In late 2019, a group of Brasiliense musicians – including members of the Brasilia Laptop Orchestra (BSBLOrk) and Nomade Lab – were invited by the Alfinete Gallery to improvise a dialogue with an installation by Milton Marques.
The work consisted of a motorized disk, coated with loose plaster powder. As the disk rotated, it was ploughed and furrowed by a fixed metal hook pressed into its surface. At the opposite side of the disk, the broken surface was smoothed again by a heavy pad pressing on it; weighed down with bullets.
Hence the disk was a microcosm of an eternal cycle of disrupted and re-established order. Of creation and destruction. Of “enantiodromia”, things turning into their opposites.
As the disk rotated, the side of the disk undergoing destruction was closely filmed, with the image projected to fill one of the gallery walls. And so the microcosm of ongoing destruction was amplified to an apparently tectonic scale, becoming a vision of never-ending earthquakes or glacial collapse.
While this was largely an improvised piece, to structure the performance, two of the musicians were invited to “compose” two main halves or movements, by defining some specific instructions and material for the rest of the musicians to work with.
These two main movements or “balancing forces” were composed by Ghales (Torque) and euFraktus X (KronUs). With sound-artist K-Torrent invited to add new sounds from an affected and distorted violin, over the transition between the two.
Finally, the musicians were encouraged to return from the second movement to elements of the first in the final “coda” (here labelled Momentum), in which the piece “wraps around” to the beginning again.
The result, captured and lightly edited and remixed is, in many ways “epic”. Although it is also a confusion. A hotch-potch of ideas and styles in which we do, indeed, hear a world in constant motion and undergoing creative destruction. A juxtaposition of human and abstract. The organic and electronic. Political and geological. Melodic fragments and noise.
Ghales starts Torque with the introduction of Leandro Columbi reading found texts through his home-made effects rig, transforming the human through a catastrophe of stuttering, phasing, ring-mod and pitch-bend. Leandro’s vocal improvisations are sometimes intelligible, sometimes gibberish, and sometimes they turn into birdlike-whistling, or swoop down to low groans and bored muttering.
Meanwhile Ghales and djalgoritmo start to bring in LiveCoded percussion. A sequence of hollow synthetic clay pots which seem to be continually tripping over themselves ineptly, and thus fail to establish any kind of pulse.
Jackson Marinho enters with his custom made interfaces : modified meat-grinder and kalimba.
And gradually Ghales and djalgoritmo manage to bring the chaos into some kind of order by stacking up further percussive lines, introducing echoey bell-like riffs. And hosing them in a slurry of kicks and splashing cymbals. Until a rapid rumbling bass begins to dominate under jagged slashes of noise, and the world becomes a mutant honky-tonk and a stairway of rising brightly stabbing digital chords.
The other musicians are still playing as K-Torrent’s broken and effected violin enters. Signalling a transition between the movements.
From some indeterminate location, the voice of a Brasilian television presenter intrudes, calmly reporting on political turmoils and upheavals. And yet, as Leandro’s voice takes up the chant of “Irresponsibility” with a voice full of ennui, a background of drones and high-pitched whistles, gives the political coup against the presidency of Dilma Rousseff a hypnogogic, hallucinatory quality. As though it might all be just a bad dream.
In the aftermath of the transition, eufraktus X’s KronUs slides in with a poignant drone. Sucking, scribbling, rounded hushing torrents of melt-water. Leandro’s bird-whistles flit over a landscape of geological cracks and fractures, a dissolving glacier. A hiss of noise. Squeels and synth-tones rise and fall. But the cracks and pops become clearer as the sound of gunshots. Is this a war-zone? A nightly shoot-out in the favela? In Marques’s spinning discworld, the pad which smooths the disrupted surface is weighted with bullets. Does violence bring order then?
If Marques wants to imply this, the musicians seem to be disagreeing. As the notional calm starts to break up with the gunfire … the sounds become agitated. The bird-whistle becomes more frantic. Jets of doppler velocity fly overhead. Bombs go off. Lasers. The meat-grinder is in action. Leandro moans like a zombie horde. And we realize that this is hell. One of the danker circles of Dante’s inferno. Where a decrepit bell is clanking.
Time is inexorably winding down in a funereal dirge. And the glacial ice is melting. Entropy takes effect, sound is turning into white noise.
On the projected screen, the powdered earth continues its eternal crumbling collapse.
You can never step in the same earthquake twice.
And yet … euFraktus X’s score asks the other players to improvise around the cyclic nature of history. The pendulum will swing back from the dark period we are in. The political shadows will be dispelled by the light.
euFraktus calls in a child, five year old Myrrha Morcelli, to interact with the cameras that control his musical software, bringing a playful energy of to the cacophany. The sounds of hell rearrange into a lighter, burbling dance. Is that a clarinet practising its scales? Are the gunshots really revolutionary fireworks?
Now Leandro’s incantations pick up pace. New rivulets of fresh warp-sound are finding their way out from the cracks. Leandro is stuttered and looped. And this builds energy. Even the clinking bells pick up speed. Riverrun. We are heading back to the beginning.
 This recording was made in the political despair of late 2019, before the great nightmare of COVID19 had exploded into the world. But we may choose to take a similar message of hope from KronUs. The disease year may be harsh, but we will eventually come through it.
- Jackson Marinho
- euFraktus X
- Myrrha Morcelli