Schall und Klang by Christina Kubisch

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Christina Kubisch | Schall und Klang
Fragment Factory (CD/DL)

In one lengthy work at over forty-eight minutes is celebrated composer/artist Christina Kubisch and her most recent work Schall und Klang. This record isthe result of Kubisch’s extensive fieldwork on the trail of Hermann Scherchen (1891-1966), conductor and key figure in 20th century new music.” The included booklet includes an essay and vintage images that depict the artist and his process. There are audioclips of the composer in discussion, a water fountain, and other field recordings delivered in a montage playing on the variable notes and keys as sounded out phonetically, all interlaced in layered patterns balancing the process with the everyday. That would be intriguing unto itself, but Kubisch goes several steps further by adapting her sound to not only play homage to Scherchen’s contributions, but by adapting electricity into the work. Here you will experience open circuit soundwaves, like turning through radio frequencies and other lyrical transmissions.

These electromagnetic fields are conducted in such a way that has some in common with quiltmaking, a patchwork process that ties multiple fragments together in unification. The voices, all in German, envelop the listener in a slowly unfolding tale. Kubisch did a lot of research to bring this project together, even meeting people who knew the former composer, tracking down ephemera and her interpretation of voice analysis.

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The voices used range from narrative, to slowed and ghostly, to animated and quick-edited like hiccups. In some of the passages where the voice is played with it can become wholly trance-like.  The speakers talk about technical aspects of music, of sound itself, offering a meta comment on the product itself (ala Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs). Dogs bark, birds sing, and all the while the atmosphere seems slightly off-putting, process-oriented, a commentary on archival recordings that paved the way for artists to come. There are firework like crackles, and the surface of vinyl is referred to within the mix. She uses repetitive signals and buzzing, percussive thwacks – at times bunching up into something of a muddled fusion,with multiple voices overlaid upon one another. Exposed is the process itself, somewhat technical, but not completely flat and poker-faced, more quizzical, like resurrecting artifacts, and piecing them back together – without leaving much blank space.

There are crooners who appear, and cinema lovers might imagine a time without a social network or cable, or portable phones – a time where documenting the process, and building your own had no Google to easily refer to. Kubisch offers countless nuances within this collaged composition of clips. It’s wry, it’s noisy at times, you feel like you are in the past and present synchronously. A bright look upon inspiration itself.

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