Ernst Karel

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Heard Laboratories 9


Swiss Mountain Transport Systems was released on CD by Gruenrekorder on 1 September 2011. The album consists of location recordings made during the summer and fall of 2008 of the various transport systems which are specific to mountainous terrain - gondolas (aerial cable cars), funiculars, and chairlifts - of different types, of different vintages, and accessing different elevations, in different parts of Switzerland. In this way the album is a sonic investigation of the integration of such technology into the Swiss social-geographical landscape. Recorded from within mostly enclosed mobile environments, this emergent music includes quasi-harmonic mechanical drones, intermittent irregular percussiveness, and transient acoustic glimpses of a vast surrounding landscape inhabited by humans and other animals.

The album can be purchased from Gruenrekorder (both as CD and as digital download), or in the U.S. from and/OAR, Squidco, Experimedia, Aquarius, and others.


Related projects:


Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, Multichannel Version

A multi-channel version of this piece - titled simply Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, Multichannel Version - was made in collaboration with Helen Mirra. This version of the piece features the addition of recorded percussion elements played by Mirra, and is very different in its structure and its manner of editing from the CD. It builds on a performance that Mirra and Karel gave in Kyoto, Japan, in January 2009, in the context of Mirra's exhibition, Case study: Swiss bird houses, at Taka Ishii Gallery. For that live performance, Mirra played drums with Karel doing a live mix of unprocessed recordings of the mountain transport systems. To make this multi-channel version, Mirra subsequently recorded the percussion parts in the studio using multiple microphones in multiple configurations. The minimal percussion activates and modifies the contours of the listening space, as it contrasts with, complements, interrupts, and augments the sounds of transport.

Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, Multichannel Version was created for Diapason Gallery's 8-channel listening room, and presented there in January 2011. It was then specially adapted for the unique 21 speaker system (17 discrete channels, with four subwoofers) at Audiorama, Stockholm, where it was presented on the date of the release of this CD (1 September 2011), sponsored by Iaspis. The multichannel version was presented again at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 27.11.2011 - 29.01.2012, in collaboration with Certain Sundays. Most recently it was exhibited in daily screenings over the course of a week in the Film/Video Gallery at the Whitney Museum of American Art as part of the 2014 Whitney Biennial.


Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, Radio Edit

Finally, yet another composition was made from this body of recordings, some of which overlap with the tracks on the CD and the elements of the Multichannel Version, and some which do not. Originally conceived as a piece for radio broadcast, and in fact broadcast from the 2012 Sao Paulo Bienal via Mobile Radio, Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, Radio Edit was reconsidered as a cinematic work and mixed for 7.1 or 5.1 surround sound. Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, Radio Edit (5.1 mix) had its theatrical premiere in the 2013 Viennale: Vienna International Film Festival, and was also projected in the Art of the Real series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in April, 2014. Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, Radio Edit (7.1 mix) was first presented in 2016 in the cinema of Harvard Art Museums in a sound program as part of the series, Sensory Ethnography Lab: Experiments with Cinema.


see more images at The Wire: Sleeves Received