Guy Harries

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Released 12/28/2016
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IsraelGuy Harris Ego FatigueGuy Harries, our
38th guest on Experimental Israel comes from a heavily rooted
classical tradition. Studying classical flute as a youngster in Israel, he was
also the son of an artistic father (specifically, a dance practitioner), who
was a fan of contemporary culture and music in particular. This allowed Harries
an early glimpse into avant-garde trends and more so, sparked within him an
appetite for what would later become his practice. At that point in life Harries
was still only writing songs, albeit songs with what he refers to as “weird
harmonies”. Only later, through an early 90s collaboration with his friend,
Yariv Malka, he was to discover synthesizers and their raw power. And this was
perhaps the beginning of a long trajectory that leads us to the Halas studio of
2016, where Harries effortlessly sets up an electronic rig that hints to his
expertise in the field. This is no fluke – Harries joined the Sonology course
at The Hague Conservatory at the turn of the 21st century and ever
since, electronics have played a huge part in his creative life. However, he is
also following an ongoing attempt to “veer away from the computer screen”, and
does so by looking at various performative aspects that, amongst others,
include theatre, space utilization, different analogue instruments, and mainly
an aware focus at live electronics performance practices.As
an academic, Harries is currently attempting to tackle this huge topic of live
electronics performance in a similar fashion to that which we are doing here at
Experimental Israel. He first noticed the question: The tradition of electronic
music is no longer novel – this is a fact! We are no longer surprised at
hearing a concert of electronic music, brought to an audience through speakers.
More so, whereas the first generations of electronic performance had a default
spectacle at their disposal (i.e. huge analogue instruments, requiring minute
detailed attention, coupled with an era rife with performance art), our age is
already within the vortex of an accelerated electronics diminution (digital
technology, laptops and their increasing accessibility). The latter, coupled
with the default of sound diffusion, and the lack of any unified performance
practice, lends itself, more often than not, to dull performance scenarios, and
this is unfortunately true across musical genres. Harries recognizes the
current return to analogue equipment on stage as a performer’s attempt to
rekindle the relationship between him/herself to the instrument, in similar
correspondence to a violinist and their instrument. Harries claims that there
is an a-priori ingrained pressure set on such a violinist and their supposed
performance “stance”, as the cause and effect of their actions and ensuing sounds
are achingly clear. Therefore, how does one relate in research to performance
practice in a field that seems to no longer have such a practice? The key word
is: survey! Harries is building a website, which is currently in its beta
phase, called:
This website attempts to look at live electronic practitioners and their
suggested performance scenarios, all along taking into account that the
platform will have to stay open, and allow for a community effort on behalf of
fellow practitioners, and this only due to the fact that the practice is in no
way set in stone and at a constant state of flux. However, the basic impetus
for this exciting research lays at the core understanding that technological
advances are no longer at the forefront of electronic music; hence art and its
context are again the focus. And
indeed, the few examples Harries expands upon during our interview exemplify
the dire need for such a survey. Harries first mentions the Swiss artist,
Steffi Weismann, active in the fields of performance, mixed media, video art
and sound art. But in this instance, Harries refers to her work as sound
artists, and particularly to her novel setup, which Harries describes as: “she
is the sound”. This becomes evident upon seeing one of Weismann’s works
utilising her “sound belt”. Weismann’s sound belt is literally an article of
clothing draping her waist, fitted with sound devices and speakers. This offers
Weismann an immediate relation to her surroundings, audience, and space, and in
an “all in one” approach tackles the entire crux of live electronics
performance. A contrasting example is given in the form of Byron Westbrook, the
NY based sound artist, who finds a novel solution for a known question relating
to electronic music in a live context: how does the audial outcome differ from
the concert to the home scenario? Westbrook devises audio files in his home
studio, later to be used in a concert scenario. However, he never arranges
these materials beforehand, but simply allows the moment of performance itself
to dictate the shift of events. What more, he consistently chooses to
obliterate the stage element of a live performance, by setting up his stage on
the floor amongst the audience. This also allows him to manipulate sound
diffusion during the concert itself, and thus, like Weismann, but in a
completely different manner, he creates a scenario that immediately validates
the live performance. Harries explains that his research, due to the ongoing
mass of artists and works to be looked at, will have to be sub categorized. One
of these categories he calls “situations”, and within this category we find the
topic of group improvisation. Harries relates to group improvisation as the
ultimate act of surprising oneself within the live context. Relating this
particular practice to the grander category of “situation”, Harries points out
that the situation of a performance shapes the expectation and indeed its
performative context. Whereas a sound artist presenting a gallery concert could
use the exact same instruments, and sometimes sounds as a live DJ set, it is
the situation, or indeed setting, that shapes this performance and allows the audience
a better understanding of what the playing field of such a performance might
entail. Harries thinks of this as “sound ecology”, and exposes a holistic
approach that doesn’t attempt to break down a performance to its many parts,
but rather make sense of a whole as representing a situation or scene.Touching
upon our topic of experimentalism, Harries claims he simply sees himself as
“greedy”, as he loves many things in music and really wants to try out
everything he can. However, a deeper inspection of current musical and artistic
practices, leading our discussion towards an appraisal of modern society at
large, exposes an essence of what experimentalism means to Harries: “The world
is tried of the star – we are starting to experience ego fatigue! People’s
attention span has diminished, and with this aspect comes a search for
different interactions. Mainstream art is heavily comodified – this is where we
still have stars, and the diminishing attention span is tackled by presenting more
information on how to consume the product, with ever growing tiers of content
around the actual product, which in many cases seem to overshadow the product
itself. However, another approach is an attempt to search for the exact
opposite – making that which is considered “alternative” even more so, and to surround
it with less branding. Indeed, the artist within this latter stance seems more
open to collaboration and is willing to view his/her god given talent as an
invitation for participation. We do not see as many stars as we used to in the
world of composition, and the submergence of interactive pieces into the canon
of works no doubt points at a paradigm shift of sorts. Still, one must be
vigilant with these iterations of interactivity and question whether they
really set themselves the goal to add to the paradigm shift, or do they merely
try to jump the bandwagon and use interactivity in order to entertain”? This
weighty question leads Harries and I into his two wonderful sets for us in the
studio, and a mutual musing on the unavoidable political nature of art and
artistic practice: “it’s easy to forget that we make a difference when we stand
our ground and beliefs, but we do. Defeatism is a trap, because we can easily
neglect to see our ability to shape reality, yet every choice we make can shape
reality. When we decide to leave our homes in the morning and smile at people
rather than frown at them, we are shaping reality. It seems like a
infinitesimal detail, but its chain reactions could create a huge difference,
or even a shift in how things are”. 

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