Kenneth Kirschner

Kenneth Kirschner - MM-DD-YY, black-and-white closeup of brambles


Venerable online music magazine Tokafi recently stopped publishing new content, allowing its owner Tobias Fischer the time to pursue new projects. One of the final projects to appear under the Tokafi banner before the site became a closed archive was a vast multimedia retrospective celebrating the work of Kenneth Kirschner, a US-based musician whom Fischer has long championed. Among the outputs of this project were a three-volume compilation of recordings spanning the last fifteen years or so of Kirschner’s career, an anthology of interviews and critical texts, and a six-hour album of remixes titled “Imperfect Forms”. All in all, a substantial overview of Kirschner’s music is provided, supplying a degree of context often lacking from the artist’s own preferred method of distributing his works (all of which are available via his website for free download).

All of Kirschner’s pieces are created using computer-based editing techniques, using either recordings of acoustic instruments, digital models of instruments, or purely electronic sounds. One could talk superficially about notions of ‘collage’, but this would downplay the extent to which the artist has thought about the time-based nature of music as an artform. Sometimes this leads to an ‘episodic’ structure, with the music drifting from fragment to fragment at a pace and in an order derived from the acoustic character of each fragment — ‘January 2, 2010’ is an example of this approach. On other occasions, the conceptual device of the loop holds sway, pointing both to electronic dance music and to US Minimalism: ‘January 24, 2014’ is particularly reminiscent of the music of Steve Reich, but the recorded format allows the use of features not available to works composed for live performance.

In some ways, the size and diversity of Kirschner’s oeuvre makes summing it up in a few perfunctory sentences a pointless exercise, yet perhaps it is the constant iteration on sets of particular processes and ideas that is one of the truly contemporary aspects of Kirschner’s work — he takes care to examine every facet of a musical object, holding up each face to the light. Along the large network of intersecting paths, moments of great beauty are encountered. The accompanying texts also make for a great read (the artist’s account of how he met lifelong friend and collaborator Taylor Deupree is a particular highlight), and there are some great remixes too, including an hour-long reimagining from 12k labelmate Steinbrüchel. With all proceeds going to support the artist, it’s hard to imagine a better use for Bandcamp’s ‘pay more’ feature.

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