minimal

Hypnotic repetitive gestures are perhaps the signature of our generation in music, the legacy of Reich and Glass and Monk and Riley and Young … and tape decks and computers and drum machines. But then, repetition is the very stuff of our bodies, of heartbeats and footsteps and brain waves. Mastering repetition is essential, then, to any compositional practice. It should be, literally, as natural as breathing in and breathing out. And it should have the potential to take on its own voice.

That’s the sense I get of this work. Listening to Hanno Leichtmann’s music, you may drift off into another world. It is work of collage, but in a way that imagines a new landscape. In ‘Minimal Studies,’ released on Moscow’s mikroton Records in 2013 and in live form this week, that effect is especially in evidence.

Hanno is no stranger to club music as well as experimental; he’s a DJ, often favoring the dubby, as well as curator. And his aesthetic is partly visual, staging festivals that reinterpret typography and letraset in music and creating his own visual objects, including optical picture disk releases. In Minimal Studies, he finds a way to take the gesture of a loop and hone in on it in some unique and transcendent way. The reference to minimalism is clear, but the color, the effect are Hanno’s.

hanno_leichtmann-112

I’ve gotten to know Hanno living here in Berlin, this world capital of clubs full of repetition. This work in particular stands out, in combination now with similarly entrancing visuals, in the form of an 8mm accompaniment by filmmaker Carolin Brandl. The content of that film veers toward exoticism, but in a sense, Hanno’s soundscape seems to have fallen from some other culture. Meredith Monk I know spoke about imagining her minimalist gestures as being futuristic or alien and simultaneously ancient; the sound and image here have a similar sense.

trailer from hanno leichtmann on Vimeo.

By the way, if there are echoes of POLE and Jan Jelinek, he has played in bands with both those artists. Musicians always trade ideas, doubly so when playing together live. I asked Hanno for some commentary, and he directed me to this text by Reinhold Friedl about the project:

Hanno Leichtmann – Minimal Studies

Under the unassuming title of „Minimal Studies“, electronic musician Hanno Leichtmann investigates the remnants of the minimal music movement of the 1970s and catches some of its still audible echoes. The CD begins with the pulse of an organ, a deep, low bass slides in, layer-by-layer the piece builds.

The American music psychologist Diana Deutsch proved that any sound becomes a melody if it is repeated often enough. This is exactly the phenomenon we encounter here; we suddenly hear melodies and are not sure if they were there before, if they are there now or where they came from.

And yet Leichtmann’s music is not based on gushing euphony or psychoacoustic effects. Instead it restricts itself to basics by combining the repetitive structures of minimal music with elements of once groundbreaking Berlin club music. Rhythmic impulses taken from soundtracks and contemporary music samples, a John Carpenter bass, are accompanied by acoustic instruments (violin, organ, clarinet, trumpet) that play melodic patterns, which disappear in the flow of sound, becoming ever harder to discern.

Pop-minimal music; meandering chord/rhythm loops, experimental turntable manipulation basslines, it’s all there: Steve Reichs asynchronous patterns, Pole’s minimal dub, Nic Collins’and Yasunao Tone’s broken CD players, Terry Riley’s organs, Oval’s systemische clicks’n’cuts, LaMonte Young’s drones, Michael Nyman’s early film scores…
Vast monotone landscapes emerge, subliminal disco bass, idling synthesizers, barely-there electronic percussion, and occasional instrumental melodies. Hyper-minimalism on display.

What can be done with this material after it’s been reduced to it’s universal forms? Suddenly, sound patterns like landscapes from Tarkowski’s films emerge: a strangely nebulous unreality consisting all that is farmiliar, but all newly mixed together (including a monolithic guitar riff as an obituary for Sonic Youth) until the sound of bells and a few scant piano melodies take over and finally fade away. Music about music.

Hanno Leichtmann’s recurrent hymns to repetition leave the listener oddly liberated.

