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Monday, June 3, 2024

Werner Dafeldecker's Recent Recordings

By Eyal HareuveniEyal Hareuveni

Austrian, Berlin-based experimental composer-double bass player-sound artist-composer Werner Dafeldecker explores the electro-acoustics terrains, and his musical projects are often inspired and deduced by outside influences such as architecture, science, photography and film - partially resulting in the creation of graphic scores for various ensembles and instrumental performers. He is a founding member of the contemporary sound unit Polwechsel and collaborator to artists such as John Tilbury, John Butcher, Axel Dörner, Sven-Åke Johansson, Fennesz and David Sylvian.

Werner Dafeldecker - Neural (Room40, 2023)

Neural pairs two extended drone works of Dafeldecker that highlight his preoccupation with timbre, stillness and subtle dynamism. Dafeldecker mentions that he always found the idea of using an alien material as the structuring element of an artistic process exciting, often removed at the end of the creative process, but still evokes a somewhat stubborn emotionality. Neural offers two works of patience but with inescapable tension that is never released and reflects the artistic process on a different emotional level.

“Neural” (2021) - for Dafeldecker and Australian, Berlin-based Jon Helibron on double basses and German Nicholas Bussmann and Australian, Berlin-based Judith Hamann on cellos (originally composed for bass clarinet, cello and two double basses) - focused on almost static sound surfaces and was inspired by the idea that neural networks self-organize and develop a memory when they repeatedly send information. This deep-toned string quartet produces subtle vibrations and rhythmic variations of the overtones, caused by the patient dynamics and pitch shifts in the microtonal range. Dafeldecker notes that with the passage of time and performance practice, “spherical, acoustic stamps become established, caused by the conscious perception of when the rhythm changes into sound sensation and vice versa”.

The following, almost silent “Tape 231“ is for Argentinian, Berlin-based bass clarinetist Lucio Capece, Dafeldecker on electronics and German Wolfgang Seidl on Gongs. Dafeldecker used a long-forgotten music cassette from his archive which contained peculiar percussive electronic sounds, which served as a structuring element for the piece, (time, density, dynamics), gently intensified by Capece’s elongated tones and multiphonics and carefully resonated gongs of Seidl.

Nicholas Bussmann / Werner Dafeldecker - Monte Carlo Fallacy (Ni Vu Ni CONNU, 2023)

German cellist Nicholas Bussmann remembers that the COVID-19 lockdown of early 2020 ”felt like the early 90s in East Berlin”, a place of uncertainty and empty, silent spaces. Monte Carlo Fallacy, his duo with long-time comrade Dafeldecker, captures this apocalyptic, melancholic feeling. They explore the nature of the cello and the double bass with paced and thoughtful slow bowing, with little intervention or overt demonstration of virtuosity. It is a careful study into sonority, a tactile re-learning of sound, teaching each other new airs, free of any kind of obligation to espouse established narratives or politics.

Bussmann and Dafeldecker allowed the instruments to be in their most dark and woody, confused and apocalyptic space. The instruments are stripped and relieved of their duty to produce “music”, just offering a poetic canvas of resonating noises, of the room and muted Berlin’s weather patterns, and the breaths of Bussmann and Dafeldecker at Bussmann’s Grand Prix d’Amour studio. They listen with great focus to the sounds of the surfaces, the scrapes, squeaks and abrasions. Much in the spirit of legendary cellist Pablo Casals, who notoriously instructed his students to “put air around their instrument”.

Werner Dafeldecker & Valerio Tricoli - Der Krater (Room40, 2023)

Der Krater documents Dafeldecker’s third collaboration with Italian live-manipulator of the Revox take machine and synth player Valerio Tricoli, following the performance of John Cage’s Octophonic tape piece “Williams Mix” (1952) (Williams Mix Extended, Quakerbasket, 2014) and the 40-copy cassette Le Diable Probablement with Spanish sound artist Matin (Eclectic Reactions Records, 2022). Dafeldecker plays the double bass and the two rich and enigmatic drone pieces were improvised and then re-composed. Dafeldecker calls these unsettling pieces pieces “nightmares”, as they evoke a sensation of drowning in a dark, psychedelic aural abyss, but Tricoli, in his liner notes insists on not explaining more about the nature of these pieces. “Dear listeners of the avant-garde, I say what's there's to say: all that matters to me in that elusive fact we call music, hear hear, is its unspeakable. What digs a crater in my soul, and settles somewhere in the neuronal circuit, is a nameless spirit”.

Lawrence English / Werner Dafeldecker - Tropic of Capricorn (Hallow Ground, 2023)

Tropic of Capricorn is the second collaboration of prolific Australian sound artist Lawrence English (who runs the Room40 label) with Dafeldecker, following Shadow of Monolith (Holotype Editions, 2014). It is based on English’s field recordings - from the Western coast to the Pilbara region in the North of Australia the central Australian desert into the lands of the Aboriginal Arrernte people, focusing “on the residues of failed colonial aspirations” with “an unsettled sense of heavy breath on the land”. These field recordings were subtly treated and altered by Dafeldecker with transducers applied to different surfaces such as wood, stretched animal skin, glass, or metal surfaces and also re-recording parts of the recordings. Dafeldecker inserted vivid events - birdsong, insect noises and the sound of thunderstorms and rain. The disorienting, surreal sonic essence of Tropic of Capricorn blurs the lines between acoustic ecology, concrete local sound and aesthetic interventions, and asks where nature ends and human perception begins. It invites deep listening beyond the preconceived notions of how nature is supposed to be represented in sound, a listening that embraces the immediacy of the sensation.

Rahma Quartet - "Mercy is called down by Mercy to the last” Live (Meena, 2023)

The Rahma Quartet features Egyptian-Nubian, Munich-based vocalist-visual artist Rasha Ragab, German stone harp player Christoph Nicolaus (who plays with Ragab in the duo toffaha (apple in Arabic), bass clarinetist Capece, and Werner Dafeldecker on the double bass. This debut album was recorded live at Stadtgarten Köln in November 2022 as part of the series "In Between Spaces”.

Rehab recites texts by Persian Sufi mystic poet, Al-Hallaj (858-922, known for his saying: "I am the Truth", which many saw as a claim to divinity, eventually led to his execution). The title of the 39-minute piece is taken from a poem of another Sufi poet and mystic, Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207-1273, Persia), "He who needs mercy finds it”. Nicolaus, Capece and Dafedecker embrace Ragab’s ceremonial, spoken word reading of the evocative texts - in Arabic - with a quiet and reserved deep-toned drone that calls for a deep, merciful meditation and offers an inspiring, immersive listening experience.