Marcus Schmickler
Studio Piethopraxis

Glockenbuch IV (Spectre Maria dei Carmini)

Computermusic for 3D Audio System and Movinghead lights

Duration: ~ 51 minutes

Premiere:  La Biennale di Venezia, Teatro della Tese III

Composition, performance:    Marcus Schmickler
Sound dramaturgy:    Julian Rohrhuber
Light scenography:    MFO

Commission / Production:    La Biennale di Venezia

Mattia Biadene (original bell recordings Venezia), 
Alberto de Campo (supervision)
Stefan Bilbao &  Alberto Torin (The NESS Project, University of Edinburgh), 
Jan Hendrik Stens (original bell recordings Cologne), 
Manuel Camilo Eguía (National University of Quilmes, dynamic systems implementation),
Dennis Scheiba 
Massimo Carli (BH Audio), 
Lukas Nowok (d&B Soundscape support)
Parrocchia dei Carmini, La Biennale di Venezia staff and Lucia Ronchetti (curator)

The piece focusses on the timbral features added by the pendulum movement caused doppler-effects in bell spectra.
For 3D Audio System and Moving-heads (50’)
Commissioned by La Biennale di Venezia (2023)

Interview with Enrico Bertinello

I would like to start our conversation from the index from the index at the origin of the whole project, the Book of  Bells of the City of Cologne. How did you discover it and how did this document stimulate your interest in the sound of bells?

A couple of years ago, my friend Regina Fiorito, director of Capitain Gallery told me about the book in one of our conversations. And I love indexical catalogues. When I got offered a commision for a new piece for St. Aposteln, the 2nd biggest church in my hometown, this instantly popped up. Maybe I like indices because this uniform information can easily be transformed into another medium. When I looked at the Glockenbuch, my first surprise was that such a 900 page index exists in a public domain. My impulse was a little naive, knowing that, the catholic church as a big player in property requires proper bookkeeping- the dioceses keep track of all their belongings. But the nature of the book was still a bit of a surprise: The book contains not only the names and the makers of the bells of roughly 800 churches in Cologne, their year and meaures, weights and types of construction but also their musical features fundamentals and partials and decay-courses. So my instant impulse was, I can use the book and sonify its data. This turned out not to be promissing in the end and thats ok. In the history of electronic music, the composition of sounds themselves and synthesis of bell-type spectrae in particular has been a constant subject from its beginnings.

Many years ago I remember the Spanish artist Llorenç Barber was planning to “play” the bells of Venice in a huge concert, how was your approach to Venice’s bells? What particularly struck you about the city's complex bell world?

My approach was a bit more modest: Lucia Ronchetti had heard of my series of pieces based on bells and so we got to talk. The fact that bells can be considered as an early, maybe the ealiest mass-medium in history can be retraced particularry in Venice. The idea of an acoustic map of the city that we navigate by its acoustic properties seems pariculary striking as welll as being in close touch with the acoustic ecology of the Rennaissance. But also in a modern sense, Venice is probably one of the profundest quantified and measured places in the world and still keeps some secrets. So, I studied from literature and from talking to architects and historians, which churches would be particulary interesting for this project. With the help of the Biennale production-team, we tried to figure out which of these churches would be interested in opening their doors for such a project, because not all of them are, as you can imagine. San Marco, for example, they have other problems than dealing with a composer who wants to climb into their belfry armed with microphones.

While I’m writing these questions for you, the bells of Frari Church here in Venice started ringing and they are so loud that when it happens I can barely listen to a record or make a zoom call! :-)

Yes, bells are very loud. But usually they also have a calming effect.

In recent years, various scholars have highlighted how mapping and listening to the sounds of cities can be a formidable tool for empowering citizens in the face of social, anthropological and climatic changes. Venice is certainly a place where these changes show violent and radical aspects. Do you think that the disruptive effect of projects like Glochenbuch IV can contribute to this awareness?

Yes! Sonic art projects, including those involving electronic music and sound art, can serve as a powerful medium for conveying the complex issues faced by cities. To an audience, they can evoke emotions, tell stories, and provide a unique perspective on urban transformation. Besides empowering voices and fostering a space for all, bells are also an emblem of power and hierarchy. In a city like Venice, with its unique cultural and environmental heritage, sound mapping can play a role in documenting and preserving traditional acoustic environments that are under threat from various changes, including rising sea levels and tourism impacts. Projects like Glockenbuch IV can foster a sense of community and shared identity among residents who are passionate about the sounds of their city. Such initiatives can build connections and social capital and policymakers.

Without revealing too much, tell us briefly what a spectator should expect at Le Tese Theatre?

You can expect the bell under a microscope. the casting of a synthetic churchbell, based on the features of oringinal Venice bells. As an imersive sound and light experience. I’ve deconstructed and reconstructed the sound of several bellfrys and bells from Venice but I’ve added a few others, too. I couldn’t resist but adding reconstructions of Ukraine bells as well as from my hometown. The sound heard in concert might be quite unusual to many listeners, maybe even confusing or alienating. I hope that you can follow the discovery of algorithmically generated real sounds. Audience familiar with electronic music may find it unusual, too. There will also be a few easter eggs, nods to some great composers of Venezia, for example.

How did you work with Marcel Weber / MFO on the performance lighting?

Mostly I leave him the job to decide what he’s best at. I suggested that I send him relatime-control data for the spatialisation of the sound. I’ curious what he will come up with!

For many fans who have been following creative music for a few years, the name Marcus Schmickler immediately conjures up post-rock records under the name Pluramon, but I also remember how seminal the MIMEO ensemble was in opening up connections with new listeners. Reading your brief biography in the Biennale catalog, these experiences, which certainly go back many years, are not even mentioned, in favor of the usual institutional lists of venues, assignments and ensembles. May I ask you how much of those experiences are still present in your approach and poetics?

In this case, I wansn’t involved in the decision which projects and which areas of my work will be included in the biography in the catalogue. But I do see your point: projects like Pluramon, which was an electro post-rock project and MIMEO an electronic improvisation group, used to be important and time consuming have shaped my perspective as a composer today and I believe I would compose differently if I hadn’t been there. If I would try to bring it down, these projects foster immersive and entropic qualities, that I’m still interested in, today.

When talking about your work, the close connection with scientific research is often emphasised. Do you have a method in connecting aspects of research with compositional practice or does it depend on the specific case?

One concept that I have been working with since quite a while now, is sonification. Sonification is the use of non-speech audio to convey information or perceptualize data or models. My hope is that through the epistemic process of getting to know for and through a composition a different kind of composition emerges. In other words, this method gains new musical ideas by looking at composition partly from a different angle. Besides that, the areas the research is coming from are the ones that I care about.

What are you working on at the moment and what are your next projects?

I’m currently still working on the Glockenbuch piece. I’m working also on a new project with Maori singers, that will premiere in February in Dusseldorf.