Androsch’s work is of pure, and grand beauty. And if you stare at them long enough you will begin to hear and read them anew.

Egbert Tholl in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” on the exhibition “Phonographien” in the Historisches Museum Regensburg 2016

Catalogue Peter Androsch Phonographie Historic Museum Regensburg 2016 [7.6 MB]

 – what Peter Androsch calls his sound-writings – are the result of multiple layering, like sound is created by interference of sound waves. Different groups of works developed over time. They are based on different sources and are produced in various techniques. Phonographic Portraits So far there are the series “Linz Heads”, “Carinthian Heads”, “Heads from Upper Austria” and various diploplia, lenticular and puzzle images and chimeras. Historical Phonographies These works are based on traditional manuscripts. Musical Phonographies Works based on musical manuscripts.

The Topography of Utopia: First Theory

Peter Androsch on his phonographic world, 2005

“There is a New Music beyond its age, if it surrenders to its mission from modern society to New Music: to give a free voice to the unreconciled individual.”
Leo Dorner on Peter Androsch’s “Twelve Inventions for Three Violoncellos

The graphic representation of musical processes forms the central part of my artistic work. The creation of a score, composing in the form of “writing music” – with a pen on paper – , has been the everyday life of the composer for centuries.
Time and again, sheet music, especially score sheets, have also been recognized as having a visual, graphic appeal, which took on additional significance in the 20th century. Novel methods of composition brought novel methods of notation and thus new manifestations of written music. Dodecaphonic, serial, aleatoric, graphic, and other compositional methods gave music new “images,” actually made it look different. Composers such as Anestis Logothetis explicitly viewed their scores as visual works of art. The re-evaluation of written music is not only based on a culminating synaesthetic striving. Rather, it accompanies a fundamental paradigm shift in art music.
Ernst Peter Fischer refers to the reevaluation of scientific values at the same time (“Die andere Bildung”, 2003). Ambiguity, discontinuity, vagueness become scientific categories, indeed the relationship of the scientist to his object presents itself in a completely new way. Nature is no longer solely what is observed, what is investigated: ” … that in the final analysis, one can no longer imagine things acting on the atomic stage. Rather, creations of our imagination appear there, which we create and observe. … The scientist designs the nature which he is himself. He is natura naturata and natura naturans in one … ” Science penetrates into a realm that was previously reserved for art: not only describing nature, but creating new worlds.

What has this to do with music and phonography?
Here as there it is about the representation of the non-representable. In both cases it is about designing something not imaginable. Through the creation of relationships and relations, space itself is created, and with it a new world. The scientist designs for example the idea of an electron and defines relations and ratios between the particles. He does not get further with a “reduction” of his previous views ( – respectively “enlargement”, if we think of astronomy). Even the word “idea” leads us astray, because it traces back to the Greek idein, “to see”. (Which in turn is related to the Latin videre.) “Science accomplished … a radical reevaluation of its values, both in theoretical and practical terms. Its representatives discovered – mostly against their own will – that there is something for them that remains unspeakable,” Ernst Peter Fischer continues to write.
It is in the nature of things that music is unimaginable, that it is incomprehensible. Its world is indeed intangible. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any image” is program for it. In this sense, music occupies an exceptional position among the arts. It is the noblest, – of this I am convinced.
In applied music – in church music, in the baroque, in the so-called “classical music”, in the waltz, in early light music, in folk music, in today’s pop music – a world is designed which the listener knows. The relationships, the relations in it are derived from formulas and figures in conversation and speech, from sequences of movements in daily life, from social rituals, – in short, from convention. Nevertheless, even this music is not representable.
Art music escapes the pressure of the applied. Rather, it frees itself from the constraints of convention.
Because art music searches for the truly human, demands refinement and perception in order to become more human.
What makes us become more human?
Something that makes us feel, sense, understand more of ourselves. Something that increases our sensual capacity, that lets us discover what we can und can be, that lets us sense our potential.
Something that knows no purpose, something that relieves us of compulsion.
For this, new relationships and proportions are needed, modes and proportions that the composer designs. He creates a new world. A sound world, a non-place, a utopia. Here there is no view, no imagination, but perception.
The score is the collection of equations that the new world designs. Following Ernst Peter Fischer, the paradigm shift brought a new role to the composer: In the last consequence, creations of our imagination appear in the new world, which we create and contemplate. … The composer designs the nature that he himself is. He is natura naturata and natura naturans in one …
Thus art music is about the representation of the non-representable.
It is meta-physical and touches the last things, – it is eschatological.
For these reasons, there is also no craft that can be passed on. The laws of the new world are different from those of the old.
For the same reasons, this world is also not tradable.
For the composer, the sheet of music is probably the only thing he can hold on to in the truest sense of the word. In contrast to the fleeting sound, it possesses materiality and continuity. This aspect plays an important role in the development of phonography.
The same goes for handwriting. Today, original handwritten music sheets are gaining increasing attention, quite beyond the music world. They are fundamentally different from digital processes: They represent per se a deeply personal document of artistic work, represent individuality, and are evidence of a personal style.
The handwritten score is the queen of sheet music. Its beauty lies in its diversity. It is a kind of super-book, in which the grand plan can be found as well as the smallest detail. It is a mirror of sound theory, as well as a technical instruction. It is the sea of time in which the events swim. All this is found in it as a myriad of ratios, proportions, under which uncounted (golden) cuts are hidden.
The phonography condenses the score into a texture. It layers all the sheets on top of each other. Just as light comes as a wave and appears as a particle, phonography is the map of a new world, a utopia, – captivating by mysteriousness. Multifaceted regions emerge. Some of Zechyr’s density*, others empty and barren like the Africa of old maps (“Hic sunt leones!”), others of transparent fragility.
Phonography is thus a description of the world and a guide to action in one. In it dwells the blueprint of a new world and at the same time the instruction to get there.
Its visual intensity reflects non-visual criteria of order, it is meta-graphic, because the criteria of order of emergence lie in the extra-graphic, – precisely in a new world, in the last things.

This is the basis of the aesthetic attraction: the beautiful does not lie in what we know, rather in what we do not know.

Phonography is the description of a non-place, the topography of utopia.


*Othmar Zechyr (* May 28, 1938 in Linz; † September 13, 1996 in Linz) was an Austrian painter and draftsman.

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