With Parallel Prints — the fourth release in the Editions Verde series Seeing the Forest in a Tree — artist and researcher Marcel Zaes explores one conceptual idea through 38 iterations realized by the prolific and idiosyncratic new music group Yarn/Wire. The first 19 iterations (for grand piano played by 4 people) are combined in “Parallel Prints #1” while the rest (versions for piano, crotales, drum pads, and ARP 2500) are spread within 19 tracks in “Parallel Prints #2.” Zaes’ Parallel Prints provides the listener with a fascinating sonic terrain which is, no less, further highlighted by Yarn/Wire’s stellar performance over the three years spent rehearsing, recording, and algorithmically processing their sounds. Yarn/Wire was scheduled to perform the world premiere of Parallel Prints at Indexical in Santa Cruz, California on January 8, 2022, but it has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of Parallel Prints, Zaes explains, “Sequences of shaded color bars, coded in software, laid the foundation of Parallel Prints. Each member of the ensemble, for each rhythm fragment, picks a graphic sequence and realizes it against a metronome, by repeating subtle dynamic shades on a single pitch. This process, conceptual in nature, lends itself to iterations across any imaginable sound-making device or instrument, provided they allow the performer to craft subtle dynamic shades on pitched percussion. Its only requirement is that each fragment be played on a single sounding body. Parallel Prints thus creates space for negotiation in the moment of its realization, as four players closely gather around a single piano, an octave of crotales, or a tiny drum pad.
“Yarn/Wire demonstrated an unconditional commitment to experimentation across timbres and techniques as they fluidly moved between piano-based and percussion-based sound-makers. Their patience and persistence allowed me to spend an extensive amount of time with Parallel Prints; it enabled me to spend months, if not years, with the numerous fragments we had produced together – including the months of pandemic lockdown. The conversations with my collaborators deepened, for Yarn/Wire, Dykstra, and Backer encouraged me to take the original idea’s invitation for recombination and reconfiguration seriously. Simultaneously, Backer started shooting durational video footage in rural parts of the US, which she consequently processed with software code, constructing singular artificial composites out of a variety of durational videos. Artifacts of the process characterize her work, including the stills printed on this record.
“Inspired by my collaborators, after recording Parallel Prints #1 with Yarn/Wire on piano, we started capturing smaller fragments on drum pads where rhythmic data was recorded without sound, and we went on recording fragments of isolated sound on different instruments, so that endless permutations could be mechanically produced. Parallel Prints #2 I thus finished by writing software code that recombines the materials while rendering audible the computational processes themselves. Clicks, drop-outs and brisk decays suggest a sonic world that could never have been played by humans, and yet the present rhythms stem directly from Yarn/Wire’s performance. For me, the core of this work is constituted by humans who interact with a piece of conceptual technology. While necessarily some of the original idea was lost, these humans – my collaborators – have given rise to surprising and unforeseen nuances that characterize what Parallel Prints has grown into.”
About Marcel Zaes
Marcel Zaes (*Bern, Switzerland) is an artist and researcher in digital sound, technology, and composition. He holds an M.A. in Music & Media Arts from Bern University of the Arts, an M.A. in Music Composition from Zurich University of the Arts and has additionally completed composition studies with Alvin Curran in Rome and with Peter Ablinger in Berlin. In 2021, he received his Ph.D. from Brown University and in early 2022 he is starting the position of Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Technology at SUSTech School of Design in Shenzhen, China. Marcel explores rhythm in an interdisciplinary framework that encompasses its socio-cultural backgrounds, its politics and perception, and the use of mechanical rhythm machines in music making – such as metronomes, drum machines and step sequencers. Marcel creates textures and beats that emerge as installation pieces, sound performances, concert music for ensembles or as electronic solo performances.
For his work, Marcel Zaes has been awarded a number of grants and prizes, has played numerous concerts and taken part in group exhibitions internationally, has repeatedly been an artist in residence and has had his works performed by ensembles internationally. To date, he has published eleven albums with Tonus Music Records, Dumpf Edition, Prefermusic, Editions Verde. Learn more at www.marcelzaes.com.
Yarn/Wire is a New York-based percussion and piano quartet (Sae Hashimoto and Russell Greenberg, percussion; Laura Barger and Ning Yu, pianos) dedicated to the promotion of creative, experimental new music. Pianist Julia Den Boer will join as guest artist for the 2021-2022 season. Described by The Brooklyn Rail as “fascinating and exciting, with playing that is precise and full of purpose,” the ensemble is admired globally for the energy and precision it brings to performances of today’s most adventurous compositions. Founded in 2005, the ensemble seeks to expand the representation of composers including but not limited to those who identify as women, LGBTQIA , Black, African, Indigenous, Latina(o)(x), Asian, or Arab so that it might begin to better reflect our communities and experience new creative potential.
Yarn/Wire’s numerous commissions include works from composers such as Enno Poppe, Michael Gordon, George Lewis, Ann Cleare, Raphaël Cendo, Peter Evans, Alex Mincek, Thomas Meadowcroft, Misato Mochizuki, Tristan Murail, Sam Pluta, Tyondai Braxton, Kate Soper, and Øyvind Torvund. The ensemble enjoys collaborations with genre-bending artists such as Tristan Perich, Ben Vida, Mark Fell, Sufjan Stevens, and Pete Swanson.
Through the Yarn/Wire International Institute and Festival and other educational residencies and outreach programs, Yarn/Wire works to promote not only the present but also the future of new music in the United States. Their ongoing commissioning series, Yarn/Wire/Currents, serves as an incubator for new experimental music in partnership with Brooklyn-based arts organization Blank Forms. For more information, visit www.yarnwire.org.