Get Weird: Tarek Atoui: Un-drum 2/The Chinese Connection and Un-drum 3/Semantic Scanning Electron Microscope
May 6 2010
Tarek Atoui’s Un-drum performances are a series of complex interactions between music composition, movement, performance, and computer and electronic engineering. In July 2009, Atoui performed the remarkable Un-drum 1/Strategies for Surviving Noise at the New Museum and returns this May with the next two projects from the series.
Un-drum 2/The Chinese Connection considers how traditional and modern art forms were radically affected and altered by the ideology of the Cultural Revolution. In the work, samples from the trials of masters of art and music are juxtaposed with a sea of dense, agitated electronic sounds and rough, distorted textures.
For Un-drum 3/Semantic Scanning Electron Microscope, Atoui has developed an audio library of tens of thousands of microsamples to explore semantics through a system analogous to a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Like a SEM, which magnifies things on a ﬁne scale, the tools of Un-drum 3 allow live exploration of long audio tracks at a very small scale. Through a system of pressure sensors that engage the physical strength of the artist’s body, Atoui scans tracks at a high speed to instantly select and edit microsamples based on the Fast Fourier Transform analysis technique. FFT is a complex sound analysis protocol that determines the spectrum of a sound, its constituting frequencies, and their density according to the law of Fourier. Systems of infrared modules respond to Atoui’s movements to select microsamples according to mathematical serial algorithms that create elaborate rhythmical structures of hundreds of microsamples played simultaneously.
Tarek Atoui was born in Lebanon in 1980 and moved to Paris in 1998 where he studied contemporary and electronic music at the French National Conservatory of Reims. He was co-artistic director of the STEIM Studios in Amsterdam in 2008, and released his first solo album in the Mort Aux Vaches series for the label Staalplaat (Amsterdam/Berlin). Atoui is an electro-acoustic musician who initiates and curates multidisciplinary interventions, events, concerts, and workshops. For each new project, he builds new software to create computer tools for interdisciplinary art works and youth education. He has performed at many contemporary art events and festivals in the Middle East and Europe including Today’s Art Festival (the Hague), Club Transmediale (Berlin), Arborescence (Aix-en-Provence/ Marseille), and Scopitone (Nantes), and is currently artist in residence at the Sharjah Art Foundation. Much of Atoui’s work references social and political realities and presents electronic music and new technologies as powerful tools of expression and identity. He has presented his pioneering youth workshop, Empty Cans, in France, Holland, Lebanon, Egypt, and last summer, at the New Museum, as part of his Museum as Hub residency.
The Un-drum series is produced by the Sharjah Art Foundation; Un-drum 3 is co-produced by Darat al Funun, Amman.