In this performative tape composition custom-built loudspeaker panels emit five continually shifting frequency bands in narrow sonic beams. The panels are handheld by five performers who choreograph their movements to allow for exchanges between their frequencies and to evoke acoustic responses from the surrounding room. The piece mixes electronically generated material with recordings of instruments including saxophone by Mats Gustafsson, bagpipes by Erwan Keravec, percussion by Dirk Rothbrust and electronics by Jan St. Werner. The speaker panels were built by Michael Akstaller. Composition, in this performance, also means an exploration of space through sounds in motion.
“Spaint Chords” premiered in April at the opening of the German Pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale comissioned by Maria Eichhorn. In addition it was performed at Cukrarna Ljubljana, the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb and at Lenbachhaus Munich.
David Grubbs and Jan St. Wernermet in the mid-1990s when Grubbs was playing with Gastr del Sol and the Red Krayola and St. Werner in Mouse on Mars and Microstoria. After years of exchanging ideas, they’ve finally begun locking horns as a duo, with live appearances and a full-length album on Blue Chopsticks on the horizon. Steel yourself for a winding corridor of electronic fanfares and spontaneous musical miniatures threatening to grow wings and graduate into song.
David Grubbs has released fourteen solo albums. He was a member of the groups Gastr del Sol,Bastro, and Squirrel Bait and has performed with Tony Conrad, Pauline Oliveros, Luc Ferrari, Will Oldham, Loren Connors, the Red Krayola, Royal Trux, and many others.
Jan St. Werner is an artist and electronic music composer best known as one half of the group Mouse on Mars. He has collaborated with Oval’s Markus Popp as Microstoriaand written music for installations and films by visual artist Rosa Barba. Recently his work has prioritized installation and interventions with spatialized sound, including a number of collaborations under the name Dynamische Akustische Forschung (DAF).
The Space Academy follows its own principles of knowledge production via oral exchange and a non-hierarchical application of technology. Its research is based on dialogue. Knowledge acquisition follows the particularities of each given topic. There are no standards or written rules of how to navigate other than dialogical exchange which will be documented in various media. Each new member joins on the basis of trust of previous members. Members extend and verify the navigational perspectives of the Space Academy and are therefore navigators. A main concern of the space academy is the orientation through space via sound. Sound is defined as a quest itself: a phenomenon of continuous sending and receiving, of activation and interpretation. the academy has no local center. It moves. Everyone who contributes knowledge navigates. The academy starts with one collectively framed question which continuously generates new perspectives while research is performed.
The participants of this hybrid seminar & workshop will be introduced to artistic concepts of how to work with sound as a non-hierarchical mode for alternative reality conceptions. The workshop is not about music production but a different sensing of spatial dynamics through sound. We will engage in listening sessions, initiate field recording trips, develop strategies of collective performing and reflect on practice and theory. The workshop aims at experience without neglecting critical reflection and conceptual framing.
Fotos Cukrarna by Petra Cvelbat
Fotos Museum of Modern Art Zagreb by Sanja Bistricic
Jan St. Werner isa founding member of the music group Mouse on Mars and releases solo work on his own Fiepblatter Catalogue. St. Werner has been a visiting lecturer at MIT’s Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) and served as Professor for Interactive Art and Dynamic Acoustic Research at the Academies of Fine Arts Nuremberg and Munich.
Michael Akstaller studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg, at the HfG Karlsruhe and civil engineering at the Nuremberg University of Technology. His research focus are spatial perception via directed sound sources in sound installations, interactions between hydrodynamics and morphological processes in fluids and pure acoustic phenomena. Together with Jan St. Werner, he initiated the Class for Dynamic Acoustic Research at AdBK Nuremberg, which is now operating as an independent artist collective.
April 24-28 CUKRARNA Poljanski nasip 40 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
With this solo exhibition of electronic musician Jan St. Werner, the idea is to put audio at the forefront, positioning it at the same level as visual work within the framework of digital art. The nine compositions that make up Polyarrythmia—which can be taken as a set of sound works, a performance, an exhibition, an album—are being released as NFTs through Feral File, available both as individual compositions and a full set. Here’s St. Werner on Polyarrythmia, in his own words:
“Polyarrythmia is an album or an exhibition or a selection of pieces, or maybe just a narrative in sound. None of the compositions have a strict metronome; there is no click or clock. The album as a whole has these interlocking peaks, micro-moments and movements, and then larger arcs, which meet and then disperse. To me that is very much what rhythm is, thus the name Polyarrythmia.
