Upitup Records brings ambient noise manipulator Reinhard Fuchs to the Bluecoat School taking Getintothis Rachel Brockley on a joystick-assisted journey into the unknown.
Reinhard Fuchs‘ premiere of his latest experimental electronic pieces, Osorno and Pacifica, was always going to be intriguing.
Factor in it was to be performed in a chapel on a multi-channel speaker system and you’ve got something really worth leaving your couch for on a Sunday evening.
Upon entering the beautiful surrounds, audience members couldn’t help but talk in hushed tones as they took in the surroundings and picked a pew. The venue really enhanced the calm atmosphere and set the tone for what lay ahead.
To begin, Fuchs offered a short introduction were he explained that he had composed them during a two month trip to Chile.
It was clear that he had a lot of passion for the place and had found much inspiration during his time there. His passion for exploration of sound and harmonics was also clear as he went onto explain that his pieces were to be performed on a computer using Max software with a joystick interface, allowing him to perform truly live electronic music by controlling over 100 sound generators. While this gives him full control, we were told, it also carries risks of technical issues.
The first piece, Pacifica, began with a quartet of Tibetan singing bowl players placed in a square around the audience.
They started low and quiet, slowly building to an all encompassing noise that was strangely calming. It was then time for Fuchs to take to the controls and a haunting vocal chant came in over the tones of the bowls.
Just as the piece was building, the possible risks that Fuchs talked about in his introduction became reality. A sharp jolt shot through the speakers which made everyone jump. The technical issue called for the computer to be restarted which was unfortunate but gave him the opportunity to read aloud the text which was chanted in the piece.
With the technical issues resolved the performance continued and the journey began.
With his back to the audience and his hand on the joystick it conjured up an image of a captain commanding a spacecraft voyaging through alien lands and that’s also how the music felt.
Reinhard Fuchs live at the Chapel of the Bluecoat School for Upitup Records
There were undulating, droning sounds which changed frequency throughout the piece, overlayed by beeps which hinted at melodic rhythm.
Crashing waves surrounded the listener and made it almost impossible to not picture strange oceans. Part way through came a reading of the poem La Ola by Pablo Neruda which had inspired Fuchs when he was composing the piece.
The Tibetan singing bowls returned, this time accompanied by whirring sounds which travelled around you through the speakers. Wind howled like a siren, signalling the end of the waves then the piece wound down to dull hum.
After a short break it was time for Osorno, a piece inspired by the Chilean volcano.
Osorno had a much more forboding feel than Pacifica, still with undulating frequencies but overlayed with much sharper, jagged sounds. A didgeridoo seemed to be playing in the distance while several voices uttered Spanish phrases.
These voices were played at varying speeds and pitches which gave a dream like feel. Unfortunately there was another technical issue requiring a further reboot, during which Fuchs explained that his work is science based and that the harmonic overtones in the piece followed a number sequence to achieve a purer sound.
The piece resumed and continued with it’s frequency changes and Spanish chattering. The pitch of the piece shifted higher and literally filled your head with the sound before coming to an end.
Throughout both pieces there were gaps of a few seconds while the next sounds were prepared. It was unclear if they were intentional but the piece would have flowed far better without them.
That said, they did serve to remind the audience that what they were hearing was totally live and organic. And the music was so immersive that this small amount of breathing space may have been welcomed by some.
Although there were a few technical issues it was easy to forget them once the beautiful sounds returned and immersed you.
Fuch’s performance took the audience on a journey through extraordinary soundscapes which had a meditative effect on the listeners. Most of the audience had their eyes closed throughout the performance and people talked about how relaxed they felt afterwards.
The performance not only displayed the skill of Fuch’s in his vision and understanding of sound manipulation, but also the power that music can have on a person and their emotions. It was a truly special and unique experience.
Photography by Rachel Brockley and Steph Kübler.