There is a small button lit by a diode. It´s mounted on an arm that sticks out of the installation. This interface reminds one of something from a technical museum and a start button for a model railway. When the diode is lit the audience can press the button to start al-Khowarizmis Mekaniske Orkester to play a suggestion for music, as if to say, this can also be music, or, here’s a way to organize light, sound and movement in a musical fashion.
The automated composer, the software, is constructed like a collection of dice, metronomes and grids. By pushing the button you roll the dice which sets the framework for what the music can be by numerating the fringes of the musics parameters. The mesh size of the grid is decided on and the metronomes start. The tempo is to be between 50 and 70, 30 percent of the beats are let through the grid and distribute themselves among three instruments in two layers. You get a brittle music, long intervals of silence and maybe a string or the flute has chosen longer notes, in which case you’d get a line against a background of points, a musical archetype. As an alternative the music falls apart. The intervals become too long, the tempo slow down and eventually the points fail to connect. Other times all the instruments fall into one layer, and perform what they think of as a unison. This almost unison is a batter of will to be precise which unfortunately, and efficiently, is stopped by mechanical joints, friction and the special challenges of the physical world – gravity and all sorts of resistance one has to put up with. But it can be a unison music in the listeners head. If you understand where the music wants to go and add what’s missing. Then you are gluing it together and creating a steady, limp trot.
It’s in the grey areas among possible musical suggestions that this work can become interesting. al-Khowarizmis at its best present possible connections where the listener can weave his or her own music from the available threads. A point of departure where music is something the listener creates by actively structuring the sounds into a sonic matter through the sheer force of listening. In its utmost consequence this does away with the composer. The statement is polemic, but not without a shred of truth. And this shred is the basis for al-Khowarizmis Mekaniske Orkester’s music.
Christian Blom, 2014
Christian Blom is currently serving as the Director at Notam, the Norwegian center for technology, arts and music. Blom recently completed a degree in artistic research on the topic of transmedial composition. In recent years he has received both an Edvard award and a Spellemann award.
As an artist Blom works in music composition, installation art and performance, as a solo artist and in collectives. He has received commissions from NRK, Bit20-ensemble, asamisimasa, Ensemble Ernst, Ellen Ugelvik, Eir Inderhaug, NUSO, NOTAM and Ny Musikk amongst others. His main collaborators are Verdensteatret, Winter Guests and Ellen Røed. Blom’s work has been showed at Ircam, Empac, Shanghai Biennale, National Art Museum of China, Guangzhou Art Museum, Audio Art Festival Krakow, Lydgalleriet, Metamorf, PS122 New York, Ultima, Steirischer Herbst, Theatre Der Welt, Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, Nordic Music Days, World Music Days and several other national and international institutions.
Drawing by Paul the Robot (Patrick Tresset)