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16.11.2018 | Words by: Jasmin Hoek

In anticipation of a special concert that is happening in our restaurant this Sunday, I met up with Kate NV while she was practicing with Fedde ten Berge at STEIM. Kate is a Moscow-based producer, singer, composer, and designer with her own unique and fresh take on new wave that seems to be heavily influenced by Japanese pop. From dreamy releases on labels as RVNG Intl. to energetic live performances. For the concert on Sunday, Kate and German modular synth duo Driftmachine teamed up with Fedde ten Berge who designed the Pentacle 15.3 surround sound system; a sound system build from 15 speakers and 3 subs all circled around the audience.

Fedde: “Kate comes from a performance background where she has two outputs, her music has a lot of layers, but it gets mixed down to stereo and most often two speakers. This sound system needs some new devices, to make sure all the sounds come out in the right way. There’s also a lot of audio engineering going on in the process for this performance, it’s necessary. For example with Kate makes percussive rhythms with the microphone by using her voice. She wants to mirror them, slowly rotate them, and then slowly make them jump form location to location. That takes some fine-tuning”

Kate: “Whenever I see a lot of cables with for audio engineering I get a bit confused, because it takes a bit to find out what’s what. It reminds me of the mazes I used to do in this Russian children’s magazine when I was growing up. I guess they make gets do that to prepare you for audio engineering (laughs).

I should make gets magazine on cables, a whole magazine about sound engineering and making music for kids.”

Q: Is this piece your older work remixed and partly improvised? Or is it completely new?

Kate: “Well this is definitely going to be something very special...
I always improvise a lot when I perform, but I feel like my music still got really stuck in two channels. It felt compressed, as if it was locked within the sound. Now finally it will have so much more layers. It’s going to be very airy. I think it will feel like it’s finally free. I had that feeling just now when we tried the first things. When Fedde and I were practicing, I could finally hear the movement of the sound.

The main idea is not like that the sound is happening all the time and everywhere. It’s not like you sit in the center of the music and everything is constantly coming at you, but it feels like you are part of the music because it happens around you. It surrounds you and it’s constantly moving around you; the sound appears and then disappears again.”

Fedde: “I’ve been working with spatial electronics for about 15 years now and it still excites me. Mainly because of what Kate also points out; it feels like you become the music when you are surrounded by it. When you listen to an acoustic ensemble like a jazz concert, there’s already a spatial aspect going on. However, when you listen to speakers, it’s always very compressed from just one area. Actually, electronic music needs a more dimensional set up. When you produce electronic sounds you need some sort of representation of space.

It’s like a bubble instead of a big wall of sound, which is a huge advantage for electronic sounds. The whole sound spectrum can be projected from any location and they can change around.”

Kate: “The coolest thing is that the sound can fly around. You stay in one place, but at the same time the sound is moving all the time.

German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen was really interested in making ‘music experience’; moving the way you perceive music and enjoy the concert into something different than it traditionally is. He was one of the first to think about the spatial aspect of listening in a new way. This system with a stage in the end of the hall, it comes from churches and ancient times, it’s the old schoolets of old school. Now it seems like we are finally realising that this made sense in music experience and look back at these theories and start working with them.”

Fedde: “It’s also about audience behaviour; in which way does the audience relate to the performer or artist. Culturally, the concept of a concert is that the artist is on a stage on a higher level than you are, and you are on a square in front of the artist. As an artist you have no idea what the audience is listening to when you’re on stage; you listen to yourself through in-ear monitors or big monitors to your side. It’s like: ‘ok they seem like they’re having fun, but I don’t know’.
In the approach we are taking, the performer has the same sound experience as the audience. It also challenges the public to listen in a different way.
For the artist the challenge is mostly to create spatial music compositions and incorporate the ideas you have about space and music.”

Q: Fedde, what’s the theory behind the soundsystem being 15.3?

Fede: “15 divided by 3 is 5. I like the ratio between 15 and 3. I like 5 as a number in general. I came from a wave field synthesis (a spatial audio engineering technique) background, where I would synthesise waveforms, for which this you need a lot of speakers; 192. That’s a very expensive thing to maintain as well as unpractical large amount. When I designed this system I wanted a ‘workhorse’ system; a system that could generate a club sound, but should be able to generate a good spatial reproduction at the same time.
The subwoofers are placed in a triangle, because subs tend to behave a bit more omnidirectional than higher frequencies. After trying different things, I came up with making a circle of 15 speakers and 3 subs; so you have this ratio of 5. And then I could also call the sound system the ‘Pentacle’. Plus most sound cards are also limited to 18 outputs; with the pentacle you also have 18 outputs all together. It’s a bit of weird story but it worked out quite well.”

Q: Kate, what’s the biggest adaption you had to make for this sound system?

Kate: “Everything! (laughs)
The set up is completely different, because you need a lot more loopers and different mixers; my normal set up is pretty simple, but here a lot of new devices come in. The nicest part is you can think about the movement of sounds before you even create them. You have to think not just about the sound, but also the space and the movement. I’ve never experienced that because I never had the opportunity to actually build my music like that. It feels like you are building a house from scratch all around the audience.”

Kate NV will be performing alongside Drifrmachine in Sunday November 18th. Tickets for this concert in Restaurant DS are still available online and at the door. 
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