Blurred Music: Biliana Voutchkova and Michael Thieke

  • ROBERT F. CARR MEMORIAL CHAPEL OF ST. SAVIOR 65 East 32nd Street Chicago, IL, 60616 United States

Blur is a form of inexactness, indeterminacy, uncertainty in the depiction or reproduction of an object or state of affairs; it need not constitute an error, rather it can be desired or perhaps impossible to avoid.

Blur is the immortality a scientist achieves through quantum suicide, or a living and dead cat in the state of superposition, as in Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Blur creates blanks that serve as stimuli for supplementation by subjective concretizations that stretch far beyond what the object actually presents. Blur is the enormous room between seeing distinctly and not seeing at all when we’re reading a page — distinctly seen is always just a word or syllable, while the remainder stays blurred. All theory is blurred.

The duo’s new program works with the theme of blur in the field of music, on the level of formal composition as well as in the details of the musical material.

The music’s structure creates a blur; improvised parts alternate with fields of pre-structured material in which tape-recordings of the duo are duplicated by live performance. Identical material thus sounds in live performance at the same time it sounds from playback, unavoidably giving rise to blur in the temporal dimension, in the rhythmic, timbral, and motivic variations, in the microtonal interpretation of individual pitches. The live portion of the duplicated material is still improvised, but in a framework restricted by the pre-recorded material being played back. 

On the formal level, the transitions between composition and improvisation grow vague, they lose their sharp edges. To perception, what is being composed in real time blurs into what has been structured in advance; the difference can be registered only after an interval, if at all. On the level of musical detail, the blur derives from the duplication of the material, which is organized so as to sound at approximately the same time, but never identically. (translated by Brady Bowman)

“Is it even always an advantage to replace a picture that is not sharp by one that is? Isn’t one that isn’t sharp often just what we need?” (Ludwig Wittgenstein).

Biliana Voutchkova studied classical violin, in her college years she developed a strong interest in contemporary composed and improvised music. Since then she has been active in both fields, her work spans a wide possible range of music and sound. In recent years Biliana started working intensively with dancers and expanded her interest into instant composition of sound and movement, co-founded her group Grapeshade and developed the idea of OSM - open sound & movement collective.
The Berlin-based clarinetist/composer/performer Michael Thieke is equally at home across a broad range of musical environments, such as experimental song forms, collectively composing projects, improvising collectives, and music on the fringes of jazz. He is exploring the minutiae of sound, timbre and noise, with a particular interest in microtonality and related sound phenomena, and with a preference for long-term collaborations and collective work. Concert tours took him  all around Europe and to China, Canada, Lebanon, Japan and the USA, and his work has been documented on over 40 releases.