Photo © A. Tietchens

Audio sources by Asmus Tietchens

CD Die Stadt

John Duncan’s composition with a title that loosely translates into something like “the desire for power” is based on the voice recordings of Asmus Tietchens reading from texts by E.M. Cioran. Originally intended as a collaboration, the tension and ownership of the sound work was something Tietchens felt was complete after a first go around when he had simply offered his voice and felt it was not sufficient enough to act as something he could artistically attribute to himself. Honorable as it is, the work has the edge of the New Blockaders on the opener “Freih zein hoern macht” that cannot be avoided in its machine gun, helicopter-style rapid percussion. It lifts, spins, and is propelled by processing offered by both gentlemen. At just under 20 minutes the piece is more than your average carburetor test, though you could find some of these sounds at your local mechanic for sure. With speculative predisposition Duncan careens his highly energized industrial machine through a warp of light/time/speed in a way that sounds as though he is vaporizing solids. I could imagine this gizmo being at the center of an installation ­ purring center stage, at the fine risk of seemingly maniacal it could be studied in the round, observed as a faction of fear. Fragments, static, lock grooves, basically the edges left behind, are revisited and toyed with in the foggy drone that is “Tauf sind mit andere nanen.” The vehicle is left rimless, and in its attempt to even rationalize a move of any kind its creator has come upon something futile and stops to breathe. A low-fi cracked hiss bares itself to the fluid mist and other meandering beings. Tietchens three minute, cut-up recitation of the Cioran text is repeated, stretched and bounced on “Das Ich macht.” The fore and background complement his smoothly spoken German voice. The voice has presence, respectful to its author and is manipulated subtly enough that you can appreciate what he is saying. The text is also imprinted in a clear overlay on the cover art, which depicts a spacey inner-lit futuristic bunker of sorts, image by Tietchens. If you need an English interpretation, one has been included in print, along with some additional liner notes from Duncan. The final half hour sounds like croaking toads when darkness falls, way off in the distance, and canvassed by a wall of front lobe focus and repetition. As it grows, the original source distorts as the volume increases a few levels, never really becoming full-scale noise, more like labor-intensive circular abrasion. The repetition is structured in a way that loses course a moment, adds deeper ridges and intensity until all the work gone into what is created seems like an auto erasure. Its own silences are hauntingly silencing, my breath slows, my lids close.

TJ Norris, Igloo

Compiling the results of what was originally intended to be a compositional collaboration between John Duncan and renowned sound artist Asmus Tietchens, Da Sich Die Machtgier… transcends its tumultuous creation to stand as a distinctive addition to the catalogue of both artists. Using the subtly processed voice of Tietchens reading texts by Romanian philosopher E.M.Cioran as source material, Duncan created sound sculptures which he had intended for Tietchens to further manipulate, only to learn that his partner felt they were finished, and should be credited to Duncan alone. Although Duncan preferred equal acknowledgement, the intricate precision and strength of his compositions on Da Sich Die Machtgier… provides an understanding of Tietchens’ decision. Duncan has worked with voices in the past, and these recordings display a well-rounded depth and maturity that has grown in volume with his recent works Infrasound-Tidal and The Keening Towers.

"Das Ich Macht…" is comprised of the original text recordings offered by Tietchens for further processing. Only slightly treated with speed variations and looping techniques, these are quite similar to other recordings Tietchens has produced of Cioran text readings on several obscure German 7” singles. Listening to these spoken word pieces, it is near impossible to follow their lineage to Duncan’s compositions. The jammed frequencies that abruptly begin “Freih Zein Hoern Macht…” eventually morph into waves of pulse patterns that feed off a rhythm boxes incessant chatter, the accumulating sonic debris finally bursting into echoes of static calm that trickles away in solitude. “Tauf Sind Mit Andere Namen” provides the closest link to its sound source, as if the human voice has been slowed down to a near standstill motion, collecting an inherent power that is simultaneously intoxicating, disorienting and soothing. Duncan furthers his pantheon of exceptional drone works with “Aber…,” attempting a grand mixture of what sounds like a grounded swarm of insects and a rabidly feeding flock of birds until the pacing and intensity break through in a piercing haze of white noise.
In constructing these compelling compositions from the most unassuming of source materials, Duncan channels the spirit of Tietchens' eternal search through the outer reaches of audible sound for a truly “new music.” With nearly 60 years of work between them, Da Sich Die Machtgier… celebrates both composers’ identities whilst merely hinting at their collective strength.

Everett Jang Perdue, Dusted

This is one of those things that seem should have happened a long time ago, but never did. A collaborative work between John Duncan and Asmus Tietchens, two masters of musique concrete, each with their own distinctive style. The start was texts read by Tietchens (of course of Em Cioran, the french philosoph of whom you will find quotes on most Tietchens covers), which he slightly processed and John did work on. In the end Tietchens thought that the work was good enough by itself, and so it's now released as just a John Duncan CD. Duncan's recent style of stretched out ambient fields of noise music, comes best alive in the final piece on the CD and to some extent also on 'Tauf Sind Mit Andere Namen', which is by far the best piece on the CD. Dense and intense, with a very creepy atmosphere. In the final piece, 'Aber', the voices become a very densely layered mass of sound, almost like swarms of insects, not just a few hundred, but thousands and thousands. It's that we know it's the processing of voice, otherwise one could think it's a flock of seagulls. Quite a minimal piece, but with small changes. Most of the time you place this CD you have no idea you are listening to a processed voice work.

Frans de Waard, Vital; December 2003