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«Perceptual Geography»

Dutch composer and sound artist Thomas Ankersmit’s «Perceptual Geography» is inspired and dedicated to the pioneering research of American iconic experimental composer and installation artist Maryanne Amacher (1938-2009), a pioneer of electronic music who studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen and collaborated with John Cage. This work was created entirely on the Serge Modular analog synthesizer, invented by Serge Tcherepnin in the 1970s – a close friend of Maryanne’s – and has since become Ankersmit’s machine of choice. This work  premiered at CTM in Berlin and Sonic Acts in Amsterdam, early 2019

Ankersmit and Amacher first met at Bard College art school in New York in 2000, and she introduced Ankersmit to the Serge synthesizer. Like Amacher, Ankersmith explores different «modes» of listening: not just which sounds are heard and when, but also how and where sounds are experienced (in the room, in the body, inside the head, far away, nearby). When turned up loud, the sounds move beyond the loudspeakers and start to trigger additional tones inside the listener’s head; tones that are not present in the recorded music. Cupping the ears with the hands and slight movements of the head also helps to bring these tones to life. Maryanne Amacher was the first artist to systematically explore the musical use of these phenomena, often referring to them as «ear tones».

«Perceptual Geography» references Amacher’s influential essay «Psychoacoustic Phenomena in Musical Composition: Some Features of a Perceptual Geography» (1979). For each live performance of this work, Ankersmit tunes his synthesizer to the resonant, three-dimensional characteristics of the performance space, so that his concert-constellation (or sculpting music) would activate the aural architecture, would travel throughout the structure and set it in motion.

This fascinating 40-minute electroacoustic work stimulates an array of tangible «ear tones», some are disturbing ones like white noise and raw, repetitive bleeps or a swarm of bats, and others are enigmatic like meditative, barely audible static drone, subtle distorted sounds, vintage, analog electronic sounds or silences. These «ear tones» flow move and shift, encompass the space, and weave in and out, and sometimes even freeze. But all sharpen the ways we conceive, experience, process and react to sound, in space, time, and in and with our ears and the whole body.

«Perceptual Geography» is a digital-only release – CD and download – because the «ear tone» material can’t be adequately transferred to vinyl. It is highly recommended to play it loud and use speakers, not headphones.

Eyal Hareuveni

Thomas Ankersmit (Serge modular analog synth)

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