Katt Hernandez is a violinist, improvisor and composer living in Stockholm. She is coming to Bodø with the piece Vädersolsmodernitet.
Katt Hernandez moved to Stockholm in 2010, and works with a host of artists in many projects. She began a PhD in Music at Lund university in 2015, burning to understand and transmute the vast forces shaking cities apart through the ephemeral, the gentle and the complex, in sound. She also spent the last three years as a researcher at the Royal Music Academy of Sweden in Klas Nevrin’s Music in
Disorder project, and currently plays in the Fire! orchestra, as well as a host of other sudden, spontaneous configurations in spaces both known and unlikely. Her playing, making and doing have been carried out across the US, Europe and Japan. Before leaving the U.S., Katt was a veteran of experimental music scenes, Art Spaces and activist circles in the megatropolii of the East Coast, where she worked with a vast array of musicians, dancers, puppeteers, film-makers and other artists.
You are both a performer and a composer. How do you use your musicianship in your compositions?
In this kind of electroacoustic composition, the kind of immediate, physical expression that’s available on the violin is entirely absent, except in the short portions where there is mixer diffusion. The act of making these kinds of detailed, multichannel tape pieces is something I apply the word “build” to far more often than “compose”. But I always keep the violin there with me, even if I never pick it up, as if it were watching. I have received feedback fairly often that much of my electroacoustic work sounds like the improvised music I play on the violin, but the transference of that sensibility must surely be subconscious, since I approach the materials at hand as the source for everything that follows, without paying much mind to other projects or pursuits unless they are directly related to those materials. Perhaps this bears a relation to listening carefully to an audience of improvised music, to find out how they sound, as they listen before I play for them.
In your piece Vädersolsmodernitet we are «traveling» ephemeral through the city of Stockholm. Is it in some way a declaration of love for the city?
There is an old science fiction story where a scientist asks a massive, dangerous computer what love is. It replies, “There are many different kinds of love”. This kind of work is paradoxical, in that I am trying to build multiple, simultaneous versions of the city out of my own picture of Stockholm to give someone who listens to the experience of being able to recall or fashion their own ghost of the city from the music. It is because I love the city (and I most always fall at least a little in love with any city I live in, with all the same ecstasy and tragedy love entails) that I hope people will contact their own imagined Stockholm-s, which all of us conjure in the most common details of our lives in a place, even if they most often float in some subconscious place beneath the day’s surface. I hold the belief that these sleeping maps of memory, stories or ghosts; pasts, presents or futures, real or imagined, give us a sense of place that even the worst forms of gentrification and other massively transformative forces can never truly erase.
Vädersolsmodernitet is a combination of words, referring to the oldest image of Stockholm, modernization and the illusion of sun-dogs. The work is made as a model of an ephemeral, through which the listener is travelling, through streets, protests, train stations, festivals, kitchens, squares, bars, parks, childhoods, old ages: possible remembered or imagined times and places. The “Protagonist” in this work, who only appears once in the first movement, is someone I envision being born in late 40s early 50s, living alone in old “hyresrätt”. They also traverse the city of Stockholm at varying points of its last 100 years of its history, perhaps crossing paths with those who are listening. Rather than push this story, I have left it vague, so that the listener can meet the psychogeographical act of walking through Stockholm with their own imaginary cities. This approach is a direct repudiation of those forces in cities which seek to dominate the narrative, offering complexity in place of on-point messages.
The piece is built and spatialized in Reaper, using Reaper’s internal ReaSurround plugin. I did this as an exercise in reduced tools. The materials that comprise the piece are field recordings I have taken in Stockholm and sounds from the Buchla system at Kungliga Musikhögskolan in Stockholm. Some of the field recordings are processed with this machine. A modular synthesizer is a glorified radio transmitter, and music modulated with frequency or amplitude becomes a ghost, requiring decoding. The materials are worked over with mixer-diffusion, modulated spatialization parameters, and processing through various modules in the Buchla.
Large synthesizers of this kind, which were once only available at great cost and were therefore rarely found outside commensurately large institutions, were a part of the gigantic acts of modernization that characterized the 20th century.
Hence, in the series of works about Stockholm this piece is a part of, the synthesizer speaks to the city’s vast transformation during that time, and the instrument itself stands architecturally in metaphor to the concrete infrastructure projects of the folkhemmet, as organs in this group of works represent earlier time periods and architectures, since an organ is a mechanical synthesizer.
Cities throughout the world are changing at a break-neck pace, as rural and small-town populations gather into dense urban areas, and forces like gentrification and neo-capitalism re-shape the city in dis-empowering ways at a disorienting clip. But there is always an improvisatory practice in how we relate to urban environments; an ever-transforming interplay of action and memory played between the animate and inanimate. Each individual draws a phantom set of memory images- or “ghosts”- onto the cityscape, which is played out in everyday transit through the city. There are as many Stockholms as people, millions of ephemeral cities all co-extant in simultaneous space, there and gone, and this yields subtle ways people can build as many cities as they can imagine.