darbnica instrumenti izdotie lauka dalibnieki notikumi lukotava



Kaspars Groševs



18/12/2010, Eduards Smiļģis Theatre Museum, Riga


The vibrating rumble of trolley-buses and buses on Merķeļa iela, the unobtrusive hiss of computers and other electric ap­pliances, the buzzing of the hydraulic pump of the screen printing press and the dryers, hollow echoes of far-away music and other noises that I have long ago ceased to notice are all on the soundtrack of this text. It is neither the beginning nor the end, rather – an unremitting process. One of the punctu­ation marks in this process, by sheer chance on a freezing cold eventide of 18 December, brought together listeners of the new monotony in the picturesque assembly room of the Eduards Smiļģis Theatre Museum.
The new monotony has, relatively speaking, "grown out of" the Bērnu Rīts ['Children's Matinee'] sound art collective that has been actively working since 2007, both appearing as an ever-changing body of performers and organising creative workshops. This Sunday's concert, however, was marked by an until now unheard-of title and by three seemingly different personalities: the most prominent Bērnu Rīts figure Maksims Šanteļevs, Antireality the noise improviser, and Jēkabs Nīmanis, the musician and composer whose name is more often asso­ciated with academic music and theatre. The artists' relationship with the assembly room of the Eduards Smiļģis Theatre Museum was also different: while Jēkabs was comfortably taking over the stage, and Bērnu Rīts with its usual plentiful self-made instruments and gadgets spread its performance amidst the viewers, the presence of Antireality in this concert remained invisible. This setup had emerged in quite a natural way, each of the performers taking the place that was most habitual for them and, in an ideological sense, best suited in regard to the venue and participants, in no way creating any mutual disputes. It should be mentioned here that the name of the project is an attempt to render into Latvian the English word drone, which refers to the effect of a monotonous layer of sound in music where, without much change, one and the same note is being repeated incessantly (more often as not, in the bass line), with overlaying strata of other elements. Likewise this word is also often related to environmental elements, where a stratum of monotonous noise (sometimes even within a specific frequency range) can be observed in cities and industrial regions. The gusty whooshing of highways can be heard even several kilometres away.
The sonic background that everybody knows but most often does not notice is created by numerous technical devices, from transport vehicles to ventilation systems. We can almost certainly state that the humming created by 50 Hz electric networks has permeated our awareness and become an invisible companion to our daily lives. Still, participants of the New Monotony believe that in the process of practical cognizance this layer of sound could become a means of inspiration and creative expression.
Some will possibly associate drone with the name of a type of music that has in recent years taken a stable position in the categorisation and description of experimental music: it refers to noisy, monotonous sound landscapes and to the use of guitar bass notes in lengthy and repetitive structures. The drone made its entrance into popular music together with the minimalists, who often used numbingly long repetitions of a single element. This technique is evident, for instance, in early works by The Velvet Underground. But monotone, unchanging elements have always been
there in traditional music, such as the Indian ragas, for example, where they are a constituent part. And this idea is vital for the New Monotony as well – the drone effect becomes a point of reference against which the layers that follow, created by the artists, are more like reflections. It is Antireality's unobtrusive, expansive stratum of noises that, it seems, matches the intangible daily background that is ever-present, each and every moment. In a performance it becomes an element in which, as opposed to the obvious activities of the other performers, it is much easier to immerse oneself and disappear. Mechanical gadgets are an essential part of what Maksis from Bērnu Rīts is doing: they deprive various musical instruments of their primary function, turning them into unexpected associates of urban machinery. Jēkabs Nīmanis, for his part, with the use of both clarinet and prepared piano, organically added colour to the fleetingly passing variations of electronic and mechanical noises. Thus the sound landscape, over an hour long, unhurriedly revealed ever new lamina and details of texture, absorbing the listener into the spatial structures of the new monotony and allowing them to create their own associations among the elements.
In a recent conversation with the project's participants, Jēkabs recalled that once, when he was telling the pianist Jautrīte Putniņa (1929) about
the project, the esteemed musician had responded with "yes, very good, well … at amoeba level". One cannot entirely disagree with that in a way, as the meditative session of improvisation by no means attempts to construe complex structures, offering instead a serene ritual and disarming simplicity. The public performance becomes an event in which artists disappear in individual and mutual communication. By forgetting about the fragile nature of improvisation, they succeed in merging miscellaneous phrases and reflections into one story. By forgetting about notes, tempos, heightenings and abatements, they succeed in speaking the vibrating, burbling language of the new monotony and being able at the same time to listen to each other without saying anything out of place. This common language has been cultivated slowly, over a number of years, through meeting more or less regularly so as to share what has been observed, and done any otherwise, it seems, this conversation may not have succeeded.
How terrifying the silence can become after the lights have gone out at a symphony concert, when the murmur of people has subsided and the tuning of the orchestra has ce­ased. And what a relief is brought by the first sounds of music that shatter that brief but frightening moment of silence. The new monotony, it seems, simultaneously explores the situation of "the new silence", and helps its extensions to take shape. If it weren't for man-made restrictions in time, the process could go on forever, involving more and more new participants in an unhurried ritual – not that much different from the tea drinking and conversation that yielded these sentences.


Translator into English: Sarmīte Lietuviete