Apart from this series of studies, it’s worth hearing Hanno’s similarly minimalist-collage creation “Unfinished Portrait Of Youth Today”, in the same vein:

www.hannoleichtmann.com

Hanno performs live with Carolin’s film Thursday in Berlin at the FEED series at KW, along with ex-architecture student turned musician Tobias Purfürst. (Facebook event) This is also some nice ambient creation; I’m especially fond of excerpt #2:

http://tobiaspurfuerst.com

  • chaircrusher

    As much as I love where I live, and as much as Berlin is a cliche for US Expats as a ‘happening place’ it never ceases to amaze me how many interesting artistic things go on there. Thanks for curating it well for the rest of the us.

    • Random Chance

      Not just for US expatriots. In the rest of Germany many peple tend to believe that just because a band or some individual artist “is from Berlin” (even if they just moved there a few months ago or the drummer was born in Berlin and the rest of the band is from Helsinki) they are just a tad more interesting because of their geographical ties. But it’s not just Berlin, there’s also Hamburg for example. Both cities also have in common that their inhabitants tend to view themselves as some kind of elite or chosen few (especially and almost exclusively those who have moved there somewhat recently, the more recent, the more pronounced this kind of behevior is). It get’s tired after a while. But then again I’m tired of many things going on today, so don’t take what I write too seriously.

      • My experience has been exactly the opposite.

        In fact, because Berlin is so overcrowded with artists, at the moment I think people are glad to find any other angle. I just mention the city in the interest of disclosure.

        Hanno has worked in this city a long time – the scene here is a mix of old and new.

        If people want to get snobby about where they live, that’s their business. My business is to keep track of artists I find personally inspiring. And if so many of them tend to either be living here or make their way through here, I think that says more about the ecology of the city for performers than it does about a cliché.

    • foljs

      “””As much as I love where I live, and as much as Berlin is a cliche for US Expats as a ‘happening place’ it never ceases to amaze me how many interesting artistic things go on there.”””

      You include these ho-hum tracks, of which SoundCloud has 100,000 more of the same, in the “interesting artistic things”

      • @foljs:disqus that counts two posts you’ve trolled this week – keep going, you can make three!

        • foljs

          Well, (and I’m answering to the parent too), giving my negative assesment of some work is not trolling (that would be baiting for comments with some opinion that I don’t really hold). If you check my comments from time to time in this blog, when I’m genuily enthused from a post, I plain and simply say so. I’m not 20 years old to care about this “trolling” thing.

          Now, in the comments above there’s some underying assumption that maybe I’m some Philistine that can’t understand this music because it’s not pop or EDM enough or whatever. I can actually enjoy anything, from Hank Williams to Harry Partch, and from Coil, and some Steve Roach soundscape noodling to Pan Sonic, Autechre, japanese noisecore, etc.

          I just genuinely think this stuff is ho hum. It has been done to death, and it has very few (if any) inspired moments. Same for gimmicky performances with controller gloves and the like.

          In music, in my not so humble opinion, you can have make it worth our while with excelling in one or more of these 4 things:

          1) Melody (slash harmony)
          2) Rhythm
          3) Timbre
          4) Lyrics

          Something like the Beatles would have 1,2,3 and often interesting 4. Something like some good soundscape will have either 3 + 2 or 3 + 1, or maybe just 3. Some protest folk song would mostly be about 4 with some basic 1 thrown in.

          I don’t think this (mostly speaking of the “Minimal Studies” pieces) qualifies either as a good result OR an innovative experiment in either of 4.

          YMMV.

          • byteme

            personally, I think it excels at Rhythm and Timbre.

      • chaircrusher

        I can certainly understand someone not liking this music. My wife can’t abide a lot of music I like. But I’d go so far as to say you’re not listening to these, or not hearing them when you listen to them if you think they’re ‘ho-hum.’

        But thanks for the troll.

  • chaircrusher

    As much as I love where I live, and as much as Berlin is a cliche for US Expats as a ‘happening place’ it never ceases to amaze me how many interesting artistic things go on there. Thanks for curating it well for the rest of the us.

