Another Timbre TimHarrisonbre
George Cremaschi - double bass & electronics
Irene Kepl - violin & electronics
Petr Vrba - trumpet, clarinet & electronics
1 - George Cremaschi ‘Affective Labor’ 13:21 Youtube extract
2 - Irene Kepl ‘Soma’ 6:05
3 - Petr Vrba ‘Locus Resonatus’ 13:13
4 - Irene Kepl ‘Pirol’ 4:08
Acoustic instruments and feedback devices in unusually resonant old stone buildings.
Recorded during a residency in the Czech Republic in 2015
Interview with George Cremaschi, Irene Kepl & Petr Vrba
Could you tell us how the Resonators project came about, and what its aims are?
George: Irene initially invited us together to make a proposal for a concert series in a Viennese church which has good acoustics, so we submitted a plan for working with the particular architecture and sound of the space. It ended up working well and so we continued. Overall we're concerned with using the acoustics of the resonant spaces we seek out as a sort of additional member of the group, composing with this interaction particularly in mind. For myself the aim is to continue to develop my work with amplification and feedback in highly reverberant spaces, which has been ongoing for some time.
Irene: George, Petr and I had experience together individually but so far we hadn’t played together as a group. I thought it could be nice to work together because our approach seemed to be similar. I had started to work with feedback at that time, so we all had both acoustic instruments and feedback/electronic devices. The music is not about showing or performing architecture, it's about focusing on the inside of sound in relation to the space and working it naturally into something that is perhaps more like a sound installation. I appreciate the playful approach that Petr, George and I share, combined with being really serious and open about what we're exploring, leaving enough space to let the sound evolve in the room.
So what rooms or spaces did the trio choose to work with?
Petr: For the series of Czech concerts where these recordings were made, there was a small church, two monasteries, and a hall in the former summer palace of a royal family – all dating back several hundred years. While age is not necessarily a prerequisite for good acoustic conditions, there is something special about how sound reacts in old stone structures.
The resonance of each kind of space will have its own characteristics, and this is especially critical with feedback which can easily become harsh and distorted, all the more so when multiple instruments are involved. In the monasteries we used the ambit, the large square hallway adjoining the church, which proved to have a quite special sound. The long hallways, open through arches to the central courtyard, amplified the sound but also allowed it to breathe.
What did the audience make of the concerts?
George: The nature of the audiences was quite diverse – the concerts in Prague and Vienna were attended by a more 'inside' audience, and were well-received. The other concerts were in smaller towns, and as such had a perhaps less knowledgeable audience, but they were equally well-received, especially in the monasteries where we invited the attendees to wander around the halls and courtyard and treat the event as more of an installation. This worked really well, especially with older folks who initially thought they were attending a classical music concert, and with a large group of theatre students who happened to show up at one performance and afterward were super enthusiastic.
George, as an American, how do you come to be in the Czech Republic?
George: My relationship with the Czech Republic goes back to the late 90s, when I first came to visit some friends from California who had started an arts residency/cultural centre in a small town south of Prague. I quickly fell in love with the place – both the centre and the town – and started coming back every summer to work and curate at the centre and also to play concerts around Europe. Over time I was working more in Europe than the US, at least in terms of being paid decently as a musician, and as the endless state of war asserted itself in the US along with the rising cost of living and dwindling artistic opportunities of the places I'd be willing to live in such as New York or San Francisco, the choice to live in Czech/EU just became obvious. One major attraction is directly related to this recording: the abundance of fantastic spaces to play in central Europe, old churches and monasteries that hardly exist in the US, where the average place to play has little to do with fine acoustics.
I know that you are all involved with improvisation, but the pieces on the CD are attributed to one or other of you as composed works. There’s obviously a huge grey area between composition and improvisation, but where did your pieces fit on this spectrum, and how did they work?
George: Yes, there is quite a large grey area, and our pieces fit across much of it. Mine is somewhere in the middle – there is a very specific feel I want from it, and there are quite a lot of written instructions, and even specific timed entrances and overall length. Given how the word 'improvisation' has evolved, I wouldn't say that there's really much, but still there is a lot of room for manoeuvring for the individual players. On the other side, Petr's piece is quite fixed. His part is completely notated, and within a specific time structure Irene and I are required to play more or less consonant notes which we arranged ahead of time. There is some flexibility with entrances and dynamics but within a fairly narrow range.
Irene: At the very beginning, instead of "just" improvising, we ended up discussing some musical ideas. So some kind of composing seemed to be the right way for us to explore our music. It allowed us to go deeper, developing the ideas of each of us in a more focused way. Anyway, our aim wasn’t to play in the most “correct” way, it felt more like everyone was directly involved in bringing each other’s pieces into the world with their own musical input, helping with an unbiased and open mind. That’s what I personally really enjoyed.
In fact I composed a piece for the first performance in Vienna – Gamma – which works with pictures, structures and layers, and it was very strictly organized. For the tour I decided to create new pieces in a more open way, using structures, gestures and their relations. It allowed us to make more autonomous decisions in playing in a way that challenged and highlighted our individual musical languages and relations with one special focus: the silence and the room. So there are quite a few aspects to think about, but actually this is quite an open form of composition.
“ Hintergrund dieser Aufnahmen aus den tschechischen Ortschaften Bechyně und Jičin war die Ambition, für elektronisch verstärkte Instrumente zu komponieren. Daraus ergibt sich auch zwangsläufig der Name dieses Resonators-Projekts. Es ist ein stilles, unaufgeregtes Musizieren, dass Cremaschi, Kepl & Vrba kultivieren, die elektroakustische Balance droht dabei niemals, verlustig zu gehen. Man lässt sich unterschiedlich viel Zeit zur Entwicklung des Wegs von der Idee zur Umsetzung, Kepl genügen durchschnittlich fünf, Cremaschi und Vrba pendeln sich bei 13 Minuten Spielzeit ein. Vordergründig passiert wenig auf dem genannten Weg, unter der stillen Oberfläche aber brodelt die Inspiration. Eher verhält es sich so, dass eben der Verzicht auf Action zugunsten des langen Atems dieser Veröffentlichung den Glanz und den Beweis ihrer Notwendigkeit verschafft.”
Resonators: Irene Kepl, Petr Vrba & George Cremaschi
Photograph: Matthias Halibrand