When The Clouds Clear

A Light and Sound Poem by Nik Bärtsch and Sophie Clements

 

Pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch and visual artist Sophie Clements join together to create a mesmeric meditation on elemental forces and cycles. Poetic patterns and sculptural forms unite in a dramaturgy of sound and light.

After meeting in 2008 when they were programmed on the same line-up at Punkt Festival in Norway, Bärtsch and Clements remained interested in each other’s work. In 2015 they began to discuss making a new work together – a piece that would join their artistic interests and sensibilities in an ambitious, large-scale live performance, fusing solo piano with sculpture, film and installation design. 

Through concentrated discussions about their influences and core themes present in their respective 

practices, they identified their conceptual meeting point – an interest in a sense of transcendence, found in the focussing in on simple forms – the drawing in of the listener or viewer, towards a concentrated experience of subtle minimal changes. 

This approach is present in Bärtsch’s music in his ritualistic use of reduced interlocking rhythms:

“Nik Bärtsch’s own trademark sound, the RITUAL GROOVE MUSIC, points out to the fundamental concept of his musical thinking. The music shows a close affinity to architecturally organised space and is governed by the principles of repetition and reduction as well as by interlocking rhythms. A piece of music can be entered, inhabited like a room. It moves forward and transforms through obsessive circular movements, superimposition of different meters and micro-interplay. The listeners attention is directed toward minimal variations and phrasing.”

Clements’ work has been described as ‘a poetic meditation on materiality’ – her solo works document moments of transformation, employing meticulous and rigorous filming techniques to observe 

elemental materials (such as water, wood, explosions and concrete) during a moment of dramatic change. The resulting works, often cyclical, provide a concentrated observation of a moment in time, and a material, activated by natural forces – light and gravity. 

 

The idea of the mesmeric, and the shifting perception of time is a key linking point. Where one can easily lose oneself in the flow of repetitive or minimal composition, as in gazing at the light dancing on a surface of water – a certain sound or visual experience causes the slowing down, the focussing of attention.

During their discussions, the poem ’The Moon in the Water’ about Zen and Japanese swordsmanship emerged as an anchor for their ideas, and a fitting text to underpin the work: 

The water does not try 

to reflect the moon

and the moon has no desire 

to be reflected

but when the clouds clear

there is moon in the water

Drawing upon influences in Asian philosophy, fine art, theatre, science and minimalism, ‘When The Clouds Clear’ is an extension of both Bärtsch’s and Clements’ practices, taking the mesmeric, the 

elemental and ritualistic, into an hour long live performance/installation. The resulting work is a 

dramaturgy of simple elements, using sound (amplified solo piano), light and water as the core 

material. Any filmed material is of water, or states of water, and is filmed on 16mm film, as a contrast to hard graphics that appear as architectural planes of light, cutting through the performance space. 

Three vibrational forms; water, light and sound combine together to create a piece that, though rooted in reduction and simplicity, carries the viewer on a poetic dramaturgy of natural forces.

This project is commissioned by Rainer Kern, director of the Enjoy Jazz Festival, Germany. 

It is co-commissioned by Chris Sharp, Programmer of Contemporary Music at The Barbican, London.