He’s been playing Jazz and acoustic music professionally for many years now and is branching out into the worlds of Ableton, MAX, and other modern marvels. He’s also a BIG fan of musical architecture. As an artist and a musician, he looks for interesting ways to bridge between different media to create something that exists in the physical world of the eyes as well as in the imagination.
We asked him to share his music and inspirations with the Indaba Community. Check out some of his music and a cool blog he wrote about Max Neuhaus below!
Max Neuhaus is one of the original innovators of Electronic Music. Beginning his career as a solo percussionist he developed an obsession with instrumental timbre. Chasing his love of sound, he created many of his own instruments in the 1960s using analogue equipment. After several years of experimentation he, in 1968, recorded “Electronics and Percussion: Five Realizations by Max Neuhaus” for Columbia Records. This album brought the end of his classical performing career and he has spent the later part of his professional life creating monumental sound art “sculptures.” He has created and participated in many groundbreaking works across the globe including one here in NYC at Times Square.
My introduction to Max was “Time Piece Stommeln”. With this work (2007) Neuhaus takes the listener/observer deeper into a town center that covers 100 square meters in Stommeln Germany. Using MAX/MSP, a powerful tool for sound manipulation, he builds a drone to inhabit the area surrounding a Jewish Temple in the town square.
This piece came to my attention several years ago while I was taking a survey of sound art class out at Calarts in Los Angeles. With an architect father and a mother in interior decoration my childhood was saturated with spatial relationships. Creating different feelings in the home was something that my parents were constantly refining and enjoying together. Musically and artistically I’d never really connected with this. As a musician I didn’t feel like a real part of the environment, more of an ornament. My skills were used for special occasions and for a very direct purpose.
After years of viewing music as entertainment and myself as a performer, coming in contact with this piece knocked my brain loose. Neuhaus views his music as environmental artwork and a step removed from the traditional music world. He aspires to live within a space and draw out and enhance the natural beauty of it. In actuality all musicians in some way are after that same goal, but to find someone who’s primary objective was to “inhabit” a performance space really hit home. Why shouldn’t I try to unify my musical creations with the room or venue? Couldn’t I also compose music for a specific location and not a piece just to be performed anywhere for any reason? Neuhaus invited me into a new conception. Since finding this piece I have changed the way I view performing and the sounds coming out of my instrument. Being more aware of where I am and how I intend to interact with the space has changed a lot about my musical/mental process.
For this particular project, Max has constructed a drone. Sitting outdoors in Germany he listens to his aural concoction, which is blasting through set of speakers inside the Jewish Synagogue, and fine tunes it relentlessly until he’s achieved his ideal coloring of the space.
When his drone finished, he programs it so that on every hour of the Jewish lunar schedule it starts at an inaudible level. By the end of the hour the drone has become much louder, filling the square with a beautiful big chord, acting as a modern grandfather clock. At the end of the hour it returns suddenly back to its quiet beginning, a transition so smooth that the listener may not even notice the wailing harmony until the moment it disappears. This creates an incredible sensation for the listener. As the year progresses, the hours of the Jewish day stretches and melds together with the seasons, defying the even 24-hour system. His piece is a tribute to the disasters of the Holocaust and an attempt to give voice to what he calls the “vacant house of spirit” that the once thriving synagogue represents to him.
A short on MAX/MSP:
Since the mid 1980s MAX has developed into an amazing visual language for music creation. It’s most recent addition “MSP” (Max Signal Processing) allows the user to create his own synthesizers and effects processors from scratch. These “patches” can then be used to manipulate live audio in many various ways. A MAX user can create a wide spectrum of effects using a visual programming language that resembles a digital version of analogue gear spread out on a blank canvas. With a simple point-and-click, users can connect “wires” that travel between different devices and create the synthetic circuitry.
MAX users worldwide can also contribute to the library of available patches and expand their vocabulary by exploring each other’s MAX recipes. An overload of MAX tutorials and testimonials can be found on Youtube or at its parent site cycling74.
Popular artists who have performed with MAX include Radiohead, Autechre, Daedelus and Menomena. Over the years I’ve also grown fond of other similar sound art pieces: Bill Fontana’s Harmonic Bridge, Annea Lockwood’s Sound Map of the Hudson River, and the amazing Sea Organ of Zadar by architect Nikola Basic.