harmony" and "rhythm" do not apply to Kayn's music. Music, supposedly, should have every detail defined by the composer. Kayn insisted that his "cybernetic" music should regulate itself, thereby relinquishing the narrative elements and the psycho-emotional details usually associated with the ideas of "authorship" and "work of art". This meant that even he could not predict the eventual composition, which were sound processes without an epicentre, where every sound is equally important. For Kayn, "Music is sound, which is sufficient in itself". Roland Kayn feels that present day composers should avail themselves of the electronic techniques at their disposal and that electronic music is more than just the result of rapidly expanding technology. - Frans van Rossum

Roland Kayn (1933-2011) was a part of the early electronic improv groups, Nuova Consonanza, with Ennio Morricone, Franco Evangelisti and Aldo Clementi, but his mark came with huge electronic epics that he started composing in the mid-1960s. One part of his Cybernetics project was released on the legendary DGG Avant-Garde series of LPs, and in 1970 Kayn released a 3-LP set of a 148-minute work, Simultan. By the late 1970s most of his work was electroacoustic, all of it big: Makro (released on 3 LPs) in 1977, Infra (released on 4 LPs) in 1979-80, Tektra (released on 6 LPs and later reissued on 4 CDs) in 1980. He created his own label, where he has released 15 albums of his music, 13 of them electroacoustic, all but one as 2-CD sets, none of them reissues of the LPs. He adapted marvelously to the digital age [see update below], increasing his output dramatically, with 220 of his 287 works composed in his last decade, all of them electronic. In 2009 alone, he composed 30 electronic works for a total of over 36 hours of music.
Even as I am staggered by the quantity, everything that I've heard by him transports me to a different place, and I always look forward to his works when they appear in the iPod rotation. I suspect that his work in cybernetics led him to some kind of generative system, but most of the documents on his web site are in languages I don't read (Dutch, German, Italian, etc.). Hopefully more detailed information will become available in English about his music.
[Update, May 7, 2011] To clarify, based on an email from Ilse Kayn, the digital age may have coincided with Roland Kayn's last decade, but his music was always analog. The productivity burst was due in large part to his retirement, which gave him time, space and peace to compose. - classicaldrone.blogspot.com/  



by Massimo Ricci

Born in Reutlingen (Germany) in 1933, Roland Kayn is probably the less acknowledged contemporary composer in relation to his genius and tremendous inventiveness. From 1952 to 1955 he studied organ and composition at Stuttgart's Staatliche Hochschule fur Musik, plus scientific theory at Technische Hochschule, with Max Bense; from 1956 to 1958 he undertook further composition and analysis studies in Berlin with Boris Blacher and Josef Rufer. Roland worked as a free lance in various radio stations from 1959 to 1963, then was nominated director of New Music department at Hamburg's Norddeutscher Rundfunk. He's been living in the Netherlands since 1970 being an active part of the cultural department of Amsterdam's Goethe Institute, developing artistic initiatives and important concerts of contemporary music.
In 1958 Kayn won the "best foreign work" prize at the Kairazuwa (Tokyo) festival, in 1960 the "Villa Massimo" in Rome and in 1965 the "Biennale des Jeunes Artistes" in Paris. His orchestral compositions Vectors I and Schwingungen won additional prizes in Italy, in 1962 and 1964 respectively. The first meeting between Kayn and electroacoustic sound synthesis happened in 1953 at Koln's Westdeutscher Rundfunk Studio, though his works of this period are nearer to serialism, if only in a general similarity of sound - but not at all as an influence. Since 1959, Roland operated in electronic studios in Warszawa, Munich, Milan, Bruxelles and Utrecht. In collaboration with Aldo Clementi and Franco Evangelisti, in 1964 he started "Gruppo Internazionale Nuova Consonanza", one of the first European ensembles mixing improvisation and live electronics.
Talking about new forms of communication, in 1967 Kayn conceived a simultaneous concert of works by 13 composers that included electronic, concrete, electro-instrumental, computer and cybernetic music; this event took its definitive form in Hamburg in 1970. He also gave life to a project (Bonn, 1975) in which music, workshops, computer elaborations and various performances were made from several locations at the same time. During 1976, at Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, he promoted a series of simultaneous non-stop shows based on the theme "From Carillon to Computer": during the course of this event debates, seminars and computer-assisted electroacoustic music performances were held. Ever since he was a young student, Kayn has been more influenced by data processing theories than by other composers (then it should not come as a surprise that - in 1959 - he was declared "persona non grata" by the so-called avantgarde establishment, following the shock generated by his composition Aggregate). As a result of his interest in these topics, he began using the term "cybernetics" to define his music. Practically speaking, Roland conceives complex apparata of electronic networks reacting in a system of signals and commands to obey to the composer's instructions; the commonly used terminology of "harmony", "melody" and "rhythm" cannot be applied to the German's music. The concept according to which every musical piece should be defined in every single detail by its author is firmly contrasted by Roland, who insists that cybernetic music is self-regulated, leaving behind both the narrative element and the psycho/emotional minutiae usually associated to the idea of "author" and "art". This means that even the ideator of this framework cannot predict the definitive outcome, since the sonic processes don't have a real epicentre but every sound bears the very same weight and importance in comparison to the others. "Music is sound - and sound is self-sufficient" declares Kayn, who stresses that present day's composers should use every technique at their disposal, so that electronic music can become much more than the mere result of a rapid technological development.
Roland Kayn's vinyl records from the 70s and the 80s are pretty hard to find; some of the very last copies - if still available - can be requested at www.kayn.nl (the official website of the composer, curated by his daughter Ilse-Emily); all of the fantastic cybernetic marathons like Simultan, Infra, Makro and Projekte, each one a 3/4-Lp box on the Colosseum label, are worth of any price, even on the rarities' well known circuits. Luckily for everyone, the most recent work by the German, plus a good selection of his early material, has been released by Kayn himself through his own label RRR and is currently available; among the many goodies I'd suggest the fabulous ten Electronic Symphonies, a must for any serious new music cultor. But if only one record by Roland could be found to save your life, that should absolutely be Tektra.