“The compositions were mastered to be as present and intense as possible. The actual files that people download when they collect will provide the maximum resolution that people will be able to play back. I’m happy for listeners to experience the compositions separately, but to me, Polyarrythmia is a set, it’s a narrative as a whole. The pieces were all constructed in relation to each other, based on a visionary brain space, let’s call it. I was thinking, how far can I let these things drift off? How much space can I give it to unfold and go its own way? When I draw it back, that’s what becomes an individual composition or a piece.
“I think that when we work in the field of art, or creating, it’s a manifestation of thoughts. The tool that you use to make these thoughts manifest might be animation, or it might be paint, or graphics. Or the thoughts might translate into sound—sound that changes drastically, or holds a certain vibrational moment. I think of these decisions as a necessity or a convention, which is sometimes put upon us. I don’t think anyone who works, let’s say, in the field of visual arts thinks only visually, or in the field of sound arts thinks only in audio. The output is an expression of an artist’s thoughts, emotions, and connections—how you respond to the world, and how you feed those thoughts back into your world.
“What’s really interesting about working in this field of digital art is not that I’m especially interested in the aesthetics of the digital or the futuristic. For me, it’s more of an expression of intuitively interfacing with the world with the means you have at hand. With NFTs, there’s a new possibility for doing that, and there’s an intensity and sensuality to it, interfacing with direct call-and-response modes of communicating with the world and other humans. We can call it poetic, or experimental, or critical. We can call it interfering, bonding: us becoming some of that new technology, or that new technology feeding deeper into our neural-networks, maybe eventually becoming fully, intuitively performable without any physical restrictions at all. The digital realm is also a territory of unprecedented surveillance and manipulation, so we need to formulate how we want to push up against that, build alternatives, parallel strains, add bifurcations, and openings to the code.”
If HKW were one big instrument, what would it sound like? The four-day festival The Sound of Distance takes this question seriously and seeks answers in the expanded resonance chamber of concerts, performances, talks and sonic activations, indoors and outdoors, in a radius that includes the carillon in the neighboring bell tower and the echo of the surrounding government buildings.
Curated by Jan St. Werner and HKW
Sound significantly determines the spatial perception of things and events. Sound waves are constantly in motion. The Sound of Distance makes it possible to experience them over different distances. Artists present works – some conceived especially for the festival – between guitar drones and cello sounds, sound installations and works by avant-garde composers like Annea Lockwood and Alvin Lucier. Much can be experienced by audience members in individual rhythms, with their own accents and intensities – whether the sounds reach all the way to the Bundestag or arise as otoacoustic emissions directly in the inner ear. Thus, along with acoustic perceptions, The Sound of Distance also sharpens the sense of personal location. Creating new configurations of human and object, visible and invisible, proximity and distance.
With Alvin Lucier, Andrea Belfi, Annea Lockwood, Anthea Caddy, crys cole, David Grubbs, Diana Deutsch, Dirk Rothbrust, Dodo NKishi & Tunde Alibaba, Dynamische Akustische Forschung, Hani Mojtahedy & Andi Toma, Helga de la Motte-Haber, Jan St. Werner, Judith Hamann, Louis Chude-Sokei, Marcin Pietruszewski, Maurice de Martin, Oren Ambarchi, Patricia Reed & J.-P. Caron, Sam Auinger & Katrinem, Sam Dunscombe, Stephen O’Malley, Wibke Deertz, Zwerm
Featuring Justin Vernon & Uma Barba, John Colpitts, Zach Condon, Mats Gustafsson, Hilary Jeffrey, Ben Lanz, Dodo NKishi, Kyle Resnick, Jeremy Ylvisaker
Performed by Danil Balakin, Sergey Fedorenko, Denis Karpov
Production: Anastasia Dergousova, Alexander Tkhomirov, Nikita Shvalev, Natasha Andreeva
Squares Will Fall is a multidirectional loudspeaker choreography performed by three acrobats of the Ekaterinburg Circus. Each loudspeaker plays back a distinct element of the composition. The performers mix the sound elements by animating the speakers in real time. The audience is free to move around during the performance and make audio recordings for personal use.
Squares Will Fall spins around the themes travesty, farce and clownery. Clownery is the title of a Russian underground movie from 1989 a tragicomedy of the absurd based on the works of Russian artist Daniil Kharms (1905–1942). Trying to recreate the reality of the 30s, the director reenacts the style of filming and acting of that time and enters the picture thus achieving a maximum reliability of the author’s text and sound to help the viewer to immerse themselves in the atmosphere, in which the classic absurdism lived and worked. This is a world of illusions, allusions and associations, reflecting a stream of consciousness in an era of detachment.
