Interview with Dianne Verdonk on her “Texture Instruments” for No Patent Pending
Dianne Verdonk – performer, composer and instrument developer – seeks the ultimate, personal form of musical expression in the creation and performance of electroacoustic music. For iii Dianne is expanding and modifying the Pulseyarn, a previous instrument, in scope, scale, and complexity.
She will be presenting her work at No Patent Pending #33 on May 4, 2018.
Currently living- Utrecht
Cybil Scott- How do you define yourself as an artist? What gets you excited?
Dianne Verdonk- For me it’s about creating the tools to make what I want to make, its almost like creating tools for creating tools. I would like to make electronic music, but the interfaces that are there don’t really fit my way of expression, so it still feels like a machine I have to operate. It’s not real or physical, it’s still a virtual thing that you work on. What I do is still virtual in some ways, but by moving my body. Maybe I am also a control freak, to have the need to influence stuff.
What is it about deep sounds and vibrations that intrigues you?
I think it’s the feeling that strongly affects me. It feels so comfortable to be able to play low notes!
The Bellyhorn looks like an instrument which would fit perfectly inside a Pieter Bruegel painting. Was there a certain kind of aesthetic your team was going for, or did you design its look based on the novel shape of the instrument?
We designed it on the sound/audio that was there first. I immediately thought of wool for the material, that it should feel like, and be, an object or instrument. Something people could interact with.
What was the double bass and cello missing in terms of your artistic expression? It’s not often you see a trained musician building and inventing their own instruments and singing as well.
They weren’t missing anything in the way they are. I started creating my own interfaces for making electronic music, because I wanted to make music in an even bigger world of electronically produced sounds, and the interfaces that are there (most of them) don’t feel like making music, but operating machinery. Playing the cello and double bass is like 1-1. I have to use my whole body to drag a tone out of it, and this is something that’s hardly represented in the digital world, like translating body actions. To me it seems like most of the interfaces are invented from the object itself, from a history of machinery functionality. I think I work with things that are touchable, in combination with material.
What is music to you?
I consider music structured sound, put together, or regulated by someone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a human, it could be an animal, but there should be an agent or something that’s active. It’s a very difficult discussion. Random generated sound can also be music.
I really like the album Confield of Autechre for instance (which is not randomly generated at all but to many people quite abstract), and I totally consider this music. I’m interested in parameters of pitch and harmony, I’ve been singing together with my sister since I can remember trying to find tones which match with her singing.
What’s the plan for the iii residency?
During my residency, I’m focusing more on sound ‘textures’, like noises and layers that are non-pitched, rather than on pitch and harmony. These are musical ingredients that I like a lot and can introduce unpredictable elements. I’m working out the former ‘Pulseyarn’ right now; a physical ‘sequencer’ to make rhythms. It’s a pendulum that swings its light over objects on the ground, which will make a sound when that happens. This way, it can play circular patterns. The patterns, however, change since the pendulum swings slightly different each round, so it will include or exclude objects (and sounds) over time. It will be part of the bunch of instruments with which I hope to create an album with. I hope they enable me to compose with the new instruments in a way that feels natural to my body and as a fluid way of making and performing music.
Is this something you’ve been wanting to do for awhile?
Yes, I didn’t finish it after the previous residency (with Gaudeamus Muziekweek & Vechtclub XL in Utrecht) and that’s why I haven’t been using it so far.
Do you care what kind of objects are used for the Pulseyarn?
Ideally, I want to make a connection between what you see and what you hear. The connection between the visual part of the object to what sound it triggers creates something for the spectator. Different looking objects will sound different, according to the shape, used material, size, colour, etc. I want to create an illusion that feels organic. How to make my ideas possible technically I find very interesting, and it is an important and time-consuming part of my process.
What’s the difference between an installation and an instrument?
An installation is something that remains and an instrument requires continuous bodily influence.
Where do you get your inspiration from outside of the sound world?
Stuff that does something to your perception, like the work of Anish Kapoor. He plays with scale, colours and materials, and it does something to the way you notice yourself and where you are in space. He also makes large organic shapes, tubes, curved steel objects and clear bright mirrors; I think it’s amazing. Even though you know its science or scientifically based, it seems magical. It triggers doubt in your perception.
I like to be outside and watch documentaries that are mostly about the world/universe in the biggest sense, like society or nature and what keeps people busy all over the world. Also, I like sports, and I play ultimate frisbee and I do bouldering.
What do you struggle with?
Structure! Getting my head around an idea and finding out what is necessary. Being realistic in a process is a big challenge for me. Also finding a balance between what skills I want to develop more myself, and what to outsource; where to work together. Communicating these plans to funds is even harder! Also, making time for working on projects is a struggle, since it doesn’t gain any revenue… (yet). Maintaining projects that are already there (Bellyhorn for example) is easier than starting something new. This residency is a great way to make time for working out a project like this!
Sometimes its feels like I’m struggling to find ways to make music, so I focus now on the means to make the music. It’s an interesting thing to do, but I think I would like to make music also with tools that don’t fit me right now. Only in the last year did my technical background began to grow, but it still feels like I’m at the start level of electronics. I still need help and that’s ok, I learn a lot.
Is the Brown Note real?
I think it’s a myth! Though I really like the idea. Much is unknown about what sound frequencies can do to the body. I’ve walked away from really loud concerts because I started to feel sick because my body is vibrating so much.