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Punkt Festival 2014

Henning Bolte By

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Friday, the second day, had three seminars, one listening session (Jana Winderen/Mike Harding) and three remix concerts, namely sPace moNkey, Erik Honoré's album-release and Fennesz. A glance at the program not only revealed different sorts of contrasts but also various contexts/contextualizations of music the broadest/mightiest of which doubtless is nature (Jana Winderen) completed by media/recording plus storage plus distribution (Mike Harding), media/radio (Michael Engelbrecht), personal and artistic (hi)story (Laurie Anderson), animals, language (Laurie Anderson), other music (remix concerts).

The seminar program started with Michael Engelbrecht's "Storytelling for burning songs (Or: how to make radio magic)." Engelbrecht used the fabulating imagery of "Pacific Radio Fire," a short text from Richard Brautigan's 1971 book The Revenge Of The Lawn as stepping-stone: a running transistor radio is set on fire by one of the two young Weltschmerz-guys lingering on a lonely Monterey beach in mournful company of each other. The charged imagery of the burning songs served as an igniting metaphor for the evocation of magical effects: "As the radio gently burned away, the flames began to affect the songs that we were listening to."

In a staged radio-show Engelbrecht acted out his way of interconnecting and contouring heterogeneous types of music by his personal imaginative narratives—a demonstration of the art of talking every person of the audience into captivated or preferably even mesmerized listening to a well-weighed sequence of Ensemble Economique, Penguin Café Orchestra, Eric Honoré, Thomas Köner, Kim Kaskashian, Mirel Wagner, Brian Eno/Karl Hyde. Along a special associative narrative logic portions of fiction, colportage, polemics, musical background information, literary references, subjective projection of dreams and desires, predictions and prayers unfurled—alluding, provoking, dissing, praising—over the top at times. At its core was the suggestive power of the speaking and projected realms anchored in the authority of the narrator. His imagination even carried him far into the future, to a decisive and detailed burning lineup of one of the Punkt Festival days in 2015.

The context of nature was represented by Norwegian sound artist Jana Winderen. She miked animal sound worlds from difficult accessible underwater habitats, the (unheard) sound world of humpback whales, toad and parrot fish, very noisy (underwater) insects, and coral reefs; but she also uncovered sound worlds inaudible for the human ear like that of bats. She not only recorded these worlds with the latest technology. She also prepared and arranged them to bring them to our perception and experience in suitable, appropriate ways. Like a month ago, when she "installed" oceanic underwater soundscapes in New York City for an audience promenading the Park Avenue tunnel, or last year at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The ambisonic "sound installation" she fabricated there is a good place to start for an example of her work.

Winderen was educated in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College in London, and has a background in mathematics, chemistry and fish ecology from the University in Oslo. She releases her audio-visual works on Mike Harding and John Wozencroft's Touch label, a label that, over the past decades, has built up a special expertise in presenting unusual sound works, collaborating with artists iike Philip Jeck, Chris Watson and Christian Fennesz.

It was fascinating to learn about her expeditions, her sound hunting—a term introduced by Jan Bang in the seminar next day—and surprising and revealing in several respects, listening to her presentation of these sound worlds. It raised a couple of fundamental question about the biological significance, function and organization of sound compared to human musical perception and organization. An important reference here is the groundbreaking work of musician, instrument builder and biologist/biophonetician Bernie Krause.

The technical development that enables us to hear and record these sound worlds is at the same time responsible for a lot of disturbance and damage of the same biological habitats. It is two sides of the same coin. When listening to the edited recordings, it is maybe just more fascinating and exciting because we, as human beings, can hear (our) music in it. That applies very strongly to pieces composed by Winderen from field recordings made at Barents Sea, Greenland and Norway for her album Energy Field (Touch, 2010), especially halfway through the piece "Sense of Latent Power". Still more remarkable is that the until now unheard sounds resemble very much those produced and used in contemporary electronic music—Punkt-related musicians and groups included.

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