For #OtherBeats, Marcel Zaes prompted artists across the world to send him homemade beats, “alternative” metronomes and skewed pulses, recorded from their shelter-in-place locations with lo-fi gear. This archive of rhythm collected via social networks is enlivened by Zaes who performs it as an experimental mixed media piece that is involved with different notions of timekeeping inherent in the processes of making, collecting, selecting, juxtaposing and distributing of rhythm. For this performance, Zaes builds on a practice that has led him to an idiosyncratic way of live performance in which different sound sources – live instrumentalists, synthetic oscillators, field recordings – are switched on and off rapidly with digital algorithms. For #OtherBeats, he developed algorithms that render the rhythm aesthetically “other” by means of both webbased and offline processing. Artificial ruptures, cuts, lags and breaks are added to the rhythms that might have been odd in the first place. As a result, the listener can never be sure to what extent the temporal deviations are intended, or to what extent they reflect a defiant networked system. The composite collage, manifest in a hypermediated web performance, is a dense array of rhythm that oscillates between – echoing current discourses – the ambiguous notions of the “organic,” “techno,” “broken,” “digital,” “grid,” and “otherness.” Yet, Zaes’ primary objective is to reflect on socio-cultural aspects of timekeeping in pulse-based musical (sub)cultures and how they might play out – by designing alternative timekeeping – in digital, networked electronic music practices. #OtherBeats might be neither techno nor organic, but in fact, both.
Marcel Zaes is a performer-composer, artist, and artistic researcher. He holds an M.A. in Music & Media Arts from Bern University of the Arts, an M.A. in Music Composition from Zurich University of the Arts and has additionally completed composition studies with Alvin Curran in Rome and with Peter Ablinger in Berlin. Currently, he is pursuing his Ph.D. in Music & Multimedia Composition at Brown University. Marcel explores rhythm in an interdisciplinary framework that encompasses its socio-cultural backgrounds, its politics and perception, and the use of mechanical rhythm machines in music making – such as metronomes, drum machines and step sequencers. Marcel creates textures and beats that emerge as installation pieces, sound performances, concert music for ensembles or as electronic solo performances. To date, he has published ten albums with Tonus Music Records, Dumpf Edition and Prefermusic, and his 2020 Yarn/Wire album is forthcoming with Editions Verde in New York.