A resonating bass frequency on floor one is the basis for Jan St. Werner’s sound piece. Werner responds to the continuous swell and decay of the busy traffic noise that surrounds the tower by adjusting two sine wave oscillators to its unstable metrics. One sine wave is played through one of two open holes in the ceiling facing downwards into the first floor of the building. The second sine wave is played through the second hole facing upwards into floor two. The two signals overlap and create circulating sound patterns that activate and connect the spacious floors of the tower.
Thank you Nikita Shvalev, Michael Akstaller, Cagla Ilk
The RDD system utilizes a custom built uni-directional speaker that produces a tightly focused beam of sound, like a sonic spotlight, which can be robotically aimed in any direction from any single position within the performance space. This robotic speaker is in effect a mobile soloist, however the resulting experience upends expectations: cast into the room, the RDD’s sonic beam bounces and blends with the reverberant space in subtle and surprising ways. Much of the time the sound appears to originate from invisible yet mobile sources in the room or from the walls, floor and ceiling themselves. We look around for another sound source, only to realize that the room’s own reflections are transforming this robot soloist into a spectral ensemble. Though we can rationally connect the sound’s source to the position of the robot, its ventriloquistic projections open the potential for sounding to the entire volume of the room. No longer a simple container, the room becomes a respondent and the sonic coauthor of a spatial drama. Likewise, as the speaker’s narrow beam reflects it produces complex patterns of sound that vary widely by listening position, such that a listener’s own movements produce striking changes in what they hear. The audience for an RDD performance is invited to move and explore these acoustic effects, to displace themselves from their passive position as audience-receivers and into a system of feedback and response as listener-collaborators.
RDD’s robot is not intended to be the work’s focus, but is important primarily for the displacements it can effect: controlled disorientations and sensory redirections which invite a refreshed engagement with the choreographed situation, toward a sense of space that is multi-perspectival and responsive. These displacements begin with the speakers themselves. Spatialized audio, whether multichannel surround or wave field synthesis, is delivered traditionally from a set of fixed loudspeakers. Movement is simulated by the transition of sound between these fixed elements. This defines what RDD co-founder Jan St. Werner calls a ‘room within a room’, a kind of virtual space of listening placed within the real space we occupy as persons.
Robodynamische Diffusion (RDD) ist ein Projekt von Michael Akstaller, Nele Jäger, Oliver Mayer und Jan St. Werner
Gefördert von LEONARDO – Zentrum für Kreativität und Innovation TH Nürnberg und Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden
Mit freundlicher Unterstützung von Evocortex
Fotos & Video Joseph Kadow / Single RDD Foto Eunice Maurice / Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden
Encourage The Stream (2021) by Jan St. Werner, half of the electronic music group Mouse on Mars, functions as an acoustic amplification of the Oos River, which flows through the park as the heart of Baden-Baden and shapes its nature. In an attempt to communicate with the Oos, Werner places a microphone just above the water to transport the sound of the river via a directional loudspeaker beyond the riverbank into the park toward the Kunsthalle. Thereby, Werner creates the possibility to explore and perceive the Oos at different frequencies of sound (acoustically) and create new spatial relationships. The active act of listening creates a perceptual experience of distance and proximity. The acoustic supersedence of space and time also stands for engagement with the forces of nature. It is therefore no coincidence that the first large-scale public art work commissioned by Çağla İlk and Misal Adnan Yıldız for their tenure as directors of the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden is a single project of an experimental artistic practice that brings together the fields of visual art and sound.
The duo of John Colpitts aka Kid Millions and Jan St. Werner brings together the minds of two mavericks committed to exploring new avenues of musical expression. Kid Millions is one of the most sought after drummers and improvisors in NYC, known for his expansive solo work as Man Forever, as well as collaborations and performances with the likes of Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Boredoms, and So Percussion. Millions’ acclaim is equally rooted in his work with rock bands such as his own Oneida, as well as working with bands like Royal Trux and Spiritualized. Jan St. Werner has consistently remained at the vanguard of electronic music with his work as one half of Mouse on Mars as well as with his solo work and collaborations with The Fall’s Mark E Smith, Oval’s Markus Popp, Stereolab and The National. On their debut collaboration Imperium Droop, Millions and Werner, along with special guests Mats Gustafsson, Andrew Barker, and Richard Hoffman, created a collection of beautiful pieces built on surprising sound combinations. Together, the works on Imperium Droop are a joyful listen and an exhilarating foray into the unknown.
