The String Quartet with windows, open (SQWWO) is a violin quartet consisting in four independent but closely related voices, each of which is generated and visualized on a laptop computer by an HTML5 script acting on a composed set of 1024 violin phrases, that in turn were created from a library of violin samples played and made available by a musician that I only know by his moniker: ldk1609.
The SQWWO is meant to play for 24 hours, somewhere in an indoors space, but with the windows to the outside world wide open. The original version is a round-the-clock 24 hour recording that was realized in my Parisian living room over a period of 6 months, in 72 parts, each lasting precisely 20 minutes.
The first full 24 hours live rendition of the SQWWO took place this summer in Brussels, in Recyclart's 'Vitrine 5' (as part of the Nuits du Beau Tas live summer sessions supported by the sound arts festival City Sonic and the Transonic label), from 20h on Thursday July 9th, 2015, until 20h the next day, Friday July 10th, 2015, underneath the tracks of the Belgian railways leading to & fro the Brussel-Kappellekerk/Bruxelles-Chapelle railway station. The generated violin voices were supplemented by additional live playing, by Matthieu Safatly on cello, Baudouin de Jaer on violin, Pierre-Jean Vranken and Jacques Foschia on electric violin, Jean-Jacques Duerinckx on sopranino sax, Thomas Dawamesk on outside spray can, Martine Doyen on a little Korg organ, and several others.
A one hour piece edited from the recordings of the 24 hour Brussels live event is released by the Transonic label, in a limited edition on cassette, and as a digital album available on Bandcamp.
[ Scroll through a SQWWO Live in Brussels Picturebook. ]
august 30, 2015.
" ... 1 for me
1 for your doubts
1 for god ... "
( * )
The Recyclart art center in Brussels is housed right underneath the tracks of the Brussels Chapel railway station. About 8 years ago, in June 2007, when Brussels and other metropoles were still treasure troves for the audiotape trash collector, I set up sort of a 'Foundtaping agency' there, for a couple of days. It was where I first met the good people of the then Brocante Sonore. It must also have been the first time that I did a concert with Jean-Jacques Duerinckx, at the occasion of which we shot the wonderful Le Chasseur 'tape clip'.
Early this summer we had another chance to work below the tracks of the Brussels Chapel station. In Galerie 5, one of Recyclart's annexes, the trains passing right overhead became a principal contingent actor in the (first ever) 24 hour live rendition of the String Quartet with Windows, open.
Galerie 5, like the other former work- and storage spaces under the railway tracks lining the rue des Ursulinenstraat, has a glass front. But the big shop window can not be opened. So for this SQWWO live rendition, we had to simulate the open windows: we stuck microphones through the two small lights above the big unopenable window, one to the right and one to the left.
Two loudspeakers in the front side of the galery space became the open windows. They projected a stereo image of the outside sounds picked up by the two microphones. Like in the original recorded version of the SQWWO, the 2 × 2 violin voices (each pair generated by an offline version of the Kris-Kras HTML5 script running in a web browser on a laptop computer) were projected by two loudspeakers in the back side of the space.
The 'score' of the performance, visualizations of the violins' trajectories on 32 × 32 grids, were projected onto the walls of the space. In a kind of higgledy-piggledy manner, but that added to the charm.
The image below is one of the pages from that 'SQWWO live in Brussels' score. I made this screenshot, because of the 'curiosity' that here one of the two voices only plays one phrase: one of the rules that directs the violin playing is that a voice will stop after the first time that it has played phrase number 1024. On this particular page you see that actually the very first phrase played by the black voice was phrase number 1024 (represented by the big black dot in the right bottom corner of the 32 × 32 matrix), so the voice in this 'round' only played this one phrase and then stopped. (Which, as a matter of fact, means that it did not sound at all. Phrase 1024 actually is a six second silence :-)
The live rendition of the SQWWO in Recyclart's Galerie 5 began at 8pm sharp on Thursday July 9th, signed by Namhee Kwon's neon number "3", which during all of the performance/installation was lit in the lower back left corner of the space, a bit to the right of one of the grid/matrix projection's folds. You probably will think that one can see it in the following picture, but that image is tricked. The visible form of a "3" there was pasted in. Most smartphone and other digital camera's pics will only show a white blot where Namhee's neon number "3" is lit. Its shine is much too bright, compared to all that surrounds it, to result in a discernible form in the photographs. But as long as you know that it is there: I like the fact that you can not see the number in the pictures and videos that were made at the event. It allows me to think of those blots as of spots that were touched by the fingers of gods.
e tw dri
o tw thr
u de tro
In Namhee Kwon's 'white cube' exhibitions the neon numbers sit at the bottom of white walls, of shiny white spaces. They sign the blank pages of books that are waiting to be written.
Early April of this year, though, à La Générale, her neon number "2" signed the 16th unPublic, radiating from the center of a large ping-pong table, crammed with instruments and bric-à-brac. That same day number "2" also, metaphorically, signed my Elastic Lecture Nr. 2.
Even though the Elastic Lecture Nr. 2 was not about the SQWWO, it did refer to it, quite extensively.
Therefore, brought from Paris to Brussels and installed by Namhee at the very, very last minute, the appearance of number "3" at the Galerie 5 - besides many another thing - conjured an accolade. All that it embraced and enfolded between the tips of its wings, unfolded - from then to (t)here - along with the extemporal and immutable playing of the strings, into the many lines of a text that, Potteresquely, I can only imagine being written - in the frailest of script to be read backwards - on pages 2¾ and 2¼.
(There was a lot passing through my head in the course of this 24 hour string quartet with windows, open.)
