Orson Hentschel – Feed The Tape
Orson Hentschel is a German composer and visual artist based in Berlin. He composes experimental electronic music, with influences ranging from classical minimalism to triphop and drone. His work has been presented in festivals and venues such as Ruhrtriennale (ger), Donaufestival (aut), Némo Festival (fr), Salon IKSV (tr), TivoliVredenburg (nl) and many more. As a composer he writes music for dance performance pieces, film music and collaborates with interdisciplinary projects. In 2016 he also was chosen by the SHAPE Platform for Innovative Music and Audiovisual Art from Europe, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.
His debut Feed the Tape (2016) was strongly influenced by Classical Minimal Music. Especially the compository methods of Steve Reich such as phase variations, looping and imitation enter Hentschel's work. However, these methods serve as characteristic compository elements rather than being in the focus of the pieces. The loop, which often is the starting point of one of Hentschels works, usually plays the role of a constant sound substrate on which harmonic-melodic elements can thrive.
Even though Hentschel has experienced a classical education, his composition techniques are anything but traditional. His creative starting point is rarely rooted in musical ideas, but consists of finding appropriate sound material. His sources are diverse: sounds and samples like soundtracks, film sounds, music albums or internet findings encounter polyphonic vocal-music from the 14th century and composition techniques of Minimal Music such as Steve Reich. In his compositions Hentschel draws a cross-section through the history of music and its genres in order to form his own musical expression. Considering his studies of music science in Düsseldorf and previously in Vienna and Dresden, his musical time-jumps appear less surprising.
After his debut LP Feed The Tape, Orson Hentschel enters new musical terrain wearing old shoes. His second LP Electric Stutter (2017), is only loosely connected to his debut. Whereas Feed The Tape was strongly shaped by Classical Minimal Music, Hentschel now incorporates influences of Trip-Hop and Electronic Pop Music. Since his childhood, he considers artists like Massive Attack, Portishead and Björk as some of his most important sources of inspiration. The influence of this kind of popular music is clearly audible. Hentschel’s new tracks are shorter, more shaped and reduced in the density of their sound material. Pattern-oriented repetitions, which where in the focus of Feed The Tape, now fulfil the function of sophisticated sub-components of the overall composition and are subordinate to the melodic forms or merge with them. Also the amount of sample-based material has decreased in order to create space for synthetically produced sounds with melodic character. Electric Stutter is more complex and more detailed than Feed The Tape. At the same time the reduced density of sound material and the higher amount of melodies form a kind of music that is more easily accessible.
In 2018 Hentschel returns with a two-piece EP showcasing yet another aspect of his musical spectrum. While the first two albums featured only instrumental tracks, "Facades" are the first two pieces in which Orson Hentschel works with text as a main musical element for his composition, although he approaches vocals from a rather particular perspective. For Hentschel, the spoken word is always music and thus not different than any other instrumental input or sound layer. Consequently, he is only interested in the sound of the spoken words on Facades, but not in any content they convey. The idea for Facades was born at a time when Hentschel was struggling with a writer's block for several days in a row. He realised that just writing about nothing was the only honest way for him to express himself through text as a medium. After doing some research on the subject he found John Cage's "Lecture on nothing" which has appeared in the book "Silence" (1961). This encouraged him to work out his idea and he wrote a German text which then Danhee Joe, an accidental acquaintance of his, translated into Korean and spoke with her warm voice. Thus Orson Hentschel used the text in the same way as he uses any sound material - it is transformed into something else, it is being alienated. The spoken words are embedded in repetitive and minimal-minded electronic sound layers which even penetrate primordial technoid territories. However, sticking to his trademark long arcs of suspense, the listener has to wait until the last two minutes of the second track for the first, cathartic beat.
For his third studio album Antigravity (2019) Orson Hentschel travels back to the past and into the future, combining both old and new sounds, merging analogue drum machines from the 60’s with modern synthesizer environments. Hentschel largely forgoes melodies in order to create space for drone alike and sustained tones within the lower bass frequencies as well as noisy electronics. Sometimes a beat is coming straight out of the box, like in „Steady State“ or „Ghost Echos“. Constant rhythms alternate with fragmented, overlapped or reversed ones, like on „Antigravity“ or „Walki Talki“.
For the rhythmical sound editing, Hentschel used the Watkins Copicat, an old tape echo, which was very popular back in the days and which amplifies the scratchy sounding characteristic of his rhythm machines. His overall vision is to create a futuristic vintage sound, which does not fit in any ordinary mould.
Since his latest album Electric Stutter (2017), Hentschel’s musical exploration lasted almost two years and is closely linked with his real-world journey, moving from Duesseldorf to Berlin. After a musical lean period in Düsseldorf it was time to get new inspiration and to create a new working environment. Berlin turned out to be this new place to absorb positive energy and to regain a creative workflow. „Antigravity“ is the symbol for this creation period. It reflects his temporarily disconnected relation to music and his (old) environment.