Imperium Droop is the continuation of an ongoing musical dialogue between the two musicians that began in 2016, when Werner invited Millions to perform an interpretation of his Felder album as part of a series of curated concerts and interventions around the globe. Oddly prescient of the events of 2020, the unique performance was held at Oneida’s practice space with an extremely limited audience of one – songwriter Helado Negro. The concert was to be the first in an ongoing series of recorded collaborations between the two musicians, from improvised live performances in New York and Berlin. In addition to a series of concerts accessible via the internet, the duo slowly archived a wealth of recorded material that would form the foundations for Imperium Droop. Revisiting and reimagining this material, the duo meticulously edited and arranged elements of the recordings, from full sections to individual sounds, sculpting new pieces from the library of improvisations. Another equally important component for the album was Mouse on Mars’ collaboration with Lee Scratch Perry which had a profound effect on Werner’s artistic practice and approach in the studio.
Werner’s application of a seemingly infinite arsenal of textures unleashes colorful swaths of energy. Mats Gustafsson joins Werner on the maximalist “Color Bagpipes,” unleashing torrents of swiveling melody and breathy clicks over the exponential thunder of Millions’ drum kit. Pieces like “Dark Tetrad” and “Astral Stare” demonstrate the duo’s mastery of space and surprise. Dark flutters flow in slow pulses across “Apotropaic” where erratic swirls of sound twist and mutate on “Sorrows and Compensations,” unified as a single force by the overwhelming diversity of sounds. Millions’ drums effortlessly ride each wave of Werner’s prismatic deluges and channel their energy into dynamic movements. Through his singular prowess, Millions’ tireless rhythms and subtle gestures mirror Werner’s boundless textural palette and drive each piece towards transcendence.
On Imperium Droop, Kid Millions and Jan St. Werner have combined their powers into an incomparable work of gripping and intrepid sonic fluctuations. In exploring a liminal space between improvisation and composition, the duo manage to expand their musical dialogue beyond the physical limitations of space and time, striking a truly unique balance between the urgency and unpredictability of improvised performance and deliberate nature of studio composition.
bitforms gallery is pleased to introduce Alchemical, a collaborative exhibition by Casey Reas and Jan St. Werner. Alchemical presents the artists’ suite of videos alongside a selection of prints by Casey Reas. The online component of this exhibition is presented in collaboration with New Art City.
Untitled Film Stills are a series of prints that trace Reas’ exploration of generative adversarial networks (GAN) as image-making instruments. This empirical procedure more closely resembles alchemy than the artist’s usual practice of software art. Reas and technical lead Hye Min Cho trained GANs with specific films selected for their visual and emotional environments. The artist extracted impressions from consequent material, thereby positioning GANs as an apparatus of his visual language. Untitled Film Stills are selections from the unique and labored procedure of modeling, generating, and editing.
As the Untitled Film Stills evolved over a year of production, Reas began animating images that formed the video series Untitled 1–5. This cyclical procedure required GAN models to be repeatedly trained to produce a range of images the artist could choreograph with cinematic transitions. Works within this series signal toward subject matter through titles such as Untitled 4 (Two Dead!) or Untitled 1 (No. Nothing.) . Reas’ directed movement is instilled with uncanny gestures made manifest through the sentient electroacoustic sounds of Jan St. Werner.
Werner’s compositions augment the transmutation of imagery in and out of recognition by adapting computer-generated sounds with granular synthesis, a technique that transforms acoustic events into microscopic grains to be arranged and modulated freely. This process allows certain auditory signals to be obscured while others may manifest suddenly. The final culmination of visuals and sound mimics a discernible lexicon of film while establishing a new, multi-sensory expression of cinema.
Alchemical delights in the curious combination of machine and human perception. The works synthesize image comprehension through an incantation of sound and motion. Werner and Reas employ a critical process of mediation in relation to machine learning that honors the processes of transformation and combination over generative output.
Thank you to Meyer Sound and Sound Associates for their generous contributions that make it possible to provide a spatial audio experience of Jan St. Werner’s compositions in the exhibition space.
Alchemical by Casey Reas + Jan St. Werner January 8–February 14, 2021 Gallery Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 11 AM–6 PM
Compressed Cinema is the series title for five new audiovisual works completing in 2020. The video images were created by Casey REAS, and each work has a stereo audio track composed by Jan St. Werner.
The images for the videos were derived from a set of “film stills” created by Casey REAS with generative adversarial networks (GANs). This process is documented in REAS’ 2020 book Making Pictures with Generative Adversarial Networks.
Casey REAS’ software, prints, and installations have been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries in the United States, Europe, and Asia. His work ranges from small works on paper to urban-scale installations, and he balances solo work in the studio with collaborations. Reas’ work is in a range of private and public collections, including the Centre Georges Pompidou and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Reas is a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. With Ben Fry, Reas initiated Processing in 2001; Processing is an open-source programming language and environment for the visual arts.
