Julien Bayle's post-techno builds on structures and expands beyond the machines through improvisation.
Can you talk about your new performance "Struct", and what attracted you to modular synthesizers?
STRUCT is the codename of my live improvisation with a modular synthesizer, including visuals generated in real-time and coming from the analysis of sound itself. Before having properly named it STRUCT, I recorded two live performances with this setup: one for Secret Thirteen community and one for Shape Network / Radio Campus
Inspired by structuralist methods, brutalist architecture and minimalist visual forms, STRUCT is a live improvisation with a Eurorack modular system as the only source of triggering and sound. I am physically building all routings on stage, starting the performance with no pre-recorded material and no modules configured or even connected. Progressively, the patch is built, the sound changes from noise structures to more tonal and micro-tonal ones, depicting a complex world oversaturated by informations, data and individualism.
STRUCT addresses the idea of post-techno improvisation by relating to electronic music, but in a uniquely odd way. Indeed, it relates to musical structures where the percussive sounds can structure the whole but in which the structure can also be created by the noise itself. Techno music relates to step sequencers and rigid repetitive structures, STRUCT flirts and disturbs this repetitive concept to go from linear grids to sparse particles, from order to chaos.
STRUCT also addresses the concept of systems structuring and constraining everything. By using a pre-programmed system for live visual generation, the artist have to deal with the system on stage. Depending on the sound itself, by deeply analyzing the music content from frequencies to repetitive structures and using advanced maths based algorithms like Markov Chains, STRUCT displays unique visuals at the threshold of organic growth, crystallization process and architecture.
I am interested in modular systems because it offers me a more physical way of sound manipulation and takes me away from my tiny (even if 15’’) computer screen. I have never recorded as many sounds as when it goes all hardware. Indeed, with my computer, I can control everything. I can save/retrieve everything. Of course I can go random/chance/noise too (and please don’t only talk to me about « pseudo random » as I really used and still use Geiger Counter to generate « almost real » random list of numbers too!), but the whole process can be saved.
That is a feature of the computer and I like the way it does that. With my modular system, I was very well organized at the beginning. I wanted to trigger it with my computer, sequence all tracks and even trigger all modular machines to the computer in order to be able to retrieve exactly the same parameters, the same sound but the same global sequences too. I was wrong because I already have a machine for that: my computer.
Your inspirations range from structuralism, brutalist architecture to visual minimalism. Can you elaborate?
Structuralism is taken in the sense of its primary meaning, related to holism which is the fact that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (defined by JC Smuts). The Structuralism term as the core of this concept is a bit abusive but I assume that.
Studying a whole by deconstructing it, as a sum of parts and interactions, or what can emerge from the association of these parts, is one of my main processes. My scientific background is probably the cause of that. I used this unconsciously at first, then after some steps of conceptualization I started to use this process to better understand the world. So this is basically a cognitive tool, a cognitive process. Understanding something (whatever it can be, from humans’ feelings to cryptic OpenGL algorithms) by decomposing it, all without forgetting about the interactions and interferences between the parts.
I have been and still am more interested by the interaction and interferences between elements than elements themselves.
Addressing how a sound can disturb a visual process, how the movement can alter the sound, how a space can change the sound are few questions I am trying to seek through my artistic research.
I am not only using the sound as a result of a process, but as a matter that can be disturbed by another matter or another medium. This is the disturbance which becomes the core of the piece, not what it is disturbing.
I used to study a lot and I don’t think we have to just read brief and pre-digested texts or books.
France prepares vote for 2017 and the only word on mouth is « WORK ».
I’d prefer « THINK »
This is just the basic key to understand things. We are in such a fast world, that goes faster than our thoughts. A global network seemingly forcing us (although we take part in letting that happen) to only work and produce, have fun during weekend (as a rest for better producing). Only that. France prepares vote for 2017 and the only word on mouth is « WORK ».
I’d prefer « THINK ». Everything seems so overwhelming that people cannot even .. think. That’s a problem.
I think we have to take time, to read, think and understand things, even if we are slowing down to do that.
My way of creating is related to brutalism in the first sense and with all its ambiguity too. It comes from Le Corbusier explaining the use of concrete in its raw, brutal form. It also relates to the sudden change in architecture following modernism, and even if it is not a proper current movement nowadays, it has been followed by other interesting architecture forms.
I like raw. It often relates to primitive shapes or processes. Not primitive in the sense that they have not been considered but more as the result of a lot of thoughts that ended in a primitive form, an element, a unit. A unit which can be taken individually, refined and minimal enough, but that can be combined with other elements.
