Improv@halas.am by Eran Sachs
Experimental Israel is an ongoing research project by Dr. Ophir Ilzetzki. In 2016, supported by Mifal Ha'Pais and the Israeli Center for Digital Art, Ilzetzki was commissioned by Daniel Meir and Halas Radio to create an original radiophonic study centred around contemporary Israeli music. As a composer identifying stylistically as experimental, Ilzetzki chose to focus on other Israeli artists who are, in some way, identified with experimentalism. In the two official years of research, Ilzetzki met weekly with prominent figures in the Israeli new music scene - composers, improvisers, sound and multi-media artists. With them, Ilzetzki ruminated in unofficial conversations regarding the main research questions. Yet, Ilzetzki prompted the artists not only to tackle the research questions via interviews, but also artistically; and so, Experimental Israel became one of the most extensive call for new works in Israeli music to date.
The main research questions are: How does experimentalism manifest in its artistic form, and specifically music; does the Israeli experimental practice differ from that practiced abroad, and is it possible to detect a distinct Israeli style? Despite its conclusions, the research does not attempt to suggest definite answers, but to place the opaque and widely used term in a clearer context. Since the early 90s, a bustling new music scene is active in Israel, bringing together artists of different genres. Today, these same musicians have already taken their rightful place in the international music scene, making them a fertile ground for queries such as raised by this research. Accordingly, and seeing the research could serve musicians worldwide, Ilzetzki makes sure to summarise each of its interviews into a short article in English. Each article includes the main focal points of the interview, a chronological reconsideration of the fixed research questions, as well as a look at those added during the course of research. Seeing the Israeli experimental scene is constantly growing, and hence, in flux, this research does not, and truly cannot, have a definite conclusion. Therefore, even after its official course has ended, Ilzetzki continues to add new voices to the research archive, so as to expose and clarify the topic even further. In fact, in its inception, the research was introduced as ongoing, and it is our hope that future researchers will refer to it, and continue its course. Thus, at any given moment in time, the research will serve as an up-to-date 'screen-shot' of the constantly developing Israeli experimental scene.
Experimental Israel is broadcast live from Halas Audio. All interviews, alongside interview summaries, are available in this archive. The programs are also available for download on Spotify.
Experimental Israel was made possible due to the kind support of Mifal HaPais Council for the Culture and Arts, and the Israeli Center for Digital Art.
Procrastination & Revolution
On it’s 12th session, Experimental Israel gets a welcome insight into the world of sound artist, composer, improviser, and electronics wiz – Eran Sachs. Hailing from Jerusalem and from what could be considered musical aristocracy in our parts, Sachs is yet another example of a classically trained musician whose personal tastes and preferences send him off to an experimental approach and a unique thought process.
At the onset of our interview, Sachs and I start from a discussion regarding his setup. As a performer, Sachs has become quite identified with the no-input mixing culture, and indeed brought into the Halas studio a cumbersome setup that took him roughly 2 hours to build. For our show and session, Sachs decided to treat us with a maximalist approach and simply setup all the equipment he has ever worked with. The outcome is readily available in the improv session he presented us with, where this conglomeration of machines sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard from this artist before.
Technical discussions of the setup lead Sachs quite immediately into theoretical musings regarding music, experimentalism and life at large. Sachs equates his artistic responsibility with an attempt to create what he refers to as “a meaningful moment for his audiences”. True, not every attempt can create a transportative moment, but the ideal is a notion we’ve visited in our project in the past, namely where artist and audience meet through the careful development of material, in a fashion that can be expressed in no other manner but mystical. And indeed, like many of our past visitors who have suggested similar ideas, Sachs too shies from the ethereal in an attempt to keep his ideas concrete.
