Dry Mountain, original composition created by Keith Rowe and Gerard Lebik using electronics and sound objects:
1. A (4:46)
Dry Mountain, graphic score interpretations:
2. B (4:36)
3. C (4:12)
4. D (3:04)
5. E (3:06)
6. F (4:40)
Graphic scores by Alicja Bielawska, Bożenna Biskupska, Daniel Koniusz; and Lena Czerniawska, Brian Olewnick and Michael Pisaro
Performed by Johnny Chang (violin), Jonas Kocher (accordion), Gaudenz Badrutt (electronics), Bryan Eubanks (electronics), Kurt Liedwart (electronics), Xavier Lopez (electronics), Mike Majkowski (double bass) and Emilio Gordoa (vibraphone)
Curated by Michał Libera
Commissioned and recorded at Sanatorium of Sound Festival 2016 in Sokołowsko, Poland on 13/8/2016
Edited, mixed and mastered by Gerard Lebik
Liner notes by Michał Libera
Cover artwork by Keith Rowe
Graphic design by László Szakács
Produced by László Juhász
Special thanks to Zuzanna Fogtt & In Situ Foundation
The founding element of “Dry Mountain” was a sheet of paper on which the gear of Keith Rowe stood at one of his concerts. Carrying an imprint of different weights and positions of his equipment, the paper became a score, which was later interpreted by himself and Gerard Lebik. The audio recording of that performance was afterwards handed to visual artists – Alicja Bielawska, Bożenna Biskupska and Daniel Koniusz – who created three visual scores of it, post mortem, so to say. Then the scores were performed live at Sanatorium of Sound Festival 2016 in Sokołowsko by Kurt Liedwart and Xavier Lopez, Johnny Chang and Mike Majkowski, Bryan Eubanks and Gaudenz Bardutt, Emilio Gordoa. During the performances, Lena Czerniawska, Brian Olewnick and Michael Pisaro drawed the music they heard onto paper, creating one more series of scores. Right after the concert finished, the drawings were passed to all the musicians who then interpreted the new scores on the spot, as an encore. Until now, this must have been where the spiral of “Dry Mountain” ended. With the publishing of this album, it can go on further again, forming an endless loop of scoring and performing.
Let me then add one more recording to it, inartistic. It is a private, rectangular-ish image of seemingly photographic clarity – a leftover of the only time all the above mentioned scores and performances where in one room, the Red Room of Konrad Brehmer’s Sanatorium in Sokołowsko, evening of the 13th of August, 2016. It is my own recollection, although “my” is perhaps not fully in place here since the perspective the image was taken from, in this particular context was unreachable for a human, or reachable but not for me, not then. There must be a sound to this image, too. And it also must be not in “my” ears, like the image was not in “my” eyes; unlike the image, I cannot hear it. I can see people though, in the lower part of the picture – the audience and the musicians. They are all depicted with a background of two perpendicular brick walls filling more than three quarters of the picture with their crazy red. On the right wall, there is an internal mural – a phantasmagoric, obese figure in black, violet, green and yellow. It is of rather silly appearance and unknown origin. It is also annoying, due to its completely inexplicable relation to the rest – the walls, the people, the other visual scores for the performances, the sounds that fill the air in that image. However, the more familiar I am with this picture in my memory, the less certain of it all I am. Sometimes the red of the bricks is so vivid and homogenic that it turns the people into a brown smudge, down there in the lower part of the image. At other times, the red is so greedy as to devour the infantile figure on the wall and fill all the background with one color only. But it also happened once that I thought it is rather the creature itself that has the power to disappear and reappear.
For some time I was wondering if the shape and colors of it would come back on the red wall if I played back the audio recordings of this album. But I decided not to listen to them, either because of the fear of the figure, or because of the seductive power of sounds turning the focus away from what “Dry Mountain” also can be – a prolegomena to a yet unwritten treatise on sound and memory. Perhaps the latter one would be called “Spectres of Recordings”; perhaps it would start from an analysis of sonic features of a sheet of paper, the sheet of paper on which Rowe’s gear once stood; perhaps in the second chapter it would argue for degrees of sonic presence (“non-presence, semi-presence, full-presence”) in everyday objects (“they bare traces of music and sound they witnessed”); perhaps it would go on with many examples of materials and non-materials having a ghostly presence of sound in them, waiting to be unraveled (“armchairs, clothes, thougths, breaths, bricks”); perhaps then, in the longest passage of the book, it would propose a definition of “spectres of recordings” – “sound’s ability to record itself in things, in a ghostly way” which is “as objective as notation or sound file while in the process of recording” but “completely inconclusive on the part of its reanimation in performance or playback” (of the things); perhaps it would then go on to show the viscosity of sound with objects, ideas, spaces, images etc. – but now only to argue that the integral part of music is the very incompletness of its afterlife, the way it stays and evolves with armchairs, clothes and bricks; this “spontaneous interconnectedness” with things, ideas, images makes the same piece of music evolve with them in multiple ways; “thus – the last sentence of the treatise would state – the most objective reproduction of music needs infinite performances with renditions of ghostly spectres of recordings […] most of them being at odds with what is depicted on tapes, vinyls or in digital files”.
