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Albert Mayr


“Like African drummers on whiskey”

Vienna based artist Albert Mayr made single sided LP which contains the recording of dripping water, called ‘Drop Studies’.

You made installations which also included sounds, so why did ‘Drop Studies’ made it into a recording (and not in previous installations)? 

I think I did not make so many sound installations before. Most of them I see as instruments or some kind of settings for playing live. I think I would not want to make a record from most of these. It’s important that you see what’s going on. For example when I play a guitar solo on a lamp or on a shovel it’s maybe more important how you do that than how it exactly sounds. In exhibition-situations I even include videos to show how this things have been played but in this case it’s like a composition, a percussion-piece. I think the sound can survive by itself. And also interesting is that you have objects that make sound and you take that sound and make it into an object again. And that object contains the sound of the other object. So for that it has to be on vinyl because it’s the most sculptural sound-medium.

Of course the instalation can be seen on the cover (and on the back) of the record, but do you think people should have seen the installation to understand what the recording is about? 

I think the sound is very independent but it is actual a work that deals with making something visible. I called the sculptures “dropstudies” because you can watch each drop making a sound. You can follow every drop from the beginning to the end and how it merges with other drops and falling down as a bigger drop knocking on the surface and dividing again and so on. You can really retrace how the sound is created. I like that. But I think you don’t need to see it, you also can imagine it. Or even think of something else. 

The dripping of the water has a patern. Do you see this as a kind of rhythm, as a structure? 

Of course. I have an interest in irregular rhythms. I always was fascinated by rhythms that where created by something involuntary, some kind of automatic, like raindrops, the wind, animals like crickets or a broken fridge. This sculptures are an attempt to catch and control one of these rhythmic phenomenas. It’s a kind of caged, presentable rain for the living room. 

You mic’ed the objects on which the water drops fall. Why did the sounds need to be amplified? Didn’t the room have enough natural echo?

In fact for me it would be the perfect situation that these sculptures could be shown without electricity. Just powered by gravity. I experimented with the natural echo. I tried out different highs and sizes of containers and drops and I tried to change the surface tension of the water by adding some soap. But all together it makes the sculpture very limited. It’s just too silent for an exhibition situation, or too big. And in the end I am very happy with the result. The technical feature brings the sound in a slightly different direction. It’s more artificial maybe a kind of cybernatic organism.

One day I was asked to do a drop installation outdoors. That was even more problematic, there is almost no echo at all. And after planing and trying for a while I decided to shoot with a sprinkler on drums. So that was the brutal equivalent to the fragile dropstudies that does not need amplfication. It works very well as an installation but the rhythm is limited to the sprinkler.

Why did it have to be 3 dripping objects? Why 3? 

I think it’s a more interesting situation when you have more. It is perfect when you move through the installation and the different patterns mix. When you stand in front of a dripping sculpture you can hear its rhythm clear but as soon as you start moving, it changes. It’s a spatial installation and you can change the sound by moving around. At the exhibition in the Binkie Bowtie, where you saw it, 3 was the maximum, it’s not such a big space. And they should not be too close either.

The dripping is structured because of the intervals of the dripping. Are the objects where the water drops on random (or well chosen)? 

I have chosen these kind of objects for a few reasons, one is the ability that I can generate sound from it with the mics I use. All the items are very thin. Thin plastic or aluminium. The piezzo-mics need the resonance of the material, and a waterdrop does not have too much power. So it has to be thin - and water resistant. Plastic cups and bottles and aluminium cans are both.

Another reason is, as I mentioned before, that I see it as a kind of controlled natural phenomena. This is what people try for thousands of years. Maybe this is where civilization comes from. For me the plastic cups and bottles and the aluminium cans are very recent signs of our civilization. A few years ago pet bottles did not exist. Plastic did not exist. Now, of course, it’s everywhere. They are iconic fragments of our daily life.

Sometimes I hear a sound that sounds like a drop which evaporates (I hear it 5 times, actually). What is that? And half way through the record, after about 10 minutes, the rhythm changes. Why is that? And at 3/4 of the recording, the rhythm got faster. And for the first time, you can hear the actual sound of water falling, you can hear that you’re actually listening to water. Is this the point where the bins are full and the water gets out of the bins? 

I will describe how we made the recording and how the machines work, so the prior questions will be answered. Every sculpture has maximum 4 objects. On top there is a water container and through a little fuse the water drops on the first object in a constant regular rhythm. From there it drops on the one beneath and so one. And these drops do not drop so regular anymore because the objects have little imprints and rills or grooves where the water gathers. That is what makes the rhythm irregular. One of the sculptures has a hot plate in the end and that’s why you hear this evaporating zisssssch sound. The other ones have containers at the bottom which fill up with water and after a while you can hear the water drops falling into water.

For the recording I took 3 of these “drum machines” to the recording studio. We recorded one after the other in different speeds so every machine is recorded “live” for a few minutes. On the record it starts with one, after a while the second comes in and in the last part there comes a third so actually the rhythm does not only become faster, it becomes “more”. 

When I was listening to the record, my wife thought it was a recording of a kalimba (African thump piano).

I remember when Dennis (Tyfus, jb) visited my first installation with these kind of sculptures, he said something similar: it sounds like African drummers but they must have had a bottle of whiskey before! I guess that was the moment when the idea for the record came up. It sounds very percussive to me too. All the items I used are very thin, like the membrane of a drum/steeldrum. That’s just the way it works best.


- Joeri Bruyninckx
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