In Neerpelt, a small town in the very north of Belgium on the border with the Netherlands, there’s the very unique Klankenbos (or Sound Forest). A public forest filled with sound art installations hidden between the trees, accessible to anyone for free any moment of the day. Something so unique, it’s strange we’ve never written an article about it here on Everyday Listening. Time to make up for that.
Made back in 2005 as a temporary sound art collection commissioned by Musica, the Belgian “impulse centre for music”, Klankenbos has since then become permanent and has been there for ten years already.
Pierre Berthet’s Houses of Sound: Two wires connect two huts on the banks of the Dommel. These are connected to exciters and tin can resonators in a network of wires among the trees around the installation. Inputs (mainly sine waves) transmitted through the exciters make the wires tremble, causing vibrations that create a buzzing resonance in the huts and cans.
With a few additions to the collection over the years, as well as the development of mobile installations, the Klankenbos is everything but a static collection. Just this year sound artist Laura Maes added an interactive sound-bench running on solar energy.
Staalplaat Soundsystem & LOLA landscape architect’s Composed Nature: Composed storms in the trees by washing machine motors, making the trees and it’s leaves shake.
Klankenbos does not only exist of installations in the physical realm: just recently artist Rozalie Hirs created Curvices, a musical grid that works with GPS tracking and can only be heard via a smartphone. Because the organization of Klankenbos is very aware that the forest is very important as well: it shouldn’t end up being a place of technology under some trees, and these technologies allow artists to put their own virtual sonic world over the actual one.
Erwin Stache’s Konversation: 12 mechanical plants conversating through signs and sounds.
On sunday the 18th of October Musica invites everyone to celebrate 10 years of Klankenbos with an afternoon with sound art, music, poetry and silence in the Klankenbos. Artists who will be present are Stijn Demeulenaere who will present his field-recordings of the past few years in a way fitting to the Klankenbos, Hans van Koolwijk in a performance with amateur musicians playing 65 helium-filled balloons, the robot orchestra of the Flemish organisation Logos who designed instruments for Aphex Twin, et cetera. They’ll be there presenting new work by young composers. Enough to see and hear!
Everyday Listening is starting an experiment with guest bloggers. This way we’re able to bring more art pieces and performances from all over the world. The following piece is from Gabriele Cavallo, an art/music journalist interested in sound art and contemporary cross-boundary practices. He attended the Sonic Arts Research Centre symposium in Belfast.
Maria Chavez is a New York-based abstract turntablist. After her debut as a DJ in 1996, the Lima-born, New York based artist has received the legacy of artists such as Christian Marclay, Pauline Oliveros and Christian Wolff. In late May 2015, Belfast Queen’s University hosted a two-day symposium, aimed to investigate the possibilities for parallel approaches to chance in music and legal cases. Chavez performed on her turntables at SARC (Sonic Arts Research Centre). Her performance lasted over 45 mins and was divided into three main sections.
An excerpt of Maria’s performance
Chavez plays two desks, which are connected to a multi-track mixer. She digs out the sonic possibilities of vinyls and record players as physical materials: she taps, scratches, presses on their surface; amplifies and elaborates glitches and shrieks, etcetera. Defective needle styli, or damaged disks are used on purpose. In the middle of her performance, the artist even shatters the vinyls and lets the fragments spin on tables. Throughout the work, she also hits her instruments with found objects, such as stones or small crocks, transforming the turntables into multi-sources of sound production.
From the midst of this multi-media originated texture, excerpts of recordings emerge and are skillfully integrated into the acoustic fabric. Chavez intends sounds as part of a dialogue with the environment. She’s not afraid to interact with the surrounding space, as she welcomes the random sounds by the audience by responding to them cleverly.
Taking part in her performance was an intense, immersive experience. Chavez weaved together sonic events, produced in contrasting ways. She avoids rethorical solutions, interacts with external stimuli and stays multi-faceted and coherent.
Tom Moore is a musician playing traditional music, contemporary acoustic music and sound art. He’s primarily a violinist, but also plays other instruments and works with assorted electronics and hardware.
For his latest performance “Automatic Trio”, Tom performs with simple “kinetic” or animatronic instruments which play themselves. By attaching a bow to a simple bicycle wheel, he’s able to simulate the bowing of a violin or cello, making for some automated accompanyment to Tom’s playing. The set-up is quite simple, but really works with the ambient string loops and improvisation that he’s playing over the droning of the mechanical instruments. The fact that it’s part “installation piece”, part performance makes for something that is also visually compelling.
Martin Backes is a Berlin-based audiovisual artist. In his latest work What Do Machines Sing Of?, he asks the old question of how a computer can communicate, or rather evoke, human sentiment. An automated machine that sings 90s ballads in a digital way, but not in a way which feels distant and cold. And that is what Backes has done very skillfully: retaining the sentimental aspect of vocal intonations, while stripping the songs bare.
Christian Skjødt is a Danish artist and composer exploring temporal, spatial, as well as physical aspects of sound and aesthetics of noise. His installation works are often site-specific and include self-built electronics. Which is the case as well for his Illumination (2014): A site-specific piece for a 18th-century wine cellar in the Botanical Garden in Riga.
Illumination examines the translation of the outer circumstances, harvesting the energy from the sun, and bringing this into the cellar in the form of sound. In the cellar the sounds are spatialised, and the particular acoustics of the dome-shaped cellar are investigated.
Each circuit/speaker is tuned to 440 Hz when it’s receiving optimal sunlight. When it’s receiving less than optimal sunlight, the perfect pitch is distorted, resulting in a microtonal cluster-type of texture due to weather conditions and the rotation of the planet.
During this year’s Sonic Acts, one of the installations that stuck with me was Mario de Vega’s DOLMEN. It hung in the main hall of the Muziekgebouw and made a whole lot of noise.
Consisting of various high frequency receivers, radio scanners and custom electronics based on logarithmic detectors, it is an intervention that explores the boundaries of human perception as well as the social, political and physical impact of telecommunications technnology by making wireless signals in space audible. If you stood below it, making a call, you could hear the normally inaudible carrier wave being amplified by de Vega’s installation. In that way it was also kind of semi-interactive, and made one really aware of all the different signals we surround ourselves with. Not only the waves of cellular phones were audible, also the carrier waves of the radios of the ships floating by.
Steven White is an visual artist from Ontario. White got the idea to convert old argicultural machines into a collection of fanciful kinetic sculptures when he and his wife moved to rural Ontario, and found a lot of obsolete equipment there. Sprockets, gears and valves on many of the pieces are interactive, and when you crank them, the sculptures produce an eerie, mechanical kind of music.
Wall Street Sound Machine is an interactive, kinetic sculpture made from an old metal roofing vent, a cast-iron wheel, gears, steel, guitar strings and a large hand-lithographed Wall St. sign. The sounds produced are dissonant and somewhat random, echoing the look of the Wall Street sign; corroded, abandoned, broken, oily and wrong. Inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, this piece highlights the underside of big commerce, showing the obsolete, broken aspects of a system that is in need of change.
Herman Kolgen is a multidisciplinary artist, working and living in Montreal. He calls himself an audiokinetic sculptor. His Urban Wind installation is part of his longer running Windfields series. The installations in this series have in common that they relate to the dynamic characteristics of the wind in one way or the other.
In Urban Wind, wind sensors are installed in strategic points in the city, be it intersections, bridges, tunnels, parks rooftops, etcetera. The velocity and direction of the wind gets analyzed and transmitted by WiFi to a group of suspended accordions that emit a euphonic soundscape. This way the audience can experience the dynamics of the wind in the city through the accordion bellows, which create harmonies influenced by the wind flow.