RISK, the use of high frequency radio-electronics for audio recreation
In my work I create sounds by using a system of boxes with small-scale FMtransmitter and receiver electronics that produce sound fed to and
controlled by a mixing board. The system is used to incorporate the complex electronic principles that are inherent to high frequency radio-electronics
into the audio domain, in order to create a sound-system with a partially unpredictable ingredient. Over the years I have experimented with lots of
different receivers and high-frequency oscillators that were modulated in FM, AM, SSB (single side band) and various combinations of them as well.
A significant difference between my electronics and an acoustic instrument like a drum for instance, is that with the drum you have to cause something
to get something. Although my boxes already produce sound, they need to be continually adjusted in direction that I feel the sound material should go.
Beginning with a feedback-system which was initially a lo-fi clock radio and a transmitter, I've developed the tools over the years to contain six
light-weight hi-fi send-and-receive systems each producing unique sound characteristics.I started in 1976 as a rock drummer in local bands,
but was also into radio-electronics as well at that time. My friends on the block were also communicating using the airwaves, using small unstable
fm-radio tube transmitters with fuzzy output. Radio electronics triggered the awareness in me of a space, a kind of invisible room in the air, through
which one can bring a space to another space. After I heard and saw Dutch drummer Han Bennink perform,
I realised that there were a lot more ways to play the drums and to make music.
Later I took some lessons from him, which meant both sharpening artistic thinking, but also practicing basic jazz rhythms on the drums. I experimented
with several styles, instruments and materials like drums, pieces of wood, metal, stones, plastics, radios, samplers, voice, calculators, microphones,
old electronic organs, etc. I listened to everything I could get from my friends and the music library, but my strongest influences at that time were
experimentalists like Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis, Captain Beefheart, Can, The Velvet Underground and the jazz drummer Ed Blackwell.
Later, and quite by accident I discovered another major force of radio electronics while building a home transmitter system to listen to music in
other rooms. While adjusting the system for the correct pre-amplification, it suddenly gave distortions of astonishing beauty. From this experience,
I created a small system for musical purposes - used to process a microphone signal from the drums or to pick up the sounds from an acoustic player
with a microphone and process it in real-time. I also taped a transmitter without a microphone onto the skin of the drums which worked as a kind of
insensitive microphone and gave interesting clipping drum sounds, especially when the receiver was tuned on one side of the signal. However, the
system was hardly usable in a live set-up because of its mechanical instability in power drumming.
In 1996 I began a solo project at Steim Studios in Amsterdam to apply more pressure on the technical development of my electronic system. I received a
new prototype test circuit with the latest in car-receiver technology which provided far higher fidelity signals compared to the older tuner and clock radios
I used - and it provided some great, and quite unusual control possibilities, like bandwidth control. Now the electronics themselves started to create
their own unique world of feedback sounds. Feeding the output of the receiver back to the input of the transmitter via the mixing board, using amplitude
control like trim, aux and sound-shaping by the equalisation - I caused pulses, beats, noises, drones, sweeps and sounds which felt "in between drums
and winds and strings" - like a kick drum and trombone, or tuba and e-guitar. What I found that I gave birth to was also a rock sound which seemed
to melt drums, bass and electric guitar together in one sound - a kind of fluid rock.
My first solo CD "Noise Capture" was recorded in that period. For the piece SUB I (on the Noise Capture CD), I had in mind saying goodbye to the snare
drum and using the resonance of the rest of the drum kit when it was not being directly played. In the studio I created an installation of drums and
cymbals hanging in the air around a standing snare drum, on which I played a very loud stroke. I listened to the resonance patterns formed by the
hanging drums and deciding on the next stroke. All of this was recorded and afterwards electronically processed. For this piece I felt inspired by the
Dutch "the Hague School" composer/saxophonist Peter van Bergen and his so-called "Factor Series" with its uncompromising method of stripping
improvisations down to compacted explosive building blocks. For SUB IV (also on the Noise Capture CD), a slow bluesy rhythm on a timpani
and a scratch improvisation on a saron, a small Indonesian metallophone, were precisely recorded after that the acoustic materials were
electronically processed by the boxes, edited and recomposed. The instrument on SUB V (Noise Capture as well) is a set of clock radios,
receivers and transmitters that I entice to sound by touching of the components of the transmitters and further controlling sound by pushing and
holding the speakers of the radios. This set-up could remind of the release in Steim of the "Kraakdoos" (1975) rom the Dutch experimental composer
Michel Waisvisz. The major difference in the basic concept was that my machines took audio to the high-frequency domain (100 Mhz FM) and then
back to the listenable audio domain. So high-frequency electronics were used as a vehicle for audio, while the "Kraakdoos" remains in the domain of
audio-electronics. Digital recording-equipment worked well for these electro-acoustic pieces. Tape noise from older recording machines would have
been disastrous for the recording and processing since by over-modulating the preamp of the transmitter in order to get the right distortion, it is clear
that too much unwanted tape noise would have been amplified as well. After the Steim period the drum kit became smaller until at one point only the
electronics remained. I felt I could develop my personal sound better with electronics than with what I felt was limited in percussion, although I still
believe that I think like a drummer. I became part of an international electronic scene which rose in the late nineties - a scene partly composed of
improvisers and composers who started to play with electronics, as well from electronic musicians who decided to switch over to computers.
As well, those played the same instruments as before became more related to the scene including those who were just play electronics or computer.
From the beginning of my work in this realm, I felt influenced by talents such as Pan Sonic, Peter Rehberg ("Pita") and even the strong work of 90's Dutch
minimal dance music.I started working at home and built a own home studio with a ProTools recording system. Besides periods of recording materials,
there are periods of soldering, experimenting with other components, modifications of boxes, though at the moment I am beginning to "freeze" each box
I've worked on, which means to halt major modifications on existing boxes and to instead build new ones. Of course there is also live performance.
For me, playinglive means playing the home-prepared set up live on stage, with the pressure of the public, different cities and venues, different sound
systems. Each time I try to make something happen, try to re-invent myself on stage and give some of the energy to the public.
back to mainpage