Music for choreographies by Yin Yue
1. Music for a Measurable Existence
2. Re:Moving (feat. Anne Bakker)
cd/dl/stream on Phantom Limb, September 2021
Acclaimed electronic musician Machinefabriek produces two beautiful contemporary dance scores for award-winning choreographer Yin Yue, released on Phantom Limb’s soundtrack label Geist im Kino.
Machinefabriek - musician and designer Rutger Zuydervelt - describes his newest record Re:Moving (Music for Choreographies by Yin Yue) as “an album with a bittersweet taste.” The two pieces that make up the album were scheduled for dance performances ultimately cancelled by COVID, leaving Zuydervelt’s soundtracks, for all of their elegance, beauty and emotional gravity, without an audience. After lengthy conversation, Zuydervelt and NYC-based Yin Yue agreed that the music, even without the choreography that birthed it, deserves to be heard. And thus, accompanying the stunning artistry of the scores comes a reminder of the cruel realities of a world gripped by pandemic.
Even before commissioning Machinefabriek for original music, Yin Yue was a fan. She has used his work for performances and classes, drawing a clear thread between Zuydervelt’s advanced, unusual sonics and love of nonstandard rhythms with her own highly inventive choreography and acute understanding of bodily movement. After trading videos of choreographic sketches and “numerous Skype calls,” Yue and Zuydervelt eventually set out on their first collaborative project.
It is hard to believe just how prolific Rutger Zuydervelt is as Machinefabriek, and how he finds the time to put together something as thoughtful and involved as the soundtracks created here for choreographer Yin Yue‘s dance pieces. There are two separate commissions here, both inhabiting a world of air and space, drifting from movement to stasis, gathering momentum and then watching and waiting as it dissipates around us.
“Music For A Measurable Existence” opens with wind drawing across an open space, flurries of birds, the shock of martial drumming that seems to come from nowhere. Electronic distortion, the sense of alienation, a build and sweep and then the calm after the storm, a drifting, liminal sensation. The sense of surveying the aftermath of something is keen here, dirty fragments interspersed with a lull that allows the dancers to come to terms with the after-effects.
There is always motion, but it feels difficult to maintain somehow. When beats are introduced later, the feeling is cleaner but more menacing, with intricate drum patterns that allow the listener to sense the momentum of the bodies, rhythmic and precise. The crescendo is reached and we enter a tranquil limbo, but with an underlying faint air of tension lurking in the background, misshapen, lost in the vast, empty atrium, bright light streaming through catching the dust motes and specks of life as the sounds recede into light.
By contrast, “Re:moving” opens with distant reverberation. Both pieces start slowly and allow the listener to be drawn gradually. There seems to be more time and it is about the spaces between sounds, a slow patchwork build-up that when it changes you suddenly feel the build up of tension. There is more rhythmic interplay here and you can sense the clash of bodies, the scrape of electronics. Anne Bakker‘s strings lend a whole other sensation to the proceedings, more of a profundity that adds to the distant barrage.
The sounds are heavy, leaving a more obvious aftermath against which the plucked strings of the violin and their counterpoint sweep stand out, harbingers of a newer, calmer reality. You can imagine the languid movements that accompany this comedown feeling. A rhythm like a steam train at rest slowed right down allows the strings to take centre stage, wreaths of smoke curling like smoke towards the vast, glass ceiling, a tense slumber becoming swept into the dancers’ wakes.
Both pieces on Re:Moving contain distinct passages, but they pass into one another with barely noticed ease, drawing the listener along, content to follow wherever they are led. The emotions and sensations are vibrant and you can almost feel the movement of the dancers. Both work really well as stand alone pieces, but it would be fascinating to see them in their true environment.
The Geist im Kino imprint of the British label Phantom Limb specialises in so-called rescores of avant-garde films that were thought to have been forgotten. Even though it refers to a different art form, also the most recent entry fits in well: Rutger Zuydervelt's compositions for two dance choreographies by Yin Yue lead a similarly haunting life of their own like the new soundtracks to old films after the performances were cancelled due to the pandemic. The two pieces compiled on Re:Moving are stylistically diverse. But the floating soundscapes, hard electronic beats and blurry string sounds by Anne Bakker are dramaturgically skilfully brought into a flow by the Dutchman, who releases most of his music under the Machinefabriek moniker. These pieces may not have set bodies in motion, but they certainly will stimulate the mind while listening.
Echoes and Dust
Rotterdam’s Rutger Zuydervelt, aka Machinefabriek not only has an extensive output of releases but has established himself as one of the more influential and innovative forces in modern electronically-oriented music.
Why electronically oriented, and not just electronic music in all its shapes and sizes. One simple reason – Machinefabriek does not only work in a multitude of genres stemming from the term ‘electronic,’ but has often crossed into the avant-garde realms of both jazz and modern classical music. Of course, even with those excursions, there is always an ‘electronic’ line running through all of his music and compositions.
This is particularly the case with his latest release, ‘Re: Moving (Music For Choreographies By Yin Yue).’ As the additional part of the album title might indicate, the two pieces that make up the album were scheduled for dance performances ultimately canceled by COVID, leaving Zuydervelt’s soundtracks just as a listening experience for the potential audience.
