Last fall we had the oportunity to work with Ernst Karel and Helen Mirra. They biked over to our place to record some percussion and now a ew show months later these recording are now part of an exhibit at Diapason, 882 Third Avenue, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY. “Swiss mountain transport systems” is a long form composition created specifically for Diapason’s eight-channel system, constructed of location recordings and percussion.
The location recordings were made during the summer and fall of 2008 while we were in residence in Basel, Switzerland. Over the course of frequent walks in the mountains in different parts of Switzerland, Karel recorded the various transport systems which are specific to mountainous terrain — gondolas, funiculars, and chairlifts — of different types, of different vintages, and accessing different elevations. Recorded with high-quality microphones and preamps from within these mostly enclosed mobile environments, the sounds include mechanical drones, intermittent percussiveness, and transient acoustic glimpses of a vast surrounding landscape of humans and other animals.
The project builds on a performance that we gave in Kyoto, Japan, in January 2009, in the context of Mirra’s exhibition, Case study: Swiss bird houses, at Taka Ishii Gallery. For that live performance, Mirra played drums with Karel doing a live mix of unprocessed recordings of the mountain transport systems.
The project for Diapason opens up and extends this idea. Mirra subsequently recorded the percussion parts in the studio using multiple microphones in multiple configurations. The piece makes use of the eight-channel system to create an often abstract sound world that simultaneously evokes a sense of place informed by technologies of transportation enmeshed in the specific cultural geography of rural Switzerland. Mirra’s minimal percussion activates and modifies the contours of the listening space, as it contrasts with, complements, interrupts, and augments the sounds of transport.
Ernst Karel (b. 1970) works with analog electronics and/or location recordings. His audio work includes electroacoustic improvisation and composition; fieldwork-based research in the anthropology of sound; recording, mixing, and sound design for public radio and for nonfiction film and video; and solo and collaborative sound installations.
Helen Mirra (b.1970) works in varied scrap media, including sculpture, writing, and music. She has been a guest of the DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramm, the Office of Contemporary Art Norway, and the Stiftung Laurenz-Haus in Basel, Switzerland.