006- undirected 1986 - 1996

"undirected 1986-1996" is a 60 minutes CD-ROM which features compositions like "Kalkutta Kreis", in full or in parts, some of them are described above or hereafter. On the audio part, two layers of these compositions have been mixed together with a third layer using a max program triggering a K-2000 sampler. which appears on the data part of the CDR, together with sound samples (AIFF), picture (PICT) and texts, a documentation about my concert and installation works. The max program is autonomous and has been presented / used as is in different events, among others at the ZAC event of the ARC / Museum of Modern Art in Paris (1999).

In "Kalkutta Kreis", the recordings of the different places have been edited according to the dynamic of their structure: each part thus features a special tension. The first unit features mainly urban sounds: taxis, tramways, motorbikes and all kinds of horns. The second unit introduces organic life : birds and human voices come from the parks, the river and the markets. The trains horns of the South Eastern Railways in the fourth unit represent speed. The wind of the fourth unit gives the feeling of time, and the Indian Ocean of the fifth unit recalls eternity. The whole structure goes from "Urbanity" to "Eternity", but doesn't intend to order things or to determine any kind of hierarchy between them-it is possible to change the order of the parts. The sounds appear according to an arbitrary global rhythm, which is repeated as a long loop: as soon as it ends, it is ready to start again.

The edited soundscapes part of "Kalkutta Kreis" has been mixed together with a piano piece, named "Dialectic Chords", where the main idea is to play a (group of) sound(s), and to wait until it has disappeared before playing the next. The next sound is determined by measuring the release of the preceding one. Once mixed together, the sounds of the piano appear as a counterpoint with some elements of the Indian soundscapes: the difference of timbre gives them another dimension, and lets them appear more clearly.

Der "Hirt auf dem Felsen" (1986) is divided in four sections corresponding to four different acoustic spaces. In the port of Hamburg, the sounds of pieces of wood and their echo on the surrounding walls were recorded one by one. The second part was taken on the Frioul Island of Marseille, where stones where hit in a large space providing a lot of echo. Hand claps were recorded in the Catacombs of Paris, and the last part features the reverberated sounds of the wooden chairs of five churches in Hamburg. The counterpoint to these different spatial sounds is given by a drone of a flute and a bowed electric bass based on breath.

These pictures are part of a video by Kim Soun-Gui during a performance at Vieille Charité, Marseille, were I would play the tape while drawing a large circle on the earth with contact microphones amplifying the sound of the gravels.

The interaction between the sound of bells slowed down four times and the sound of a grain silo transformed by the autumn wind is at the basis of composition Silo (1986). This piece has been "recycled" as a drone for many other recorded or live pieces. In this composition, the different sounds were mixed without any special effect, but it is difficult to tell when the bells turn to sound like a silo, or when the silo becomes a bell.

These three pieces described above have become models for the compositions which have been later developed. The form of "Kalkutta Kreis" gave birth to the "next point" form, while "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen" announce a more static form which doesn't feature a development through the composition: the four parts (which become six or eight according to the version) are autonomous and show different aspects of the phenomena of echo in different environments. Silo is a drone which doesn't expand or transform, and is thus even closer to the "undirected" form.

Compositions which have been realized for "statics" (published by CCI / Ikeda Ryoji, 1995) and "In Memoriam Gilles Deleuze" (published by Mille Plateaux / Achim Szepanski, 1996) are developments of max patch featured on the ROM part of the "undirected" CD : the computer chooses the parameters of 22 sounds ("statics") or 48 sounds ("Deleuze"), so that their combinations don't appear twice.


The following text is an interview by Martin Conrads (Berlin) which was made for a radio program broadcasted on February 2, 1997. It is online on the condt site. There is also a descripion of the ConvexTV project at the Dokumenta X - Hybrid Worspace here.




About "undirected 1986-1996" (mp33)


"undirected 1986-1996" is a 60 minutes CD-ROM which features compositions produced since 1986, like "Kalkutta Kreis". Two layers of these compositions are mixed together with the "undirected" programs of the Macintosh/K-2000 system. The ROM part consists in a Max patch which is used in the composition process, as well as audio (AIFF), visual (PICT) and text documents. The following text is an e-mail-interview by Martin Conrads (Berlin) which was made for the 'convex tv.' radio program on February 2, 1997.

Martin Conrads: The relationships between image and sound in popular culture are more focussing on abstract (rhythm) or narrative format (just think of videoclips), but not on the production process or the pure technical visualization of sound. At the same time sound notations via popular software programs (techno music...) are possibly done by more people than ever due to cost and popularity. Do you think with this step you make with 'undirected' (audio+rom!), there is a chance that this relationship could change (in this emancipator, democratic sense, or, as you mentioned in 'time notations', regarding the relationship between the ear and the eye in the Dufrenne sense)?

Christophe Charles: I consider rhythm also as a physical-concrete element, which is able to stimulate the perception of sound (timber) and light. In the music produced with my computer program, regular repetition is avoided because random objects control the value of the metronome objects. In this sense, there is no one central rhythm but rather multi- or poly-rhythms. Sound is not immaterial. One of my interest is to pay attention to its physical quality, and this actually doesn't have much to do with the "abstract" and "narrative" characters which you mention. Because of its physical quality, I can use it as a formative element of space. Its volume, its movement and other characteristics can be felt physically (bodily), and sound can thus be used as a material to define space and realize a invisible architecture in which one can move freely-through the walls.
I can feel on another hand that sound stimulates physically the ear similarly as light stimulates the eye. A big sound will "hurt" the ear quite the same way a flashlight will "hurt" the eye. When I display images-for example in the patch which stands on the ROM of the "undirected" CD-, I consider these images as light images. Eventually one can perceive sound and images as meaningful information, but in this case I don't : what I want is to have here is a relationship in time between the different visual and audio variations, that is, a physical stimulation of ears and eyes happening simultaneously in order to make a "synaesthetic" or "synaptic" experience.
This kind of experiment reminds the works of Fischinger and Whitney, but the difference between film and interactive computer technology is that we can change in real time the parameters of sound and light image, and thus experiment combinations which are not yet realized, or which happen very seldom. This interactivity thus reinforce the physical aspect of the experience and force the listener/player to stay awake and responsible of what is happening.
Computer technology dealing with the other senses: touch, smell and taste, is still unpopular. And there are anyway no smell-lamps, no touch-speakers. The priority of the audio-visual should definitely be questioned more often, in order to leave room for a more global sensibility.

