Anne La Berge and I have travelled the world more than a few times as the electro acoustic duo Shackle. We have decided to end the journey since we’ve been on different paths these days. Not exactly the last supper, but we did go out and celebrate. Beginnings and endings are powerful moments in our lives and Jacqueline Oskamp summed up our story with a text that says it all.
“Men Wanted: For hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.”
― Ernest Shackleton (ca. 1913, apocryphal)
The meanings of Shackle include "link", "chain", and even "handcuffs". Another spontaneous association comes to mind: one regarding the early 20th century polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. Anne La Berge (1955) and Robert van Heumen (1968) are as fearless as their illustrious predecessor. Shackleton journeyed to Antartica with enormous perservance. A century later, Shackle, the improvisation duo that Anne and Robert started in 2007, mapped out a previously undiscovered musical region and made it accessible to their public.
The adventure started much earlier with each person on their own instruments. Anne discovered throughout the nineties that her flute can produce the sound of icy polar winds, creaking snow and a pickaxe hacking into the ice - amplified and / or electronically processed when necessary. Robert transformed a playstation joystick into a subtle electronic interface, with which he could control the material on his laptop down to the smallest detail: from crashing avalanches and the chatter of the freezing cold to mysterious sounds in the polar night.
The actual link in Shackle is the Shackle System, the computer software that they developed themselves that functions as both a compass and a map. It offers the players possibilities, limitations and rules. It is a guided improvisation system where the improvisers and the computer software determine the course from moment to moment and can therefore penetrate deep into unknown territory.
The space and structure that the Shackle System offers made space for guest musicians to join Shackle in what they named the Shackle Affair. One of their many fruitful international collaborations was with Männer mit Motoren, another duo with similar desires for improvisation and adventure. The long list of Shackle Affairs included the California electro acoustic duo Young/Day, drummers Onno Govaert, Etienne Nillesen and bass clarinetist Oğuz Büyükberber.
The system was extended to Shackle Bits that used grand vistas on the video screen. Perhaps the most revolutionary was the Shackle Stick, a sober, tough sound carrier in the form of a USB stick. Designed in the robust Shackle style by Isabelle Vigier.
Shackle had its base camp in the Netherlands, but the tours led all over the world. From Europe to Canada, Australia, the United States and Latin America: a total of hundreds of concerts, workshops and Shackle Affairs. During these years, Anne and Robert were never shy in their quests, just like Shackleton said, "Problems are there to be overcome." Whether it was instrumental, technical, musical, production, logistical or financial difficulties, Shackle tackled them.
Their journeys have yielded a wealth of knowledge, insights and - of course - music that can still be heard. For Anne and Robert it is now time to unshackle and follow their own trajectories.
Jacqueline Oskamp - November 2019
Robert van Heumen, Matthias Muche, Sven Hahne, Luis Negrón and Anne La Berge played three concerts in Chile together. We billed ourselves as Hot Spot On, and we were just that.
Our first concert was part of the Turrel Series run by Marcelo Maira Moya in a gallery/restaurant Dinamarca space in the colorful city of Valparaiso.
Valparaiso Turrel Concert
Our second was in the Sala SCD in Plaza Egana, a hall at the very top of a shopping mall. We were joined by Marcelo Maira Moya on flute, sax and noise makers for an intense and punchy second set.
Robert van Heumen, Luis Negrón, Santiago
Our third was in the more southern city Valdivia as opener for the Relincha Festival at the Museum for Contemporary Art, an incredible place overlooking the water where sea lions and birds were vying for fish scraps at the market on the other side.
We travelled by plane and bus, drank the local wine and pisco sours, just like a real band.
Matthias Muche, Robert van Heumen, me, Luis Negrón, Sven Hahne
Special thanks to Sven who organized the tour and to Marcelo who was present at every gig as producer, performer and host.
And to our funding support:
Shackle continues their collaboration with Männer mit Motoren in the Curves project with a tour to Chile, South America.
Curves is a collaboration between Shackle and Männer mit Motoren (Sven Hahne: laptop and video, Matthias Muche: trombone and laptop). Their performances create stunning and unique universes of interactive image and sound improvisations.
