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Music student featured in Musicworks Magazine

Bennett Jenisch

Bennett Jenisch: Winner of the 2012 Musicworks electronic music contest
Image by Taylor Jenisch

In addition to having recently won the Musicworks Electronic Music Contest with his first ever acousmatic piece Buried Gesture, Bennett Jenisch also writes and performs with his live electronic band Moth Vegas. “I would say that probably about half of what I produce is stuff like the Moth Vegas project [an audiovisual project with collaborator Devon Fisher], and the other half is related to school or comes through school—the more academic pieces.”

Jenisch grew up in Frankfurt, Germany and has been studying music at Northeastern University in Boston since 2010. Buried Gesture, the eight-minute piece that won him first place in the 2012Musicworks contest was originally written as part of his music studies course at Northeastern. An evocative—almost programmatic—electroacoustic work,Buried Gesture was inspired by the work of acousmatic composers Denis Smalley and Andrew Lewis. The piece also shares common ground with the acoustic doom-music style of Norwegian musician Erik K. Skodvin. The word gestureoccurs in the title because the processed field recordings that make up the piece were designed to evoke a series of veiled human gestures. Jenisch’s intention is to work with the tension that those gestures create, taking the listener to an imaginary vantage point, which lends the piece its somewhat sinister air. “The concept was that you’re listening from under the surface of the earth and you’re not really sure what’s going on above ground. All the hammering is to suggest that people are building cities on the surface, but you don’t know for sure what’s going on because all you have is the sounds.”

Buried Gesture was constructed by processing a series of five-second samples sourced from Jenisch’s field recordings. The recordings were made by close-miking interactions with everyday objects such as plants and by capturing actions such as hammering on sheet metal to suggest the sound of footsteps. “One thing I sampled is one of those salad spinners you use for drying salad. As a listener you subconsciously know that someone is making that sound and it’s not just happening, because you associate it with something that you too have done before, like cranking something up.” Jenisch then stitched together multiple phrases to allow surprising polyrhythms to emerge, employing those rhythms and tones to build organically to the climax of the piece. “What usually happens is that I add two or three samples at different rhythms to get a kind of cumulative polyrhythm that’s happening because of all three samples hanging together. I’ll do that four or five times to get different rhythms, and then choose the one that pleases my ear the most.”

Read the full article about Bennett at Musicworks →