Textuur 3 [Register] cover

Jos SmoldersTextuur 3 [Register]

Crónica 214

Release: 12 March 2024

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  1. Collection
  2. Permutation A
  3. Permutation B
  4. Permutation C
  5. Permutation D
  6. Permutation E
  7. Permutation F
  8. Permutation G
  9. Permutation H
  10. Permutation I

The Textuur project

This album is part 3 in a series where I investigate processes to strip sounds from their original context and slice them into tiny bits. By doing this, sounds are separated from their source and as such severed from what they originally represented. What’s interesting and challenging for me in the project is to find the crossover area where representation disappears, and the sound becomes an abstraction. Where this is varies depending on the original sound. Already in the 1950s, Pierre Schaeffer investigated this and introduced the term objet sonore as an object that has a sonic quality of its own. In addition, Schaeffer also defined the objet musicale, which is the state after the sound object is manipulated and transformed into a musical entity. One could say that the objet sonore is the raw material and the objet musicale the intermediate or the final product.

I started reading Schaeffer’s texts in 1981, after hearing Symphonie pour un homme seul and realizing that the wild sound experiments that I had been doing in my small flat had a history that went back to the late 1940s. Searching for more information, all I found was a single French text which I got from the library. I xeroxed all the pages and started reading, slowly, slowly, because I had not been paying much attention during French classes in high school. I have always found the idea of sound removed from its physical source to be problematic. Whenever I listened to musique concrète, I still recognized the sound source with all its physical and psychological connotations. So, what kind of game was being played here? I didn’t quite ‘get it’, apparently. But I loved listening to the recordings and through the years crafted my own musical style.

In Textuur my objet sonore is not a three-dimensional object. It is a representation of something else, like a word, or a (endless) rhythm or a (endless) sine wave. The objet musicale is a (two-dimensional) surface. A surface with a texture. In my view the surface is completely immaterial but does present surface related characteristics, like smooth, rough, abrasive, uneven, adhesive, punctured, wet, et cetera.

The idea of music as a representation of a surface arose from reading Carl Andre’s Yucatan poem series which he wrote in 1971-72. In true style of concrete poetry, Andre presents us with blocks of words in black and red carefully distributed over the paper surface. What struck me most about the poems is that the letters and the words seem to sink back into the visual form. Depending on their focus the reader either watches an abstract shape or reads words and letters. I found this very interesting because the (sound of the) human voice, words, meaning and representation often play a significant role in my work. Here a visual artist and one-time poet seemed to work with the same idea from a different perspective. Writing to Andre, I almost got in a heated argument with him because he strongly disagrees with being named a representative of concrete poetry (as I assumed) and when I made a remark to that effect, he metaphorically slammed the door in my face. Well, anyway.

After deciding on the imagery of surface as objet sonore I have long thought about how to translate my interpretation of Yucatan to a musical dimension. In fact, the whole of 2021 and a decent part of 2022 was spent on thinking, experimenting, collecting, and discarding. Then, late 2022, I visited an exhibition of the works of Josef and Anni Albers in Den Haag. Although I primarily went to see Josef Albers’s paintings, the works of his wife Anni sparked the idea that I could use “weaving” as a way of producing the sounds I wanted. At least it was a metaphor that showed me a path out of my conundrum. A fabric shows a pattern on a surface but zooming in one can still see the original threads. Threads can be anything, of any width, any length. Weaving can be as loose and as dense as you need.


Source material for Textuur 3 is the recording of an automated customer distribution system that I encountered in a New York Whole Foods store. The voice was not unpleasant, had a certain musicality and rhythm to it. Customers were standing in line, staring at their phone, or actually being on the phone. The voice came from an overhead speaker system and was accompanied by a colourful screen underlining the next register. In a sense it caused me to think of how customers had become cattle, albeit not in a slaughterhouse but as actors in a consumerist trap. After the actual recording the album continues with nine permutations. These permutations each follow their own rule of threading and present a new (non)woven surface.

Produced and mastered by Jos Smolders, 2019-2024. Design 2019-2022, recording 2022-2023, final production and mastering January 2024. Instruments used were field recordings, speech synthesis, granular synthesizers, GRM Tools, modular oscillators. Cover art concept by Rutger Zuydervelt.

I would like to thank Anni Albers and Carl Andre for inspiration, Roel Meelkop and Ilse van Dongen for feedback and support, Miguel Carvalhais and team Crónica for offering this excellent platform for publication.

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