Samuel Hertz

Samuel Hertz, composer and performer, is the recipient of the first-ever DARE Art Prize.

Launched to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds, the DARE Art Prize is aimed at challenging artists and scientists to work together on new approaches to the creative process. US-born, Berlin-based Samuel impressed the jury with his proposal for an electro-acoustic chamber piece for infrasound – low frequency sound below the level of human hearing.

The early stages of Samuel’s process included a two-day workshop in Opera North’s Howard Assembly Room, where he made recordings with mezzo-soprano Helen √Čvora and bass Whitaker Mills, four subwoofer speakers, and a tapping machine – a percussive device used by acoustic engineers to determine how spaces react to noise. The two singers, who are members of the Chorus of Opera North, performed a libretto written by Samuel, which he describes as “a dialogue between human bodies and ecologies."

In the meantime Samuel is working with two academics at the University of Leeds, Dr Freya Bailes, Academic Fellow in Music Psychology, and Dr Luke Windsor, Professor of Music Psychology, on ways of assessing the effect of infrasound, and on programming a series of talks and performances in association with CAVE (Centre for Audio Visual Experimentation) at the University.

I'm consistently engaging in wonderful dialogues with creative researchers, artists, and engineers, and this project has so far proven to be incredibly fruitful in my imaginings of spaces of low-frequency sound and planetary sonics.

Samuel Hertz, inaugural DARE Art Prize winner

Samuel’s investigations into the potential of low frequency sound continued with a site-specific piece for the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, which received its premiere in late 2017. A Shadow Feeling used the powerful sound system in the Museum’s IMAX cinema to produce resonances elsewhere in the building, with additional sounds played quietly in these areas to produce a 'duet' with the building itself.

Throughout February, Samuel is Artist in Residence at The Tetley, where he will be staging a series of interactive workshops, open rehearsals and collaborations. On 16 February, he was joined by cultural geographer, curator, writer, and film-maker Amy Cutler and artist/researcher Emma Bennett for Sensual Landscapes, a discussion about experimental approaches to relating to landscapes and ecologies.

On the afternoons of 26 and 27 February, visitors can drop in on Samuel as he rehearses with two performance collaborators, dancers Layton Lachman and Mara Poliak. On 28 February, there is chance to participate in the process with Immersion, an evening of “slow dance” and movement with Lachman and Poliak, with an improvised soundtrack provided by Samuel.

In the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, on 24 February, Samuel will perform a new work continuing his engagement with sound and ecology. Influenced by spectralism – a compositional technique that employs the computerised analysis of sound – Gunslinger is ‘transcribed’ from a field recording of water melting from a cliffside ice sheet, for two guitars swathed in reverb in the manner of a classic, widescreen Western soundtrack. Composer and lecturer at the University of Leeds Dr Scott Mc Laughlin will also present a new work for electronics and clarinets. Fragility uses electronics to transform data on the unstable ecology of Burkina Faso into sounds, which slowly distort as the climate data moves out of the stable range, while the musicians – playing complex and delicate chords that are only stable under the right conditions of breath pressure and control – attempt to keep pace with the changes.

The culmination of his year’s research, Samuel’s final performance for the DARE Art Prize in the Howard Assembly Room on 14 April will include electro/acoustic pieces for small ensembles, video, live electronics, performance and mixed-media installations focusing on contact with industrial and natural infrasound as a way of illustrating complex relations between humans and environments.

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