Três Sóis, Plástica Sonora von Walter Smetak (1969, Replica 2017), Foto: Albrecht Hotz

Memories in Music Brazil – Europe


Live performance roof Hatifnatten: Pfiff (2021, world premiere, ca. 15 min), with Ute Wassermann and Sabine Vogel

Film producltion Thomas Kessler: Dialoge (1977/2021, world premiere, ca. 17 min), with Ensemble Modern and Silvia Ocougne

Live performance Silvia Ocougne: Improvisation (ca. 15 min) on Smetak instruments

Film production Marco Scarassatti / Luiz Pretti: Anestesia von Walter Smetak (2021, world premiere, 22 min), with Ensemble GILU

Live performance Guilherme Vaz: Sinfonia dos Ares (2002, 60 min), realised as installation with mechanical Maracas by Livio Tragtenberg


Hatifnatten: Pfiff (2021, world premiere)
Ute Wassermann and Sabine Vogel, voice, flutes, bird whistles

Hatifnatten whistle from the roof of the Akademie der Künste. The voice, flutes and bird whistles are their instruments. They communicate with thrills, breathing sounds, clicks and drones. Like certain species of animals, e.g. nightingales and dolphins, they weave remembered song fragments and newly discovered motifs tinto an acoustic space.


Brazil – Europe

The festival introduces Guilherme Vaz and Walter Smetak, the two central figures of the first generation of Brazilian sound art at the interface of European and indigenous aesthetics. Smetak’s mainly graphic and colourful scores, including Anestesia from 1971, interpreted here as a film score, are influenced by various cultural and spiritual practices in Bahia, as are his Plásticas Sonoras. Sinfonia dos ares is one of Vaz’s “longdurational” studio compositions, marked by over 20 years of close contact with indigenous sonorities in western Brazil, presented at the Akademie as an installation with mechanically operated indigenous maracas. Thomas Kessler’s compositional idea of placing two different musical traditions in an equal-status sound dialogue using live electronics dates back to the 1970s. An audio-visual version with Western instruments and instruments invented by Smetak, whose cosmos Kessler became acquainted with at the end of the 1990s, will be heard, played by musicians of the Ensemble Modern. Silvia Ocougne will also play some of the Smetak instruments , such as Ronda, Três Sois, Borés and microtonal guitars, live in the Academy.


Thomas Kessler: Dialoge (1977/2021, world premiere), new version for 2 European instruments, 2 Smetak instruments and vocoders

Audio-visual production

With Ensemble Modern (Eva Böcker, cello; Jagdish Mistry, Smetak instruments; Dietmar Wiesner, flute); Silvia Ocougne, Smetak instruments

Sébastien Vaillancourt: vocoder development, sound engineer

With the kind support of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia

Thanks to Ensemble Modern for lending the Smetak instruments.

“For the performance at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, the European instruments are now contrasted with two instruments from the collection of Brazilian composer Walter Smetak. During a stay in Brazil, musicians living there drew my attention to this composer originally from Switzerland, while at the same time stressing that he was “their” Swiss composer. In his early years, he was engaged as a solo cellist by the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, but soon gave up this position in order to devote himself more to Brazilian music and to experimentally exploring the new opportunities for expression it offered. All the composers knew Smetak and proudly called him their Brazilian John Cage. My curiosity was piqued by the news that many sound recordings were stored at the library of Salvador de Bahia. I was given permission to see them and was brought a damp box, decaying due to the climate, with many reels of tape between which certain tiny creatures were already crawling as harbingers of the approaching jungle. A year later, I was able to digitise all these tape recordings in collaboration with composer and musicologist Sérgio Freire. On them, we also discovered two purely electronic compositions, some of which I have used in the vocoders.” (Thomas Kessler)


Silvia Ocougne: Improvisation (2021, world premiere)
for Smetak instruments (Ronda, Três Sois, Borés and six microtonal guitars)


Walter Smetak: Anestesia (1971) for 10 musicians

Realised as a film score by Marco Scarassatti and Luiz Pretti

film production

Marco Scarassatti: concept, musical direction

With musicians of the Free Improvisation Group GILU (of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG): Daniel Tamietti, cello; Marc Wallach, guitar; João Viana, electric guitar; Vanessa Aiseó, trombone; Fefo, electronics; Pedro Gilberto, guitar; Marcos Alves, percussion; Davi Gazzaniga, piano; Silas Prado, flute; Caio Campos, electric bass

Caio Campos: visuals in openFrameworks

Marco Scarassatti and João Viana, audio mixing and editing

Luiz Pretti, image editing

Use of Walter Smetak’s original score with the kind consent of the Smetak family, Salvador de Bahia

Anestesia is a work by Walter Smetak, composed in 1971 in honour of the composer and physician Milton Gomes, who had just passed away. Milton Gomes was a member of Grupo de Compositores da Bahia who, in 1969, composed Montanha Sagrada for a set of instruments invented by Smetak. In its original form, Anestesia is a graphic score composed for ten surgical instruments “chosen at will by the respective performers”. On the cover of the score Smetak adds: “one needling that causes 22 effects; symptomatic translation of forms and non-forms into sound; improvisation directed by informal schemes”. Below his signature at the bottom of the cover, Smetak recommends breaking through the structure of the score, “freeing the physician of the patient, the musician of the score, the conductor of the orchestra”.

Fifty years later, Anestesia returns from afar as a surgical intervention, this time in an interpretation in which, following Smetak’s recommendation, a paradigmatic change takes place in the piece. The ten surgical instruments are not chosen by the respective performers. This time, the musicians, ten surgical instrumentalists, are selected by the respective musical instruments in order to create a 22-minute film score.

The idea was to create this film score from the graphic descriptions of Anestesia, in which the original pages and graphics merge with the contours of the musical instruments, the bodies and gestures of the musicians in the interpretation, giving movement, sound, symbolism and visuality to the original score, so that it can also be interpreted by other groups of musicians and artists.” (Marco Scarassatti)


Guilherme Vaz: Sinfonia dos Ares (2002) for trumpet, bassoon, 2 double basses, 6 maracas

Realised as a four-channel installation with mechanically operated indigenous maracas

Lívio Tragtenberg: concept, musical direction

Erick Ariga, bassoon; Emerson Boy, trumpet; Cleber Castro, double bass; Walter Muller, double bass

Marco Scarassatti: concept mechanical maracas

Sebastian Schlemminger: development and crafting of the mechanical maracas

The maracas were created and offered by the indigenous group of the Pataxó.

Sinfonia dos Ares is a composition by Guilherme Vaz (1948–2018) based on Brazilian indigenous sound worlds. It is the fourth part of an acoustic approximation of the indigenous cosmogony of the four basic elements of water, fire, air and earth. This sound world, so difficult to describe in words, incorporates an open conception of time, spatial depth, the unmistakable sound of indigenous maracas and the rushing of the wind.

Produced by Vaz as a studio composition, composer and musical director Lívio Tragtenberg staged a live performance of the piece for the first time in São Paulo in 2017 after in-depth consultation with Vaz. The composition is now undergoing further transformation into an installation. The mechanically controlled indigenous maracas draw on a long tradition of mechanical and kinetic home-built musical instruments in Brazil.

First broadcast of the film productions Anestesia by Walter Smetak / Marco Scarassatti and Luiz Pretti and Dialoge by Thomas Kessler, with Ensemble Modern and Silvia Ocougne

Live performances in the outdoor area of the Akademie der Künste by Ute Wassermann & Sabine Vogel, Silvia Ocougne and Guilherme Vaz

Live stream from 8 May 2021 on YouTube and Facebook

Further information

Memories in Music