Trondheim EMP’s “Poke It With A Stick / Joining The Bots” reviewed by Vital Weekly

Trondheim Electroacoustic Music Performance (EMP) is an ensemble performing improvised electroacoustic music. The project started in 2011 with the involvement of many different musicians over the years. It originated from “the performance explorations around music technology at Department of Music, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), investigating how technology makes us play differently, how it enables new modes of communication within the ensemble, and new creative improvisation methods inspired by the sonic sculpting enabled by custom made audio processing software and instruments.“ To introduce their latest work I take another quote from the liner notes: “This project explores cross-adaptive processing as a radical intervention in the communication between performing musicians. Digital audio analysis and processing techniques are used to enable features of one sound to inform the processing of another. This allows the actions of one performer to directly influence another performer’s sound and doing so by means of the acoustic signal produced on the instrument. This may be reciprocated, too: the sound of the second performer may in turn influence the sound processing of the first.” Øyvind Brandtsegg is the mastermind beyond all this. He started as a rock musician, educated in vibraphone as well as in creating software. He is very much interested in research into the role of technology in the process of creating music. Listening to this work I asked myself what motivates him most of all. Did it start from a technical interest in creating new procedures and techniques? Or from a musical idea that led to new procedures in order to realize it? I guess we are dealing here with the first option as the dominant one. I can’t make any judgment how inventive and promising this cross adaptive processing may be. But if results count, I didn’t found this one musically very satisfying or surprising. The release is made up of two CDs, both carrying their own name, representing different phases of their research. The first cd (‘Poke It With a Stick’) reflects the exploration phase, the second one (‘Joining the Bots’) the phase of knitting together, etc. Most tracks on the first cd have one or two musicians or vocalists improvising, with Øyvind Brandtsegg doing cross-adaptive processing. For sure interesting parts passed by, but overall I missed clear focus and urgency. One can easily identify the instruments and follow the dynamic of the acoustic improvisation. This is also the case for the second cd that has the impressive vocals By Ratkje and Tone Ase in a prominent role. But it is difficult to put a finger on how the acoustic improvising and the academic electronics interact. No doubt interesting technology is introduced here by the inventive Brandtsegg, but musically it didn’t convince me. An ambitious and daring release by Cronica, a media label in Porto, Portugal. (DM)

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