Nadar Ensemble © Rebecca Diependaele

Kaksoisolento – Doppelgänger

Nadar Ensemble (BEL)
Pieter Matthynssens
– cello, Elisa Medinilla – piano, game controller, Dries Tack – clarinet, game controller, Yves Goemaere – percussion, Wannes Gonnissen – sound
Rebecca Diependaele – general manager
Stefan Prins & Pieter Matthyssens – artistic directors
Thomas Moore - producer
The video for A la Recherche du Temps was produced by ChampdAction

Georges Mélies (FRA): L’Homme Orchestre The One-Man Band (1900)

Serge Verstockt (BEL): A la Recherche de Temps (2005)
Simon Steen-Andersen (DNK): Study for string instrument #3 (2011)
Michael Beil (DEU): Mach Sieben (2000)
Stefan Prins (BEL): Generation Kill - offspring 1 (2012)

Doppelgänger opens with a short film by the French movie pioneer and illusionist Georges Méliès (1861-1938), L’Homme Orchestre (1900). Around the turn of the century, the first generations of filmmakers explored the new possibilities of montage and developed the first ‘special effects’. The inversion of fragments of pellicule, for example, or superposition of multiple layers enabled them to create a virtual reality in which candles light themselves, broken objects are mysteriously made whole again and people come face to face with their mirror image. In L’Homme Orchestre, Méliès conjures up six doppelgängers of himself, forming a musical ensemble that then folds back together into one person.

Méliès’ virtual reality is based upon meticulous preparation and hours of montage. Using today’s technology, we can (virtually) double ourselves far more easily. We chat with friends from other continents via Skype, while on Facebook checking in at our favorite bar around the corner. We also effortlessly maintain several versions of our identity, from our Tinder or LinkedIn profiles to the actual, tangible person our loved ones know. It is no wonder that artists are keen to explore the artistic potential of the avatar. Also the increasing virtuality as such, and the impact it has on different planes of society (from the formation of identity to our evaporating privacy), instigates artistic reflection.

With this title, Study for String Instrument #3 for cello and video, Simon Steen-Andersen (°1976) clearly refers to the traditional study for instrumentalists in which the composer focusses on specific techniques or musical figures. But this work also seems to refer to the study as we know it from the visual arts: a more analytical piece the artist makes to observe the object of his interest from varying angles. Simon Steen-Andersen seems to do just that in his Study #3. Confronting the real musician with his pre-recorded video double, he thus draws attention to the physical movements of the player. The composer appears to be analyzing the cellist as a moving ‘object’. Numerous details, previously unnoticed, now catch the eye. However, simultaneously, the player seems to be slowly merging with his virtual equivalent, fading away as an identifiable person almost entirely.

Serge Verstockt’s (°1957) A la recherche de temps illustrates a beautiful connection with the film by Méliès. The solo clarinet is accompanied by four doppelgängers. Each of them plays the same musical material following his own temporal organization – a complex contemporary variation on the medieval riddle canon.

Whereas the pieces by Simon Steen-Andersen and Serge Verstockt create a magical atmosphere, Michael Beil paints a gloomier wonderland. In Mach Sieben the solo pianist is mirrored – or so it seems. When Alice, the little heroine of Lewis Carroll, steps through the looking-glass (in the second book about her adventures), she ends up in a world that answers to slightly different rules than the ones she knows. With Mach Sieben Michael Beil, too, creates a mysterious double reality, in which the world behind the mirror has other rules than the one in front of it. The single line of spoken text (Voll mit Zwergen ist mein Weg) might remind you of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, completing the alienating character of this piece.

Finally, with Generation Kill – offspring 1, Stefan Prins (°1979) leads us to the dark side of this wondrous technology. The set-up on stage is unusual in the least: in the back are two semi-transparent projection screens each hiding a musician. In front of them, an equal amount of players sit on the ground, armed with a laptop and a game controller. In the labyrinth of sound manipulations and video projections, they seem to be the ones in control. Now and again the musicians behind the screens are brightly lit and clearly visible, only to disappear again behind their projected doubles. What’s real and what isn’t remains an open question. The metaphor becomes clear as suddenly this intricate play is interrupted by aerial images from the American military performing a remote-controlled attack. The same drones that are part of rescue missions in remote areas or the precision interfaces that allow doctors to perform the most delicate surgery, have now become top-secret high-tech weaponry. The players behind the control panel may be interchangeable – whoever finds himself in the field of action, is not.

-Rebecca Diependaele

The concert ends at about 20.30