I am looking forward to the time in a not too far away future in which it will be possible to stage a 24 hour fully live rendition of the SQWWO, with the score still generated by some version of the Kris-Kras script, but all the playing done by teams of flesh and blood musicians.
The SQWWO live in Brussels was a great first step towards this, a wonderful DIY hybrid, with great improvised live contributions. Matthieu Safatly (on cello) and Baudouin de Jaer (on violin) played almost continuously over the first four to six hours of the event.
Pierre-Jean Vranken brought his electric violin, which was played by himself, Jacques Foschia and others, inside and also outside the gallery space, where visitors stood chatting, drinking, laughing, sometimes also singing and whistling in the direction of the 'open window microphones', and where during the first couple of hours Azael could be seen and heard reading poetry and doing vocal acrobatics.
In the course of the evening slowly shifting towards night, and the event gradually entering a Berlinesque sort of sonic party phase, Philippe Franck, director of Transcultures and curator of the Transonic indie label, both supporters of these Nuits du Beau Tas summer sessions in Brussels, shot the following short impromptu interview in front of the Galerie 5, with the SQWWO blasting on inside. (I like it, also because of the good spirits I apparently was in that evening... :-)
Meanwhile trains continued to roll on overhead.
Each had its own special sound. Some were banging and bumping along the rails, while others passed in waves of sounds more of the grinding and sawing kind. Some of them seemed to hum and whistle. Others emitted more of a buzz. One advanced with a rhythmic clanking, while a next one just rattled along...
All of it mingled with the sounds of the programmed strings tirelessly playing on inside; with the live contributions of Matthieu, Baudouin and others; and with the myriad of other sounds that continued to enter through the 'open windows': cheering, clapping, shouting, laughing, singing, music ... there was a lot of summer feasting going on, all over the rue des Ursulinenstraat.
Remorsemessly ignoring the (only) near to timelessness of our subjective experience, the Big Clock relentlessly ticked the night on into an early morning. While on the inside of the galery the strings continued their timeless bowing, on the outside all the noisy hubbub that was their counterpoint began to fade away. Barmen stopped serving drinks ( "Laatste ronde!" ), the celebrants went elsewhere, maybe home and then to sleep. At some point also the trains stopped passing and we entered stretches of space-time with hardly an outside sound at all. Until, hesitatingly, some early birds began to sing.
In the recordings one hears them in the distance chirping along to the sound of Thomas Dawamesk's spraycans, who took advantage of the quiet out-time between night and day, to start transforming the facade of Vitrine 5 into an image of a gigantic audio cassette.
With the dawning of the new day, dimpling the Chapel station in a warm bath of bright sunshine, the trains came on again.
As if nothing, really, had happened.
We were Friday, July 10th, my iPhone told me.
The time: 8am.
The Brussels SQWWO was only half way through...
Many thanks to Jean-Jacques Duerinckx, Pierre-Jean Vranken, Matthieu Safatly and the other Brussels organisers of these Nuits du Beau Tas for making this live SQWWO happen. Many thanks also to Recyclart, to Philippe Franck and Transcultures, the Transonic label and City Sonic for the logistic support and curatorial courage. Many, many thanks to the artists and musicians that joined the adventure and who's contributions made these 24 hours into an - for me - unprecedented experience: Matthieu Safatly, Baudoin de Jaer, Pierre-Jean Vranken, Namhee Kwon, Thomas Dawamesk, Azael, Jacques Foschia, Maurice Charles JJ, Martine Doyen... A last but not least thank you to Frans Claus, for giving us the Ateliers Claus's Duplex and Simplex, not only to rest our tired heads, but also in order for us to end these summerly days in Brussels un-Publicly...
(Elastic Lecture Nr. "one and one, and one is" 3)
"... 1 for me, 1 for your doubts, 1 for god" is the title of the 2 × 30 minutes piece that I comp(os)(il)ed from the tens of hours of (double) recordings of the 24 hour Brussels live rendition of the 'String Quartet with windows, open', in Paris and Ars-en-Ré, in one of the strangest sad summer times that I can remember. It is as close to the writing and reading of pages 2¾ and 2¼ as one can possibly get. The piece is available as a limited edition release on cassette and as a digital album on Bandcamp, as part of TAPism (TAPism02), a new series launched by the Transonic label, "devoted to cassette culture, live, archival or cinematic sonic memories". It will be available as of the opening on September 11th, 2015, of the 13th edition of the City Sonic festival in Mons, Belgium.
( "...En ancien Eqypte, tout pharaon était tenu d'accomplir personnellement les cérémonies nécessaires au maintien de l'ordre cosmique..." ) ... Ich fühlte mich ein Pharao.
"Het heeft iets Ligetisch, vind ik," zei mij een Vlaamse schone laat op de donderdagavond in Brussel. Ik stond op het punt om te zeggen dat het niet 'Ligetisch' maar 'Ligetiaans' moest zijn. Maar haar vriendin schudde van nee. Die legde een hand op mijn onderarm en fluisterde zwoeltjes in mijn - goeie - oor: "... Feldmannesque ! ..."
(November 3rd, 2015. Frans de Waard, in Vital Weekly #1005)
"[...] What I just heard is something with development, with consideration for the composition; to follow the course of a day and edit the highlights into a logical, ordered piece. From just a bunch of violin sounds (at night I presume), adding more and more instruments as time lapses, until there is the busy Brussel nightlife. It ends there oddly enough, but maybe the suggestion is that this should be on repeat for a long time, thus emulating the twenty-four hour cycle every hour? An excellent release, all around, and on repeat."
notes __ ::
(*) "Set the table, those 3 extra places ....", +/- as in Elijah, from The Mountain Goats album The Coroner's Gambit (2000). [ ^ ]
tags: sqwwo, Brussels, Namhee Kwon, Om, three,
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