    • Random Chance

      Not just for US expatriots. In the rest of Germany many peple tend to believe that just because a band or some individual artist “is from Berlin” (even if they just moved there a few months ago or the drummer was born in Berlin and the rest of the band is from Helsinki) they are just a tad more interesting because of their geographical ties. But it’s not just Berlin, there’s also Hamburg for example. Both cities also have in common that their inhabitants tend to view themselves as some kind of elite or chosen few (especially and almost exclusively those who have moved there somewhat recently, the more recent, the more pronounced this kind of behevior is). It get’s tired after a while. But then again I’m tired of many things going on today, so don’t take what I write too seriously.

      • My experience has been exactly the opposite.

        In fact, because Berlin is so overcrowded with artists, at the moment I think people are glad to find any other angle. I just mention the city in the interest of disclosure.

        Hanno has worked in this city a long time – the scene here is a mix of old and new.

        If people want to get snobby about where they live, that’s their business. My business is to keep track of artists I find personally inspiring. And if so many of them tend to either be living here or make their way through here, I think that says more about the ecology of the city for performers than it does about a cliché.

    • foljs

      “””As much as I love where I live, and as much as Berlin is a cliche for US Expats as a ‘happening place’ it never ceases to amaze me how many interesting artistic things go on there.”””

      You include these ho-hum tracks, of which SoundCloud has 100,000 more of the same, in the “interesting artistic things”

      • @foljs:disqus that counts two posts you’ve trolled this week – keep going, you can make three!

        • foljs

          Well, (and I’m answering to the parent too), giving my negative assesment of some work is not trolling (that would be baiting for comments with some opinion that I don’t really hold). If you check my comments from time to time in this blog, when I’m genuily enthused from a post, I plain and simply say so. I’m not 20 years old to care about this “trolling” thing.

          Now, in the comments above there’s some underying assumption that maybe I’m some Philistine that can’t understand this music because it’s not pop or EDM enough or whatever. I can actually enjoy anything, from Hank Williams to Harry Partch, and from Coil, and some Steve Roach soundscape noodling to Pan Sonic, Autechre, japanese noisecore, etc.

          I just genuinely think this stuff is ho hum. It has been done to death, and it has very few (if any) inspired moments. Same for gimmicky performances with controller gloves and the like.

          In music, in my not so humble opinion, you can have make it worth our while with excelling in one or more of these 4 things:

          1) Melody (slash harmony)
          2) Rhythm
          3) Timbre
          4) Lyrics

          Something like the Beatles would have 1,2,3 and often interesting 4. Something like some good soundscape will have either 3 + 2 or 3 + 1, or maybe just 3. Some protest folk song would mostly be about 4 with some basic 1 thrown in.

          I don’t think this (mostly speaking of the “Minimal Studies” pieces) qualifies either as a good result OR an innovative experiment in either of 4.

          YMMV.

          • byteme

            personally, I think it excels at Rhythm and Timbre.

      • chaircrusher

        I can certainly understand someone not liking this music. My wife can’t abide a lot of music I like. But I’d go so far as to say you’re not listening to these, or not hearing them when you listen to them if you think they’re ‘ho-hum.’

        But thanks for the troll.

  • boboter

    This is really great stuff. Specially enjoying the unfinished portraits album. Thanks for sharing his work with us. I would love to get more insights on how he uses his also rather minimal setup. Seems pretty thought out.

  • boboter

    This is really great stuff. Specially enjoying the unfinished portraits album. Thanks for sharing his work with us. I would love to get more insights on how he uses his also rather minimal setup. Seems pretty thought out.

  • Bill Simon

    Who makes that short guitar – esque thing? …or is it a fretboard trainer customized with a pickup ?

    • Bobby A

      That’s what I’m wondering! Caught my eye. mini electric lap steel?