Jan St. Werner is an electronic music composer and artist based in Berlin. He’s best known as one half of the electronic duo Mouse on Mars, and he also pursued a solo career creating music under his own name as well as Lithops, Noisemashinetapes, and Neuter River. Starting in the mid-1990’s as part of Cologne’s A-Musik collective, St. Werner released a steady stream of influential records both as a solo artist and with Mouse on Mars. During the 2000s, he acted as the artistic director for Amsterdam’s Institute for Electronic Music (STEIM). In 2013 Werner launched a series of experimental recordings called the Fiepblatter Catalogue on Thrill Jockey Records. Werner has been a visiting lecturer at the Arts Culture and Technology department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT, and he holds a position as a professor for Interactive Media and Dynamic Acoustic Research at the Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg, Germany.
Molocular Meditation is a bespoke light and sound environment featuring the voice of the Fall’s Mark E Smith. Smith is heard making observations on mundane objects, events and a range of meditation techniques basically associating his discontent with an apolitical british upper class. His voice forms the narrative component of an electroacoustic composition by Jan St. Werner placed in a hyper-real scenario evoking a state of transformation and deceleration. Molecular Meditation premiered at Cornerhouse, Manchester in 2014. This album presents a re-edited stereo version of the original multi-channel installation. Voice and guitar feedbacks were recorded by Werner and Smith at Blueprint Studios Manchester, electronics in Werner’s Studio in Berlin.
The B-side consists of unreleased new work partly written around the same time as Molocular Meditation in context of Werner’s Fiepblatter Catalogue on Thrill Jockey. Back to Animals is a non-metric rhythm exercise frantically hybridizing percussive accents with synthesized pulse. On the Infinite of Universe and Worlds is the layout for an electronic opera on Giordano Bruno’s Renaissance writings which Werner was asked to conceptionalize for Finish festival Musica Nova. VS Canceled finds Mark E. Smith reading an email from Domino Records explaining their discontinuation of Von Sudenfed, a band Mark E. Smith had founded with Mouse on Mars’ Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma in 2006. Their debut album Tromatic Reflexxions came out on Domino in 2007.
Sound becomes a spatial experience, band structures are deconstructed, a brand new sound technology celebrates its premiere in art: In 2018, Jan St. Werner, part of the duo Mouse on Mars, listened to a festival sound check by the US indie rock band The National. Echoes, voices and acoustic artifacts overlapped, songs were begun and interrupted, harmonies were detuned and filtered. The image of the perfect rock band was torn open, while at the same time the incompleteness of the action seemed to follow a method. The ambient sound installation The Spatio Sensory Soundcheck reconstructs this experience. The musician and composer disassembled a sound check recording as well as individual tracks of the current album I Am Easy to Find by The National, then electronically manipulated and reassembled them with his own elements. Mouse on Mars and The National had contributed music to each other’s most recent albums. Now Werner goes a step further – the installation dissolves the categories of band and album and shifts tsounds in a continuous state of instability on a psychoacoustic stage: With a novel speaker system based on wave field synthesis, Jan St. Werner arranges the sounds independently of each other in the space; movements and perspectives of the listeners become part of the composition.
The installation employs a speaker system by Holoplot. The audio technology of the Berlin-based company creates fully digital 3D-beamforming of multiple audio beams based on its own wave field synthesis algorithms and real-time audio processing.
Glottal Wolpertinger was initially conceived as a radio installation for documenta 14, with each of the tracks broadcasting individually over the course of ten weeks and culminating in a convergence of all eight tracks at a performance in Athens. The pieces consist of microtonally tuned feedback, multispectral drones which Werner modulated and filtered with a purposeful, and indeed vocalized, emphasis given to the different frequencies and textures used. By naming the individual frequency bands, Werner defies traditional tuning systems and instead centers the piece on collaging variable elements. Sonic elements churn and sprawl across the tracks in constant motion. Their drones, combatting for space, entangle one another and oscillate into overtones that shift, build, and wither with fluid motion that blurs the line between consonance and dissonance.
Glottal Wolpertinger’s incarnation as a recording is no less potent than its preceding forms, but serves as a continuation of the project’s evolution as a distinct listening experience. Werner’s apt title for the project embellishes the ambiguity and cognitive dissonance inherent with the work, as the wolpertinger is a creature of European myth which is said to be the mutated result of different species breeding under special circumstances in the Alps. Glottal intonations are those produced by the guttural and throat region of the body, the center of organic sound. According to Werner, wolpertingers are “bastards, collaged freaks who exist in the grey zone of nature’s perfect plan,” the same grey zone in which his pieces live.