zhu shui at the MATA-Festival, USA 2003




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zhu shui

Intermedia installation, 2000


Up to four tea kettles are positioned on electric hotplates on the floor and programmed timers bring them to a boil or allow them to cool.
The resulting musical interactions among the kettles present a broad spectrum – from the pianissimo of the steam to the fortissimo of the kettles’ whistling,
from the crackling of the cooling metal kettle to the sizzling evaporation of condensed water droplets. The installation space is darkened and spotlights
illuminate the objects. The reduced interplay between sound and light underscores the aesthetic quality of the tea kettles. PS: zhu shui = mandarin for 'boiling water'.

zhu shui (2000)
Tea kettles, hot plates, timers

CD publication: lowercase-sound 2002 (Bremsstrahlung Recordings, USA 2002)
Published as part of Gal's Book & audio CD 'Installations', Kehrer Verlag, Germany, 2005.


Kunsthalle Budapest, October- November 2014 (as part of the intermedia installation Alsógál)
Galeria de Arte do DMAE, Porto Alegre, September - October 2009 (as part of the intermedia installation mil águas)
After Art Bar / Gallery, Sofia, February 2009
Long Night of Museums, Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne, November 2003
Kunstverein Alte Schmiede, Vienna, November 2003
MATA Festival 2003. GAle GAtes et al, New York City, May 2003
x-tract-Festival, Podewil, Berlin, April 2003
Jazzatelier Ulrichsberg (Upper Austria), December 2000 - January 2001 (premiere)

































(..) The second night began with a lecture from Vienna's Bernhard Gal on the history of sound installations, illustrated by snippets of Satie, Harry Bertoia and La Monte Young. Gal also set up an installation in a secluded room, called Zhu Shui, or Making Tea. Four different tea kettles on hot plates with timers set to turn them on and off created a wide range of whistles and overtones, which seemed to resonate through many of the festival's live performances. (..)

Jon Abbey (The Wire, UK 01/2001)

(...) most are strikingly original, notably Bernhard Gal's "Zhu Shui" (an installation featuring four whistling kettles brought to and taken off the boil), Russell's own "bp 70/32" (whose sound sources include a discarded cell phone running out of batteries (...)

Dan Warburton (Paris Transatlantic, France 01/2003)

(..) highlights include works from Gal (with an excerpt from recordings of an installation of amplified teakettles and hotplates set on timers, in which the boiling water and the cooling metal becomes the action in question) (..)

(Aquarius, USA 12/2002)

(..) Break out of the trance and climb the stairs to the back, where four boiling teakettles, situated spatially on timed hot plates, gurgle, spit and screech in an animated dialogue. Like Sound Field, Vienna-based sound artist Bernhard Gál's zhu shui (Mandarin for "boiling water") is meant to be walked through. As orientation changes, so does the hypnotic landscape. (..)

Amanda MacBlane (New York Press, USA - May 28th, 03)

Lowercase Sound-2002 Compilation - reviews

"A well-researched and beautifully produced and highly recommended collection of accomplished music."

"The finest compilation of its kind."
Stylus Magazine

"A compilation that is as good as any compilation I've ever heard...Experimental electronic music rarely gets more interesting or more enjoyable than this."
Haunted Ink

"This set may scare some, and may induce others to sleep – but by far it is one of the highest quality collections of the year, taking needed risks with a developing genre."
Igloo Magazine

"The thing that gives you a real headache are the linernotes and track list. Hardly readable through the nice arty farty design. Why should these things always be so difficult?"
Vital Weekly

Pick of the year 2002

Perfect Sound Forever, USA

Whisper the Songs of Silence

Music generated on a computer is usually associated with the thumping beats of techno. But a quieter aesthetic is emerging. It's so subtle you can hardly hear it. "Lowercase sound" is the name given to a loose movement in electronic music that emphasizes very quiet sounds and the long, empty silences between them. Created largely by scientists, techies and experimental musicians, lowercase recordings are frequently based on the magnification of minute sounds through a computer, typically a Macintosh.

Listen up: Toshimaru Nakamura's "nimb #20" (sounds from a mixing board feeding back on itself with no inputs).

Recent compositions include a bubbling symphony of boiling tea kettles, the gentle hiss of blank tapes being played through a stereo and the soft bumps of helium balloons hitting the ceiling.

Listen up: Bernhard Gál's (aka gal) "Zhu Shui." (Zhu Shui is Mandarin for 'boiling water.' All sounds originate from boiling up and cooling down tea kettles.)

One recent album was so quiet, listeners wondered whether it actually contained any sound at all. "Lowercase resembles what Rilke called 'inconsiderable things' -- the things that one would not ordinarily pay attention to, the details, the subtleties," said Steve Roden, the Los Angeles artist who coined the term. Roden is responsible for an album of paper being handled in various ways. Called "Forms of Paper," the recording was originally commissioned by -– no kidding -– a public library in Hollywood and it has turned into one of the most prominent recordings of the genre. Lowercase recordings are often based on scientific subjects: an amplified anthill, a mobile phone running out of power and the soft pops of bacteria being flash-frozen in dry ice and methanol. Using contact mikes, composers record teeny-weeny noises and amplify them with software such as DigiDesign's Pro Tools. The sounds are then chopped up, looped, stretched, repeated or delayed to create minimalist, near-silent musical compositions. The results demand deep, concentrated listening, but can be surprisingly affecting.

Listen up: Bob Sturm's "Outer buoy wave conditions at Torrey Pines California State Beach during November, 2001."

The music is reminiscent of works by John Cage, the minimalist modern classical composer. But unlike Cage's silent composition, "4'33," which caused a scandal during its 1952 première, most lowercase compositions do include sounds. "It allows you to hear sounds you would not normally pay attention to," explained Josh Russell, a scientist and lowercase musician. "It changes your perception. A lot of sounds now sound musical to me that did not years ago. You become aware that the sounds themselves are beautiful."

Listen up: Otaku Yakuza's "In the Space of a Second" (1000 samples a millisecond long each were put together to make a complete "song" of 1 second in length with silence added before and after).

Russell, a 31-year-old biochemist from San Diego, runs a leading lowercase record label, Bremsstrahlung Recordings, and has just released a second compilation of lowercase compositions called Lowercase Sound 2002. Russell put the first compilation together for members of a lowercase mailing list. He was pleasantly surprised when the 500 copies he made sold out in just two weeks.

Listen up: Stephan Mathieu's "Flake" (the air from within a drum).

The second CD will run to 1,000 copies. It features 28 different artists, almost all from different countries. Between them, the compilations include works by such lowercase luminaries as Roden, Bernhard Günter and Taylor Deupree.

The movement grew up on the Internet and, in fact, wouldn't be possible without it. "It is so esoteric, it would be very difficult for any city to get a critical mass of people interested in it," Russell said. "But out on the Web, it's easy to. I was going towards this aesthetic for years but I thought I was going crazy. None of my friends enjoyed it. But then I turned to the Web and I found a lot more people turned on by this. I think that's been the case for a lot of people." Lowercase sound hasn't made the racks of Tower or Virgin yet, but there are hundreds of websites devoted to the movement or individual artists, and lots of small, Web-based independent record labels. It is hard to estimate the size of the audience, but Russell said there may be 10,000 lowercase fans around the world. A recent show at a coffee shop in Santa Monica, California, attracted about 100 people to see three performers, all using Apple PowerBooks. Macs are central to the creation of lowercase sound. Many lowercase artists use field recordings and contact mikes for source material, and they amplify and edit the soft sounds on Macs. "I would say that along with all the other kinds of electronic music being done these days in home studios and with computers, this work has blossomed tremendously with the relative availability of Pro Tools (especially the free download from DigiDesign), the lower prices of Mac hardware over the last few years and the ability for anyone with any knowledge of computers to simply sit down and make this stuff," Roden said. "The Mac is the favored platform," said Russell. "Most people who work with computer music use a Macintosh. This grew out of putting powerful computers into the hands of ordinary people: People can create complex scores at home in their front room and put out professional sounding CDs." (..) Break out http://hotwired.goo.ne.jp/news/news/culture/story/20020531206.html

Leander Kahney (Wired News, USA - May 29th, 2002)

Japanese version: http://hotwired.goo.ne.jp/news/news/culture/story/20020531206.html

Spanish version: http://axxon.com.ar/not/115/c-115InfoMelodiadelSilencio.htm


Lowercase-Sound 2002 (CD by Bremsstrahlung Recordings)

A deluxe package these boys have boxed for us. Not only do you get a 2xCD set but you get a duplicate set (just like their 1st edition of this series) to give away to the bud of your choice. This would ordinarily be a good thing - but here it is freekin amazing. Why do I say this? Because you would be exposing the unexposed to the sounds of the moment with artists like Dan Abrams, Carl Stone, Francisco Lopez, Tetsu Inoue, Taylor Deupree, Reynols, Kim Cascone and John Hudak included here among others. The finished package comes in a nicely designed box with delicate transparent sheets, each supplying information and quips about the tracks.

Like 12Ks intimate Line Series disc one (subtitled 789 breaths) is a real headphone listen. The quiet atmospheres from Gal and Josh Russell simply merge into one another fluidly. It's not until Dale Lloyd's Fleeting Recollections of the Snow Plain that a certain static is generated that, in barely audible tonalities, nudges the dome of silence. Seattle's Matt Shoemaker contributes the super subtle Charm, with the resonance of the halo of a sulfuric asteroid. In its low whistling drone its cinema is defined through its mid-track emergence and fizz, weighted and searching. On m Electric Company (Brad Laner) takes all that Los Angeles attitude for granted in its subversion of the beat. This completely ambient track has a vaguely organic and endless horizon line. Closing disc one is Hudak's Radio Past in which the source is an unknown wax cylinder recording, maybe filtered, deliberately translucent - like a marching band in a can!

As disc two (194,415,960 samples) emerges from the silence of Francisco Lopez and Otaku Yakuza we are instantaneously rapt by Akira Rabelais' Disjectimembrapoetaeeatelich a vernacular is built from static electricity. Its mini rumblings are harmonized and multiplied, dissected and set free. Saarbrücken-based Stephan Mathieu serves the infectious and repetitive duplicative Flake made up of millions of teeny tiny particles of sound. Diapason Gallery director and New York-based composer Michael Schumacher's Still is anything but what the title infers. This quirky track sends numerous ecstatic sound bubbles into the environment to implode, retract, multiply and move rapidly about. The symphonic chamber of Japan-based Carl Stone rings on the laptop created Tefu. The completely digital track has an organic core and a shifting modality of happenstance. Taylor Deupree's Inharmil breathes by way of timed apparatus. In its construction there is the low fidelity rumble of what cautiously sounds like a distant factory with a flat bed engine and conveyor belt on auto-run. There are subtle sharp flashes of fizzling sparks, and the rest is atmosphere. Kim Cascone, the man who coined the term 'microsound' searches and finds the convex and concave on Edge Boundry #1. What sounds like an electronic jungle way past midnight seems to undress itself with an awkward precision, a known conclusion. Sensuous glitch for the masses. The fullest track here is Groundwater by Sweden's Jonas Lingren based on the dramatic floods and breaking dams in Sundsvall 2001. Here he has truly captured a live entity and embellished its roaring nature.

This set may scare some, and may induce others to sleep - but by far it is one of the highest quality collections of the year, taking needed risks with a developing genre. (TJN)

TJ Norris (The Instrumental Weekly, USA - 12/2002)








































zhu shui, MATA Festival, 2003, photo: B. Gal.........................................zhu shui, MATA Festival, 2003, photo: B. Gal

zhu shui, MATA Festival, 2003, photo: B. Gal.......................................................zhu shui, MATA Festival, 2003, photo: B. Gal

[zhu shui, MATA Festival, Gallery GAle GAtes, New York, 2003]

zhu shui, Phonomanie Festival, Ulrichsberg (AUT), 2000, photo: B. Gal..........................zhu shui, Phonomanie Festival, Ulrichsberg (AUT), 2000, photo: B. Gal

[zhu shui, Phonomanie Festival, Ulrichsberg (Austria), 2000]

[zhu shui (performance), After Art Bar/Gallery, Sofia, February 2009]