VIDEOSMonolake @ La Gaîté Lyrique - 16 dec. 2012
Monolake @ KinoSiska Ljubljana - 4.May 2012
Monolake Live Surround @Sonic Acts Amsterdam - 2010
It should be a busy few months for Henke, the acclaimed artist (perhaps best known as Monolake), university professor and one of the original creators of the Ableton Live software. He’s currently an Artist in Residence at Stanford University in California, and this week he began teaching a specialized course on computer music. He also has a few speaking appearances lined up, to go along with his schedule of live music performances.
This Saturday and Sunday in San Francisco, Henke will link up with visual artist Tarik Barri for a pair of Monolake shows, headlining the annual Modulations event hosted by Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). Those sets will be focused on material from Ghosts, the 2012 full-length produced as the middle piece of an as-yet unfinished album trilogy. The two-night Modulations program will also feature a set from Rvng Intl. artist Holly Herndon.
Then in May, Henke will showcase the avant-garde improvisations of one of his other projects, Dust, at four gigs. The first will take place at Northwestern University in Evanston, just north of Chicago, on Saturday the 4th. Two more are scheduled at Stanford, before Henke hits Denver on Friday, May 31st (details for that one are still TBA).
RA recently caught up with Henke via email to talk about Monolake, Dust, Stanford, Ableton, and his next major undertaking.
You’ve been playing plenty of Monolake shows in support of last year’s Ghosts LP. How do you feel about the response to the album? Can you recall your favorite Ghosts performance, or a particularly memorable one?
In general I am quite happy with the overall response to the album. Some people who are not very much into electronic music in general love it, and I get a lot of great feedback from very unexpected perspectives. Some folks are not satisfied because it is not the sound they used to like, it is “too clean.” However, I am tired of repeating a sonic aesthetic that I hear everywhere else. I’ve reached a position where I feel free to do what ever I like artistically, and that’s very important to me. If I don’t try new things, I will never understand what works and what doesn’t.
I had the best and the most disastrous performance in Bergen, Norway. The first time we had a great soundcheck and right before the concert someone dropped the soundcard from my table and we were not able to get it to run again. The result was the first ever Monolake performance that had to be cancelled right before the show. We agreed with the promoter to repeat it a few months later, and that second show went extremely well. I made a lot of quite experimental decisions on the fly and the result was quite stunning. The other really remarkable highlight was the performance at Decibel Festival, in Seattle last year. We had a prototype of a new PA system from EAW available and it sounded incredibly good. I never had better sound on stage and on the dancefloor. There were a lot of folks from the manufacturer present and they were completely blown away by what I did with their system.
What can US fans expect from your Monolake and Dust performances this spring?
The Ghosts performance presents clearly recognizable material from the album, but presented in a different way, with different structure, and in surround sound, with amazing visualizations by Tarik Barri. [For these shows] I dedicated a lot of time to the changes and really revisited a few of the tracks. The differences might be subtle in parts, and in others I almost rebuild the tracks completely. Dust is a spectral piece, focusing on slow changes of complex sonic material. No beats, just massive layers—somewhere in between ambient, drone, musique concrète and noise. It is not really a single piece, rather a large set of potential elements that I merge and deconstruct in an improvised way during the performance.
Fragile Territories is a laser and sound installation by Robert Henke.
Complex visual shapes emerge, drawn on a 30 meter wide wall by four fast moving laser beams, constantly changing motions of pure light. Sounds – transformed recordings of a piano – fill the room, sometimes in sync with the visual aspects and sometimes running simply in parallel. Whilst everything is floating and happening in rather long intervals, a constant black shadow is moving in front of the projection, from left to right, every 4.2 seconds, like a giant blade of a windmill, a negative object that contrasts the bright projection by muting it where it appears. It is not only obscuring the image but also dampening the sounds at its current position and emitting a low frequency noise itself. A dark strong force that puts the rest in an infinitely distant background.
The video has been recorded on the last day of the exhibition, on January 6 2013. Sound is taken directly from the audio interface and edited and layered to provide a good impression of the atmosphere in the exhibition space. While the installation runs, the visual and the auditive component are created in realtime using statistic and stochastic algorithms. As a result, the duration of the work is infinite and it never repeats. Due to the complex nature of the code and its embedded randomness, it is quite impossible to predict future states. However, there are rules within the program that ensure certain states do not let the installation ‘explode’ or ‘fade away’ but instead always guides it back to a more or less stable state after it reaches certain boundaries. The installation runs on three Mac Mini computers, two for the four lasers and one for sound, code written in MaxMSP.
The installation has been made possible with the generous support by Laser Animation Sollinger (laseranimation.com) Used laser sources: Blizzard 5000
The installation will be shown next at EMPAC in Troy, NY, USA.
Additional info via Roberthenke.com
“La setmana passada es va celebrar la quarta edición del Micromutek, el festival internacional de creativitat digital i música electrònica. Instal·lacions i peces artístiques que exploren el rol de la tecnologia en l’art digital, conferències, tallers i concerts de música electrònica. Entrevistem dos dels dissenyadors de sons que hi van participar per parlar sobre música electrònica”.
Check the interview here.
In September of 2012, Dubspot visited Seattle’s famous Decibel Festival, where we caught up with electronic music pioneer Robert Henke (better known as Monolake, co-developer of Ableton Live) to discuss the past, present and future of Ableton, sound synthesis, music composition, and more. In their interview the co-creator of Live gave a brief overview of how the program was conceived and discussed the importance of the more recent development of Max For Live, which allows users to program in Cycling 74’s Max directly inside Ableton. Dubspot also visited his Decibel Festival workshop, Sound Spaces and Machines, where he compared music synthesis and physical modeling, and talked about why physical modeling is important in the creation of expressive music. He also emphasized the importance of simplicity and minimalism in the production process, while delivering a sobering message about the overuse of compression in electronic music which he calls “evil”.
Robert Henke builds and operates machines to produce art. He pairs archaic concepts with computer science in order to explore new aesthetic territories between composition, performance and installation. The creation of his own instruments and the results of using them are two sides of the same artistic process. His art is focused on carefully shaped textural details and gradual changes of repeating structures in different time scales. It is also about volume, power and impact, the tension between silence and noise, and about the exploration of real and virtual auditive spaces. Henke’s interest in the combination of art and technology is further evident in his contributions to the development of the music software ‘Ableton Live’. For more than a decade since Ableton’s founding in 1999, he has been central to the development of Live, which became the standard tool for electronic music production and completely redefined the performance practice of electronic music. He writes and lectures about sound and the creative use of computers, and holds a professorship in sound design at the Berlin University of Arts.
Here’s a pretty cool photo album from the Backroom Entertainment Artist Night “Live Edition” early this November. The party was rad, specially thanks to the amazing artists that took part on it and you, who came down!
Elektro Guzzi (live)
Schwarzmann live (Ame & Henrik Schwarz)
Backroom Artist Night – The Live Edition at Stattbad Wedding
*The night will be dedicated to Martin Dawson’s Memory*
Date / Saturday, 17 November 2012
Venue / Stattbad Wedding / Gerichtstraße 65, 13347 Berlin
Click here to see the full photo album.
Photos by Jan Kapitän