sound & music





On Sculptural Images (1991-1996; 62 min. 33 sec.)
This composition is inspired by seventeen glass sculptures that were created by Dutch artist Frans Willebrands. It was also used as soundtrack for a video of Willebrands' work, which presents each sculpture in a different landscape to emphasize its specific character.

The sculptures are made of glass, metal and stone. Sometimes tension runs high, but there is also calm and clarity. The soundscape reflects these aspects. It builds on audio treatments of the materials that the sculptor uses. The composer has added choral and piano recordings. A lot of these (analogue) sounds have been transformed in astonishing ways by feeding them through a 'Frippertronic'.

Avant-garde rock musician Robert Fripp pioneered this tape delay technique. It requires two tape recorders and skilful handling.

Midi and multitrack technology have been kept to a minimum.

Parts (the listed titles are the names of the sculptures by Frans W. Willebrands):
 1. Intro: The sculptor at work
 2. Homage to ancient buildings II
 3. Flaming trees
 4. Glasshopper/Surrealistic warrior I
 5. It's a bullfight
 6. Diving figure
 7. Elegantly moving figure
 8. Worm-catching bird
 9/10. Heroic Figure I & II
11. Blue moon
12. Sign
13. Hesitating warrior
14. Indonesian sea hopper
15. Homage to ancient buildings I
16. Under tension
17. Surrealistic warrior II

Work notes

1. Intro
The intro presents sculptor Willebrands at work. He is hammering on an anvil ... his autogenous burner hits on red hot metal ... metal is welded together ... filing takes place .... a hoist hauls up a heavy sculpture ... a grinder polishes glass.

Work that requires the patience and stamina of a monk (glass is polished using sandpaper covered in diamond powder) combines with the endless murmur of actual monks. In the background a choir is fed through the Frippertronic. Volcanic and foundry sounds cluster together until the earth appears to split open.

2. Homage to ancient buildings II
The most basic way to make a sculpture is to chip away relentlessly at unyielding rock, often accompanied by swearwords as pieces break off that are larger than the sculptor intended. Low and elongated sounds are produced by a tone generator in combination with the noise of a bridge raised high above an Amsterdam canal. (A couple of motorists waiting for the bridge to close were only prepared to switch off their engines if they were paid ten guilders each. Bank notes were hastily changed into smaller bills in the late-night shop. Just in time, Von Kleist managed to record a beautiful low vibration).

3.  Flaming trees
The sculpture is like a flame that has turned to stone. At risk of his life, Von Kleist recorded the sound of a burning torch in his studio. The rhythm in the background derives from a steel plate that was hung concavely from wooden blocks. Changing the curvature of the plate altered the timbre of the sound. The beginning and end of this cadence were joined to create a tape loop.

4. Glasshopper/Surrealistic Warrior I
Tenuous reverberations of a choir (that was put through a Frippertronic) have been layered and attuned to the processed sounds of a piano on which a major chord is struck. The piano sound has been amplified, then edited in such a way that the hammering of the keys on the strings of the piano is no longer audible. A recording of the same chord is reversed - i.e., it starts with the ausklang - as it blends with the original chord. The combination is then looped in order to get the sound to swell. Fragments of a double bass, played with a bow, are clustered within a chord that is subsequently reversed and repeated in a loop to get a 'sweeping sound'. The internal struggle that characterizes the sculpture is also evident from the war sounds in this composition.

5. It's a bullfight
Clusters of vibration created by metal sheets are recorded with contact microphones, allowing the tones to mix as four players continue to move the sheets at low frequencies. The piano has now lost its body. It is treated harshly by painter/musician Joep Vossen as 'anti-smoke magician' Jasper Grootveld continues to tap on his beer bottle.

6. Diving figure
This section starts with a percussion session on the bulky pillars of the old labour distribution building in the Amsterdam harbour. Then the double bass takes us below the water surface. Bubbles are blown through plastic tubes of varying diameters. In addition, a water tank/echo cauldron was used, constructed by Von Kleist. It produces typical 'lazy' muddy echo effects.

