Metal splinters and helicopters umbrella
Everything is curved. So did my dear colleague Casper Schipper define his first listening to Extrusion, the second electronic piece from a series of four works, which I expect to finish in 2011. Maybe it is because of my renewed interest in Baroque aesthetics, maybe because of a more aware use of the spatial/temporal qualities of the materials, certainly it results in a more flexible approach to time than even in my previous electronic piece, Electronic Study. The piece was composed thinking about the features of the space in which it has been premiered, the Schoenbergzaal of the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. To a certain extent, in Extrusion sounds seem to be closer to the limits of the space they inhabit. I have always found especially suitable the apparently austere concavities of the Schoenbergzaal, an architectural compound of solid bricks and wood. In order to develop spatial gestures of sounds in a physical way, the hall is not hugely big as a large concert hall, but long and wide –and high- enough as to magnify some sonic gestures, which draw a completely new impression of the space fed by the music. So, space becomes a sort of instrument just in the moment when you try to modify the perceptions that the audience have about it in a virtual way along a deconstructed timeline.
I began to think about this piece last November, making some sketches about general descriptions, including some movements of sounds that could have structural implications later. The origin of the title was totally anecdotic, but the subsequent construction was not. Our video artist was working in a text on engineering for specific industrial processes, and we were diverted by the weird linguistic expressions that generally appear in this kind of texts. One of these terms was extrusion, and this term somehow reached my imagination. To extrude something is to give it form by means of industrial or mechanical processes. So I found it interesting to extrapolate something like this to a discourse on electronic sounds and to a quasi-mechanical framework.
In Extrusion there is an idea of layout in terms of structural/spatial elements split in several levels, but also a strategy on the movement of sounds in terms of their dynamic/temporal nature; actually these two approaches, the spatial functionality and its articulatory flexibility, are connected to each other. In other words, it could be said that this articulatory flexibility is understood in the physical space (the hall) as well as in the discourse -the music itself-, as the opposite ends of the same mental territory. Concerning the use of the parameter ‘height’ as a structural strategy, the space of the hall was understood in two levels, top and bottom. Eight sound sources were set around these two levels: at the bottom, a quadraphonic conventional setting with their respective sub-woofers was designed; at the top level, around the balconies, a rhomboidal setting of speakers crosses the quadraphonic setting, if you take the ground-plan as a reference. It means that the upper sound sources complement just the centers of the quadraphonic spaces, so that everything conforms a sort of eight-pointed star. At the bottom were set the routes 1-2 (front left-front right) and 3-4 (rear left-rear right), and at the top were set the routes as follows: 5-6 (front-rear) and 7-8 (left-right). Stereo tracks were used for all the channels, with the possibility of using preset panning and diffusion to create different spatial environments: static sounds, which express illusionary polyphonies around the space by means of alternation, dislocation and fragmentation; panned sounds, which define physical movement and locations of sounds restricted within certain selected stereophonic areas; and finally, diffused sounds, which move around the whole concert hall according to some surround parameters. For the latter, two independent tracks were used exclusively at the bottom level, while in the top level only panning was chosen as movement pattern.
Johan van Kreij’s website: