Mobile_Wolfgang Seidel on Mobile and Conrad Schnitzler

Some words about the audio visual installation “MOBILE” in the ANX Gallery Oslo
from Wolfgang Seidel (Berlin)

Before Conrad Schnitzler (1937-2011) started working with computers ha had found a method of performing his music that was cheap and effective. And it also made it possible for having the music performed by others. He recorded tracks on tape cassettes that in his terminology are called the soloists. To stick with this terminology the orchestra was than made up from as many cassette players as possible reproducing the prerecorded cassette in an ever changing mix. One idea was to compose and record 1000 different solo tracks, hand them to 1000 people that would gather with 1000 boom boxes – creating a constantly changing mix through the movement of the people carrying the recorders and the movement of the listener who could create his or her own mix by moving around. The first 50 cassettes that had been recorded for that purpose became a gift to a Norwegian fan who kept them all the years, eventually digitized the material and sent it to me. What I did with that footage was to apply a method that is one anecdote from the production of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. It is told that their producer George Martin ordered his assistant to cut the tape of a Beatles’ recording into pieces of equal length, throw these pieces into the air and afterward pick the pieces up and splice them together. I did the same with the 50 hours of music on the cassettes and distributed all on six channels to recreate the impression of different people with boom boxes. Because the speakers don’t move like people with boom boxes the audience is asked to move around and experience haw the mix changes according to their position in space. This is where the name of the installation – Mobile – comes from.

Around 1980 Conrad Schnitzler started working with video. The goal was explicitly not to illustrate the music. Schnitzler insisted that his music is pure sound and in no way about pictures. This is the reason why he stopped giving titles to his compositions – from the mid 80s onward they had only been numbered. Because titles would direct the imagination of the listener into a certain direction instead just listening to the music. The videos are done with the simplest method available. Schnitzler had no means of editing the tapes. Everything had to be done in real time in front of the camera. Again the result shows that Schnitzler’s inspirations come from the 1920s avant-garde like the absolute film of people like Walter Ruttmann or the constructivism of Lazlo Moholy-Nágy. Conrad Schnitzler stopped producing videos after a relative short time concentrating on his music because – as he said – video is the medium for rich man’s kids with enough pocket money. But some of his videos survived and are now on the two displays in the installation.