Frank Bretschneider's abtasten_halten album (his first release on Jan Jelinek
's Faitiche label) is perhaps the most radical work in his distinctive oeuvre: a self-generating composition for synthesizer modules whose sole sound source is the movement of two VU meter needles. The resulting percussive sounds coalesce into rhythmic combinations—all random, without repetition. The album resembles a meditation on infinite rhythmic variation.
“abtasten_halten (sample_hold) is a largely self-generating composition for a modular synthesizer system. Self-generating here means that as soon as a current flows, the various modules interact, but within limits set by the composer via the connections between the modules (patches): timing, tempo, timbres, dynamics. These conditions are kept variable to a certain extent or left to chance, so that the composition created is always similar but never the same. On the one hand, the use of random generators opens up possibilities that would not otherwise have been considered. On the other, it offers the fascination of the unfinished and the unique: totally unexpected musical events that you might hear only once.
abtasten_halten combines my preferences for percussive music in general and electronic music in particular. Largely avoiding repetitive structures, the piece is more like a free improvisation, quiet and diffuse, but also extremely dense, in ever-changing contrasts and transformations.
The tone generators are two modified VU meters whose needles, driven by trigger impulses, create a simple one-bar pattern by hitting against a metal spring that is connected to a piezo element (thanks to Gijs Gieskes / Gieskes.NL). The tempo is continuously varied over a period of about ten minutes by several mutually modulating LFOs, ranging from about 0.06 Hz up to the lower audio range of about 18Hz.
The percussive sounds thus obtained are then passed through low-pass filters with moderate resonance and random frequency modulation to additionally colour the sound. Further processing is then executed by an echo module whose tempo and repetitions are again determined by random parameters. Finally the audio signal is occasionally enriched with reverb to add more spaciousness to the sound.”
Frank Bretschneider (born 1956 in Obercrinitz, East-Germany) is a musician, composer and video artist in Berlin. His work is known for precise sound placement, complex, interwoven rhythm structures and its minimal, flowing approach. Bretschneider's subtle and detailed music is echoed by his visuals: perfect translated realizations of the qualities found in music within visual phenomena.
In 1995, Bretschneider and fellow AG Geige member Olaf Bender founded the Rastermusic record label which eventually merged with Carsten Nicolai
's noton to form raster-noton in 1999.
Bretschneider has released his work (in addition to raster-noton) on various labels including 12k, Line, Mille Plateaux
, Shitkatapult, or Longform Editions.