“CHANNELLING THE CREATION”
EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC BY
Four musicians came together in Utrecht----this is the music they improvised together, as the Intergalactic Orchestra. Article by Ellie O'Shea and Katie Byford.
It is an odd thing, listening to music created and structured in such an unorthodox manner, which simultaneously manages such a graceful harmony between its layers and movements. Music which manages to be unified meditation, as well as a kind of discussion. It is unusual, too, to hear band member Timothy Merkel explain the process in terms of astrophysics—or perhaps this is to be expected from a group called Intergalactic Orchestra. Referring to recent research into gravitational waves, Tim says these “make tiny compressions in space which are pretty much analogous to sound waves. And these waves are everywhere, going every direction, from every cosmic event, each making a distinct signal -- sound, you could call it. A black hole and a pulsar, for instance, would, quite literally, be two different instruments in an orchestra.”
In these terms, the instruments Tim plays in these songs almost evoke celestial objects—the delicate notes of the mbira, for example, forming spangling rhythms like stars against the dark. It gives new meaning to the Orchestra’s improvised style: “like us turning on the radio for the first time to an eternal frequency […] it's like we enter the channel temporarily, turn on the set, play with the dial a bit, see what comes out.”
It is clear that the Orchestra found true companionship in their fleeting musical union in Utrecht, Holland, grateful for the music they have produced as well as for the very event of their being brought together. Naomi mourns the fact that the group has mostly dispersed: Tim—who also plays the keyboard and melodica—is currently on an organic farm in Turkey; Naomi Kreitman, playing the clarinet and mbira, is still in Utrecht; Robert Keizer and Isa Bertram, guitarist and singer respectively, have gone their separate ways. The medium of improvisation requires trust, according to Robert: “There are no prefixes, arrangements, structures, do's and don'ts, no judgement, no competition, role patterns or any of what stands between us and reality. All is open and all is welcome." Indeed, when listening to the tracks the band has produced, this harmony is immediately perceptible. Isa likens the collaborative experience to “being brought along on a journey in which nobody really knows the way, or even the destination.” Isa joined the band for one evening and, despite initial nervousness, found the relaxed and informal atmosphere liberating. “When I joined in for one song and got to use my voice as an instrument, just like theirs – that was a great experience. And I am proud to say that every time I hear it, I still get some goose bumps.”
Coming from more traditional musical backgrounds, from “behind sheet music,” as Naomi puts it, meant the format of improvisation involved a somewhat personal process of letting go. “Playing with the Intergalactic Orchestra taught me so much,” says Naomi, “about listening, and feeling, and connecting, and accepting. Accepting the sounds that I create, and trusting that my contribution would be accepted—more than accepted, heard and valued and felt.” The improvised style also produces unexpected results: Naomi reminisces that another night, a friend Marc, out walking his dog, happened upon her and eventually joined in with the Orchestra for one night, making “the most incredible sounds with a kind of Mongolian throat singing." Robert echoes this sense of liberation: “To me, the music that emerges when playing with the Intergalactic Orchestra is an expression of the room one can discover within. The open space that lies beyond our ego. […] From our interaction on that essential level comes the energy that becomes the music, in a very organic way,” Robert adds, “whatever that may be.”
In a final rumination on the music, the band seems to acknowledge their role as a vessel of sound, rather than the author of it. “It's not like we create or invent anything, everything beautiful and harmonic already plays through all of us all the time. When we start to play our instruments, we're just capturing a little bit of that and manifesting it in an aural space. Channelling the creation. That's why every session is different, why the Orchestra works no matter where it plays or who is playing in that particular moment, which instruments, which personalities and moments and experiences are being channelled.”
“We’re just a few humble souls reaching into the Infinite,” says Tim, “and coming back with a handful, and being grateful for being with each other in the experience.”
Check out Intergalactic Orchestra on Soundcloud.