Florian Wittenburg – Kranenburg Tree


CD – Edition Wandelweiser Records

As the title suggests the starting point for this album is a tree in the town of Kranenburg in Germany. Working with MetaSynth, an audio software programme that can create sound from images, Florian Wittenburg has developed four compositions from a single photo of the aforementioned tree in Kranenburg. Between each composition, there is an interlude that serves as a ‘branch’ that connects the different pieces. Wittenburg says that composing these interludes was initially difficult but he took inspiration from John Cage’s approach of giving space to silence. The Berlin-based artist is referring to the experiments Cage did in an anechoic chamber at Harvard University in 1951, in which the American master concluded that absolute silence did not exist. Within the chamber, Cage heard two sounds, one high and one low – afterwards, an engineer explained that the high sound was his nervous system and the low one was his blood circulating throughout his system. Another great American composer, Pauline Oliveros, later observed that Cage was listening to the sounds caused by the early symptoms of the stroke he would later die from, and as such, according to Oliveros, while Cage was in the anechoic chamber he was ultimately listening to his future. While Cage and Oliveros’ interpretations of events in the anechoic chamber in 1951 are contested, the power of silence remains and it is used effectively throughout The Kranenburg Tree, smoothly interrupting the dense compositions. Three of these compositions last six minutes and eleven seconds and the remaining piece is one second longer. There is a feeling of ethereal estrangement in Wittenburg’s work. In the first composition, an expansive drone holds our attention, its intensity increasing in the second piece. In the third piece, the sounds become lighter and more fleeting and in the final movement tension grows from silence, making this the most contemplative part of The Kranenburg Tree.