MC: To present the soundscapes according to their alphabetical proximity on the audio part of 'undirected' seems like a paradox regarding the general purpose of the CD-ROM-part to achieve the freedom of creating new orders of sound out of generating one's own idea of priority of sound. Yet, it is obvious, that the audio-CD has to follow the principle of linearity due to ist technical conditions. Would you compare the different kinds of sound- experience the listener/user get out of the audio part on the one hand, the CD -ROM part on the other to the principles of 'direct listening' and 'memory listening' you mentioned in the 'time notation'-text? (e.g.: 'direct listening' then would mean: on the audio part you can't influence the priorities, so it's a kind of perception you can't modify or escape from. 'Memory listening' in this sense would be creating one's own priorities of the parameters of speed, volume, duration etc. in order to create an 'un-direct', modified and thus technically memorized form of music?)

CC: The presentation of sound samples as mini-soundscapes according to alphabetical proximity followed the idea of "ready-made". In this case, such an arbitrary order has the meaning and effect to avoid using taste. But I found that I didn't need to avoid using my taste at this point, because the combinations are already the effects of chance meeting of different samples. So I am free to choose the alphabetic order too. It is true that the CD in its present form is a linear recording, similar to most paintings or sculptures in the classic sense. But nowadays, with computer-controlled CD drives, it has become possible to get it played in a programmed (dis)order, although there are still problems of discontinuity due to mechanical limitation of the searching/scanning devices. I want to show with the patch included in this CD, although it is provided in a very simple form, that it is now possible to transform the CD drive into a machine which is able to produce new combinations and thus new experiences. The sounds should be anyway copied as sound files on the RAM (random access memory) of the computer ,which can be accessed much faster than any (hard-)disk. The ideal amount of RAM would be the amount of what is on the CD (about 650 MB), then it would be possible to really random-access the CD without problem of discontinuity in the perception. Nevertheless, there is no personal computer with such an amount of random access memory (now in 1997), and in that sense, all what we can produce are prototypes, proposals. But it will be possible in a few years from now.
The process of listening is thus in question : the listener has now the responsibility of producing his own music, that is, his own boredom. Thus one has to develop her/his skill of listening, that is, both "direct listening" or "real-time listening" (the faculty of paying attention to all strata of a soundscape at once) and "memory listening" (the faculty of memorizing and analyzing what has been happening in order to create new combinations and avoid boredom).
The audio part has been realized according to these ideas and this process, and even if it is just a recording, it should be complex enough to challenge one's ability to hear-at-once and to memorize everything what is happening. Listening ability changes according to the conditions of internal (state of mind) and external environment (space acoustics, reproduction system technology, etc.). When playing this music in a environment which is already full of city or nature sounds, that is, non-intended sounds, new combinations are then created, which also develop listening skill.

MC: As far as mass music production, sampling and quoting of musical sounds has become a general topic. Looking at 'undirected', there is also just a small amount of soundscapes taken out of others' musicians' works (e.g.: Sibelius). Why is it you aren't interested in using samples as a form of quotation the same way it is used in pop-music or 'new electronica' but more following the principles of cage's 'Roaratorio' or the ideas of musique concrete?

CC: My music is full of quotations: Henning Christiansen's music, Buddhist monk's music, dog's music, No(h!) theater music, etc. I consider as a quotation any recorded sound which was intentionally produced by a human or an animal. Moreover, the question of quotation concerns not only physical sound, but also ideas of composition.
Most of the sounds made with music instruments are less complex than environment sounds, which are combinations of many sound strata. I have more interest in listening to complex sound combinations, for the reasons I explained above. But there are also "simple" soundscapes, where only a few sounds are necessary. When I use the end of the first movement of Sibelius Fourth Symphony, it is because I hear it as a (minimal) soundscape, and because these four notes resume the whole symphony. In this sense, they have a very special complexity, which is maybe more related to "memory listening". I use quotation for this precise quality of complexity related to memory. In this sense, each sound represents a little world ; it is the visible part of the iceberg.
Long quotations are more easy to recognize than short ones. Repeating a long sequence will often lead to boredom. There are technical limits of RAM, as I described above. My sampler has only 16 MB, and I cannot avoid repeating samples-quotations. I cannot help repeating them, but I try not to have twice the same setting of parameters for a same sound, in order to avoid pure repetition and boredom. The most precious we have is time. I don't like to spoil time by repeating a sound, even a beautiful one.

MC: At the end of the audio-part of undirected there is silence for more than 3 minutes -is it due to technical reasons or can it be seen as a statement to make aware of 'silence' as an qualitatively equal element of sound (which would be a digital silence then, or a digital citing of Cage's 4'33''?)

CC: "Music is continuous, only listening is intermittent" (Thoreau). The silent sequence intends, as you write, "to make aware of 'silence'" as environmental noise. At least to be aware of how noisy a CD player is. I placed it at the end, so I don't force people to listen to it : they can cut, or forget it more easily than if it were in the middle of the recording.