| Hans van Eck | BassBox
Time: June 09
Media: CD & Digital Download
Info: Pulses of inhaled and exhaled air form hypnotic
compositional streams. Hans van Eck presents his
sound-world delivered from the unique architecture of
the bass box.
Artist site: www.schreck.nl
PDF Press Release: Download
|QUESTIONS | Hans van Eck
Who are you?
Hans van Eck, a Dutch composer and sound artist.
Originally trained as musicologist I turned to active
performance and composition during the last years of
my study. I chose the second study at the Institute of
Sonology because studying electronic music gave me
the possibility to create my own sound world. I had the
idea that only with this media I could realise the sounds
I could hear in my fantasy. This resulted in some purely
electronic pieces later collected in the cassette-release
‘Blind Area’, you can still find some of this music
wandering around on the web.
Later I combined these sound worlds with the acoustic
music and sounds I was composing. Also because my
colleague Arie van Schutterhoef seduced me in starting
with him an ensemble for electro-acoustic music, the
Schreck Ensemble. In this ensemble, initially violin,
synthesizers and other electronic gear, I played
synthesizers and was responsible for the mixing. With
a few changes this ensemble got his definitive form in
1993 and it is still my basic machine for the
performance of my music.
Then in 1997 we started a very succesfull collaboration
with sound artist Hans van Koolwijk, which was very
successful. Together with Hans we created many new
music and – new for me - also new music instruments.
The BassBoxes are the best instruments we created
together, and since the definitive form of these
instruments in 2003 (with the creation of the ‘Pulsor’
the low frequency synthesizer made for ‘feeding’ the
BassBoxes) I made a lot of music for the BassBoxes.
Why do you write music?
Music has always been my only destination. I imagine
music in my mind and I want to realise it, to hear this
music in the real world. So basically I compose for
myself. I have the idea that sounds can be a source
for understanding and connecting to the world in an
intuitive way as opposed to the rational dealing with
the world in our scientific description. In this view music
is a way to describe the world as I feel it.
What does this album mean to you?
I have the feeling that with the BassBoxes I managed,
together with the brilliant artist Hans van Koolwijk, to
discover a new and intriguing sound world. The music
I made for these instruments is very dear to me, the
way you create music in the BassBoxes are very
close to how it works in my own mind. I have the
feeling that this music is the best I have made. The
album is for me the presentation of my sound world.
Can you elaborate on the BassBoxes?
A BassBox is an electronic air pump which pumps
wind in measured quantities through flutes, giving
rise to rhythmically fascinating sounds. In contrast to
what might be expected, the Bass Boxes do not
produce bass sounds; rather, one hears rhythmically
overblown bamboo flutes which are provided with
air from the powerfully vibrating bass loudspeakers.
At the moment that the cone of the loudspeaker
moves forward the foremost flute sounds, while a
small amount of air is drawn into the hindmost flute.
As the cone moves backwards the process is
reversed. This explains the percussive nature of the
sound; there is a constant inhalation and exhalation
of air, which moves swiftly through the mouths of
the flutes. This creates superbly refined combinations
of sounds. The rhythmic patterns can shift with
extreme subtlety, but a strict pulse is also possible.
BassBoxes are processors: they change electronics
into sound by means of air pressure, generated by low
frequency ‘sounds’ from the bass speaker. This is a
principally radical, new way of creating sound in flutes
that has never been put into practice before. That
special use of electronics to generate sound is also
The BassBox is the first installation of its kind and
enables us to connect two worlds that up until now had
always been separated. The use of fast, refined
electronics is extended to the level of the much slower
reacting, more cumbersome aero phones.
We have designed the bamboo flutes to be extremely
responsive to swift and minute alterations in pressure,
resulting in ‘pure’ sounds free of the surface noise
created by the flow of air. This gives rise to new
possibilities for composers and radically influences
By means of the Pulsor, a sort of analogue
synthesizer without keys and presets (designed by Jo
Scherpenisse) the performer generates pulses, which
are transmitted via two heavy direct current amplifiers
(designed by Jo Scherpenisse) to the bass speakers.
There, two flute tones are created per BassBox,
making a total of four tones, which are interconnected
to a certain extent.
To provide amplification of the flute tones, four mini
microphones (DPA 4061) with adaptors (DPA DAD
6001) transmit their signal via the digital mixing board to
two stereo amplifiers (Vincent SP331), which are
placed under the BassBoxes. Short cables connect
these to the loudspeakers (JJA F99 130mm single cone
What are your future plans?
More performances with the Schreck Ensemble in the
coming season, different music on different venues. The
start of the large project with Hans van Koolwijk: The
‘Klankkaatser’, August 2009 the first presentation, I
will make the 12th hour composition that will sound
inside, played by the sound machine’ devised by Hans
van Koolwijk. Make new compositions for the Bass
Boxes; find other ways to perform on them using
computer-generated low frequencies.
|REVIEWS | BassBox
Audiobulb “are a Sheffield based exploratory electronic record label that is home to some of the finest purveyors
of all things experimental. “Works supported by Audiobulb often explore the interface between the electronic and
natural world. We embrace the complexity of unique electronics, intricate acoustics and detailed microsound.
