Meta.Morf 2024 – [up]Loaded Bodies / Dokkhuset / Concert April 26 /
Concert April 26 @ 20:00: Ticket (TBA)

Human vs Machine (2017/1972)

SiTron Performs the Music of Alexander Schubert and Gavin Bryars

The German composer Alexander Schubert actively works in the field of real-time sound generation, and many of his works are concerned about how machines and technology affect the performer and the artistic performance.

Schubert´s  “SCANNERS” from 2017 copes with the physical qualities of instrumentalists in electro-acoustic music. It is a choreographed composition that makes movement as important as sound. The string ensemble turns into a performing machine. The main focus is on the movement of scanning – as well as the interaction of bow and instrument when producing sound as also in purely artificial gestures. There is no difference between musically necessary or choreographically determined movement. The piece can be seen as a comment on the relationship of man to digital content: the direct consequences of action can’t be explained by simple cause and effect principles anymore, the musicians become puppets or at least a part of a complex machine. At the same time, the piece offers a special focus on the highly specialized genre of the string orchestra: the mechanizing emphasizes the accuracy of the interpreter and the elegance of the traditional movement, here being staged independently from the production of sound. 

As a contrast to Schubert’s “Scanners” and the cold relation between machine and human, the composition “The Sinking of Titanic” (1972) by Gavin Bryars, possesses a strong spiritual background. All the materials used in this piece are derived from research and speculations about the sinking of the “unsinkable” luxury liner. The final hymn played during those last 5 minutes of the ship’s life was identified in an account by Harold Bride, the junior wireless operator

“…from aft came the tunes of the band…..The ship was gradually turning on her nose – just like a duck that goes down for a dive…  The band was still playing. I guess all of the band went down. They were playing “Autumn” then. …. The way the band kept playing was a noble thing…  the last I saw of the band, when I was floating out in the sea with my lifebelt on, it was still on deck playing “Autumn”. How they ever did it I cannot imagine.”

This Episcopal hymn, then, becomes the principle element of the music and is subject to a variety of treatments and it forms a base over which other material is superimposed. 

Alexander Schubert (DE) was born in 1979 in Bremen and studied bioinformatics in Leipzig and Multimedia Composition with Georg Hajdu and Manfred Stahnke in Hamburg. During his studies, he worked as a musician and composer in various environments. In addition, Schubert worked at the ZKM (Centre for Art and Media) in Karlsruhe for one year.

He’s a professor at the Musikhochschule Hamburg and the artistic head of the electronic studio at the conservatory in Lübeck and was a guest professor at Folkwang University in 2016. Mainly he works as a freelance composer.

SiTron (NO) is a chamber ensemble specializing in contemporary music. The musicians are drawn from Trondheim’s professional music community, and the ensemble serves as a creative meeting place for musicians from the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, the Norwegian Air Force Band, NTNU, and the extensive freelance community.

SiTron performs contemporary music, with a primary focus on score-based compositions but also includes music that incorporates improvisation. This combination places significant demands on the technical and artistic skills of the musicians, in addition to their ability to improvise and exercise general autonomy. The ensemble collaborates across various artistic expressions and engages with a broad range of forums for music and contemporary art in Trondheim and the Mid-Norway region.

Header graphics courtesy of SiTron.