Karlheinz Essl


Sonnez la cloche!

Computer music live performance on the sound of a church bell

Basics | Video | Reviews | Interviews | Feature | Performances

— No, now, urged Lenehan. Sonnezlacloche! O do! There's no-one.
    She looked. Quick. Miss Kenn out of earshot. Sudden bent. Two kindling faces watched her bend.
    Quavering the chords strayed from the air, found it again, lost chord, and lost and found it faltering.
— Go on! Do! Sonnez!
    Bending, she nipped a peak of skirt above her knee. Delayed. Taunted them still, bending, suspending, with wilful eyes.
    Smack. She set free sudden in rebound her nipped elastic garter smackwarm against her smackable woman's warmhosed thigh.
La cloche! cried gleeful Lenehan. Trained by owner. No sawdust there.
    She smilesmirked supercilious (wept! aren't men?), but, lightward gliding, mild she smiled on Boylan.

James Joyce: Ulysses (chapter XI - "Sirens")

Karlheinz Essl

"Sonnez la cloche!" entstand im August 2002 während des Festivals AVANTGARDE in Schwaz (Tirol) als Beitrag zu einer sogenannten "Audio Art Night", der am 31.08.2002 als Open Air Performance über den Dächern von Schwaz uraufgeführt wurde. Im Verlaufe dieser Performance ertönten pünktlich zum Abendläuten auch die Glocken der Stadtpfarrkirche selbst.

Das akustische Ausgangsmaterial dieses Stücks bildet die Tonaufnahme dreier aufeinanderfolgenden Schläge der Schwazer Stadtpfarrkirche. Dieses Klangsample wird in das von Karlheinz Essl in Max/MSP geschriebenes Computerprogramm m@ze°2 eingespeist und dort vielfältigsten kompositorischen Prozessen unterworfen, die im Moment der Aufführung vom Komponisten mit Hilfe von verschiedenen am Computer angeschlossenen Reglern kontrolliert werden können. Dadurch ist "Sonnez la cloche!" nicht nur eine Klangkomposition, sondern zugleich auch ein Instrument, auf dem dieses Stück in verschiedenen Varianten gespielt wird.

Der Titel ist dem "Ulysses" von James Joyce entlehnt und stammt aus der Sirenen-Episode (Kapitel XI), die von Joyce selbst als "fuga per canonem" gestaltet wurde. Darin wird die Doppeldeutigkeit von "la cloche" virtuos inszeniert, denn dieses Wort bedeutet nicht nur Glocke, sondern auch - Strumpfband.

Sonnez la cloche! performed by Karlheinz Essl
From the album SNDT®X (2007)

Stephen Ferguson

I can hear Karlheinz Essl in the town of Schwaz in Tyrol, as he recounts it, performing his new work Sonnez la Cloche, for the festival AVANTGARDE Schwaz. Silver town Schwaz rolls up a verdant ramp towards the piercing grandure of pointed, weighty mountains.

With a sample of the bells of the Schwaz church Karlheinz began. He took the best chunk out of a pealing, rollicking bell recording. Then he put that sample into his laptop. Then using all his self-adjusted sound modules he turned the sample (a snapped shot in sound) into a continuum. By that I mean he made the excerpt into an unending stream of music and, while the stream was flowing, used his sound modules to gradually vary the sound. I hear it all D minory, with that lovely bell thing on the subdominant, the G. He glissandoed the whole thing up, as if he were propelling the church into the Alpine air. Then it stayed. Then it fluttered. Then it got so dismantled that the bells became dust in the Inn Valley. Then it went all rhythmic and semiquavery. The whole cushion of sound subsided into the snow and silence of the Alps.

During the first performance, Karlheinz broadcast the entire music, as he was performing it, from the roof of a building close to the church tower in Schwaz. He had waited till the real bells were pealing and mixed the performance with them. The good citizens of Schwaz had sound poured all over their day. And that is what this piece is meant to do – change the very Alpine air we breathe, if only till the bells cease to peal.

Karlheinz Essl performing Sonnez la cloche!
Exhibition Gunter Damisch at Würth ART ROOM Böheimkirchen, 3 Oct 2003
Video: Uta Birk

Two Visits to the Essl Museum

My first visit to the Essl Collection of Modern Art near Vienna had been to its opening night party, some three years before: The buffet was laid out amongst the metallic panels of cellar storage, and everyone who is anyone was there, gliding along corridors and slanting spaces in this well-lit temple to the Gods of Colour. You gazed not just at paintings but at people obscuring the paintings. Some paused before the Rainers and the Nitsches. Some were painters themselves and would give you their story of what the hanging square meant. In the Rotunde, Karlheinz Essl, composer, whose parents had built the museum, was performing live electronics with guests. Heat and noise mingled with the electronics and the attendant projection, and as the musicians treated, mashed and meshed FM snippets, the temperature rose till the paintings' reds glowed.

This time around it was Karlheinz solo. He was doing a special performance for us, for aAMPlify. We had coffee on the roof, roomy and fragrant. Going downstairs, that true museum silence, that ethereal silence akin to cathedral whispers, hung only inches from the canvas. Photons tumbled in from the glassy courtyard, bouncing off paint and surfaces to endear the eye. We went through to K.E.'s studio and, with little preamble, he sat down and performed a new version of Sonnez la cloche!, an improvisation on a church bell sample. The title quotes Joyce's sirens episode from Ulysses. Then he took us to the Rotunde. And in the inside cool, he spun his arms and performed without sound or audience. As Iby took the pictures, the blues of the paintings hummed.

© 2002 by Stephen Ferguson



Home Works Sounds Bibliography Concerts

Updated: 17 Dec 2016