Five years ago, in the early evening of October 18th 2013, magister Rébus invited me and Jean Bordé -the Jimi H. of the double bass- to come over to a small pottery workshop in the 11th arrondissement of the French capital, to perform there with two visiting musicians: the Japanese piano player Yoko Miura and the Vietnamese composer, DJ and organizer Doan Tri Minh, who then was visiting Paris 'for research and networking'. And so the five of us performed, with no audience, other than the pots, plates and vases of ceramist Marie Latour.
Later that same evening together we walked the 900 meters northward to La Générale, a spacey early 20th century industrial building opposite the 11th arrondissement's town hall, that since 2009 is managed by a collective of designers, film makers and performing artists including Rébus, and set up by them as a laboratory for independent art and sociopolitical activism, unique in Paris. The collective rents this amazing space from the city of Paris for but little money, with the permission to use it, only to this strictly non-commercial end, as a creative hub and as a breeding ground for the performing arts.
In La G's back room we shoved one piano next to another and there continued to perform and record, witnessed by only the ears of a digital audio recorder, the eyes of a digital camera and those of the racks and the handles and the cables and the lamps and the cloths and the boxes and the cans and the bottles and the wood, the tools and the tips and the stands and the brushes, the extensions, the cords and adapters that were stored there for who- or whatever in future days would have need and use for it, to create, to instruct, to construct, to destruct.
That evening serendipitously gave birth to unPublic, an ongoing series of free musonic speculations that differ from concerts only in that they are not concerts.
In unPublic magister Rébus and I - almost always together, but occasionally alone - meet up to perform in the absence of whatever audience with fellow artists, friends and visiting artists-musicians, that contact us when their voyaging or small or big touring brings them to Paris. Or, the other way round, with the artists-musicians that we look up or meet when, for whatever reason, we go out and trot around elsewhere on this globe.
Concerts that are not concerts ask for little to nothing in term of logistics. In principle any odd room will do as a space, any odd hour as a time; and both can be agreed upon at the very last minute.
It it thus that in the five years of its existence we managed to go unPublic in a barn in the Swiss alps, on the beach of the South Korean island of Dae-Bo, in an artist's studio and a cellar in Berlin, in the American library and at the IRCAM in Paris, down under a small independent record store in Taipei, in galleries in Tainan (also Taiwan), in Tokyo, in Seoul, in Montreal, in Paris, in private homes in Lazaropole (Macedonia), Kaohsiung (Taiwan), in Brussels, in Belgrade, in Paris and in several of its suburbs, with the different spaces of La Générale (the cellar, the kitchen, the back room, the big hall, the upper floors) as our base by default.
Each of the unPublics is documented by means of a digital audio album, and all of the albums are available as 'name your price' downloads at Bandcamp. The albums are based on the digital recordings that are made of the events. It is always me that prepares the recordings for their release, a preparation that includes mastering but may also include any number -between nil and very many- of cuts and edits. Nothing ever though is added afterwards (well, okay, sometimes there is, but that is really exceptional, in very, very, very rare cases only). As a matter of fact, in an absolute sense, the editing and collaging applied is pretty minimal (again, there are exceptions, but they are few).
Crux though is, that the sound of all unPublic recordings will have passed thru my ears before they reach yours. It is what makes up their unity, and is an essential ingredient. It is what lends unPublic a typical 'one thing'-ness, together with the continuing presence of magister Rébus's and my own musonic contributions. These account for several of the recurring 'themes' that an ardent listener and/or future analyst will readily perceive throughout the series, e.g. the dictaphonic manipulation of a - limited number - of cassette tape recordings, which can be heard to resound, again and again, in ever changing formats and contexts, on different occasions, and texts read and words spoken/sung in a great many different languages. Other typical permutations and counterpoints are in the re-appearance of contributors, that may be heard performing within unPublic at different times, at different places, always as part of a different ensemble. No two unPublics ever yet were done by the same group of players.
In the five years of its existence, between the October 18th's of 2013 and 2018, there have been 56 unPublic editions, with a total of 132 contributors of 27 different nationalities, which resulted in 56 digital albums comprising 247 tracks with a total playing time of 2 days 1 hour 52 minutes and 56 seconds.
