Guy Dubious

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Released Jan 07, 2017
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IsraelGuy Osherov (AKA Guy Dubious) BeholderA couple of weeks
ago I was approached by a young Israeli composer who had just finished her
bachelor’s degree in the US. Making her first steps as a professional experimentalist
(if such a thing actually exists), she wanted to get a better grasp of the
Israeli experimental scene, and assumed I would be the right person to talk to.
We met for tea, and very quickly we started speaking of my research here. Her
first question was whether I could find something that sets the Israeli scene
apart from other scenes. Granted, this is something that I myself am trying to grasp,
and have yet to reach a definitive conclusion, but I could at least offer her
this thought: Apart from it being a huge conglomeration of highly talented and
skilled practitioners per capita, the scene here has absolutely no claim to
funding! It is not affiliated, like some other places around the world, with
the classical music scene, and so the non score-based work makes the relatively
small Israeli commissioning pool virtually out of reach. In fact, the experimental
works that do seem to get to stage and hence funding seem to always veer
towards a different art form (dance, museum based practice, video, etc.),
making a claim for funding more feasible. This fact, inadvertently perhaps,
deems the experimental scene rife for collaboration, and more so, allows
collaborations between artists coming from different genres and scenes
altogether. Guy Dubious, our 39th guest on Experimental Israel,
alongside with his friends and colleagues Ori Drumer, and Ron Kazir, recognised
these attributes of a scene long before I did, and also recognized the need for
a venue that would celebrate this unique attitude. The Zimmer (“Room” in
German), currently in its 3rd iteration, was initially conceived as a working
studio that also hosts live music. It was supposed to answer the working and
performative needs of experimental practitioners, but also immediately, due to
its innovative curation, became the hotspot for genre bending performances.
Dubious, who co-curated gigs in the Zimmer from 2008-2013 attests to evenings
hosting anything from free improv, to metal, dance music, and dance practice
inclusively. This is very much still the line of curation at the Zimmer,
although it somehow feels to this writer that the heyday of the venue is past. Dubious himself
does not hail from a musical tradition. He attests to a healthy curiosity as a
young man that had always raised important questions within him, which would
later become the impetus for his artistic calling. However, his first foray
into improv was at the request of a friend who used to play on the streets (not
busk, but simply play outside). Dubious asked whether he could film the same
friend in one of his sessions, and the latter’s reaction was an invitation to
take part in the actual music making, so that Dubious is not an “outsider” to
the act. Dubious joined in with a tape cassette, and it is this first improv
session that laid the foundation for his future musical practice. Upon my request
of Dubious to take part in our research, he made quite an inquiry as to the
equipment we have available at the Halas studio. I questioned this curiosity,
and would soon discover that it is Dubious’ regular tendency to utilize the
performance space and its equipment to its utmost. Eventually, during the
session itself, Dubious ended up using his own setup coupled only with the
electric pedal organ in the Halas studio, as well as a room mic that picked up
the ambiance sound in the studio. Although I felt Dubious was “in the know”, I
still had to make sure that he was aware that the an open room mic will pick up
ALL the sound created in the studio, and not only those made by him. These
sounds can be heard throughout Dubious’ first improv set, where his music is coupled
with my creaking chair, his cassette tape changes on our unforgivingly loud
wooden table, me pulling my nose (I was quite ill that day), and mainly –
Avigail from the Digital Art Lab, who films our artists on a regular basis.
