'RetroFuture' - concert info

Michel Waisvisz, Amsterdam, May 2005



Title: ‘RetroFuture’

Future title: ‘FuturePassé’

Concept and performance: Michel Waisvisz

Mixed live by Joel Ryan

Performed on the Crackle synthesizer, the Steiner EVI, the AX1 portable keyboard, The Hands and LiSa and various little devices based on hacked speech-synthesis chips.

Many of the sounds are reconstructions of old samples and some old samples are used in a slightly altered state.

RetroFuture is a work in progress with the Bourges IMEB festival as the first public performance.

RetroFuture is made possible by support from STEIM, IMEB, an anonymous well doer and gently edited by Kristina Andersen.

It’s dedicated to the late Hugh Davies for his inventiveness, brightness, his modesty and refined sense of humour.



In the 1950 the sound track for the future was electronic music: electronic beeps, long simple tone glissandi’s with lots of vibrato and lots of reverb.

Eerie and with strong resemblance to the sound parents make to scare their children, making sounds like ghosts.

Many in the electro-acoustic world refer to this period as when electronic music became part of popular culture for the first time. But was electronic music in itself popular? It was as popular as a scarecrow can be. It was part of a creative process: depicting a modern future with lots of development and growth, but as soundtrack it played the scary role animating the uncertainty and serene big emptiness of the space and time to come. Generally speaking, the role of the modernistic music of the 1950’s and later, became merely to provide suspense in popular culture by producing scary atmospheres. Music that wilfully induced surrogate fear and un-easiness in the listener.

I grew up in the 1950’s full of images of a future with travel both into the astronomic big space and into the atomic tiny space. But it was also the time of  the first machine made beeps coming from space by the Russian sputnik satellite and the fear it induced in the grownups: the Russians would soon be able to kill us from space! And even before the Americans… To me these beeps were cool; coming from this lonesome satellite flying over our heads; speaking this patient and clear language: beep beep beep – with these beautiful little cracks in the background noise.

‘RetroFuture’ is using sound idioms from a variety of these early simple sound structures that in the 50’es were symbols of a future that was almost sure to come.

I have tried to reconstruct some of these sounds; also inspired by artists that shot their belief’s into space: Sun Ra, Pink Floyd, Edward Artemiev, The Tornados, Bernard Hermann and the BarRons. Also of course the sounds of Houston Control guiding the Apollo 11 crew to the moon. There are theories that this moon journey was a big hoax made by the Americans to appropriate space and thus the future - my ‘RetroFuture’ (re-)constructs a hypothetical ‘hoax’ sound track for a vision of the past when there was still a future. Long before the no-future of now.

‘RetroFuture’ is not meant to be nostalgic; it connects bits of the collective past and my various personal pasts into this moment. To do this I am using electronic music instrumental concepts that others and myself have developed through the years in order to turn electronica into a living electronic music of the now.



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