Resonance in Maastricht – 2nd edition

December 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

Like last year, also this December month in Maastricht Resonance will showcase a selection of the sound art works that were produced for the network. There are three of them, all hosted by the Jan van Eyck Academy, at the Academieplein 1. No more premieres, this time, as all eight works that were planned as part of this phase of the Resonance project, by now have been finalized. Still, for many visitors it will be a first encounter. And those that did see earlier installments of some or all of the works, will be able to investigate and experience how these pieces change and evolve from one space to the other.

The opening of this second edition of Resonance in Maastricht will take place on Friday December 9th, at 16h, at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht.

VeenendaalOn Sunday December 18th, as part of the Resonance in Maastricht events, Dutch pianist Albert van Veenendaal, who recently released a new solo CD, Minimal Damage, will perform a special prepared piano concert at the Jan Van Eyck Academy, at 17h.
Entrance for the exhibition, as well as for the concert, is free.

The pieces included in the exhibition, are those by Evelina Deicmane, Paul Devens and Maia Urstad.

Evelina Deicmane‘s A long Day premiered in Kunsthaus Meinblau in Berlin, last August, then travelled to Riga, where it was part of this autumn’s presentation of Resonance works by the network’s associated partner Skanu Mesz.

a long day

The second work on show this time in Maastricht, is City Chase, by native Maastricht sound artist Paul Devens. City Chase premiered at the Resonance presentation Sound City (De Klinkende Stad), as part of this year’s Festival of Flanders in Kortrijk, Belgium. Paul did a second presentation of the work in November in Krakow, Poland, at the Audio Art Festival 2011, another of the Resonance network’s associated partners. In this third installment of the work, Paul will chase and map the city of Maastricht, where he was born and raised, and has lived and worked ever since.

city chase

The third work to (re-)discover as part of the December Resonance presentation at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, is Maia Urstad’s “Meanwhile, in Shanghai …” which, like Paul Devens’ work, premiered at Sound City (De Klinkende Stad) in Kortrijk, Belgium. Also Maia Urstad did a second installment of her work this autumn in Riga. Here is a visual impression of “Meanwhile, in Shanghai …”, as it could be seen and heard earlier this year in Riga, the capital of Latvia …

city chase

Meanwhile at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, another bunch of transistor radio’s is deligently being installed for a third rendition of this fascinating, ethereal work, that, like the pieces by Evelina Deicmane and Paul Devens can be seen, heard and experienced all of this December month as part of the Resonance network’s showcase in Maastricht, the Netherlands.

city chase

This year’s edition of Resonance in Maastricht opens on December 9th, 16h, at the Jan van Eyck Academy, Academieplein 1, Maastricht (the Netherlands).
Albert van Veenendaal will perform a special prepared piano concert, on December 18th, 17h, also at the Jan van Eyck Academy.
The pieces by Evelina Deicmane, Paul Devens and Maia Urstad can be visited there every week from Wednesday until Sunday, between 11h and 17h, until December 30th (except on December 24th and 25th). Entrance is free.

Sound City – De Klinkende Stad

May 16, 2011 § 3 Comments

Resonance at the Festival of Flanders in Kortrijk, Belgium

The Resonance Network celebrates its first anniversary at this year’s Flanders Festival in Kortrijk, Belgium, with Sound City (De Klinkende Stad). It is the network’s biggest showcase to date, bringing together the four sound installations that were realized during the first year of the network’s existence. For those who saw the earlier versions of some of the installations, the exhibition in Kortrijk provides a great opportunity to see and hear how these works evolve and ‘resonate’, when they are re-built and adapted to a different kind of space, which, indeed, is one of the motivating ideas that underly the Resonance project.

