- Stefan Römer — Electronics
Deconceptual word score:
Six shots ring out in a deadly rhythm – in my memory.
For this sound piece, a sampled gunshot from the sound library freesound.org was arranged in a sequence of six in Audacity. The individual shots differ in filtering and in their relation to each other in time.
All six shots are repeated in the beginning and end. Each shot opens up a different drone, processed with the free audio software »Paul’s Stretch« so that a sound(-time-space) emerges. After each drone, the previous shots are repeated, after which each last shot is stretched into another drone, six times, generating a deconstructed permutation.
In the live performance (at Uncertain Sounds Festival, Berlin 2018), the drones were filtered differently with analog pedals, while for this album they were re-processed with different effect arrangements in Ableton Live.
TURQUOISE VINYL LP + digital download
limited to 100 copies + 10 black TP
- Idea, performance and production: Stefan Römer, Daniel Door 2018/2020
- Vinyl mastering and cut: Schnittstelle
- Graphic design: Dirk Lebahn
- Gun shot-sample Kleeb on freesound.org
- Supported by
Berlin Artistic Research Grant Programme/gkfd, The Senate Department for Culture and Europe
Seven Points for Six Gun Shots and an Algorithm
On Stefan Römer’s Deconceptual Album “Six Gun Shots”
On May 27, 2006, the first version of a software was released that enabled the extreme stretching of audio files. On a winter morning of that same year, around six months later, two persons died of six shots on a street corner in Munich. “Six Gun Shots” now conflates these two disparate events in the form of sound, bringing time to a standstill for a moment.
The drone is one of the most absolute forms of music, since it seeks to abolish a basic category of this time-based art. A tone held unaltered for as long as possible aims at infinity, it is pure presence, has no beginning or end. By immersing in the absolute pitch, the founders of musical minimalism in the 1960s and 70s sought to home in on the primordial vibration that, according to Indian mysticism and music theory, is inherent in the entire universe. Through drones, the minimalists brought themselves in harmony with this primordial tone so as to feel the inner or soundless sound: the cosmic vibration said to correspond with the inside of the body and the self.
The composer Catherine Christer Hennix combined the idea of soundless sound with mathematical principles and pure tuning in her work. The raga master Pandit Pran Nath, under whom she studied the Indian tradition—as did numerous other protagonists of Minimal Music—encouraged her to work as a computer scientist as well. In the case of La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, who were both students of Nath, the notion of inner sound was manifested in a physical location: as both a walkable metaphor and an experiential space. Their “Dream House,” which was first presented at the gallery of Heiner Friedrich in Munich in 1969, lets one immerse in a sine wave drone that on principle has no beginning or end. Visitors of the installation can remain in it while at the same time moving around. Through the interactions of the individual frequencies, the sound can be experienced anew time and time again from within.
“Six Gun Shots” nods to this tradition as a premise—along with its diverse implications ranging from fundamental physical and technological principles to spiritual aspects—and questions it. Thus, Stefan Römer employs his method of deconstruction to pursue a critical reading of the field of tension between mysticism and mathematics, repeatedly entering into the very inside of a particular sound to disassemble it and experience it in a new way.
A gun shot. Another shot. And another shot. Two more and after a while a final shot. Six times in a row: the most fatal and final sound one can imagine.
Stefan Römer heard such a salvo while half asleep: as a succession whose cause only gradually became clear and then sank all the more deeply into his auditory memory. In 2006 he was living in a building in Munich, in front of which on a frosty morning two people were killed and a child was critically injured in a crime, as he realized when looking out the window at the murder scene. Let’s not speculate about his personal recollections here. What counts is the resonance space that was opened on this morning and is still present today: the reverberation of a crime which is overlaid with that of other events in a contemporary historical and cultural echo chamber.
The sound recording of a gun shot is the material starting point of the work. You can hardly get more minimal than that. “Six Gun Shots“ is based on a single sample, a 1.03-second-long, freely available audio file from the sound library freesound.org, repeated six times and stretched 300 times, like a mantra accompanying a thought that refuses to die. What is the interior of a sound?
In May 2006, Paul Nasca made available Version 0.0.1 of an audio tool he programmed: Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch, in short: Paulstretch. The Romanian software engineer developed the algorithm with the aim “to transform any sound into an ambient/relaxing music,” as he states on his website. Nasca offered the plug-in programmed in C++ and Python for free. It was last updated as Version 2.2-2 in June 2011.
Paulstretch enables stretching the original duration of an audio input multiple times without losing the specific sound quality. As far as the extreme deceleration of music is concerned, the program offers an unprecedented quality, thus allowing sound and time to be newly modeled. Nasca’s algorithm lets lashing snare hits sing; all points become textures.
Through the possibility of immersing in familiar sounds and hearing them in an entirely new manner, Paulstretch prompted a real trend. Numerous extremely stretched pop songs were published on the internet. What was especially appealing was the ghostly character of the results, the sublime, sacred impression made by pop music that was originally coded in a rather mundane way.
The era of bullet time commences with “The Matrix,” the first movie of Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s sci-fi trilogy from 1999. To be precise, it began the moment one watched the trajectories of several bullets in slow motion causing sinus vibrations in the air around them, while the camera revolved around the actor Keanu Reeves bending away from the line of fire as if he were made of rubber.
Since then, many movies have featured human bodies and handgun projectiles hovering in limbo and filmed from all conceivable points of view. As opposites, standstill and hyper-speed coincide, resolved in a symbiotic ballet of camera technology and computer generated imagery. In French, the effect is called “temps mort,” dead time.
Bullet time is the action-movie equivalent of La Monte Young’s and Marian Zazeela’s “Dream House,” a frozen moment that can be experienced from different perspectives. Stefan Römer transforms the same principle into conceptual music.
“Six Gun Shots” pursues a notion of minimalism and translates the logic of bullet time into the field of sound art. Stefan Römer does not depart from these references, instead taking them literally, adapting them and making their effects transparent in new contexts of meaning. Römer uses Paulstretch to freeze this most fatal of all sounds in the form of a drone. In doing so, he temporarily brings time to a standstill and simultaneously opens up a space of sound. He cites the gun shot in two ways: as deriving from a freely accessible sound library and as his own recollection of a specific winter morning.
The word score on the back of the album conceptualizes the structure and rhythm. “Six Gun Shots” is composed as a grand crescendo with an overture and a coda. The dynamics emerges from the opposition of shortening and stretching, which is invoked anew in each piece, and from the extreme resolution of the algorithm. The six-fold submergence behind the horizon of the envelope curve provides a large variety of sonic micro-events. The interior of the shot sounds unexpectedly animated. Acoustic discharge residues turn into sonic vortices. Rather than a mystically charged primeval tone, one hears particles of self-disintegrating metal.
Along with the isolated sound event of a “shot,” the underlying cause is also metaphorically deconstructed. Römer relates the sound less to spirituality or mathematics than to the reality of a concrete event. He pulverizes the use of the gun in a matrix of a granularly unraveled space of memory. The artistic intervention becomes a corrective.
The “Six Gun Shots” are more than a deconstruction. They mark the start of an open-ended process. It is precisely by its radical reduction that this music makes audible a plethora of references and questions transcending it. Do we immerse in the sound or vice versa? Who enters into whom here? Stefan Römer’s approach does not seek final truths but aims at new beginnings.
The strongest point for “Six Gun Shots” is hidden in a single element in the work’s word score. Its sound can be heard for just a few split seconds at the end of the last piece. But it remains: “(reverb).” Reverberant sound.
— Arno Raffeiner, Liner Notes