Each of the editions comes with its own story, with its own anecdotes; some of them are decidedly low-profile, some are prolific. Just to name one, there was the 2013 'Cassettes, Candles & Champagne' solstice ritual, which we did on the 21st of December on La Générale's second floor. Beside being an unPublic, this early (4th) edition also marked the end of a year of 'Lang Leve Lou Ottens'- events (Lou Ottens is the Dutch engineer that, as head of a Philips R&D team, in the early 1960's invented the audio cassette), with which we, all along the year 2013, commemorated - in our ways - the 50th birthday of the audio cassette tape. The 4th unPublic's composition was sort of akin to that of Hal McGee's dictaphone recordings assemblage pieces: I asked the four participants to bring a cassette player with built-in speaker and a, fully recorded, C60 audio cassette. Each of the four cassette players then was placed on a corner of a small rectangular low table. We then played back the four cassettes simultaneously, and recorded the resulting assemblage in double stereo, with a digital recorder placed in the middle of the rectangle.
Each of the editions comes with its own particular reason to be. Like the 48th one, that we did last year on the 10th of November in one of the studios of the prestigious IRCAM Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music, underground the place Igor-Stravinsky opposite the Pompidou Center in Paris, as an -unpublic- contribution to an international conference on Music & Hacking, organized by the IRCAM, to which Rébus and I had been invited as lecturers.
More important, though, as both magister Rébus and myself continue to stress, is the emergence of a whole that is not, as it were, a mere heap, but something beside the parts. (I stole that line from Aristotle's 'Metaphysics', haha, indeed book VIII, chapter VI). Ten years ago, way back in 2008, Rébus and I wrote the (first part of) a longish article on electroacoustic improvisation as metalanguage and fixed point. It appeared in 2009, in Hungarian translation ('Az elektroakusztikus improvizáció mint metanyelv és rögzített pont'), in a collection of essays on 'Performance in the medial age of technology' that was published by the department of media and communication of the University of Szeged. The main guiding example in our studies then was Diktat. This, you may recall, is our quartet with Jean Bordé on double bass and with Staaltape's Rinus van Alebeek, like me and Rébus, on dictaphones. In their continuing evolution Diktat and hence, a fortiori, the unPublic (not unjustly qualified by Rinus as a 'meta-Diktat') can be seen as realizing fixed points in the vast and fast expanding realm of freely improvised, nonacademic electroacoustic music that, rather than 'experimental', we prefer to call 'speculative', and that as part of a basically oral tradition readily and notably can and has, by several, also before us, been identified as a (post-)contemporary form of urban folk.
For the unPublic lustrum celebration, on the 18th October of this year 2018 we drove down in FlexRex's Daicar to the southern suburb of Bures-sur-Yvette. There, within the confines of magister Rébus's living room, we welded a 56th unPublic, delving into the vast collection of instruments and other sound producing de-vices that magister Rébus has stowed in an upstairs room, near to impenetrable due to the collection's sheer volume. (Another part of it is in La Générales's cellar.)
Yoko Miura was with us again, like the very first time, five years ago. Also part of the unPublic lustrum crew were Paula Velez, a saxophone player originally from Columbia, our long time friend & vintage electronics specialist FlexRex, and Yungwei from Taipei, who took the pictures and read a few lines in Dutch, about een pinguin en een papagaai, and some more on de eb en de zee.
Jean Bordé, however, sadly did not make it down to Bures that night. His double bass would not enter the Daicar, so he had to take a train from Paris. But confronted with the dense rush hour crowds that packed the platforms at the Châtelet station, he had given up and went back home.
"C'est insupportable," he texted, "les quais sont saturés. Je suis désolé de ne pas partager la soirée. Je rentre à la maison!"
Listen/download all unPublics: http://unpublic.bandcamp.com
Read more: http://unpublic.soundblog.net
Candles, Cassettes & Champagne:
La Générale: http://harsmedia.com/SoundBlog/Archief/00832.php
Welcome to EC! Thank you very much for your great article!