Pierre Berthet presents a third version of his Extended Drops. This work was first realized at the Singuhr Hörgalerie in Berlin (Germany). There it could be seen and heard from July till September 2010. Pierre did a second installment of the installation at Intro in situ in Maastricht (December 2010 – February 2011).
Esther Venrooy brings A Shadow of A Wall to Kortrijk, her joint work with Ema Bonifacic that was first realized and shown in Maastricht (December 2010 – February 2011). The installation for Sound City is the work’s second realization.
The remaining two installations are premieres. They were finalized in Kortrijk, in the weeks preceding the opening of Sound City: Maia Urstad spent several weeks in the small Belgian city working on her Meanwhile, in Shanghai…, while Paul Devens was touring the town on a bicycle, recording the sounds for his City Chase.

budatoren budatoren

_It was a hot and very sunny day, when I arrived in Kortrijk on Saturday May 7th for Sound City’s opening. As fas as I can remember (and I can remember pretty far), it was the first time ever that I visited this old Belgian city, which sprang from a Gallo-Roman settlement at a crossroad near the river Leie and two Roman roads. I walked the short distance from the railway station to the Grote Markt, where I dropped my luggage at the hotel, and then walked on to the Buda-eiland, the old part of town (named after the western part of the Hungarian city of Budapest) where the Sound City events are taking place.

The Resonance installations can be found in, and next to, the Buda-toren, the tower of a former brewery, that in the 1990’s was converted into a production house for the arts.

_Maia Urstad installed her “Meanwhile, in Shanghai…” on the tower’s ground floor.


Some 80 radio’s, radio cassette players, and some other radio-like machines are hanging motionless, just slightly off the floor, in long lines stretching across the crepuscular space. They are all facing the (obscured) windows. My first impression was that of a regiment of soldiers, lined up for inspection. When I entered the lines, this curious army seemed to be a silent one, until I became aware of the soft static that, in short bursts, came whirling like a mist, like whisper, along the floor. Every now and then, from this side or other, a voice arose, speaking a short message. But when I turned to try and locate where precisely the voice was coming from, it mostly had gone silent again. Sometimes the language spoken was familiar. Sometimes it was not. Such is the short multilayered piece that Maia Urstad composed. Each of the layers is transmitted via a short range FM transmitter to a corresponding group of radio’s.

The soft, crackling and ghostlike voices soon gave rise to a different image: that of a graveyard, where each of the old and pretty much obsolete machines acts both as a thombstone and an – almost but not quite yet – corpse, ‘speaking in tongues’ … I only wished there would have been quite a bit more of these voices …

The following few minutes of audio give an (of course highly approximative) impression of what I heard when I walked up and down the lines that make up Meanwhile, in Shanghai…

_The fifth floor is the top floor of the Buda-toren. It is where one finds Paul Devens’ new work, City Chase. When I talked to Paul late March in Maastricht, the piece was little more yet than a soundless drawing that resided on his laptop. Meanwhile the drawings had materialized, and four gondolettes were moving small loudspeakers back and forth along a long metal rack with four parallel tracks.

city chase

Shortly before the exhibition’s opening, Paul was still busy adjusting the mechanics and lubricating the tracks. Which was necessary to assure an as smooth as possible movement of the little wagons carrying the speakers, so that none of them will get stuck during the four-part linear choreography of the eight minute dynamic city sound scape that comprises the current, first version, of City Chase.

Here’s is a short sound fragment, that I recorded during one of the City Chase‘s test rides early that Saturday afternoon:

city chase

The soundscape of the city of Kortrijk was very loud and very prominent on the day of Sound City’s opening: these were the final days of the yearly Kortrijkse Paasfoor, a mega-fair that could be seen cramming many of the center’s old squares with blinking lights and metallic constructions, some reaching as high as 52 meters. As the afternoon advanced, the sonic excitement of the fair that came drifting across the river Leie to the Buda-eiland continued to grow. The swooshing, shrieking, clanking, beeping and the mingling of up-tempo bumpings of very deep basses of multiple musics, made for a densely ondulating sonic texture that enveloped the city center of Kortrijk throughout the day, and that was pretty difficult to ignore. For, as you will know, one may shut one’s eyes, but it is a pretty tough task to shut one’s ears…

Also on the fifth floor of the Buda-toren, with its marvelous view on the city, it was hard to lock that day’s “sounding city” out, even when the doors and windows were all closed. And given the fact that in City Chase this very same “sounding city” is framed (it is tamed, in a way), the proximity and presence of the Paasfoor‘s wild, unleashed sounds, made it a rather strange experience to hear the recorded city sound fragments of Kortrijk’s City Chase parade before my ears, watching the gondolettes glide back and forth along the bare metal tracks, at times providing past-time echoes of the fair sounds that meanwhile, outside, continued to rage in real-time random force and abundance. It almost felt as if the “sounding city” was taking revenge …

city chase

It had me wonder whether City Chase should not be taken away from the city, out to the country side. And then, maybe, there be experienced out in the open? Somewhere up in the mountains, where the real-time soundscape is of an entirely different type?

