'Think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration' – Myth, Music & Electricity at Herkulessaal / A concert with visual artists, invited by Augustin Maurs
with MONICA BONVICINI, ANGELA BULLOCH, NINA CANELL & ROBIN WATKINS, ANNIKA LARSSON, SUSAN PHILIPSZ, PPKK (SCHÖNFELD & SCOUFARAS), KARIN SANDER & LOUIS-PHILIPPE SCOUFARAS
After damages resulting from the Second World War were deemed irreparable, Rudolf Esterer transformed the former throne hall of Ludwig I of Bavaria at the Residenz into a concert hall. The ‚Herkulessaal’ subsequently became one of Munich’s most exquisite venues for classical music performances, not only because of its historical significance, but also due to its exceptional architectural acoustic qualities.
For Augustin Maurs, there is a third reason why the hall is so exceptional: The origins of its name, which relates to the series of monumental tapestries depicting the notorious ‚Twelve Labors of Hercules‘ that cover the inner walls around the balcony. Lesser-known details of the myth of Hercules (Heracles) tell of an episode from his adolescence and his encounter with Linus, the god of the lyre, who criticizes his lack of ‚musicality‘. Out of frustration and an inability to control his strength, Hercules kills him.
The fact that a clumsy member of the Olympus lacking musical sensitivity is still the protagonist of the main palace of the Wittelbach dynasty is food for Augustin Maurs' ears. Similar to when he focused on virtuosity and the construction of virility with a concert of visual artists at the Berliner Philharmonie, for the deconstruction of musicality he now invites nine artists, most of them female, to develop a concert for the eyes in Munich.
Myth, Music and Electricity is an event focused on the musical and the ephemeral, curated by Maurs for artgenève/musique. For the night of November 29th, the event adopts the figure of Hercules as a transgressive force between the immortal and the human, the conservative and the liberal, myth and reality and, of course, between visual arts and music. Although the Hercules Hall usually hosts orchestra and chamber music ensembles, this event will focus on electronic instruments and sounds. The artists are invited to create works that will be audile or visible for the duration of the event, that is, for a few hours.
What makes this performance so different from a concert by musicians? Augustin Maurs states that musicians often forget the surroundings in which they play. Augustin Maurs is a musician and he wants the space to be an audio-visual element for the understanding of music.
Playing with the status and the sociability of the venue, Myth, Music & Electricity wishes to generate interstices for different approaches of producing and receiving sound. Rather than aiming at a somewhat appointed interdisciplinarity, this particular concert answers the vital need for being undisciplined within the discipline – drawing upon Hercules’ shattering powers – and re-thinking the relation of historical places to contemporary life in the cities.
When certain tones meet, vibration becomes bodily appreciable. Annika Larsson sees this musical moment as some kind of liveness, some kind of loss of control, that allows for music to connect with the outside. Her aspiration for an undisciplined attitude to music follows the idea of Maurs to not allow for music to become isolated from the rest. This is where visual artists can intervene best.
Monica Bonvincini has a certain obsession with belts. She has covered beds, holes and giants cubes with them. At the Hercules Hall however, it is the sharp sound of them whipping which allows for the intensity of the material to finally come to light. Bonvincini's work positions itself as an open form, adventurously performing between the present and archaic notions of power, and its relation to subordination and desire.
Recently at the Serralves Museum in Porto, Angela Bulloch performed a concert/theatre piece called 'The Wired Salutation', that she arranged, together with David Grubbs, Andrea Belfi and Stefano Pilia. Bulloch played the electric bass for certain parts of the musical score, made a video with avatars of each of the performers and programmed a 96-lamp animation using the entire lighting rig in the theatre. Bulloch managed a concept for the whole visual stage-production and played bass for this piece. The others concentrated on their musical input with the use of guitars, an electric organ, drums, percussion and electronic instruments. For Myth, Music and Electricity at the Hercules Hall in Munich, Angela Bulloch's input consists mainly of giving numbers and an idea of bass tones to Maurs, which simulate a facsimile of a recent sculpture of hers (seen last summer at Esther Shipper Gallery, Berlin). Maurs then arranged a musical composition from these numbers, which will be performed live on Wednesday night. The potential permutations of the arrangements Bulloch chose for her work, create facsimilies of giant tapestries depicting the Twelve Labors of Hercules, with a contribution of a copy of one of her own sculptures as a thirteenth labor of the same sage.
While musicians are the interpreters of scores; composers and visual artists are the ones who draft them. Karin Sander conceived a performance for musicians, in which they determine not only the sound, but measure it. For Myth, Music and Electricity she imagined how music could be generated in the head of a musician by visually translating this idea and allowing the musicians to photograph the audience from the stage. Each one of them shoots images following the rhythm of a lullaby from their childhood – allowing the flash to be determined by memory, so to say. Like within a storm, or within a crowd welcoming a pop star at the airport – music can be experienced in the dark through the little soft tones of a click, as an (un) precedented moment.
The array of customs and categories tied to the notions of art and music sometimes conceal underlying junctions. The very standard of music shaped by the bourgeois habitus has forged the alienation of concert halls within cities, but certainly also influenced the way understanding contemporary music dislocates from traditional forms of instrumental arrangements. Jörg Heiser takes it a step further with his thoughts on the manifestation of musicality and writes: To hypostasize it – to turn it into a fetish – is to enfetter it. In other words, musicality comes to life when both musicians, composers and visual artist work beyond conventions.
“Think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration”
– Annika Larsson quoted Nicola Tesla when I asked her about the sound of her piece written for the pipe organ. Of all of the musical instruments that could be used 'conceptually', and not only for their 'technical' purpose, the pipe organ is the most complex. The word organ is derived from the Greek όργανον (organon), a generic term for a tool, but a word that we intuitively relate to nature. Hydraulic in the beginning, the pipes absorb the pressure from the wind they store and deliver. Larsson's romantic idea that the pipe organ, like an automaton, emulates the movement of a human organism connects to the interest of Nina Canell and Robin Watkins on the modulation of unprocessed energies.
Their low frequency recordings of natural electricity, which they produced for 'The Luminiferous Aether', allow not only electricity, but also music and myth to commingle with one another. The electrochemical Aurora Borealis (or northern lights), and its electromagnetic audio counterparts, has spawned rich mythologies in Polar Regions, not seldom with regards to the departed, ghosts and the world(s) beyond our known dimensions. They say the night will be charged with atmospheric electricity, where the non-musical mirrors musicality itself, its provisional life and endless deviations – not unlike ancient ideas of immortality.