28. June 2021

white eyes erased


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Sarah Nemtsov white eyes erased (2014/15)
for keyboard and drumset
with projection

Benjamin Kobler, keyboard
Dirk Rothbrust, drumset
Janet Sinica, video
Jan Böyng, editing
Julius Gass, recording producer/editing

Programme text by Sarah Nemtsov

In 2014 I wrote the work “white wide eyes” (premiere 2015 Ultraschall Berlin) for the newly founded Ensemblekollektiv Berlin. A musical layering that responds in structure and musical material to the merger of four Berlin ensembles – mosaik, Adapter, Sonar and Apparat. Layering also as a reaction our reality, the musical play between chaos, system, individuality and group also as an echo to urban phenomena. 23 musicians in 4 groups with a lot of electronics. The keyboard and the drumset had a special part in it. I then pulled this duo out for “white eyes erased” – distilled, or condensed, as it were, and erased almost everything else of the original constellation. A venture: from 23 to 2.

“Get yourself out of whatever cage you find yourself in.” (John Cage)

The 88 keys of the keyboard are filled with samples: with synthesizer samples, with samples from two albums (“Strawberry jam” from 2007 and “Centipede Hz” from 2012) of the band “Animal collective” (but I have bent almost all of these samples electronically again strongly, they are no longer quotes) and a mixture of alienated snippets from Cage’s “Sonatas and Interludes”, as well as recorded and edited moments of piano preparation (as action). Recently I have been asked several times what Cage means to me. Spontaneously I have always answered, “Actually, not such much!” …. (But it is probably not true?)

“You keep waiting for me cage.” (Animal collective)

Linked to the keys of the keyboard in the large ensemble projection was a projection of images. On three screens, a hodgepodge, a flood of images – similar to the sound flood of the samples, which also included (anonymized and after consent) images of ensemble members. In the duo version the projections are ad libitum possible (on two screens), the core of the collection was taken over: in addition to film stills from “Freaks (Tod Browning – 1932)” and “Meshes of the afternoon (Maya Deren – 1943),” images of walls are projected, and images of Elisabeth Naomi Reuter (my mother, painter, who was still alive at the time), including her oil painting “The Hunger Artist” to a story by Franz Kafka – the eyes erased, painted over in white – the duo’s title alludes to this as well. “white eyes erased” was created for Ernst Surberg and Roland Neffe.

“A cage went in search of a bird. / Ein Käfig ging einen Vogel suchen.” (Franz Kafka)

The drumset has a megaphone (overfrequented in new music) through which a sound file is played: Quotes from song lyrics of the band Animal collective, spoken by the musicians.

“Who could look at me with no eyes?” (Animal collective)


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Dirk Rothbrust about “white eyes erased” by Sarah Nemtsov