An essential part of City Chase is the idea of a ‘double movement’ of the recorded sound sources: a first movement while recording, and a second one during playback. But most city sounds are highly complex, and in many cases, indeed, the (multiple) sound sources in the recording are themselves also moving, thus severely testing the limits of our ability to perceive and distinguish the different kinds of movement of the sounds that are involved. I’m curious to find out how, over the coming months, City Chase will evolve, and how the work will sound when, in its upcoming installments, the collection of fragments used in its composition has become larger. The range of the current pallette of Kortrijk sounds struck me as being somewhat too limited for a full appreciation of the idea of the work, and of the ingenious construction that underlies its realization.

_Pierre Berthet installed the Kortrijk version of his Extended Drops in a former stable of the brewery, just opposite of the Buda-toren. It is a pretty long, but relatively narrow, space, shaped as a simple rectangular box, quite different from the spaces in Berlin and Maastricht, where the previous versions of the work were made. Pierre told me that he actually would have preferred such a simple space to start with, as it makes the setting up and tuning (of, for example, the intricate network of wires) of the installation quite a bit easier. It is maybe one of the reasons why Extended Drops in the long rectangular Kortrijk stable makes for such an impressively balanced, and very spatial sonic experience.

Here is a short impression of how Extended Drops sounded there on the day of the opening:

extended drops

On the other hand, I also found that the rectangular stable space, enabling one to overlook the entire installation, as it were, in a single glance, made Extended Drops lose some of the visual attraction (and with that some of the mystery) that it had in the Intro in situ space, and in the obscure and almost labyrinthine rooms of the Berlin Singuhr Hörgalerie, a historic waterreservoir in Prenzlauer Berg.

_Esther Venrooy & Ema Bonifacic’s A Shadow of A Wall, a work that premiered in Maastricht and in Kortrijk’s Sound City has its second rendition, can be found on the third floor of the Buda-toren. The original inclined wall, which is the heart of the installation (a patchwork of differently sized rectangular panels), was adjusted: a part of it had to be removed, in order for it to fit into the space. The decision to do so was a very good one. The low and not too large brick room with its wooden ceiling and floor appears to be near to perfect for the work.

shadow of a wall

More than in the very bright and white living room type space in Maastricht, here the inclined surface indeed acts as the ‘architectural intervention’ it was intended to be. Whereas in Maastricht the light, whiteness, and the relative small surface, but bigger height, of the room somehow seemed to keep the slope from thoroughly imposing itself, in the Buda-toren it does succeed to transform the space. Also at Intro in situ the slope was an intruder, very much so, yes; but in the Buda-toren the intruder really manages to, be it ever so gently, take control.

Though the work did not give up on any of its introvert serenity, it seemed to have grown up. I found it to be powerfully self-contained, and an easy match for the outside sounds that, from time to time, in intermittent waves, came drifting in through the door, that Esther had left open. On purpose.

shadow of a wall

_Following the official opening and reception in the Budascoop, around 17h30, visitors were led on a tour of the four installations. Then, after dinner, there were the evening performances, one by each of the participating artists.

Two of the concerts took place inside the artist’s installation, and two were done on stage, in one of the Budascoop’s concert halls.