To be honest, in this day and age I will applaud any artists that will try and explore new realms of sound and
rhythm. These artists stick true to their ideas, that are born from imagination and invention, without trying to pigeon
hole their sound into genres or even worse - trends and fashions.
Hans van Eck is a collaboration between the Schreck Ensemble (as yet I have not discovered if they are in any
way related to the cartoon character) and sound artist / instrument designer “Hans van Koolwijk” (I have not
discovered, as yet, the wig maker either). The idea is that large bass speakers are placed inside a “BassBox”
which is a cabinet with only two small holes for letting the air escape. These holes are placed in close proximity
to flutes, so that the vibrations from the speakers cause the flutes to play, and it is these noises that are recorded.
From reading this it is probably quite difficult to imagine what the album actually sounds like. Well it is a mixture of
heart arresting tractor like drones and throbs like on Track One 'Deep Roll,' to the delicate and complex rhythmic
melodies heard on Track Three 'House.'
“BassBox” is never going to appeal to a mass market, but that was never the point. The experimental music
collective is seen as a method of creating sound that is not only new and distinct but also a sound that has a life
of its own. The creators of “Bassbox” are certainly able to have slight control over what the overall song sounds
like, but I am sure that it is never what they originally completely intended. This means that the music almost has a
life of its own. A structure that is in harmony with the natural world and a meaning that is very hard to decipher,
yet alone understand.
In the music spectrum there is definitely a place for this sort of “experiment”. Audiobulb Records see and hear a
depth to this type of music that many will not understand.
On “BassBox” there are glimpses as to why and how this music can be so effective. Intricate flute melodies that
seem to build up on themselves, outlining a driving yet underlying subtle melody which drowns the listener in
delicate, yet complex structures like those in evidence on 'House' and Track Seven 'Shaken Rhythm.
When the BassBoxes are used to create the kind of low frequency drones that make you want to visit the
bathroom, I personally, am not so sure. 'Deep Roll' and Track Two 'Scintillating' are not exactly musical, but
remain effective. Fans of “Noise” and “Drone” music will certainly be interested, and taking into account that
there is little or no “post-recording” production, bar amplification, the noises and sound-scapes are highly
interesting, if not overtly musical.
All in all, I applaud Hans van Eck’s enthusiasm, imagination and drive. Hans van Eck have stayed true to their
ideas and never veered from their distinct path and that in today’s fickle world, must be applauded.
It doesn't happen a lot, the excitement of mail arriving and then there is the new work by *** (fill in the blank), the
much rumored new work. At the Vital HQ lots of mail arrive, and mail means work, its that simple. You may find
it hard to believe but there was some old fashioned excitement when opening a small parcel by Audiobulb, which
contained, much to my surprise, a CD by Hans van Eck. Who? His name popped up in the announcement section
a couple of times, as part of the Schreck Ensemble, with whom he performs works of twentieth century serious
composers. My first encounter with his music was a cassette only release in the late 80s, 'Blind Area' (which I
think you can download on the Schreck website) of works created when studying sonology. Serious electronic
music, but which sounded to my ears great. Never heard much of his music again, so that may explain some of
the excitement. Here he works with a bassbox, 'an electronic air pump which pumps wind in measured quantities
through flutes, giving rise to rhythmically fascinating sounds'. The vibrations of bass escape through two small
holes and go into bamboo flutes. A simple and effective idea. And that brings me straight to the problem I have
with the CD. There are seven pieces on this CD, and there is only one, 'Rivieren', which sound distinctly different
than the other six. The six pieces are variations to a theme it seems. Maybe the speed changes a bit, the amount
of air blown into the bamboo (even within a piece, which makes this sound like Reich's phase shifting), but after
the third piece I had enough. I took it off, highly disappointed, but when I started to review the review I went back,
and it seemed the fourth piece 'Rivieren' was different, more like sine wave like experiment. Maybe I was wrong
and I played the CD to the end. But no. That track is the odd ball, and the rest is standard. That I think is a great pity.
I can imagine the bassbox is a nice thing to see in action, but as a whole the CD is a bit disappointing. Having said
that, the pieces as pieces are actually nice. Nothing wrong with them as such, but to play it in one go, is just a bit
too much. Hard to imagine, but play one or two pieces of this and then move to something else and then back to
here. Seems like a lot of work. Audiobulb took a brave step by moving away from their usual musical releases
and that's great too.
BLOW UP MAGAZINE
Dell'olandese Hans van Eck ricordiamo una cassettina pubblicata nella seconda metà dagli anni '80 dalla Decay
International, ponderose composizioni elettroniche realizzate in gran parte negli studi dell'Institute of Sonology di
Utrecht presso il quale l'autore si è laureato in musicologia. Poi l'attività nell'ambito della musica contemporanea con
lo Schreck Ensemble e poi la collaborazione con lo scultore Hans van Koolvijk per il design di strumenti musicali non
ortodossi. Come la BassBox, una pompa azionata elettronicamente che veicola masse d'aria in due flauti di bambù
piazzati allo sommità dello strumento a produrre drones ribollenti e ondeggiamenti ritmici. Tutto molto affascinante,
ma anche non poco monotono. (6) Nicola Catalano
Audiobulb Is an exploratory music label designed to support the work of innovative artists.
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