Sonus ex Machina

date: since 2017 place: World In progress

photo Maciej Zakrzewski

The starting point for Sonus ex Machina project is question about common features of organ and acousmatic – or more generally – electronic music. Rooted in the ancient times (water organ, or the Ketsibios organ), the instrument has been around in churches since the middle ages, and became a constant feature both of architecture and soundscape of Christian temples. Situated usually behind the backs of congregation, organ was a mysterious source of sound, and its mechanism remained unknown to listeners. Sound experience created by organ music meets the fundamentals of acousmatic music, formulated in late 1940s by Pierre Schaeffer. French radio engineer and composer wanted to separate the sound experience from the sound source itself. Moreover, by transmitting sound through a system of loudspeakers, Schaeffer also detached it from the performer's gesture, which is one more common thread linking acousmatic music and organ music played by an unseen performer.
Another shared feature is the immersive experience, both of organ music and of spacial loudspeaker systems. In both cases the sound is not only an external phenomenon, but it becomes sonic space, where a listener finds himself in and which he experiences physically. These are not only organ pipes that constitute the instrument, but also the volume and acoustic properties of a whole building. Such conception of organ sound brings it closer to the experience of sound installations and sound art.

Going further, one can name other common characteristics between organ and electronic music, such as constant research on new sound qualities and steady development of possibilities, thanks to technological advances (let's only think about the way undergone from water organ to electronic-controlled modern instruments, which could be paralleled in a nutshell by the evolution from tape music and early computers to de-materialised modern music software).

Sonus ex Machina project approaches the initial question from different angles, presenting it through various pieces of music and compositional strategies: starting from “traditional” organ and tape pieces (Křenek); through solo organ pieces, oeuvre inspired by electronic music and new technologies (Ligeti); pieces for organ and electronic devices (Ablinger), ending up with a new piece by Rafał Zapała, who returns to the physical dimension of organ through electronic medium.

Program 1:

Scott Wilson - Music for Manic Machines (new piece, composed for the project)
Johann Sebastian Bach - piece selected by Mari Fukumoto
Laibach - selected Contrapunctus from Laibachkunstderfuge
Ernst Křenek - Orga-Nastro
Rafał Zapała - Scrolling to zero (new piece, composed for the project)

Program 2:

György Ligeti - Organ study No.1 Harmonies
György Ligeti - Artikulation
György Ligeti - Organ study No.2 Coulée
Peter Ablinger - Orgel und Weltempfänger
Ernst Křenek - Orga-Nastro
Rafał Zapała - Scrolling to zero (new piece, composed for the project)

(programs might change, depending on characteristics of local instrument)


Mari Fukumoto - organ
Rafał Zapała - electronics


28.10.2017 - Sonus ex Machina / Wiosna Jesienią Festival, Poznań (PL)
27.04.2018 - BEAST FEaST, Birmingham (UK)
30.10.2020 - Decibel Festival, Riga (LV)