Noton founder and media artist Carsten Nicolai, known also for his Alva Noto alias, reflects on pure color and perception as his work is installed in London. And Carsten has been busy – new projects are coming shortly.

First up, if you’re in London you can catch the 2014 unicolor in what looks like a spectacular location as part of LUX. FACT, co-curating that event, interviews him for the occasion. It’s all things I’ve heard Carsten say before, but he seems especially concise here. Maybe most significant in today’s challenging times around the world is the realization of being able to live together and form some kind of harmony, not only anarchy and chaos, as he recalls the reunification of Germany. Maybe it’s also a challenge to find the next soundtrack (and visual track) for our time.

unicolor speaks to technical universality and what he describes as technical “purity,” in contrast to the more emotional content of music. I wonder too about that growing group of experimental production.

But it’s not all looking back – not just old works, plus I expect by now you’ve picked up on that news the wall came down. No, there’s new stuff upcoming from Carsten and Noton, so you can mark your calendar. (Oh yeah – you might even want to buy a new calendar from Noton; they’re gorgeous.)

I’m rather keen for this one. In that spirit of harmony, there’s a nice hand-holding pair of humans, poised as if just about to bridge the social distancing gap. The iconography also recalls the engraving on the plaque on the Pioneer probe, just a Noton version, perhaps. (See also the Voyager Golden Record cover; I tend to confuse the images on the two.)

It’s an especially cool, collected vision from Carsten – sparse even by the standards of his crew, emotional but centered. And there is a sense of motion and dance, even if precisely controlled in its gestures, in traces left by its original context for choreographer Richard Seigal at Staatsballett. So this is not a pandemic-era composition, but the record of the musical moment just before. Details:

HYbr:ID Vol. 1  is the first installment of a new series of Alva Noto’s works bringing together heterogeneous composition methods. HYbr:ID Vol. 1 captures the music commissioned for the score of ‘Oval’, the choreographic piece directed by Richard Siegal and performed by the Staatsballett Berlin at the Berlin State Opera in 2019. 

The process of creating HYbr:ID Vol. 1 was defined by the search for a form to bind astrophysics phenomena, fiction, and performance movements.  Its narrative is inspired by cinematic visual techniques and static images portraying scientific events which also inspired the titles of the nine compositions. The music possesses a dilated rhythmic base contributing to the images of gravity and spatiality. At points static is used with an ornate, delicate intricacy. The album’s sonic spectrum builds with deep sub-bass, gloomy sonics, spacious sound design, and inorganic ambiance that is gently coerced with artistic finesse. The nine compositions are accompanied by graphic notations informed by the album’s sonic and acoustic codes.

HYbr:ID Vol. 1 will be released digitally as well as a limited edition vinyl + booklet and CD on November 12.

Album art designed by Carsten Nicolai & Nibo Mastering by Bo @ Calyx

Like a lot of the larger crew of the former raster-noton collaboration (raster continues on its own), much of Carsten’s background is really art and design. It’s hard not to be as enchanted by the physical creation here and its visuals as the sound. The imagery is suggestive of both that astrophysics theme and graphic scores. Those scores tuck neatly even into the CD edition, not only vinyl. I include here partly because I hope it’ll inspire some CDM reader also working with graphic scores and notions.

You also see the enduring importance of printing things on paper, and the ability of a medium to hold actual resolution. (Cough, NFTs – many of them in their current state – don’t do that, on a technical level.)

But there’s more to explore here; I hope we get to catch up on some of the other themes.

For more:

And for more discussions:

And my interview with both Carsten and Olaf – this one they talk a bit more about their visual background. (Hey, hope we all get together again when we can do so.)