This relates to the visual minimalism I am seeking, actually. Refining is a permanent process. Removing is always better than adding but it requires the object to contain enough matter from the beginning.
I think Structuralism and Brutalism interfere in my creation process. SIG.INT, which I produced in residence at SAT Montréal for ELEKTRA Festival this year, was really the interference between these 2 aspect of my art practice. I think the sound that came out then was a real illustration of that.
I am interested in the interference between elements included in my different creation processes. This is a bit of a 'mise en abyme' of Structuralism embedded in Structuralism and Brutalism themselves. We should actually create an acronym for that.
Can you talk about the visuals connected to this performance?
The STRUCT visuals system is still a bit omnipotent. It is based on the generation of a cube. This cube represent the elementary brick, the smallest unit. This is similar to my other piece/performance ALPHA which also employs a cube.
In STRUCT, the cube can be seen from further, from the outside or the inside, the camera rotating around. That cube is also disrupted by the environment.
It appears spread in many lines and the whole structure then seems like a whole and dense grid in which we are all immersed. After the world premiere at Fond Régional d’Art Contemporain PACA (FRAC PACA), I had some interesting discussions with some of the audience.
Some people were surprised to see grey tones in the visuals and not only black and white, and others were interested by the « kind of visual remanence » in the visuals. I used a very basic process that evokes photography. I would describe it like: if lines remain in the same part of the screen for a while or are superposed, then the screen appears overexposed and produces a light trace that progressively vanishes. It reminded me of my 10 years as a semi-pro photographer. I was looking for blur and light traces and these ideas are resurfacing very strongly in my current practice.
STRUCT represents this because it talks about traces. All evolving structures alter memories. Even if they are evolving fast, slow or subtly. I want to keep traces. I want to make prints of my visuals.
Data and sonic information are the codes you use to transmit your works. In that sense, the sound is abstract, yet loaded with messages. Could you talk about them?
Sound is coming from abstraction in the sense that it originates from circuitry or math equations. I think this is the meaning of your question here and a very interesting one.
I feel the sound sources are very important. I used to take only theories as a source, by that I mean only synthesising sounds.
From oscillator to proper FM synthesis, to Ring Modulation to specific equation in my DSP, I was only using sound originating within the computer. It was a conscious decision.
It probably came from my need of control. The idea that I can control everything and then disrupt it exactly as I want.
Russel Haswell's show in Marseille in 2014, just after my first ever ALPHA performance on the same stage, convinced me to put my hands on modular. I did it one month after and my whole life changed. Really. Not in a superficial way. No: deeply.
Sound became less abstract, in the sense that the source of the sound was circuitry with its imperfections. Circuits besides other circuits generated a proper character, including the disturbance of electrical interferences. This is at the same moment that I decided to have a proper setup for each track and not only one for all. This is the moment when I decided to assume and work on the trace concept, keeping traces like one writes in a sketchbook.
Between 2014 and now, I also experimented with field recording a lot. From hydrophones to anechoic chamber, I accumulated some sound recording material that I would like to release. In particular, I spent almost 2 weeks inside the anechoic chamber of the LMA (Laboratoire de Mécanique et Acoustique - CNRS - Marseille). I recorded materials for 3 projects:
- 2 hours of silence (I’ll use it these as a source for granular synthesis)
- Audio feedbacks (iterating filtering condition between microphone & speakers)
- Iteration of my voice (playing it in a space, recording it and playing the recording to re-record it. As an anechoic tribute to Alvin Lucier, of course)
I don’t know if people will say I am more concrete in the sense of music concrète, but I can say that recording sounds opened my mind to new possibilities.
I knew I could explore them before but I wasn’t interested in them. And I did not want to force myself into it.
The next project related to sound recording will probably involve granular synthesis. This is a proper way to use sound recording in which I can zoom inside the sound, read a lot of small parts (grains) of the sound at the same time, pitching them harmonically or not, changing the enveloppe of grains, and mix the whole with proper sound playing at the same time. This is a really concrete way of using the sound already recorded. Like a new listening of a sound you recorded before and you want to interpret again in a new space, in a new context.
Processing voice that way would be interesting.
I cannot not quote the Phonogene machine by Pierre Schaeffer. Making Noise eurorack modular constructors design a proper Phonogene module. I would want to have a rack with 4 like that only, each fed with different voices samples playing. I could make a live performance using background noise + whispers. An art residency would fit perfectly this kind of production process.
I will also have Alice Paradisi aka Cigùri as an artist in residence at my studio in mid-december. It will be interesting to record her voice properly for this other project. We will collaborate and my modularapproach combined with her very organic and powerful voice will melt into a new paradigm for proper dark electronic .
More information soon and on my fb page.