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On occasion of „Under Construction“, a performance series within the framework of the Wiener Festwochen 2007, the Canadian artist Maxime de la Rochefoucauld performed at RadioKulturhaus in Vienna on the 29th of May. For Kunstradio he made a radio mix of his sound performance, together with Ernst Reitermayer. The piece was recorded at de la Rochefoucauld’s temporary studio in Vienna’s 4th district where he constructed and tuned his automata orchestra.
Maxime de la Rochefoucauld attends his orchestra consisting of a dozen self-made automata via remote control: deep frequency sound waves set off vibrations in the loudspeakers membranes which in turn trigger hammers or violin bows that mechanically operate instruments. Thus, the music is a result of sounds which are not perceptible for the human ear.
The artist calls this the ‚Ki system’: qi, which is the Chinese term for energy is regarded as an analogy to the way the orchestra works. Pre-programmed energy is translated into sound, the sonic result of this process is determined by chance. Spacial realities, such as the position and distance of the automats, as well as materials which are used are formative parameters. This piece differs from the tradition of musical machines in so far as the music is not created by means of circular mechanisms, but through abstract, electro-magnetic energy.
Although the inaudible frequencies are pre-programmed, the sound performance is still organic and live. De la Rochefoucauld does not want to compete with man-made music, as he underlines: „The system is very sensitive. It does not work with binary codes, but is organic. This is exactly what I like: that the pieces change – due to the environment in which they are performed.“
Maxime de la Rochefoucauld builds his automats with materials and musical instruments which he finds on site. In Vienna, for instance, he used a 2 litre wine-bottle and a violin which he had borrowed from the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra. The artist does not regard himself as an inventor who creates new instruments or acoustic phenomena; rather, he appropriates the essentials of acoustics, and realizes these, in a very practical sense, with his automats.
Already during his fine art studies, Maxime de la Rochefoucauld experimented with kinetic objects, and thanks to the Ki-system he was able to connect music and objects. On cannot deny that his strange instruments possess a sculptural quality, however here, too, chance plays a role: the form is determined by the sonic characteristics of an object.
At times, in live performances, the system is undermined when de la Rochefoucauld, with a trumpet or the piano, improvises to the rhythms of the Ki-orchestra.
As the inventor of this system, he has the right to pervert it, for finally he is not interested in strictly following the rules. He regards his role as one of a shamane conductor, composer, and member of the orchestra all in one.