mutek 09

Variable Frame Rate: Multimedia Performance at MUTEK 2009
By Greg J. Smith on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 at 3:00 pm.
EXTERN_0000.jpg Image: SND (Photo: basic_sounds)
It is understandable that we sometimes overlook the surge of innovation and experimentation that has taken place within live musical performance over the last decade. A culture obsessed with emerging channels of distribution and incremental software upgrades is almost predisposed to overlook the virtuosity (or lack thereof) that drives live performance. A pertinent frame of reference in considering evolving paradigms in musical performance is the MUTEK festival, a progressive electronic music summit that takes place in Montreal each spring. Launched in 2000, and having just celebrated their tenth anniversary this past week, MUTEK has consistently programmed dynamic lineups of luminaries representing various facets of global house, techno and experimental music communities. The festival has cultivated an idiosyncratic identity that references the pulse and dense revelry of the after hours scene while also showcasing more amorphous, adventurous multimedia and gallery-oriented projects. In addition to positioning Montreal as a key node within international electronic music networks, MUTEK has developed into a platform for showcasing integrated audio-visual performance.

EXTERN_0001.jpg Image: The Fun Years (Photo: watchlooksee)
A/VISIONS is the title of a MUTEK programming stream dedicated to multimedia performance. The 2009 edition of the festival featured four A/VISIONS events with an artist roster that included Jaki Liebezeit & Burnt Friedman, The Fun Years, Herman Kolgen, Martin Tétreault & Michel Langevin and a label showcase by raster-noton records. There was tremendous variety amongst these performances and each offered strategies for foregrounding video and animation in a live music context. Sound design driven video, real-time visualization and retro lighting were all employed to offer an alternative visual focus to the stock gestures associated with live computer music – knob twisting and multi-touching (an inventory of actions that Julien Roy of Artificiel sardonically described as “sophisticated cheerleading”). Some specific examples:

  • Cologne minimalist Wolfgang Voigt presented his brooding Gas project as if it were a feature length film (directed by collaborator Petra Hollenbach). Voight’s somber manipulations of Mahler and Wagner were accompanied by an eternal zoom into abstract imagery derived from an extensive, thematic photo archive. The resulting experience offered an uneasy descent into the depths of a charged, mythical Black Forest.
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