After the collaboration Recalcitrance, with Matthijs Kouw, and his solo debut ds[a] + hsh Gagi Petrovic returns to Moving Furniture Records with his second solo album Choosing Freedom
Choosing Freedom is released on CD mastered by Jos Smolders and comes in beautiful artwork by Rutger Zuydervelt.
About Choosing Freedom
With this work Petrovic chooses to explore beyond abstraction, dwell within it, to find an inner celebration of what it means to let go of expectations and let music ring free. Free from arbitrary expectations, emotional manipulations and conservative evasions regarding what music “should” be.
For this purpose he created his own musical instrument. The custom-built GEST allows the performer to design and play electronic music in an intuitive way, turning hand gestures and light sensors into an interface for musical expression. It’s an environment for both composing pieces based on audio recordings and performing structures with indeterminate elements.
Vital Weekly, Sven Schlijper-Karrsenberg
Checking the connections. All clear. Right, there goes the volume knob. Let’s hear something. Choosing Freedom starts quite quiet. What’s there? What’s he building in there, as if we’re exploring the intimate inner workings of the speakers themselves. Ah. Whoops, there goes the neighbourhood. Shuddering spikes erupt out of thin air. Indeed, the title of the opening track points in this direction: Divided Attention. Here, there or lack thereof and what do you do or hear or listen to?
Gagi Petrovic is a composer, performer, producer and teacher of music. His field of expertise and exploration is experimental research in vivo into tactility of sound and performativity of instruments, producing an aural universe replete with deeply felt intimacy and fierce, uncompromising intensity. Also: his work moves between the academic and philosophic maelstrom depths of Ob-literate (in co-operation with Zeno van den Broek) and piercing noise performances with a light-sensitive purpose-built instrument as I witnessed at The Hague’s Rewire festival in 2018.
More recently Petrovic teamed up with Matthijs Kouw for Recalcitrance (a 2CD, also on Moving Furniture Records) and in his review for Vital Weekly 1276 Frans de Waard wrote: “[…] Petrovic has a slightly more musical touch to his music, such as the melodic element of the very short piece ‘Remnants’ or the stuttering Ovalesque’s rhythm of ‘Depressant’. […] [I]n his five pieces, he is a bit more varied, combining drones and tones, clustered sounds and rhythms.” This is pretty much spot-on in terms of trying to grasp the versatile practice of the composer Petrovic, for his boundary-pushing sonic narratives or fragmented shards thereof, resist simple identification, constantly shapeshifting like music of quicksilver spheres.
Choosing Freedom as per the title itself invokes a political act, however personal or societal. Therewith the work fits neatly into the conceptual realm Petrovic has been mining with previous works, consisting of themes like isolation and destruction, oppression or the diametrical opposite which can be found in freedom. And not only that: but also: what that is, what freedom, being free entails, as in freedom of expression or, closer to this release: in autonomous composition.
(That twiddling with the volume knob. The sense of uneasy quiet or too quiet. Was that just my set of arbitrary expectations? And was that a display of unfreedom perhaps, bound by what I expected, bound to fail?)
However, heavy-handed philosophically charged of conceptually thought-out and – through this may sound, Petrovic – above all else – produces works that manage to explore the mental and physical impact of sound and musical material. Or, to put it differently: how the abstract, outside, coming from out-there notions and inputs of sound matter in order or disorder produce possibilities to get a sense of very personal, subjective or shared interconnected reality or realities, perhaps even routes to get out of (t)here or to turn the (perceived) real upside down or inside out. In two words: scattered perceptions?
With Choosing Freedom, the glossy and rainbow-coloured sleeve art could well be dressed for the occasion of wrapping a deft serving or glistening electro-pop. But it isn’t. Or isn’t it? Petrovic pushes through glitch and Warp-label abstraction, beyond Autechre, through the wormhole. What can we hear exactly, there where aural gravity pushes down with the mightiest force? Can we imagine this? Could some remnant reminder fragments in splintered juxtaposition yield maximum results here and maybe even usher in an intimation of electronic chamber-pop, a picture-perfect fit for, let’s say, for example, Tarkovsky’s Solaris?
Choosing Freedom lets the GEST (the aforementioned light-interface instrument) take centre stage and the ingrained indeterminacy of the tool breathes gale-force stormy winds of constant change through these six pieces, totalling some 40 minutes. Utterly out or grasp, Petrovic imbues his compositions with a baffling sense of movement which celebrates the non-fixed, the open and carefree, the light from the dark. This could be called music. Or sound artistic experimentation. Noise or a controlled glitch fest. Maybe even music for the masses to come.
First and foremost, this is a collection of forward-moving and boundary-smashing presentations which defy categorization or determination. These are no butterflies pinned in a viewing cabinet: this is the total bright and breezy and carefree population of a huge butterfly garden, the humid air therein, the plants, the greenhouse itself, yes even the hortus as a whole – a biotope of uncharted possible musical species. (SSK)
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Gagi Petrovic is a composer, performer producer and teacher of music. As a musician and sound artist he mainly works in performative settings, with a versatile taste and diverse expertise. He writes pieces and songs with elements that are acoustic and electronic, intense and intimate, which are something between odd and familiar. Aesthetically his work balances in the grey area of contemporary composition, digital electronics and alternative pop. Conceptually his music often covers themes revolving around oppression, isolation, destruction and what it means to be free.
The use of technology often plays a big role in his creative process, as well as his preference to keep pushing music forward. As a composer he mostly works in an autonomous fashion, where research in freedom of expression and playfully exploring boundaries guides his creative decisions. He has received commissions from organisations such as Gaudeamus, Fringe Festival, Rewire and LeineRoebana, asking him to write for soloist and small ensembles. He releases electro-acoustic albums and performs own works with GEST and as a singer-songwriter. Frequently, he produces music for other media too, like contemporary dance, theatre, video art and documentary. He has a special interest in how music moves us both physically and mentally; how such abstract languages enable us to reflect on a particular sense of reality, escape it or even question it.