Originally released as a 6-Lp box by Colosseum and successively reissued as a 4-Cd set by Barooni, Tektra is the most important, imposing, staggering creation by Kayn. Its name derives from the initials of its six movements: Tanar, Etoral, Khyra, Tarego, Rhenit, Amarun; the author leaves to our personal interpretation the significance of all this. The origin of this stirring mass of sound is basically electronic: at times, at a good listening level, it seems like the speakers want to break open, totally unable of any containment of the electroacoustic currents generated by Roland's devices. Tektra is wholeness and nothingness, full and void; it may emotion until body trembling or scare until mind stillness. In any case, it leads to completely new dimensions, radically altering the concept of "music" commonly individuated until then. This is a fundamental composition for the evolution of the human ear, concretely developing inner capabilities in the ones who try nearing it following years of adequate preparation; it is not amazing that - in this era of desperate creative flatness and endless baths in the infectious waters of the most vulgar ignorance - this masterpiece is still more or less unknown. The aurea mediocritas of those who pretend not to see and hear equals a quicksand that will swallow them, although contemporary artistic canons are by now completely satisfied by the current - more or less total - decline.
Tanar immediately clears the extra-corporeal channels with a series of crosses between obscure clouds of subterranean gases in reciprocal fusion, giving birth to a subtle hiss of spiritual union between different souls immersed in components halfway through the chemical and the acoustical, for which we are totally unable to find a labelled recipient. What once was "harmony" has now become a fluorescent liquid reflecting shades of the solar spectrum; this creek of interchanging tonalities is nothing but the rough path that leads us to an oasis of "static unquietness".
The second destination in our trip is Etoral; like a mountain lake is alimented by a waterfall, the initial impetus - given by the two movements of Tanar - contributes to perceiving this section as a "spurious purification" or an only apparent liberation. The gradual ups and downs caused by the electronic composite in a continuous spiraliform state shut the door to the external world while indicating the exact formula for estrangement to the brain. The body is left in repose, floating without contrasting the flux, well aware that we're sailing at unheard elevations, beyond the sound, for sure in proximity of the first imaginary figurations.
Khyra's first movement is a sort of mutated chorale, where infinite variations can be detected - from vocal timbres to metaloid, from strings' disintegration to extreme synthesis - in an incessant reciprocal chase of power and pure sonic ecstasy, made huge both by the sudden dynamic changes of the "audio colossus" and - above all - by the tonal instability, that familiar slow oscillation that seems to be the anima mundi in Kayn's overall work. The sound organism expresses itself through a series of unclassifiable manifestations, similar to the ones coming from a body subjected to various kinds of scientific tests, but whose mind is still firm enough to aspire to a very distant idea of acquired serenity. The vital wires are in tension and repeatedly solicited by the "acousmatic spirits" - but they are well far from snapping. The passage towards the second movement shows an abstract representation of not easy intelligibility, reached through the superimposition of additional vocal forms and an imaginary, extremely fluctuating string section, all this contained by the sand of a giant hourglass whose shape is delineated by deep electronic drones. The movement of the elements can be caught in multicoloured flashes that, from time to time, shift the scene to different areas of our perceptive organs; thus, different visions - more and more intense - appear and disappear like supernatural entities. The emotional content is very high and the beauty of this music absolutely unreachable - by no one. In the third part, chaos and indeterminacy would like to come back and reimpose an establishment regulated by an iron intelligence; the initial assaults, under the guise of a powerful whirling of shapes, colours and volumes, throw the listener in a more anxious state, pushing them on the defensive in front of the growth of dissonant characters. All of a sudden, the return of archaic orchestral designs implanted in a skeleton tending to an unforeseeable future restitutes the power to awareness, allowing our breathing to slow enough in order to manage both unexpected and deeply rooted events without uncertainties. In conclusion of Khyra, most sounds start going down slowly like a setting sun or disappear quickly as falling stars, leaving us aware of having enjoyed unprecedented phenomenologies - but also in the eternal frustration of knowing no more about them.
