“un|sounding the self – a portrait”
“un|sounding the self” is an experimental audiovisual portrait of the two American artists Christopher Shultis and Craig Shepard. Invited by their mutual friend Prof Bernd Herzogenrath, Shultis, percussionist and professor eremitus of the University of New Mexico, and Shepard, trombonist and part of the Wandelweiser collective, met for a week in the beautiful city of Olomouc in the Czech Republic. Although very different in their artistic expression, their work is deeply rooted in the praxis of walking as proposed by H.D. Thoreau, his writings, and the art of John Cage.
“un|sounding the self” is about the becoming of these two artists—how music emerges when composers become silent first of all, whether by decision or by force, and then search for sound. The music that springs from their walks in the Swiss Alps, the Pennsylvanian woods or New York’s busy street life structures, informs and inspires the images. Especially Shepard’s performance of his piece “Dornach, den 2. August 2005”, a reduced composition with a specific rhythm, lays dramaturgical groundwork for the portrait and creates space for Shultis’ performance of Cage’s piece “Child of Tree” and his homage thereto: “64 Statements Related and Not Related to Child of Tree” reveals Shultis’ life-long artistic dialogue with the thought and music of John Cage. “Dornach”, spacious, calm, and breathing, contrasts beautifully with the engaging and nearly shamanistic performance of “64 statements”.
Recorded in and around Olomouc in September 2017, intimate keyword interviews and performance recordings are interlaced with field recordings and four contemplative visual music passages that improvise on the topics at hand.
Christopher Shultis is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico where he taught percussion, composition and musicology. As artist and scholar he has worked with Lou Harrison, Konrad Boehmer, John Cage, Michael Colgrass, James Tenney and Christian Wolff and his academic work on John Cage is internationally recognized. As a composer in the experimental tradition he finds inspiration in long walks in nature; important pieces include “Devisadero: Music from the New Mexico Wilderness” and the opera “Lost in the Woods”, which premiered in October 2017.
Craig Shepard, composer and trombonist, lives and works in New York City. For his projects “On Foot” and “On Foot: Brooklyn” he composed during extensive walks in the Swiss Alps and Brooklyn and performed his pieces in public. “Trumpet City”, a piece written for a hundred trumpets, had its German premiere in autumn 2017. Craig Shepard is part of the Wandelweiser collective.