iconIederéén staat op de longlist. Maar als ULTRA de Pop Media Prijs 2012 wint, geeft de auteur het integrale geldbedrag aan 'n nog nader te bepalen jonge Nederlandse band, ULTRA in geest. Stemmen dus! Stemmen kan tot maandag 26 november 2012. Een stem voor ULTRA is een stem voor de muziek! (Het boek, dat is af. Maar de muziek, daar komt nooit een einde aan...)

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Y.3 = YltrA!
[ One big sweep, from ULTRA-modern to post-experimental (iii) ]

may 06, 2012.

Y is a series of yearly events/workshop for students of the Amsterdam Rietveld Academy for Fine Arts and Design. Y carries the name of the artist Yariv Alter Fin (1968-2007), a former student of the Rietveld and (until his untimely death) also a teacher there.

y Y (why?) is Yariv's logo.
It looks like a tuning fork.
It sounds like an A.
It is both a question and an answer.

Last year's Y-event - Y.2 - was an 48 hours workshop for Rietveld students on augmented reality/audio that took place in Mediamatic in Amsterdam, April 2011. AR-Artist Sander Veenhof helped the students to 'augment reality' using the Layar iPhone application. Peter Mertens and myself introduced the students to the use of the RjDj-platform for the creation of reactive (augmented) audio-applications.

This year's event was all about working with sound, doing music & performing in the impartial, investigative and do-it-all-bloody-yourself ULTRA-way. For good reasons. Rietveld students were among the driving forces of the ULTRA wave in the late 1970's/early 1980's, while ULTRA's heart of continuous innovation and experimentation for many years after continued to beat forcefully in the Rietveld Medialab. That's one link. The other one being that also for Yariv it all started with an ULTRA-like music group. In the Tel Aviv of the 1980's, before coming to the Netherlands, he was in a band called DXM (Deus Ex Machina). "With DXM I learnt about home production. And about DIY," Yariv used to say. "Do it yourself, use your own head and then hands."

Thus Y.3 became YltrA, which took off with a series of morning presentations on Friday April 20th, down in Room K29 of the Rietveld Academy's Sandberg building.

There, underground, STEIM's Jonathan Reus gave a swirling presentation on subversive electronics circuit bending. We also had Erfan Abdi Dezfouli, who Peter and I had seen December last year at the (h)ear 'Experimental Sounds Connected' festival in Heerlen. Like in Heerlen, Erfan presented his Notesaaz, an awesome electronic instrument that he programmed and built, with a nice interface for a performer to manually control it in an elegant and visually attractive way. You find it explained in the following uTube:

Last, but not least, that Friday morning Truus de Groot talked about her inspirations and approach to making of music. Along the way she gave a fascinating overview, with many fun pictures, of her life long doing music with an ULTRA-touch. At the end she even danced to it...

truus blenno

The work (and fun) began in the afternoon, in Club Karlsson, Mart van Bree's, say, CCC: a 'club for counter-cultural activities' situated on the top floor of Keizersgracht 264 in Amsterdam, the voluptuous housing of the Dutch Media Art Institute NIMk - until the end of this year that is, as the NIMk fell victim to the recent wave of cuts in budgets for the arts in the Netherlands. Situated at a mere couple of hundred of meters of where the Oktopus center used to be (Keizersgracht 138), where in 1980-1981 the original series of ULTRA-concerts took place, Club Karlsson provided for a period of some 30 hours the studio's, rehearsal spaces, stage and lodgings for YltrA. It was there that we came to re-install the energy and drive of the former Rietveld Medialab and the laboratory atmosphere proper that is at the heart of the ULTRA-way of music making.

And this was the students' assignment: within the given period let chemistry work non-stop, and come up, in one big sweep from scratch to end, with the ideas, the sounds, the music and the settings for a public concert/performance in Club Karlsson, on the evening of Saturday April 21st.

It worked like a charm.

yltra yltra
yltra yltra
yltra yltra

Chun-Han Chiang, Sinan Güven, Marcel Herkelman, Emidio Josine, Lelou Kjaerulf, Kristoffer Leemburg, Elon Liberman, Derck Littel, Silvia Martes, Anna Orlikowska, Roberto Pérez Gayo, Kevin Schuit and Charles Spears were the 13 enthusiastic and inventive Rietveld students that participated in the workshop. They brought with them all sorts of different instruments, providing a broad spectrum of possible sounds to use: a drum kit, keyboard, electric guitars, bass, acoustic guitars, a cello, didgeridoo, mouth harp, percussion, home-built electronics, laptops running Max-MSP ...

Maybe even more important and interesting: the participants came from very different backgrounds, also from a musical/technical point of view, ranging from the highly experienced and accomplished (professional) classical cello player Derck Littel to complete novices, bringing little more than their voice and the will to learn & contribute. Common was their eagerness to jump out of their boxes, whatever these might be, to try things they never tried before, to experiment and to cooperate.

Our special YltrA-guest for the 30-hours session was Parisian povera sound system artist Blenno und die Wurstbrücke, who admirably fulfilled his role of alien element and (slight) provocateur (YltrA 1, 17, 19, 23 ( * ). Blenno had come rushing over from France on Thursday night, and rushed back over there on Saturday night, as on Sunday 22th there was the first round of the French presidential election.