Their Chilean Tour November 2017 includes guests Benjamin Vergara (trumpet) and Marcelo Maira (flute) from Chile and media artist Luis Negron (Venezuela / Germany) who specialize in improvisations using visual analog and digital gestures that float between the recognizable and the unknown.
This HOT SPOT ON tour will showcase our ongoing discoveries in collaborative real-time audio-visual wizardry.
Location: STEIM (Broedplaats Lely), Schipluidenlaan 12, Amsterdam
More info: http://steim.org/event/connector-v/
“This summer STEIM started their new event series ‘Connector’. Every first Thursday of the month we will connect with another collective or discipline, resulting in either a concert or exhibition. This time we are joined by Conservatory of Amsterdam and Shackle!”
Drawings by Luiz Yudo.
Shackle had a great time with Männer mit Motoren, working on the Curves project. After an intense week of programming, playing, swearing and nice dinners, we performed the work in Stadgarten (Cologne) on October 31 and in Splendor (Amsterdam) on November 16. Two very different concerts, both a great joy! We are currently documenting the project, for future versions, on the Curves page. More to come so stay tuned!
These are some photos from the concert in Splendor, Amsterdam on November 16, 2016:
We took it upon ourselves to give a group of classical musicians who were attending the Splendor Academy the chance to have hands-on experience with electro acoustic music making.
With Phil Macguire as our guest, we gave a concert in De Ruimte in Amsterdam North with the participants of the Academy.
Phil and Anne spent the afternoon showing and experimenting and discussing with the participants including how to play and control sounds with the Kyma System using iPads.
Responses ranged from “What is this?” to “I want more of this!” and from “whoa” to “wow!“.
Shackle is collaborating with Männer mit Motoren on a new project called Curves. We will embark on a tour to Chili South America in the fall of 2017 in addition to playing concerts in Cologne and Amsterdam in late 2016. Exciting!
Curves is a continuation of previous collaborations between Shackle and Männer mit Motoren. For the past three years they have come together for short intensive working periods to develop their own collaborative methods for interactive image and sound improvisations. By combining both composition and improvisation while using acoustic and electronic sounds the two duos have formed a shared workplace. They plan to research and expand their past boundaries of real-time audio-visual performances during their upcoming work periods on the Curves project.
We will play compositions and guided improvisations with Cologne-based musicians Etienne Nillesen and Nicola Hein and Amsterdam-based Oguz Buyukberber.
Another chance for us to explore and discover ways to bring exciting and interactive new music to the public.
Update: that was fun! Thanks to all the players, including Oguz Buyukberber, who at the time of this picture hid in the corner 😉
Shackle will play our own compositions with organist Michael Bonaventure at the Kunststation St. Peter in Cologne for a half hour concert on 4 June 2016.
The program is:
Sanctuary for solo organ by Michael
Untitled For Anne by Robert
Dakota by Anne
It’s a trio of composer/performers exchanging ideas, sounds, structures for lunch!
Saturday 4 June 2016
Kunststations Sankt Peter Köln
13.00 – 13.30
Update: we had great, albeit slightly weird time in the mesmerizing Sankt Peter in Cologne.
Shackle has a few gigs in the coming months.
The first one is on 29 April 2016
in the Space is the Place series
at De Ruimte
We’ll be sharing the bill with ADRIAN MYHR/JAN MARTIN GISMERVIK
Adrian Myhr – Double bass
Martin Gismervik – Drums
Entrance: € 9 / CvA € 6
Next one is 4 June in Köln Germany!
Date: January 19 2016, 20:30
Location: Splendor Amsterdam
Anne La Berge and new Splendor musician Akim Moiseenkov team up for an evening with friends from experimental pop, art-rock and improvisation. This A-list of today’s most creative boundary-pushers have played with everyone from Jett Rebel to Herman van Veen. Don’t miss this unique event!
Akim Moiseenkov – elektronica en DIY instrumenten
Dave Wismeijer – basgitaar
Marc Alberto – saxofoon en elektronica
Anne La Berge – fluit en elektronica
Robert van Heumen – laptop instrument