Marcus Schmickler
Studio Piethopraxis

The Great Wayfinders (Höhlenmusik) 

The Great Wayfinders (Höhlenmusik) is a multipart music and multimedia project, spanning both concert composition and AV installation within exhibition spaces. Speculatively engaging with the notion of music in a digital Stone Age, it positions music as a resonance chamber of digital paleontology. Tim Berresheim's works serve as a narrative backdrop and stage design, introducing and visually accompanying the thematic contexts of Marcus Schmickler's composition. Hashtag #Archäoakustik 

The Great Wayfinders (Höhlenmusik) is a site-specific installation and a music-composition created in collaboration between Tim Berresheim and Marcus Schmickler, exploring the primal sounds of past (digital) epochs that give rise to new acoustic spaces and times. Drawing inspiration from the mythological and digital past in Berresheim's works, it proposes an exegesis of primitive forms of algorithmic music (with and without computers). As musicians perform in close dialogue with the architectural structure of the stage set, evoking the mythological past, it produces a new musical/archaeoacoustic description of the cave site.

Drawing from Tim's exploration of the cave motif, we present a futuristic perspective on the contemporary era as the dawn of the computer age, depicted through speculative fiction as contemporary cave music. Anchoring this multipart composition is the universal figure of the Wayfinder, described in Polynesian culture and German fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel. This trailblazer navigates through the thickets of the unknown – the forest, the sea, and in our case, the realm of digital media. The narrative unfolds as the protagonists embark on a journey of discovery, playfully experimenting with different stages of trial and error in mastering a new language—the language of digitality. Drawing motifs from Humperdinck's opera "Hansel and Gretel," the libretto follows Hansel and Gretel as they explore the forest, searching for echoes and resonances, guided by breadcrumbs. Accompanying them are two parental figures who speak an unknown language, leading to encounters with a witch…

"The primitive man discovered magical sounds in the materials of his environment: in a reed, a piece of bamboo, a specific piece of wood held in a certain manner, or in a skin stretched over a gourd or a turtle shell—a resonating body of sorts. Next, he crafted the object, the medium, the instrument as beautifully as possible. The final step occurred almost automatically: the transformation of the magical sounds and visual beauty into something spiritual. They merged with his everyday words and experiences—his ritual, his drama, his religion—and thus imparted greater meaning to his life. These actions of primitive man became the trinity of his work: magical sounds, visual form and beauty, experience—ritual. ... One must go back four hundred years to the Italian Renaissance to find anything comparable, and even then the situation is not very similar."
(Harry Partch, A Quarter-Saw Section of Motivations and Intonation. Lecture on Tape, May 25, 1967)

Backstory: Tim Berresheim and his team conducted extensive research and surveys of caves in the Ur-Danube valley in Baden-Württemberg, generating images in the process. These caves housed 30,000-year-old musical instruments, the oldest ever discovered. This prompted the need to consider the interplay between image and music. We find ourselves today in a new epoch, the dawn of the computer age. Looking back from the future, its beginnings appear awkward, primitive, and archaic, and we have yet to comprehend its artifacts and resonance phenomena. In 300 years, we may speak of today's era as a "digital Stone Age."

The history of music began millions of years ago; its essence is nature itself, and the elements that compose it are found in the natural world that has always existed on our planet. The origin of music lies in the imitation of the sounds of the world, and the history of this origin is preserved in the documents of the past and in the tradition of primitive peoples and the musical instruments they built. These primitive or ancient instruments, like the sounds they seek to imitate, are natural objects built from bones, seeds, shells, and stones. Yet, beneath this apparent primitivism lies an unexpectedly precise understanding of transmediality.

Paleo-organology is concerned with the study of musical instruments and the origin of sound. However, we are not discussing the Paleocene but rather the present day as the dawn of the computer and its artifacts. The Great Wayfinders (Höhlenmusik) anticipates that our current language of digital media represents a sort of Stone Age of digitality. It connects earth and sea through the sounds of bees and shells and the earliest instruments of humans, with algorithms, opaque machines, and computers. Focused on the music of digital nature and ancient soundscapes, it seeks to rediscover the psychoacoustic powers of archetypal sounds, developing a unique approach to experimental archaeology and musicology.

For Vocal Ensemble, Partch Instruments, Woodwinds, , Synthesizer, Computer and Projections