      Hmm only 5 tuners

    • Foosnark

      Half of a Chapman Stick? 😀

    • Foosnark

      After some Google detective work and learning things about stringed instruments that I never knew: it’s an 18th century zither, and he plays it with an EBow.

      If you search for “alpine zither” you’ll see pictures where there’s a fretboard with 5 strings exactly like this, and the more harp-like open string section that’s what I thought a zither was. This seems to have been chopped off with just one unfretted string.

      Neat!

  • Bill Simon

    Who makes that short guitar – esque thing? …or is it a fretboard trainer customized with a pickup ?

    • Bobby A

      That’s what I’m wondering! Caught my eye. mini electric lap steel?

      Hmm only 5 tuners

    • Foosnark

      Half of a Chapman Stick? 😀

    • Foosnark

      After some Google detective work and learning things about stringed instruments that I never knew: it’s an 18th century zither, and he plays it with an EBow.

      If you search for “alpine zither” you’ll see pictures where there’s a fretboard with 5 strings exactly like this, and the more harp-like open string section that’s what I thought a zither was. This seems to have been chopped off with just one unfretted string.

      Neat!

  • fluffy

    he´s involved on denseland, one of my fav bands…highly recommended stuff

  • fluffy

    he´s involved on denseland, one of my fav bands…highly recommended stuff

  • Mutis Mayfield

    Interesting work. If I could get a job in Berlin maybe I will be the next expatriot from Spain but Mrs. Merkel probably will be not agreed with another spanish hippie in their country… With Rajoy we filled the stock! Hehe

    Ontopic again… It reminds me to flying lotus and all these wonderful artist who fit in the “pornoshower” tag at my harddisk.

    • Hey @Mutis, nice to meet you here. Hope you’re doing fine. Let’s all move to Berlin!

      • Mutis Mayfield

        Hello Diego!
        I left fb because it was difficult to stay productive… Now I’m soldering new things and wondering about blogging them… Or go for gigs! 😀

        • I’m also less active now. And trying to launch something related to ‘our common interest’. I’ll let you know.

          • Mutis Mayfield

            Contact me if you wish at mutismayfield (barcenas) gmail (dot) com xD

        • (Gigs sound like a great idea, actually!)

    • Uh, Merkel can’t stop you moving to Germany – enjoy your EU citizenship!

      • Mutis Mayfield

        Until we came out it like Greece?

      • Mutis Mayfield

        Just kidding of course Peter… 😉

  • Mutis Mayfield

    Interesting work. If I could get a job in Berlin maybe I will be the next expatriot from Spain but Mrs. Merkel probably will be not agreed with another spanish hippie in their country… With Rajoy we filled the stock! Hehe

    Ontopic again… It reminds me to flying lotus and all these wonderful artist who fit in the “pornoshower” tag at my harddisk.

    • Hey @Mutis, nice to meet you here. Hope you’re doing fine. Let’s all move to Berlin!

      • Mutis Mayfield

        Hello Diego!
        I left fb because it was difficult to stay productive… Now I’m soldering new things and wondering about blogging them… Or go for gigs! 😀

        • I’m also less active now. And trying to launch something related to ‘our common interest’. I’ll let you know.

          • Mutis Mayfield

            Contact me if you wish at mutismayfield (barcenas) gmail (dot) com xD

        • (Gigs sound like a great idea, actually!)

    • Uh, Merkel can’t stop you moving to Germany – enjoy your EU citizenship!

      • Mutis Mayfield

        Until we came out it like Greece?

      • Mutis Mayfield

        Just kidding of course Peter… 😉

  • Joe M

    I’m interested in what those (presumably) synth modules are that are mounted in those tiny cases. And how they’re getting used. Peter, can you give us the scoop?

  • Joe M

    I’m interested in what those (presumably) synth modules are that are mounted in those tiny cases. And how they’re getting used. Peter, can you give us the scoop?

  • anthony antfactor

    Some really nice work here – cheers!

  • anthony antfactor

    Some really nice work here – cheers!