Electronic music with chiming bells as the main acoustic protagonist? Sure, that has been done before, on artist and musician Hendrik Weber’s previous releases. Yet, with his new project, which he co-conceived with The Bell Laboratory – Bendik Hovik Kjeldsberg, Kenneth Kapstad, Heming Valebjoerg, Haakon Moerch Stene, and Vegar Sandholt – Pantha du Prince (as Weber has come to be known) takes a mighty leap forward.
"Elements of Light" is a symphony for electronics, carillon, and percussion, and also his most consistent endeavour to date, to take the formal idiom of techno beyond its outermost limits. With the support of curatorial team Panta Rhei Project, the Norwegian composer Lars Petter Hagen, and six instrumentalists from diverse artistic backgrounds, Hendrik Weber has created a cross-genre sonic platform. Sounds and structural features derived from house and minimal music, jazz and new music, the gamelan tradition, and Western-style sacral sounds mingle and merge, organising themselves into a complex musical texture. The result is a majestically flowing and yet fragile arc of suspense. Phases of almost metaphysical repose alternate constantly with climactic upswings of incredible colour and density.
An interpretation of electronic music stripped to its skeletal rhythm, such as Basic Channel, Maurizio, and Wolfgang Voigt all fostered, here meets invocations of supra-individual orders and secularised epiphanies. These are inspired by an intense engagement with artistic predecessors – above all with John Cage and Iannis Xenakis, Steve Reich and LaMonte Young, Sun Ra and Moondog.
"Elements of Light" is not a computer-generated artefact, however. Its centre of gravity is the carillon, whose acoustic behaviour can never be fully foreseen. It creates immutable facts, musical determinants to which even computer-controlled processes must be oriented. The transient elements of its tones never unfold in the way electronic simulations would calculate them to. As such, this instrument must be seen as a venerable provenance of chance music.
Pantha du Prince and The Bell Laboratory transpose the spiritual experience more commonly associated with the sacral sphere, to a context more deliberately concerned with the worldly realm. "Elements of Light" strives for the dissolution of boundaries and for enlightenment that is irrevocably bound to an outright carnal community whose roots lie in the tribalism of techno culture. "When the ego is turned off," says Hendrik Weber, "the order thus engendered does not automatically lose its reason; it may also gain in wisdom. This is the intelligence of the swarm".
In collaboration with HAU Hebbel am Ufer.
Hendrik Weber, better known as Pantha du Prince, Panthel, or Glühen 4, was born in 1975 in Bad Wildungen, often referred to as the region's "Siberia".