The evening program began with a very varied, dynamic – and at times also very loud – duo performance by Esther Venrooy (on electronics & laptop) and a young, and equally versatile, Belgian percussionist: Lander Gyselinck.

esther performance

We then walked over to the ground floor of the Buda-toren, where Maia asked each member of the audience to take place behind one of the radio’s. It made for an interesting way of experiencing the short, quiet and reflective radioscape that she presented.

maia performance

Next we moved to the stable, for a performance by Pierre Berthet. Expirateurs et Gouttes is a two-part ‘concerto’. First part for drops, the second for vacuum cleaners. In the manipulation and control of both, Pierre Berthet undeniably is a master. The gradual building up of ever more intricate rhythmic drop patterns, giving way to the forceful swiping of vacuum cleaner tubes, and then onto the grand finale of an ecstatically trumpeting ensemble of Filter Queens, doesn’t cease to intrigue.

pierre performance

For the evening’s final concert, we returned to the Budascoop, where Paul Devens performed his Storm, for live electronics and fieldrecordings, based on John Cage’s Variations VII. At the end of his performance Paul managed to rest sound- and motionless for a very long time, thus forcing all of the audience to hold their breath equally long… until he finally relaxed, and invited applause. It was a forceful and worthy conclusion of a fine evening of music and sound.

paul performance

Especially for those who were not there: the following ten-minute audio track is a succession of four short fragments from the evening’s performances:

_When, after a couple of last drinks, I walked back to the hotel, the Kortrijkse Paasfoor was still going strong. While contemplating all that I had heard and all I had seen that day, I strolled along the Leie and on over the Grote Markt, where I watched with quiet amazement the quite monstrous (but many no less ingenious) machines, that were created to sell mere minutes of adrenaline pumping excitement.
With all windows of my room wide open I fell asleep, listening to the loud, excited and piercing screams of bunches of young fair-goers, that continued to fall from the Kortrijk sky.

Sound is a very funny thing, for I slept like a rose.

Sound City (Klinkende Stad) is the Resonance exhibition (with sound installations by Pierre Berthet, Esther Venrooy, Paul Devens and Maia Urstad) that is part of the Flanders Festival in Kortrijk, Belgium. The exhibition can be visited on the afternoons of Saturdays and Sundays, between May 7th and May 22nd. Entrance is free. On Saturdays at 15h there are guided tours (participation: €2,-).
On May 18th-20th an international symposium (with performances) is taking place, entitled Listen. Perspectives on Auditive Space, curated by Esther Venrooy. Locations are the Witte Zaal, in Gent (Belgium) on May 18th and 19th, and the Budascoop in Kortrijk (Belgium) on May 20th.

“Meanwhile, somehow, something …”

April 9, 2011 § 9 Comments

Skyping with Maia Urstad. A conversation about radio on our private globe-spanning channel…

A couple of days ago I sat in my Parisian bedroom, looking out on a busy avenue with a nervous traffic rushing towards the Place de la Nation and back again. There I talked with Maia Urstad a Norvegian artist, who meanwhile, at that very same moment, was in her Bergen studio, overlooking the calm water surface of a small harbor.


Maia Urstad is one of the artists that, as part of the European sound art network Resonance, produce a new sound work for the Festival van Vlaanderen in Kortrijk, Belgium, which takes place next month, from May 5th until May 22nd. As communication technology, its fate and its ‘ruins’, are topics central to Maia’s work, it was in hindsight rather appropriate to have this conversation over Skype, which these days is one of the main ubiquitous technologies used, not only to privately talk with people all over the globe, but also to transmit lectures and performances from one place to another, as nearby or as far away as one wishes. With its blurry images, failing connections, freezes and drops in the sound transmission, it comes with a pretty lo-fi feel. It is a bit like having your own home-built radio transmitter and receiver, and a frequency that allows you to broadcast to whoever you allow to listen in. We are all ‘radio amateurs’ these days, without even knowing…

The (idea of) radio is pivotal in a still growing number of Maia Urstad’s works, reflecting her fascination with radio as an object, as a technology, as a source of sounds and as a means for globe-spanning communication. Reflecting a fascination also for how radio somehow seems to manage to survive current technological changes that follow one another in ever more rapid succession.


‘Structures of stone have been built since time immemorial, and are still erected today,’ it says in a series of short notes on her web site. ‘Monuments will stand after us, as they have stood after our ancestors. But will the remains of our technology be understood in a hundred years or more? Will these remains be accessible when our descendants attempt to discover our everyday concerns? What do we erase as we progress?’

