Composing an instrument – improvising a composition. David Wessel’s “Contacts Turbulents”

“Contacts Turbulents” was produced at IRCAM. There exist two recordings of 1986, played by David Wessel, controller, and Roscoe Mitchell, saxophone: the premiere from Paris, and another one from Den Haag. In 2009 “contact” was published, including a DVD with a performance of “Contacts Turbulents” at IRCAM in 2004. Besides, there exist recordings titled “contact” from 2002. The latest recording of the duo Wessel/Mitchell titled “contact” was taken in New York in 2011.

The performances’ set-up of the recordings show significant differences: The basic sound source of Wessel’s instrument changed from tracking and re-synthesizing Mitchell’s play via MidiLisp (1986) to using migrators and rhythmic sound samples (2011). The initial Midi keyboard (1986) was replaced by a Buchla thunder (2002/2004), latest by the controller SLABS (2011). The protocol and programming language changed from Midi in LeLisp (1986/2002) via OSC (2004) to audio sample rate in MAX (2011).

In analyzing the recordings and their set-ups, a development from a composition including an instrument-like interface to an instrument including composition-like presets can be proposed. The same time, it opens a discussion about how to deal with compositional aspects of presets withing digital instruments.

Nevertheless, the collaboration Wessel-Mitchell gives the aesthetics of the sound-output when improvising together, being pushed forward by the ambition of Wessel to use an interface as intuitive as possible in order to realize his ideas of musical expression.

Miriam Akkermann

Miriam Akkermann (Berlin, GER) is PhD candidate at Berlin University of the Arts; her research project is supervised by Prof. D. Schmidt. She graduated in classical flute (Conservatory C. Monteverdi Bolzano), took classes in composition and Sonic Art with Martin Supper (Berlin University of the Arts) and Franz Martin Olbrisch (Electronic Studio, TU Berlin), and took a BA for Product Design (Free University of Bolzano) and a MA for New Music and Technologies at the Conservatory in Bolzano (I).

Besides performing as a musician in various improvisation-based contexts, she showed several sound installations e.g. at the International EMU Festival Rom (I) 2009 as she did 2010 at lab30 festival in Augsburg (D). Currently she holds the Elsa Neumann grant of Berlin for young academics research. (