SCHWARZE SEHNSUCHT (2013)
for percussion and electronics
Schwarze Sehnsucht is the first work created by Zero Crossing. It resulted from Max Riefer requesting a new work for percussion from Peter Edwards. The answer was negative - there wasn't any time in his schedule at that moment - but Peter suggested that they work together collaboratively on a new piece for percussion and electronics. Schwarze Sehnsucht was completed during a 3-day session in October 2013, recorded that month and premiered publicly in Freiburg Germany a few weeks later at the festival celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Freiburg Percussion Ensemble.
The work is a structured improvisation with 3 contrasting sections using a minimal setup: snare, cymbal, and electronics. The timbral richness of a piece using such limited instrumentation is a testament to the extensive role that signal processing plays in this piece. There are no recorded parts in the electronics; everything is live signal processing on a snare drum and a cymbal. To achieve some of the more complex textures found in the first two sections, the computer needed to take on a more active role. In the first section, particularly, the computer uses randomization to determine certain parameters resulting in an improvisation between three components - the percussionists, the sound enginneer, and the computer. The two humans continually respond to changes proposed by the machine.
Still, the percussion instruments provide a great deal of timbral richness. In the second section, for instance, Max only plays a cymbal, but he strikes several locations on the instrument, each yielding a slightly different timbre. Most striking is the screeching sounds toward the end of that section that result from Max scraping the butts of his mallets across the surface of the cymbal. The final section returns to snare drum but this time without mallets. (The snares are never engaged on the drum, so the listener may wonder if the drum is a snare at all.) Using only his hands - palms, fingertips, nails - he yields a world of microscopic sounds that are heavily amplified and placed in a deeply reverberant space via signal processing. The electronics subtly change the timbre via equalization, but this is purposely pushed too far on occasion to yield feedback at particular frequencies.