There was more politics in the air that weekend at Club Karlsson, where, shortly before Saturday's concert, we applauded the rather unexpected fall of the Dutch right-wing coalition. Secretly I was and remain convinced that the forceful subconscious waves emitted by the far better sounding coalitions that - in a smooth and natural way - were formed at our YltrA workshop actually did provide a final, decisive push. For the better. ;-)

A first ad-hoc coalition was formed early on in the afternoon, by Blenno Wurstbrücke, Elon Liberman, Emidio Josine and Kevin Schuit, who volunteered to provide the ULTRA-sonic acoustic illustrations for my talk with Theodor Holmann about ULTRA for OBA live, broadcast live that early Friday evening on national radio, from the fourth floor of the Amsterdam Public Library (Yltra 7, 20). You can see them in action in the 2 uTube-clips extracted from the live video stream of the program, here and here.)

Meanwhile in Club Karlsson work spread over the premises. There was a loud room, where Blenno had built his cabin and where the drum kit stood. And there was a quiet room, where participants were experimenting with laptop electronics and Max-MSP patches, live transforming the sound of Derck Littel's cello, voices and other stuff. Others again had found that also the corridor behind Club Karlsson's kitchen, or even the staircase, were handy places to work and play, while not being too much disturbed by the sounds made by others...


It was in the loud room that Emidio on Friday evening came up with the idea to use cow bells as interrupters for 220V light bulbs. Mart van Bree loved it, and together with Emidio he immediately began splicing the cables, in order for this to work. High voltage cow bell percussion. On the dangerous side, when not paying attention or touching the wrong parts, but of course it worked. And it did look rather spectacular. Here's a short clip from the Friday late night sessions in the loud room, with Kevin Schuit on drums, Mart van Bree on high voltage cow bells and Kristoffer Leemburg using his self-built electronics.

Later that night the quiet room became the stage for a fascinating improvised sound play for ping pong balls, squeaking floor boards and doors, after which some (though not all) of the participants crashed on the field beds provided for those that dearly were in need of a couple of hours of sleep.

It eventually all came together at the end of our 30 hours, in Saturday evening's showcase: the YltrA concert for Yariv. Visitors were led up headphones the stairs to Club Karlsson while witnessing the four stages of a 30 minute stair case piece, with electric bass, percussion, acoustic guitar and voice (YltrA 9). The concert continued in the quiet room, with a condensed version of the ping pong balls-floorboards-door sound play, led by Roberto (YltrA 3), which gave way to an atmospheric piece for electronics, voice and cello by Sinan, Anna and Derck (YltrA 22, 6, 14). Enhanced, by the way, via an Max-MSP patch made by Roberto that ran in the background, and that those who wished to do so could listen to via the headphones that were provided for that very purpose.

closetIn passing from the quiet to the loud room, we paused to hear Derck and Lelou performing inside a - no longer in use - toilet on the landing. The closet was used by Mart for the storage of all sorts of things, that Lelou diligently removed and put elsewhere for the evening, in order to be able to there sing her song (YltrA 11). The picture, actually, was taken at rehearsals. For the evening concert Lelou draped the whole thing in black cloth... The closet's door opened for the song to start. After the duo had finished their song, the door closed again.

The fourth and final stage of the evening's concert took place in the loud room, where three electric pieces were staged. A first one centered around Elon's customized didgeridoo, the sound of which was partly modified by laptop electronics (YltrA 16, 19), while a second piece, with electronics, drums and electric guitar drifted into realms with a definite 1970's rock-jam & Kraut-y feel (Yltra 21). It all ended with what not only was the climax in the concert's built-up, but that for me personally was this YltrA's high-point: a six minute (almost) tutti monodrone, conceived and relentlessly driven forward from behind his drum kit by Kevin Schuit (YltrA 28).


I compiled an hour's worth of live recordings from the workshop in a 28 track documentary Y.3 = YltrA! net-album, available as a free download from Bandcamp's:

Also well worth lending your ear is the one hour Y.3 = YltrA-remix that we did live at Red Light Radio, on wednesday April 25th, with Kevin Schuit adding a number of fine live electric guitar interventions in the studio.


The two days at Club Karlsson were greatly inspired, intense, energizing and inspiring. An extraordinary experience.

YltrA was a blast!

[ Y.3 = YltrA! was conducted by Peter Mertens and Harold Schellinx, in the spirit of former Rietveld student and teacher Yariv Alter Fin (1968-2007). Many thanks to the Rietveld Academy staff for support, to Mart van Bree for unlocking Club Karlsson and technical support. We survived thanks to the healthy and tasty Yltra catering, provided by the female branch of the Mertens family. Y.3 = YltrA! was made possible by the Alters. For updates and supplementary information, you may want to follow the Yariv Alter Fin Trust on Facebook, Twitter and/or Pinterest. ]

[ next Y: Y.Next_Numbr = | next ULTRA: One big sweep, iv | previous ULTRA: One big sweep, ii ]

Read about ULTRA on the SoundBlog:

(2012, june 24) - A Night at the Museum [ One big sweep, from ULTRA-modern to post-experimental (iv) ]
(2012, may 06) - Y.3 = YltrA! [ One big sweep, from ULTRA-modern to post-experimental (iii) ]
(2012, may 03) - One big sweep, from ULTRA-modern to post-experimental (ii)
(2012, april 02) - One big sweep, from ULTRA-modern to post-experimental (i)
(2011, december 24) - Touching base

Read about ULTRA in Gonzo (Circus) [Dutch]:

Gonzo #108, maart/april 2012 - Ultra

notes __ ::
(*) The indications YltrA 1 et cetera in the text refer to the track titles of the documentary Y.3 = YltrA! net album, available as a free download at Bandcamp. [ ^ ]

tags: yltra, ultra

# .421.

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