The three movements of Tarego begin with the system almost in full-stop mode: the same immobile frequency torments the silence in the initial 14 minutes with a few, almost imperceptible, dynamic variations making the sound of the cybernetic organ similar to the one of an impressive machine crumbling both inert matter and our ability to resist the pain deriving from non-knowledge. Tarego II is even more static, but its character is more oriented towards a complex tranquillity: another river where hundreds of underground streams join in constant transcendence, where invisible perennial elements are only apparently handy but - once we try analyzing them - they escape from fingers like a liquid from a clenched fist. Tarego III is one of the cardinal moments in the whole sonic science of this German composer, including a series of processes that - although perfectly developed - nevertheless avoid to reveal the mystery of their genesis, known only to whom decided their use. Here, the upsetting sonic meteors moving towards the extreme spheres of our feelings return, in form of slow glissandos that modify the psychophysical balance, regenerating the tissue - by now completely worn - of emotional control. This spectacular concrete/abstract/infinite transaction finds its completion in the 24 minutes of Rhenit, music of such a depth that it literally sounds painful. In this instance, sounds recalling throat harmonic singing with an out-of-phase component whirl around our head, outstretched in a faraway look in a vain try to join this moving communion among imaginary creatures whose evolution is more advanced than ours. But it's all completely useless, like trying to keep eyes open while staring at the sun; only, Rhenit's light cures blindness instead of causing it. There is no way to enjoy these benefits, if not thoroughly abandoning ourselves; when everything's over, we return to complete solitude, incapable of communicating to anyone the message we managed to detect.
Amarun, consisting of two movements - one of which is furtherly divided into two parts - welcomes us with an "unstable stasis" where the vocal component is still preponderant, although surrounded by extremely long sounds which probably find their origin in strings or brass sections - even if, as always, this is pure supposition given the frequency filtering that renders the whole obfuscated and scarcely definable to the ears. The eternal path goes on, the limited physical space on disc notwithstanding; nevertheless, one has the impression of having walked only a segment, short yet incredibly full of information and sensations; the first movement's final part is a dazzling sequence of openings over too distant worlds. The dramatically edgy intensity of Amarun II's first part not only builds the foundation of some of the major future works by our man - the Electronic Symphonies among them - but predates of many years an abundance of electronic compositions by the "newcomers", who mainly use technical progress to "paint a façade", while Kayn's artistic fingerprint could be detected even in his machines' switches. If the final frames of Amarun - and of the whole Tektra - still show some surprise, even a certain grade of violence so to speak, the sensation lingering within us is that, approaching the end, the waters are beginning to calm down. The unconscious, in a sense, still hopes for something more but without excessive illusions; the lazy movement of the cybernetic ensemble cuts every peak, allowing an ample view at various altitudes, like a glider pushed by an endless wind. Only at the very end we understand: that wind is a life-giving insufflation, thanks to which we will continue our explorations, our discoveries, our perceptions of unknown energies. Roland Kayn will be behind us, with a cynical yet good-natured half-smile, thinking how long it will take for that handful of braves to really comprehend Tektra; meanwhile, he has fast-forwarded another half century, always standing well clear off commonplaces, in total loneliness, ever an immortal in his unsung greatness.