Yes, Dubious was aware, and not only was he aware – he welcomed these
surprises. In fact, I’m quite sure that these surprises are in many ways the
validation for Dubious’ practice. Dubious takes us
through what has now become (at least for me) quite a characteristic stance,
which sets awareness at the forefront. The boundaries of this awareness are
limitless, as they can encompass not only the sounds themselves, but also the body
that creates them or indeed the thoughts that the same mind thinks. Whereas
with former guest, Amnon Wolman, who suggests to
us awareness as a gateway between that which isn’t and is experimental, Dubious
bases his entire practice on this stance. He questions everything, and allows
literally everything to shift a given performance. His is an act of total
improvisation, where shifts of light, body motion, interaction with his setup,
ambient sounds, weather, you name it – all these and more can be the basis for
change and reaction, and they can all shape the end result. At one point during
our interview, Dubious even questions the machinery he uses itself, asking
whether we are not confined by the inner workings of a mixing desk: “There is a
such a clear relation of cause and effect in a mixing desk channel, where the
original signal is always pointed towards”. Dubious has lately started
imagining a mixing desk that truly “mixes” its various inputs, and allows
change on numerous levels of variability. For instance, 3 separate signals
going into that “mixing box” could literally get lost and when the user
attempts to change one of the parameters on the machine, s/he is not entirely
sure what result s/he might receive. More so, what if the sound emanating from
this box could be affected by simply shifting one of the cassette tapes
(feeding it its signal) on the table? This, according to Dubious, would be a
perfect instrument for someone such as himself, as it would obliterate the
traditional relation of cause and effect, and would allow him as performer to
simply and constantly be in a state of reaction. It’s as if he were saying that
in a situation where cause and effect are no longer clear, and any minute
difference could relate to change, one has to be aware of everything –
literally everything. As interesting as this sounds, I had to inquire whether
this philosophical stance does not obliterate yet another traditional layer of
cause and effect, namely the artist producing something interesting for an
audience to hear. Or in other words, does this imagined practice withstand any
kind of critical appraisal, or is it simply a research tool? Dubious has
obviously thought these notions through, and responds accordingly, directing
the focus towards the creation of new types of relationships, and indeed
moments of beauty that couldn’t otherwise be found. And what is to be said of
the role of the creator, which I shy from calling composer, as Dubious himself
shies away from this description? To Dubious he is like a grand beholder,
placing himself somewhere on the spectrum between complete control and total
lack thereof. Dubious himself attempts to avert from binary dichotomies in this
instance and describes the act of the creator as a subtle dance between these
supposed two extremes. The method of travelling on this spectrum transpires
through what Dubious refers to as a “cut”. This cut is where the experienced
professional intervenes, and makes knowing decisions based on prior knowledge
and experience. This is perhaps the most pivotal decision made throughout Dubious’
entire creative process, as it is one of its only marks of proficiency. Indeed,
the professional demand of sound exclusivity is something that Dubious hardly
relates to. He wholeheartedly takes on the approach that embraces every sound as
music, and thus welcomes even what might seem to some like interference.In order to
clarify that this approach is not a half-baked endeavour, Dubious takes us into
his fascinating PhD research at the Universtiy of Birmingham, where he explores
sound, but actually does so in an art department. The latter choice in many
ways a logical one, as his topic is sound recording, a topic Dubious sees as
relating to material, and not to a fixed language come practice, such as
classical western music practice for instance. In similarity to his ideas
regarding the mixing board vis-à-vis his imagined “black box”, Dubious’
research attempts to shift the focus from that which we assume as fact, and
starts with questioning the validity of such resolve. His point of departure within
the field of audio recording, is where one takes for granted the utility of the
machinery in question, specifically pointing our attention towards the fact
that the speed at which audio is recorded must correspond to the speed in which
it is played back. Indeed, if one were to take the simple action of changing
either of these speeds, we would get a distorted yet recognizable recording at
one side of this spectrum, and a completely different sound source at the other.
This calls to mind an audio recording that has turned quite viral in past
years, claiming, at least, the slowed down sounds of crickets actually resulting
in a beautiful choir-like sound. Real or fake, the idea remains – the utility
of the recording and playback apparatus are taken for granted, and only a small
shift is required from this paradigm in order to open up for us an alternative
reality where cause and effect no longer adhere to set rules. Dubious continues
with yet another interesting example – in this instance, taking the idea of
hiss into account. Hiss is a recording artefact that exists to this day, even
in digital times. Whereas it is our knee-jerk reaction to try and obliterate
hiss (even Dubious himself tellingly turned down the high frequency EQ dial on
our studio mixer in order to avoid ample hiss generated by his setup), we never
seem to ask ourselves whether we can utilise it, or amplify it, or maybe
attempt to view it as within the frame that we reserve for meaningful content.
Here again, Dubious exemplifies in thought that which he exemplifies through
his work and possibly life – the framework from within which we act, react and
practice, is a construct of utility turned into supposed objectivity. Dubious,
with his aptly chosen stage name, would like to remind us that it is such
simply through the eyes of the beholder, and that a slight shift of gaze could
perhaps allow us to see it all differently. 

Instrumental No