010 : acoustic laptops - general presentation
2012 > The various documentation of the acoustic laptops has been collected HERE
AS A PRACTICAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENT >
"You are looking for what is UNDER the music, and so you have everything to do" - audience comment, Évreux
At the end of the nineties I did a lot of concerts and recordings using more and more tiny and fragile objects in my search for microsounds. Eggshells, rice, needles, silver cutlery, my passport, hair. The acoustic laptops appeared as a practical solution on how to easily recreate my previous chaotic tabletop set-ups for later practice and recording, but quickly evolved into their own beings.
A sculpturist might be trained to see the sculpture within the uncarved stone. I was not trained to see the acoustic laptop I had in my hands before a close friend defined it for me. Suddenly I had a full frontal nudity motherboard in front of me. No password needed, no plug-ins or updates needed. No screen between. The operating system is the fingertips.
I have been giving concerts and small presentations with this boxes since their invention in 2001. I have shown them everywhere; to people in homes, pubs and tiny galleries and the whole spectrum through to some of Europe's most established stages and museums.
I still use them regularly, in solo concerts (even after all these years still not using any additional effects), sometimes working with video artists who project my playing on screens, and in collaborations and longer-standing constellations like Origami Arktika and Origami Tacet.
AS RECONNECTION WITH REALITY>
"Wow! Lap-tops that can actually make themselves!!! Incredible! Will they be touring on their own, unaccompanied?? ... Is there a website where people who love laptops more than people can advertise for laptops as lovers, marraige partners, sex-slaves etc. yet? (if not, I may have a little business proposition for you...)" - Simon A209
The acoustic laptops are definitely folk instruments commenting on the current digital reality. The initial acoustic laptop box is neutral. It represents an open framework, and it is ready to absorb all sounds from in and around it.
If a contact-microphone is attached the whole box becomes a microphone, and amplification of these "microsounds" will set focus on worlds that have always been present. (and on a more subtle level also with the environmental sounds leaking in).
Whereas much of the digital music and art is about escaping into the future, the acoustic laptop will take you and eventual listeners directly into now and here. Connecting to the marrow of sound and otherness of being. A rediscovery of hands-on creativity and direct response to physical activity. All this in a lively, virile and almost sensual way. No need to discredit the status of an object just because you can have fun with it.
The acoustic laptop is automatically grounded. It does not create those electrical fields we keep our fingers in on the digital laptop. It is handmade and thus not massproduced. It can in fact be created almost anywhere in the world. An empty box and tiny cast-off objects are available to a great majority of people under almost any condition.
AS SOCIAL COMMUNICATION TOOL >
"'you can not squeeze magic from a laptop' 20 August at 23:13. 'ohyesyoucan, tools are tools, talent is talent, potential is potential'" 22 August at 14:35.
They work as a social communication tool. They have a tendency of triggering ideas, associations and jokes, both among artists who are "into" these issues, and even more interestingly among people who normally have no interest in the experimental art/music world. All in all, for many a nice return to childlike wondering.
The acoustic laptop is not dependent on the player/maker to join the headset-junta, it works well without wearing earmuffs in public. Should you decide to pluck your box in a public space, you will immedeatly make contact (or at least attract attention) from bypassers you wouldn't know in the isolated iPOD-culture. It works wonders as a mediator around which small-talk can evolve.
AS RITUALISED OBJECT >
"On the top is a brass plaque that I remember being blank and thinking that it should have my mother's name, Jacqueline, inscribed on it. One day I thought that I would do a fabulous thing for her - I would inscribe a beautiful letter J on the brass plaque. I could only find a needle and my childish hand didn't manage to scratch the letter very elegantly but I thought that she'd appreciate my efforts nevertheless. I think it was my father that first discovered the box that I had so lovingly engraved and was of course furious at the ugly scratch that I had tried to improve the box with. My mother was not pleased too and never really used the box again after a few years. It has been with me ever since, with me not really knowing what to do to heal this memory. Perhaps this laptop is a solution." - Daniel, workshop participant
Mankind has an instinctive need to control his environment. That has lead to the the explosion of digital fotos being taken, edited, shared and stored (memorized). It has also lead to the explosion in home-recording, editing, sharing and storing. This has also lead to the acceptance of the acoustic laptops as some kind of meditative object, and by observing this simple idea spread like wildfire, there must be something very authentic about them.
We try to personalise our digital laptops by changing the desktop or the screensaver, through the use of open source software, even through the way some people put stickers on them.
In varying degrees - depending on the tastes of the single acoustic laptop maker, the acoustic laptop can also become a ritualised object. Several people have added items of sentimental value (I have used the teeth of my children, a stone from Auschwitz, my own hair), or have put a lot of effort into the visual identity of their acoustic laptop. Some have even used boxes of significance.
Since the box is amplifying sounds that usually go unheard (but still exist at all times), perhaps it can also work as a collector of personal thoughts, emotions, secrets, stories and sentiments.