Florian Hecker - Speculative Solution [Editions Mego - 2011]Now this is an interesting thing. An attractive cloth bound box containing a CD, a booklet of philosophical essays and five little ball bearings. What could it all be about? The spiel reveals it to be a collaborative effort combining Hecker’s psychoacoustic experimentation with philosopher Quentin Meillassoux’s concept of ‘hyperchaos’ – the absolute contingency of the laws of nature. Meillassoux (a former student of French Philosopher Alain Badiou) contributes an essay to the booklet along with Robin Mackay and Elie Ayache.
I’ll leave the analysis of the essays for the philosophy buffs to say only that Meillassoux’s will provide special interest to those interested in Kantianism or the emerging school of Speculative Realism of which Meillassoux is associated. Also his essay provides a clue as to the meaning of the ball bearings included in the box. In refuting Kant’s argument (aimed at David Hume) for the strict necessity of the laws of nature Meillassoux envisages a world where the laws of nature are contingent, hyper-chaotic, and as such undermine all attempt to found a natural science; natural science being dependent on the ability to formulate hypotheses that are testable in a world that displays some degree of relative stability. However the degree of instability is not such that it undermines consciousness itself, this is a world that Meillassoux calls an Extro-science fictional world.
The balls then perhaps represent in part a nod to Hume whose original thought experiment involving billiard balls sets up the confrontation with Kant, but also perhaps the listener is meant to roll them around in the brightly coloured box lid observing their movements, their strange trajectories, and seemingly random collisions and changes of direction, contemplating Meillassoux theses and what the world he describes might be like.
The music presented by Hecker also appears to be attempting something like a deregulation of the laws of nature. In a fusion very much in keeping with the themes of the essayists Hecker combines the kind of micro-tonal variations and composition reminiscent of Xenakis’ Stochastic music with the more radical indeterminacy of John Cage. The result is four compositions, the first being the longest at over 30 minutes. Built up using short repeating fragments of electronic sound each piece traverses a multitude of disparate rhythms and tonal variations loosely connected but lacking anything you might call predictability. Unlike a work such as Xenakis’ Legend D’eer where a dense cacophony of multi-layered sound expands slowly over a long period of time eventually showing in it’s macroscopic form the underlying logic, Hecker’s pieces only show some level of predictability on the microscopic level. Short bursts of sound that take on an almost call and response style. Rising glissandi and brief passages of tonal scale that disintegrate into atonal nonsense just as soon as you notice them.
Perhaps this is what Meillassoux is getting at when he describes the breakdown of predictive science but not of the manifold of experience. The music is still intelligible despite it’s refusal of form. There are some passages especially in the longer piece that utilise reverb and panning in ways that give the composition a more three dimensional shape, and noisier bits that recall the early concrete experiments of Pierre Schaffer and GRM.
Ultimately, like most hardcore contemporary music it is a pretty dry experience. However, the theoretical underpinnings of the work add a considerable degree of interest, and those into the works of Cage, Xenakis, Feldman and the Sonic Arts Union will get much from it. The inclusion of the essays and the excellent presentation of the work contribute to a uniquely intriguing whole.Duncan Simpson