Looking at the paradigm presented here, questions regarding the identity of these same materials must be asked. Sachs is quick to reply with a historically informed answer recognizing the main trends of the last century and leading us to our current musical state, where the array of what artists and audiences are willing to accept as valid materials is wider than it’s ever been. Sachs, rooting himself well within this historical trajectory, realizes that beauty in its classic sense is no longer a goal. The moments and materials he is interested in are what he refers to as “weird”. This should not be understood as a highlighting of the mundane (even though this too is something he is interested in), but rather yet another stepping stone in the ever widening of our species’ acceptance of materials as coherent. The ideology is clear – to create a scenario for audiences at large, making them realize, through sound, that what was impossible might very well be possible.
What surprises me most in Sachs’ approach is the reasoning or underlying ideology at its base. Whereas the idea of sonic representation leading to personal shifts is something quite inherent to the experimental field (and I would add, to music at large), Sachs sees this transportative experience as a possibility for revolution. I should make clear that the revolt in question here is not yet another short-lived musical one, but rather an all out socio-political revolution, and I quote: “The possibility to utilize the transportative properties of sound within a dialectic process containing awareness of our accumulated possibilities as a species can lead towards revolution”. “…I do not know if I will ever experience this first hand, but I do recognize that dealing with a deep sonoric move (i.e. not sound as a localized event, but the opportunity to immerse yourself as a sonoric being across all the various dimensions this move might entail), opens for us the possibility of proximity to something that, so far, isn’t inherent to us as a species. More so, if this move is aware in containing our accumulated knowledge, and indeed we are at the precipice of what is referred to as Singularity, such a move can act as a safeguard to some of the threats on the human condition”. I react to this idea as one of the most outrageous notions I have heard on our program so far and confront Sachs with the reality of our local music scene, and musical scenes at large. Indeed, for revolution to take place there need be a following of a critical mass. However, the usual case within musical scenes (not to mention that which transpires at large) is that we cannot even generate consent within ourselves. This as a metaphor to society doesn’t place Sachs’ ideas in a realistic light. Sachs is quick to reply with a notion taken out of Marxist theory, mentioning ideas we have already ingrained regarding materialism (not only musical) and a class fit for revolution in all senses other than its self awareness. Sachs refers to this amorphous class as “procrastinators” - a class ripe for revolution, yet still requiring an affirmation regarding its powers and prowess. Is this perhaps why art in the 20th century tends to parade its own self-awareness, I ask? Is it perhaps a means to allow audiences to take on similar action? Unable to truly answer this question, Sachs returns to the transportative abilities of sound and claims that within the ideal circumstances, the artist-material-audience paradigm can create a type of alchemy; a revolutionary idea.
At the end of our conversation, Sachs turns to his instruments in order to present us with his dedicated set. His “dance” around and with this setup takes me on a beautiful personal journey in the studio, and it’s not before too long that I find myself dancing, taking a well deserved cue from Sachs himself who allows his whole being, body and soul, to be immersed in the experience he creates for us. Rather than taking me to the future of mankind, this experience takes me to a distant past, and a place that Sachs himself refers to during our interview. I speak of an initial ritualistic state where sound and meaning meet - a mergence that can be taken back as far as first agricultural societies, if not earlier. In our studio that same late night, the rhythms were nothing to be compared to those of the past, and the sounds completely new. However, not only did they create meaning, they managed to revert Sachs and me to our primitive state, where the artistic effort becomes ritual, in our case, a ritual for something completely non-concrete. I personally wonder whether that which transpired quite organically and spontaneously in the studio could be related to Sachs’ ideas regarding revolution? If ideas regarding Singularity carry a future promise, can we assume that this aspect of our species will be diminished, or perhaps enhanced? Sachs ended his set with a moment of electronic equilibrium that allowed him to grab a beer and move around with me in the studio. As he finished the set, I thanked Sachs dearly and whilst clearing the studio I mentioned that I’d really like to hear the set again. “So would I!” answered Sachs, and so we did, together. It was not before too long when we found ourselves dancing again.
Improv@halas.am by Eran Sachs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.