Indeed, what do we erase? Will a next generation have the slightest clue of what is a ‘Skype’, and how that was like? Does it matter?


“My work with portable radios actually goes back to 1996,” Maia said, smiling into the small lens of her computer’s camera in Bergen. “At that time I was working with sound in the context of experimental theatre. These were the kind of productions in which each of the makers contributes a part of equal weight: The director had one voice, the writer had one voice, I had one voice … So the sound was an integral part of the performance. I then got four radio cassette players. Because these provided a nice way to move the sound and move with the sounds that I had recorded onto cassette tapes. A bit later I was invited to Krakow for a project, where I decided to improvise with portable radios. Again, because they make it very easy to move the sound around and blend in with the actors. So I got four more radio cassette players. At the time I was working with the radio sound, but transferred onto cassette tape. because that was a nice way to make textures. So then I suddenly had eight of these radio cassette players. In 1998 I did a project in the mountains in Bergen. There I hung four radios in some trees, and I worked with these medium wave sounds, that, you know, can sound almost like birds. So I was working with space and birds and medium waves, communication…”


“I realized more and more that these machines, that then already were quickly becoming obsolete and were very easy and cheap to get, would be very interesting material for constructions. The radio’s are blocks, they are construction bricks. So I started to build with them, like the classical arch of ‘Stations’, which is a 3 meter tall portal, that I made in 1999 with some 50 cassette radios and CD players, at the Fortress Bergenhus.”


“Since then one project has been leading to another. What I began in 2004, and still continue to do, is the construction of this big wall, the ‘Sound Barrier’. It is changing all the time, but the main structure is there. I just adapt it to each new space. Also the sounds are always changing, depending for instance on whether it is a group installation or a solo installation. In constructions like ‘‘Stations’ and ‘Sound Barrier’, I use radio cassette players and CD players, with technology that makes the CD players play in a synchronized way. So I can start many of them at the same time, and use several separate layers: I can start one layer, and then another layer and then add another layer, and so on…”


“The Resonance installation that I will produce for the Festival van Vlaanderen in Kortrijk is a continuation of these projects. I now am also very interested in the radio again, and I felt the need to dissolve…”


It somehow gives me the impression as if you just have been taking the big wall apart again. Or maybe it exploded and you captured the moment just before a part of the machines hit the ground again?

“The radio’s are floating in the air, each of them separately. I was in Kortrijk in February, to work on the piece and try out things in the space where the installation will be. It is a very interesting place, an old brewery, I believe. I like the floor, and I like the material used in the spaces. The organizers in Kortrijk collected radio’s for me, and they will continue to do so for the Festival. I actually asked for 96 of them, but for the tests in February I got 16. I believe that they even intend to put out a call on the radio in Kortrijk, to ask people to give or lend their radios…”

“But when you use so many radio’s, there are quite a few technical challenges: with noise, and interference… I would like to transmit the sounds with four short-range transmitters. But maybe four frequencies will be hard in Kortrijk. I will have to find more or less empty spots on the radio, and it’s on the FM. So. It is not completely clear that I will be able to find these. When I was there in February, there was a lot of interference and a lot of noise. And it seemed to me that the stations were very strong.
I want to use the sounds of the radio’s as textures. If there are 16 of them, then I can frame the space, if you see what I mean. But if I have very many of them, I can install them in the space so that it becomes, as it were, one texture. So you don’t walk around in it, but you just get into it. You become yourself a part of the installation.”

You want to give the impression that the radio’s are freely floating in the space. What sort of wires do you use to hang them?