As you might expect with music and compositions that are to accompany any and all forms of dance, it includes very distinctive rhythm patterns. No exceptions with ‘The Music for A Measurable Existence’ and ‘Re: Moving’ here. Yet, as is usually the case with Machinefabriek’s music in general, those rhythmic patterns do not always coincide with what could be called ‘standard’ rhythmic patterns associated with electronic beats.
In combination with Zuydervelt’s usual concept of making incongruous sounds work exactly in the opposite direction, it makes ‘Re: Moving’ an exciting listening experience just as is, without the dance performances it was initially created for.
The Covid pandemic has affected many people worldwide, not only physically but also making it impossible to work for many. That is especially (but not exclusively) true for artists working in the entertainment industry who could not perform their work publicly. Others, who could be working from home or from their studio, may have felt less impact. I don’t think that Machinefabriek has been less productive than usual, to name an example. But that does not mean that his work was not affected. Take, for instance, the music he wrote for these two choreographies of Yin Yue: Music For A Measurable Existence and Re:Moving. Writing music for a contemporary dance score must involve a complex and intense period of working together. Imagine how disappointing it must be when both performances were cancelled due to COVID! Zuydervelt and Yue agreed that the score deserved to be heard “even without the choreography that birthed it”. A bitter pill to swallow – but a justifiable decision.
Music For A Measurable Existence is a high-energy composition that demonstrates the many different sides of Zuydervelt‘s compositional skills in one 20-minute composition displaying his “unusual sonics and love of nonstandard rhythms”. Re:Moving will also make you sit up straight because of its rather intense climaxes. It features the beautiful violin of Anne Bakker, who worked together with Machinefabriek on various occasions: Halfslaap, Crumble and Deining come to mind but these are only a few of the projects they did together. As sad as the story is for the choreographies of Yin Yue, it was a wise decision to release the score. Hopefully, the performances will still be performed in the near future.
Rotterdam-based musician and designer Rutger Zuydervelt has described Re:Moving (Music for Choreographies by Yin Yue) as ‘an album with a bittersweet taste’. Rutger, aka Machinefabriek, was invited to score two new pieces by award-winning NYC choreographer, Yin Yue. Completed shortly before Covid, it was with regret that the resulting pieces never saw the light of day.
The pieces have never been performed, leaving the music alone in stillness, making it ‘a soundtrack to non-existent dances. The music should be animating and accompanying the performers, but instead find an empty stage, divorced from what should have been a special union between music and dance.
As time went on, Zuydervelt and Yin Yue both agreed that the music deserved to be heard, even without its intended audience and its parental choreography, choosing to believe in it for what it was, sending it out into the world without its mother and having to rapidly take on a new life, a new form. The score is innocent and beautiful in its own right, but there’s a shadow of what if, and it hangs from every note; the kindness shown in the creative process has been a victim of cruelty beyond its control, gripped, used, and mangled by the pandemic – and the plague nearly killed off the music.
The pair traded videos of choreographic sketches and calls over Skype. A Measurable Existence was the title, and it was originally planned to premiere through New York’s The Gibney Company in April 2020. With some irony, the music was intended to ‘reflect the discovery of self by interaction with others’ – an interaction lost due to enforced social distancing and lockdowns.
A collaboration between physical movement and musical experimentation, these pieces are both reflective and dynamic, active, advancing, and endlessly moving; one can feel the motion of its performers, even without their physical presence. Skirting between lighter sections and darker, synth-lit alleyways, the music is consistent in its high tempo and higher levels of activity, seamlessly segueing from one segment into the next. As well as its dense textures, the music has a fluidity to it, an unstoppable flow, gentle but very powerful.
With hope, they still look forward to presenting the performance as it was intended. Perhaps, one day, the performance will be complete.
The two pieces on Re:Moving were originally created for dance performances choreographed by Yin Yue, but after those performances were scuttled by the global pandemic, veteran Dutch producer Machinefabriek decided to give the music a proper release. “Re:Moving” is a slow-moving beast that unfurls over the course of 21 minutes, furtively moving between motorik rhythms, chaotic bursts of thrashy squall, exquisite string passages, sci-fi crunch and more. It’s a shame that the music can’t be experienced in its intended environment, but Machinefabriek has left plenty of room for our imaginations to fill in the missing pieces of the narrative.
Something very different is the other new release with music for dance, or rather two dances. 'Music For Measureable Existence' and 'Re:Moving' are both by Yin Yue and I gather more regular sort of dance pieces (i.e. not a circus thing). On 'Re:Moving', there is also the violin of Anne Bakker. As said, this is something different. Much like Zuydervelt's music for the 'Astroneer' game, there is quite some emphasis on the use of rhythm. At one point in 'Music For A Measurable Existence', it sounded like flamenco (as far as I can judge such things), but then of a furious, darker kind. Zuydervelt's drones are unmistakably part of this music, but the rhythm plays a much bigger role now. Not just that, these rhythms are quite forceful and may not fit the sort of thing that Zuydervelt does, which shows his strength as a musician, willingness to take risks. At times, Machinefabriek heavy pounding rhythms reminded me of Clock DVA (perhaps, because I just recently heard some of that; I would not consider myself the expert on all things heavy and rhythmic). I can imagine some vivid dancing to both of these pieces, maybe less vivid on 'Re:moving', but beats guide in both pieces the way. There are valid arguments to say that Machinefabriek releases too many things, but this is surely one move I had not anticipated, so for those only interested in a few of Zuydervelt's releases, this one is surely one different.