7. Elegantly moving figure
Several frequency ranges of the vibraphone are selected and re-recorded as reverberation is added. The choir is an amalgam of various recordings of
Von Kleist's voice through the Frippertronic. Joep Vossen plays the dismantled piano as he uses a tuning fork to obtain a beautiful sliding pitch.

8. Worm-catching bird
The sound had to match the vernal character of the sculpture ... light and young and hopeful. In order to sound like a bird, Von Kleist held his hands like a shell, and then blew through them. In addition, he applied slow reverberation to a recording of a symphony orchestra tuning up before the start of an opera, then combined the sound with percussion by Vossen on bamboo canes. An electric guitar continues seemingly endlessly through a tape delay.

9/10. Heroic Figure I & II
Sculptor Willebrands holds a large bronze ring as Von Kleist hits it and simultaneously zooms in on the long drawn-out frequencies of the vibrating metal. A deadly collaboration follows. Drumsticks with felt heads rain down on the body of a grand piano, accompanied by a tambourine. Monks murmur as subtle raps on the piano body are gradually overruled by majestic natural elements - thunder, lightning. Forceful timpani beats make way for a male-voice choir that produces a wrenching chord in various scales on special request. In conjunction with the sounds of a foghorn in the Amsterdam harbour, the effect is intriguing and slightly alienating.  

11. Blue Moon
The steel plate is pulsating within a huge empty hall of a power station where recordings were made clandestinely at dead of night. The close-up effect of the bronze ring is unmistakably evident in the sustain as the wind whistles through the windows of the factory. Recordings of a female choir have been speeded up, as a clear blue moon shines into the night. People are talking but their conversations have become unrecognizable.

12. Sign
The video portrays arctic ice, bordering on permafrost ... an appropriate background for this Celtic sculpture by Willebrands. The sign is enigmatic. Overtones of the bronze ring, speeded up or slowed down, sound like bells. These harmonics are so full-bodied that even if they decelerate significantly (ie, lowered by 14 octaves) their character remains specific.

13. Hesitating Warrior
The inner warrior is represented by rolls that are played on a steel structure with a thickness of several millimetres. Vossen uses a rubber football to play a rhytmical beat, which is subsequently looped. The background is composed of hefty wind and storm recordings, filtered through a water echo.

14. Indonesian Seahopper
When Willebrands visited Bali he took home some stones that inspired this vivacious vibraphone piece by artist/sculptor Emmanuel Lorsch, which was perfomed in his workshop. The artist creates a canon by improvizing against previously recorded fragments.

15. Homage to Ancient Buildings I
Sounds produced by the open bridge and the wind fit the spatial nature of this sculpture, that aspires to a colossal scale. Piano strings have been covered in strips of glass that resonate as Vossen plays with abundant energy.

16. Under Tension
Once again, Von Kleist plays with layers of sustained piano sound. A tuning fork twists and turns, distorting strings and tones. Willebrands' sculpture, which incorporates steel cables, is clearly under tension. The soundscape too is well-suited to the frantic life of many contemporary 'urban savages'.

17. Surrealistic Warrior II
The sculptor regularly revisits his theme of inner warfare. Here he highlights his own struggle with the material world as the soundscape morphs into a rough and flickering battle cloud ... almost like a soundtrack for an historic war documentary.

Whether humans will eventually manage to get rid of their iron eyelids remains open to discussion.

Music & sound:
Joep Vossen - treatments, percussion, piano, Bunsen burner, metals
Patrick Byrne - metals, electric welding
Jeroen Kramer - percussion, treatments
Emmanuel Lorsch - vibraphone
Jos de Vooght - judo mat, glass and other FX, wind instruments
Jonathan Mechanicus - sound engineering, percussion
Moze Jacobs - saxes
Frank van Berkel - double bass
Thijs de Melker - electric bass
Rokus Groenendijk - samples
Frans Willebrands - sordines
Darryll Aller, Paul-Jan van de Windt, Chris Kleist and Rewi - sound mixing
Karel von Kleist - production and composition