Thank you Rafael, my pleasure :-)
Enjoyable article! Welcome to EC, Harold! I think I would very much like to unPerform in one of these unPublic happenings, put me on the waiting list!
Ha ha, yes! We'd be more than happy to welcome you in an upcoming un-performance, William, wherever that'd be.
Welcome to EC and thank you for this lovely memoir of unPublic, a global speculative sound art project. I hope that someday there is an unPublic event in Florida, USA.
I hope so too, Lumen, that would be so great. It's been quite while since we last crossed the ocean in your direction. (Last time was six years ago, when with Diktat we played at the Sonic Circuits festival in Washington DC.)
Welcome to EC Harold! Nice article.
Thank you, Chris. Happy to be here ! :-)
You seem a kindred soul, Har$, finding environments where minds can comfortably meet, expressing those meetings through the interplay of sounds. I have only just skimmed the contents of your unpublic bandcamp and already felt a kinship. I imagine a meeting of Unpublic and Herd Of The Ether Space could have twisted the trunk of a banyan tree. Thank you for sharing.
Ha, ha, yes, Charles, yes, yes ! I just listened to some Herd on uTube, and imagined the multiple fruits we'd bear ... well, why not? Let's shake them syncarps one of these days!
Adam J Naworal
Excellent informative article and I like the parallels between Florida's Apartment Music shows and what you and your collaborators are doing! Welcome to EC, Harold! :D
Thanks Adam. Yes, many parallels, and a very interesting series indeed, Apartment Music! A pleasure to discover and listen!
Harold, It is so great to read about Unpublic and hear what you all are doing. Really inspirational! Welcome to EC!
Hi Leslie, thanks! And on my side, really happy to discover your 'Girls on Fire' work, documents and thoughts here on EC. So great! :-)
Welcome to EC Harold!
Ah, Wolfgang, all was the match's fault! But we'll have to do something about it, or this will continue to haunt us for the rest of our days, haha ;-) ...
I have added Yungwei Chen's video essay from the unPublic #56 recording session to the page. I think that a lot of EC people will enjoy this video! I love it! — https://youtu.be/RD9q_iPNgLA
Yes, very good idea, thanks Hal!
You're right, Hal! Right now I'm spiking myself with EC badges!
Welcome to Electronic Cottage, Harold!
Hi David, Rébus and I will (try to) write more extensively on that topic 'academically' some time soon now, as a proposition for some 'scientific' conference or other ;-) ... and I will keep you updated on that, but otherwise I am afraid I do not have any specific reading that I could suggest you. I am sure though that the comparison was made, explicitly, in an article in The Wire, already quite a number of years ago, but I'm afraid I forgot when that was and who wrote it. I have been trying to find it back over the weekend, but without success.
This music takes me back to the many sessions (and all the fun) we had in the 80s with Walls of Genius and Leo Goya's group, the Miracle. Wish I had known about this when we were visiting in Paris (2006). Robin and I had to discipline my parents on that trip because we wanted to enjoy the nightlife, so we laid down the law--daytimes we visit museums with Mom'n'Dad and nighttimes we went to various caveaus to enjoy the Parisian jazz scene. Welcome to the Electronic Cottage!
Make sure to contact next time you come flying over Evan! Will be a pleasure meeting ... and playing! :-)
Great project - sounds like a lot of fun - great documentation. If there an audience showed up would the unconcerns become concerts? (ha)
Thanks Ken, and yes, with audience the un-concerts of course would turn into concerts. And we do do those as well, mind you, concerts, but for the unPublics we really make sure anything audience-like is kept at a safe distance, haha :-)
Hi Frank, it was early on on the electronic cottage that I read your kind words on our work - thanks again for that! - but also quite general I enjoy looking, reading and listening around here; so it's a pleasure to contribute. It just took me a while to find the time, the right moment and a suitable theme :-) ... I will try to make it a more or less regular thing. Let's see ... :-)
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Harold Schellinx aka Har$ has been speculatively exploring some of the less trodden paths in music, writing, mathematics and other arts, ever since his seminal stirrings within the experimental post-punk DIY / ULTRA scene in the Amsterdam of the late 1970s/early 1980s .