Refractions in Air

‘Refractions in air’ traces the diversity of interactions that arise in this duo between Philipp Wachsmann and Michael Bunce

The recording was made during one day of continual exploration and development.

The acoustic violin is routed through the player’s own electronics, and both of these sources are fed to Michael. These are in turn selectively captured through time, to be processed and re-performed with transformations shaped by gestural input or as static samples. The transformation processes are mainly time-based, with a focus upon the expressive nature of gesture, where the original contour and dynamic of a captured sound can be reformed and given a new trajectory.

The relationship between interaction and process varies, sometimes becoming circular over varying time spans. This gives rise to detailed forms over time; it creates structures with memory, and in this way challenges the habits of normal process. A fabric of spontaneous interactions unfolds, comprising structures that result from both the attitude and set-up, and from deliberated choices.

The temporally eclectic nature of ‘Refractions in Air’ ranges from the familiar to the oblique and on to an extraordinary and daring counterpoint. A cyclical process of transformation threads its way through an array of intersections, uncovering a diversity of forms, structures, gestures and articulations that are performed, resultant, implied, projected, displaced, mirrored, assimilated, appropriated or distorted.

The work is sensitive to small gradations as well as more dramatic gestures and therefore may be best heard in a quiet space.

michael bunce

Michael Bunce is an electroacoustic composer, live electronics performer and sound installation designer. Works include: ‘Gallery’ (2000), electroacoustic music composed to accompany ‘About Collage’, an exhibition curated by Peter Blake at the Liverpool Tate and performed on ‘Mixing It’, Radio 3; ‘Musicode’ (2001) an interactive and accessible sound installation at the Science Museum in London, designed around the capabilities of LiSa*; and ‘Static Spell’ (2002), an electroacoustic composition inspired by and entirely derived from the materials and processes of transformation involved in glass blowing.

“My work with Phil centres around the use of LiSa,” (*Live Sampling software developed by STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music, Amsterdam)). “My configuration of LiSa enables me to simultaneously capture, treat and re-perform sounds, using a MIDI controller. Although this can often be a complex process to manage, it enables me to concentrate on gestural and interactive ‘performance processes’ and allows an immediacy of expression and dialogue within the duo. The alluring friction of these events can at once generate complex dialogues, volatile structures and delicate stillness.”

philipp wachsmann

Philipp Wachsmann, as violinist, improviser and composer, works in a wide variety of contexts, solo, in groups, with dance, architecture, painters and film. (silent films, including his own work).
“I started to use my own electronics in the early 1970’s with the addition of contact microphone amplification to pick up the softest of sounds made on the violin. Later with more radical sound transformation the focus still remained with the source - the natural sound of the violin and what was played on it*.
Performances over the years explored other processes and interactions - with the pianist Matthew Hutchinson** who often uses almost exclusively electronically generated sounds, - with Paul Lytton who uses electronics derived from acoustic sources and with whom (in "Some Other Season" Duo on ECM) I included samples designed to complement the interaction.
Involvement with Evan Parker's Electro Acoustic Ensemble*** (with Lawrence Casserley, Walter Prati, Marco Vecchi and Joel Ryan) provides an exciting stride. This one ensemble includes many ways of transformation and interaction.

Limits are reached with self transformation (how many hands and feet does a person have?). Whereas the creativity from the violin is my main focus, the possibilities for articulation, shaping and displacement of time are now so multitudinous and amazing that new and fundamental forms are soon entered - which need virtuosic fluency on what is a radically new instrument. In this Duo with Michael Bunce, Michael brings this and widely ranging experience as a composer and installation designer, and an exceptional ear. Transformation crosses a boundary and becomes a statement in its own right.”
Examples * Sparks of the Desire Magnetol / Writing in Water / Chathuna (Bead) / ** Sightline / *** Drawn Inward / Toward the Margin (ECM) The Needles (Leo) / Acoustic Trio with John Russell and Teppo Hauta-aho

on the cover painting, ‘refractions in air’ - catherine hope-jones

I realised that the title “refractions in air” stimulated my imagination towards the evolution of a group of images of reflections I was preparing around the time of the birth of this CD. I felt that I could transpose something of the duos’ musical collaborative methodology into my own work, for instance the parallel between live sampling and creating visual fragments, electronic modification and detailed image variation. My response to the poetics of the sound composition on these tracks is reflected in the diversity of image fragmentation, which I have sourced, including a wet, shining natural limestone pavement observed in Cumbria and domestic reflective paraphernalia. The reconstruction of visual elements into a cover image attempts to evoke qualities I find in the music of a desired yet unobtainable wholeness.”