“I want them to float, but on the other hand, of course everybody knows that they are hanging from the ceiling… The first thing one does when one wants something to look invisible is use fish string. But I think that is not really working. It is also too elastic, so that after a while the radio’s are hitting the floor. So, you see, I do not know yet. I tried out a few different possibilities, but I haven’t decided yet. If the wire is too thin, then it will not carry the radio. And if it’s too thick, it takes the energy away from the radio. So it’s a fine balance, you know.
Another interesting technical problem to be solved is how to provide the electrical power for all of these little machines. I would like to work with batteries, but that will not be very practical, for all sorts of reasons. For instance, it would probably mean that during the period of the Festival someone would need to turn on every radio every day, and maybe also change batteries over time. With wires for the electricity it will be possible to switch all of them on and off at once. But it also means that we will have to solve an interesting visual problem. There is always this negotiation between what is visual, what is not visual, what is main, what is accessory, and what is practical, what is needed in the installation. “


“The title of the piece is ‘Meanwhile, in Shanghai …’, which is inspired by the thought bubbles that are so often used in comic books. For the sound part, I am collecting many details about the time and the place, as they are being transmitted continuously by radio stations all over the world. Announcements like: ‘Es ist drieundzwanzig Uhr in Deutschland’, ‘Cinco de la Manana en Madrid’, ‘Het is nu middernacht’, and so on. I collect such announcements when I am travelling, but that is not always easy, especially when you don’t know the language, and are not quite sure what exactly is being said. So there are some blank spots… but if I like the voice, I can use it anyway. These messages I want to put together with other radio-specific sounds, in a polyphonic sonic image. Like a phonogram of a 24-hour cycle on the air. All of this I will have to develop and clarify when I am in Kortrijk to continue my research and the development, during the month before the opening of the installation on May 7th.”


“I can’t really start composing before I am Kortrijk, because I will have to consider what material there is already. All the Beyoncé and who knows other music… and I have to see for the volumes. As I said before, I work very much with layer upon layer upon layer upon layer upon layer. I work with textures, with background, with foreground… It still is not very clear to me how the composition will sound in the end. Though the idea now is more or less articulated, in a way, the sound is not there yet. At other times I started with the material. Maybe that is easier. But this time I started with the idea.
The way I see it now (but that still might change) is that there will be no frame. You will not be able to go around the installation, you will have to go into it, and become surrounded by the sound.
In fact, it will be around your ankles. I mean, the radio’s do not hang at ear height. I want to have them close to the floor, so that, acoustically, you won’t have your ear towards the radio.”

I like a lot the idea to built the installation with radio’s that are collected locally, that come from within and around Kortrijk.

Maia laughs. “Yes. Maybe we will empty Kortrijk of its portable radio’s. So then people will have to listen on the internet. I had an interesting experience this autumn, when I was in Brasil. I was doing a workshop with a group of artists. I asked them to bring a radio, and in my mind they would come carrying something. And then they popped in, but nobody carried anything at all. so I asked: ‘Oh, you didn’t bring your radio?’ But they said, ‘yes! sure we did!’ And of course, they had the radio on their cell phones, or computers.”

You will agree that listening to the radio on the web or on your iPhone (where you simply will ‘click’ to chose and listen to one among a range of available channels) is a very different experience from roaming through the ether turning the dial of your radio, with new voices and other music crackling in and out of ‘focus’…

“Yes, it is! But maybe that is also sort of a generation thing. My kids do listen to the radio, but I don’t think they turn the dial to search for channels. They simply pick the station that they want to listen to. They don’t search in the same way. I think that has something to do with memory. But I still think they have a memory for radio as well, it ‘s just a little bit different. It is true that things are changing…”


Do you listen yourself to the radio at home, Maia?

“Oh, actually I do. Yes, I listen to the radio. To a real radio. There is this one station left in Norway that has a lot of topics, that often before I didn’t even know that I would be interested in. So yes, I like to switch on the radio, and listen to that station.

I actually always envied friends of mine, who are also artists, but who can listen to the radio all the time when they’re working. I cannot do that. I cannot listen to the radio when I am working with all those radio’s that diffuse my sounds…”

The Festival van Vlaanderen Kortrijk 2011 takes place in Kortrijk, Belgium, between May 5th and 22nd. Sound City (Klinkende Stad) is the title of the Resonance exhibition (with sound installations by Pierre Berthet, Esther Venrooy, Paul Devens and Maia Urstad) that is part of the Festival. The exhibition’s opening (in the Budatoren, Korte Kapucijnenstraat), will take place on Saturday May 7th.

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