by Dan Senn
Works click photo above to enlarge
For Stereo or Quad Speakers with Live ReMix Option.
Total track duration ci. 52 min

Wooden Door, 3'33"

Toaster, 5'00"

Shower Door, 4'19"

*Beko Stackables, 5'40"

Flat Works (2024) is comprised of seven impulse improvisations recorded at Gasworks Studio in Prague during the last week of May, 2024. These began as test recordings for a new H4n recorder and three stereo mics—my aging H4, having seen better days. As a sound source was needed, and the wooden door to my studio was handy, I attached my BP4025 stereo mic to the new recorder and pressed record. Once the levels were set, I began playing. Three minutes and thirty-three seconds later, I shut off the device, removed and inserted the SD chip into my computer for a look at the file in Ableton Live. An hour later I was recording another found object (see Banner image above) this time in the deadened space that doubles as the front hall, improvising/recording on the front door phone. This process continued throughout the week, finding other objects to perform, recording, and edit, taking each to my fancy isolation booth for another session. The initial bit about testing out new gear was fulfilled but overtaken by an unplanned project of improvisations based on incidental flat objects like the toaster, a drying rack with a metal lid on top, a shower door, an empty refrigerator bin, an empty plastic storage box with measuring implements inside and, of course, the initial sliding wooden door. The title "Flat Works" is thus descriptive.

This spontaneity and acceptance of such a project is common to my past. I have learned not to take such impulsiveness lightly as projects initiated “frivolously” will often require language retrofitted (deception unintended) to complete the creative cycle. When returning to my Prague studio from FMErá in Wisconsin, I have only a vague idea of the work to come. In March of 2023, I impulsively shot Danger Alley followed by Banana Telegraph and a host of similar films/sound works over 2023 with each piece illuninating what I was doing in the first place. Apparently it’s stuff cooking in the back of my mind? Whatever, my insecurities for this
off-the-cuff method has been tempered by experience as quick decision-making can be remarkably insightful and likely to have a lasting impact. Language, btw, takes time catching up with action where it serves as a platform for future actions.

Realizing this collection of improvisations, I learned things about myself. To begin, I am not able to not make art, a trait that annoyed my mother already in the 1950s. "Just eat your ice cream Dan!". While often quoted, this admonition, I’d not given it much thought until now as I (re)learned that, with atypical, nonlinear "instruments," like a kitchen toaster, excess rehearsal is a mistake as familiarity often breeds kitsch.

Drying Rack & Lid, 5'43"

Stackable Box, 5'45"

Stackable Toaster, 4'59"

Wooden Door & Phone, 3'33"

The counter approach, after a some preliminary shakes of the toaster to remove the dried bread bits, is to start slowly, tentatively and see what appears and where things might go. With the cognitive residue of just "testing gear" milling about, this was an easy decisionI was less likely to climb aboard a rocking virtuosity horse. And so this was the strategy used for each randomly selected flat object. OK. I'd knock other objects a few times to set levels but was soon off on a childlike exploration that would've driven Elayne, my good Mom, nuts. Yet this playful, relaxed, not-so-serious approach was key as the improvs tended to appear with uniform densities and shape as a tiptoed, stomped, rested and danced wildly over the terrain of a decidedly resistant, awkward, resonant object meant to toast bread, or dry clothing, store beans, chill raw carrots… objects selected like potatoes from the Bila bio bin.

I was accustomed since childhood, to freely play on the heaps of junk (poor has it's advantages), in a slippery-slivery hay loft, or toss limestone slabs down the steep, snake filled hills into streams on my uncles’ milk farms in southeastern Minnesota in the 1950s. These patterns of discovery, again, inculcated the gestural energy of these Czech improvisations while unifying and enabling a sonic sensibility that enable mixing one track with another using the graphic, performative levers above.

The more opaque an object is in performance, the more it works like a score, albeit nonlinear, as it directs the performer to a limited set of possibilities and away from ego-centric virtuosity. A manual toaster is a manual toaster is a manual toaster. It is not a vehicle for easily expressing political opinion or emotions and therefore releases the player from serious contemplations, this enabling serious contemplation. It’s just a toaster with a topography that includes, a bonus for sure, an electric cord that doubles as a hand mallet! In this respect, as any fanciful child will tell you, it is fun to explore and play and thus utterly irresponsible in a most responsible no-rococo way if life is important to you. DS060424

 *This may appear problematic, the same thing over and over. Except the opposite was true. Had I worked for hours developing a schtick for each "instrument", I might've gotten too slick and contrived, performance practice and insecurity having its way. Here, I just played, the recording being a trace of my explorations. I could always count on the awkward nonlinearities of the objects to restrict elegant gestures. Thus, the upside of not rehearsing, is that the improvisations tend to work well together, when played simultaneously, sequentially, mixing or merging one after another.

Beko Bin, 5'41"

Door Phone, 3'20"

Sliding Rack Pan, 3'49"

Stack Rackable, 5'43"

Public and Private Performance Options
The first seven tracks above (black titles) are the original improvisations, here at the highest mp3 stereo resolution. These may be played directly from this site or downloaded to clip playing software like Ableton Live (the cheapest stereo download is free).
For private listening, use headphones or a capable sound sytem. For public listening (concerts), the best system is the best, subwoofer and all. For two track playback, the performer(s) may be positioned in the audience area or on stage. For quad playback, two devices can be used by the one or two performers, one device connected to the front speakers, the other to the rear speakers. Be sure attribution is given to the composer.

Possible erformance Stragegies
The last five tracks above (black titling) are simple mixes of the first seven. With this in mind...
1) Play each of the first seven tracks separated by something like a 30" delay. if you have volume controls available on your browser, or you are playing from clip launching software, adjust loudness as you see fit. No volume controls also work.
2) Play a selection of the tracks in any order to meet time limitiations.
3) Strictly play all the tracks with short pauses between files while suggesting cat-calls and whistling from the largish audience in attendance. Smaller audiences should remain respectfully mum in honor of mine.

Note: For flac copies
of these tracks, for use with clip launching software, send an obsequious request to echofluxx (at) gmail dot com.

Dan Senn (Prague-Watertown) is an intermedia artist working in music composition and production, kinetic sound sculpture, experimental and documentary film. He has been a professor of music and art in the United States and Australia and travels internationally as a lecturer, performer, producer and  installation artist. He lives in Prague where he directs the Echofluxx festivals, and Watertown, Wisconsin, the USA, with his partner-collaborator, Caroline. Dan's work moves freely between expressive extremes and languages depending on the aesthetic joust at hand. He is cofounder of Roulette Intermedium of New York City (Brooklyn), Cascadia Composers of Portland Oregon, and the Echofluxx media festivals in Prague. (read more)

* Beko is a brand of refrigerator in CZ.