Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Thomas Ankersmit @ Transmediale 08 (Berlin)

Thomas Ankersmit (1979) is based in Berlin and Amsterdam, plays saxophone, makes electronic music and creates installation pieces with sound, infrasound and modifications to the acoustic characters of spaces.
Influenced more by experimental and electroacoustic practices than (free) jazz, Ankersmit focuses on exploring the timbral extremes of the saxophone. His electronic music is constructed out of swarms of electro-mechanical micro-events with an acute sense for detail and intensity, combining the delicate instability of analogue synthesizers with the precision of computer editing and multitracking.

He performed using an EMS synthesizer (a beautiful Synthi A to be precise), a laptop running Max/MSP and an alto saxophone. Such instrumentation could suggest a duality between the acoustic and the electronic or the analog and the digital leading to two different approaches. On the contrary, his 27-minute improvisation did not rely on such oppositions and instead integrated various sound-making means into a single and unified practice. The said improvisation began quietly with buzzes, glitches, hiss and static produced by the EMS synthesizer in conjunction with the laptop. For the first 15 minutes, constant small changes of volume, frequencies and types of sounds generated a consistent sonorous space in constant activity and mutation. It then stabilized and progressively morphed into a Phill Niblock-like drone with multiple pitches. Such an association should not come as a surprise, considering both have been working together extensively in the past years. This drone was suddenly replaced by uninterrupted pitches played on alto saxophone. While circular breathing, Ankersmit would modify the tones, complement them by humming along an octave lower or modulate the sound by moving the saxophone’s bell next to the panel of a table or agitating his hand next to the bell. It created a fabulous drone with a very abrasive texture that fully exploited the acoustic properties of the phenomena involved in the room.


  1. He's not using an EMS Synthi A there. He's replaced it recently with a custom 4 panel STS Serge Modular synthesizer because he said he wanted more flexibility.

  2. Cebec, thanks for your errata corrige. The last time I saw him performing with the Synthi A, it was in Rome @ Live!iXem 2006.