When asked to write this text, I was reading W.G. Sebald. In “The Emigrants” he recalls his visits to an old, dark, brick wall studio of a painter, Max Ferber: “Time and again, at the end of a working day, I marvelled to see that Ferber, with the few lines and shadows that had escaped annihilation, had created a portrait of great vividness. And all the more did I marvel when, the following morning, the moment the model had sat down and he had taken a look at him or her, he would erase the portrait yet again, and once more set about excavating the features of his model, who by now was distinctly wearied by this manner of working, from a surface already badly damaged by the continual destruction. The facial features and eyes, said Ferber, remained ultimately unknowable for him. He might reject as many as forty variants, or smudge them back into the paper and overdraw new attempts upon them; and if he then decided that the portrait was done, not so much because he was convinced that it was finished as through sheer exhaustion, an onlooker might well feel that it had evolved from a long lineage of grey, ancestral faces, rendered unto ash but still there, as ghostly presences, on the harried paper.”
At the Sanatorium of Sound Festival, “Dry Mountain” has been crammed in the section of the festival called “The Fall of Recording”. It was initially conceived by Michał Mendyk, Daniel Muzyczuk and myself as a curatorial framework to imagine the era of recording as a short and relatively irrelevant stage of history which is just coming to an end. Do not technologies such as streaming or online mix give new answers to questions that brought about the faint and imperfect tools of recording? Do they not enable us to bypass recording? These were the questions we were asking ourselves. Now reading Sebald when trying not to listen to the pieces of this album, I see one more symptom of the fall of recording – it is this very melancholy of loss that shines through the writings of the German author, the drama of incompleteness, the anguish of inability to faithfully represent reality, on canvass.
Yes, all reproduction is all about loss. But can there be a way to enjoy it? Or are we doomed to always be left unsatisfied when the original in the reproduction is not quite right? There might be an answer to it in the album here, but only if you hear through the sounds and see their lives in armchairs, clothes and bricks.
“Back in August 2016, I was privileged to be invited to give a talk at the Sanitorium Of Sound Festival in Sokołowsko, Poland. While there, Keith Rowe inveigled me into participating in a project with Gerard Lebik involving a fairly complicated back and forth between found scores, musicians and graphic scores created by others, including Lena Czerniawska, Michael Pisaro-Liu and myself (a lengthy and excellent description of this process by Michał Libera can be found in the liner notes). It was a unique, slightly intimidating and amazing act of perception and awareness. Well, it’s been released by Inexhaustible Editions, so you can, at least, experience the audio portion for yourselves.” / Brian Olewnick, Facebook, 24 August 2023
“With the music here being around twenty-five minutes and a lot of text on the cover, you almost need all that time to read it. Then, you return to the beginning of the disc to listen properly. It is all about graphic scores. First, there is the title piece, by Keith Rowe and Gerard Lebik, which is ‘a sheet of paper on which the gear of Keith Rowe stood at one of his concerts. Carrying an imprint of different weights and positions of his equipment, the paper became a score’, played by Rowe and Lebik on electronics and sound objects. This resulted in a video score by Alicja Bielawska, Bożenna Biskupska and Daniel Koniusz, based on the original paper, and a group of people played that score, with composers in the audience, who made a new score based on what they heard. These were handed in and played on the spit. The group of people are Johnny Chang (violin), Jonas Kocher (accordion), Gaudenz Badrutt (electronics), Bryan Eubanks (electronics), Kurt Liedwart (electronics), Xavier Lopez (electronics), Mike Majkowski (double bass) and Emilio Gordoa (vibraphone). I hope I summarized it all correctly. None of the scores made it has an image on the cover, which is a pity. The thread running through these six pieces (all between three and four-and-a-half minutes long) is that the music is quiet and introspective, working with a few sounds at the time. That is to say that the music doesn’t reach for something more urgent; there is occasionally a strong blast of high-pitched frequencies. With various contributions to electronics, this work has quite the electronic feel, with the vibraphone and violin playing the odd-ball instruments. Maybe because I know the back story here, I see each new version as a new version of the older one, a further building of the same principle. I am not sure how I would have seen this had I not known the story. It is quite a lovely little concept, with six excellent results.” / Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly, 12 September 2023
· The Wire: Adventures In Music And Sound at Resonance FM, London, 15 June 2023