Massimo Ricci 
(An edited version of this article has been published in the May 2005 issue of PARIS TRANSATLANTIC - www.paristransatlantic.com)

Roland Kayn



The fascination emanating from Roland Kayn's music derives from a series of intangible factors, these two double CD sets being the most recent example of his (and our) never-ending quest for a still unknown explanation. If Requiem Pour Patrice Lumumba starts out in the nightmarish calm typical of many of the German composer's masterpieces, moving through specular nocturnal surfaces and resinoid outpourings to recurring sequences, Interations is an extravagant experiment where Kayn manipulates electronic sound and treated voices to create furious contrasts and scabby dissonance in an almost sci-fi atmosphere. The four movements of Composizione AD shake the basics of harmonic certainty with pitiless intensity, letting pitches, tapes and sibilant malformations coagulate in a morass of scary desolation, as, eyes closed, we pray for damned night to be driven away by the early sunshine. The impressive mass of voices and sounds pushes the air to the limit of acoustic tolerance (my woofers cry mercy), but with the beginning of the third movement the noise tails away in a breathtaking vision of the meanders of silence, the emotional highpoint of the work. Prismes Reflectes is a sharp game of cut 'n' paste where Kayn's cybernetic vision exploits dynamics to the full in an all-out attack against predictability, a patchwork quilt of short, shocking fragments of white light and vocal manifestations.
The same warring forces are at work at the beginning of Etoile Du Nord, where Kayn explores chromatic tensions by alternating profound contemplation and ear-piercing distortion whose searing high-frequencies defy description. The constant struggle between peaceful (if slightly disturbed) introspection and the blinding light of grim dissonant reality is the underlying principle of the second movement, which starts with a slow reiteration curiously similar to Nurse With Wound's Salt Marie Celeste (and continues to warp its angular sonic entities into proportionless rubber monstrosities.. Angry Eelectric Finger Vol.4, anyone?). Out of the blue, recordings of old orchestral albums appear, but in the darkness the crackling vinyl violins are eaten alive by what sounds like a bell tower crossed with a huge engine. The "audio world of the future" definition present on all RRR CD booklets is reductive, to say the least. Finally Ghyress, dedicated to Kayn's daughter, is one of his most mysteriously enigmatic works, a recipe whose ingredients include nebulous drones, guitar feedback (apparently from some dissonant rock set) and touching fragments of an unknown adagio whose melancholy counterbalances the anarchic engineering of the whole structure. Outbursts of drumming and strange Star Trek choirs keep the curiosity level high as Kayn's electroacoustic sorcery shuttles us back once more into our own cryptic inadequacy.
Massimo Ricci - originally published on www.paristransatlantic.com

Roland Kayn

At 72, Roland Kayn's vision is brighter than ever. The continuity of this endangered species of self-regulating music is guaranteed by a totally autonomous release schedule which treats us with serial jewels like this double CD, a rare compendium of emotional acousmatics and cybernetic mechanisms where sound colours dissolve in rarefied nuances of timbral amazement. Invisible Music (2003) is a three-movement composition whose whopping 122 minutes stretch over one and a half disc; as usual with Kayn, the malleable "harmonies" determined by his unpredictable scores are a polychromatic experience that defies effective description. Translucent orchestral chords get dissected, decomposed and weaved together in alternance with parabolic chorales eliciting long moments of interrogation; sudden poignant appearances of electronic beings in celestial abstractions and surreal transfigurations lead the listener right into the twilight zone. There is no time for asking, no way to understand; one must accept the events as they are, the body pervaded by a mystifying sensation of thorough knowledge that, ironically, remains without definition just like all the rest. The proverbial frequency game of the German genius, who camouflages his sources through a masterful equalization work, contributes in large part to the dislocation of that solid foundation our ears would like to stand on. Yet, especially in the third movement, the just apparent schizophrenia of Kayn's electroacoustic insight reveals organ fragments, brass and string idioms, jet-propelled skepticism and some degree of appreciated paradox, explicated by "easier" melodic lines seemingly mocking Rick Wakeman and Vangelis, soon eradicated by additional disobedient propagations that bring us back to the mother of all suspensions. If you're still with me, by now you have understood that we're spelling "masterpiece" here. Hommage a K.R.H. Sonderborg (2003) is truly one of the most surprisingly atypical pieces that I've heard from this open-eared creator; starting with an engrossing string cadenza that Michael Nyman would have loved to steal, the eventful consecutio subsequently calls for point-blank oscillations of ethereal bodies, modern electronic rhythms eaten by white noise, icy winds of incomprehensibility, looped particles of moderate chamber minimalism, spots of interference upon otherwise immaculate, mind-obliterating projections. Towards the end, amidst non-stop changes of sonic scenery, what sounds like a suffocated bell-tower bathing in treated concrete/organic samples sing a funeral song to our best intentions of interpretating an unfathomable concept. The music of Roland Kayn, as already told, is just like the sun: you can sketch it like a child does but you can't watch it long enough to memorize its actual shape.
Massimo Ricci

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