'Love Song'

Composition [audiOh! 15] + Installation 2003

‘Love Song’ began when I awoke with the idea fully formed in my mind while on honeymoon in March 2003.
Love was ‘in the air’ it seems. My new bigger family has seven women living in England ranging in age from 7 to 60.
I asked each one of them to sing the word Love seven separate times at seven different pitches.
These pitches were chosen randomly, and they held the note for as long they could.
Each relative was recorded in a different space and as my mother in law was ill I recorded her via a phone call.
Using these 49 variations as building blocks I constructed a 10 minute multi-layered composition.
This has two main phases developing around the themes of their personal relationships (daughters meld
into mothers etc) and their various tonalities.
Only stereo and volume editing altered the original recordings.
The word Love is sung a total of 220 times and begins with the voice of my new wife.
The result is a woven and beautifully warm sound texture.

In the gallery the song is played invisibly from 'within' the walls so that the architecture and
the sound become one.
In this expanded space the song is cut to a one off vinyl disc and played repeatedly, but silently, on my especially
developed 1950’s ‘Turntable Transmitter’. This then broadcasts the music to a standard FM Radio Walkman which
floats beneath a collection of red heart shaped helium balloons. The groove is slowly warn away, and the radio transmitter
degrades and distorts the signal as you move around. The decay of the original song is materialised through the early
technologies of the pop industry. Each singer is represented by a mask set out on my heart shaped ‘love cats’ blanket.
The scene is finally saturated with red light, red love balloons and red glitter heart confetti.



Love Song [edit] is also now the opening track on a tribute CD to Stockhausen's 'Gesang der Jünglinge'.
A collection of 21 artists paying homage to the piece concerned with the melting of voice & electronics.
CD released by Sirr called 'Untitled Songs'.
More info and an MP3 stream available

Review by Paris Transatlantic of Love Song on 'Untitled Songs'

"Several of the artists explore the sheer physicality of the human voice, which, along with the spatial element, has always been the most striking aspect of the Stockhausen original. Janek Schaefer recorded the word "love" sung at seven different pitches by seven different women (including his wife and mother-in-law.. that's love for ya) and built a ravishing seven-minute composition from the results.......... the Schaefer, Rippie, Roden and Raposo tracks, to name but four, are spectacularly good examples of contemporary electronica's ability to create rich and unique sonic ecosystems in a few minutes with a limited amount of material."

Review by The Sonic Arts Network

"So rather than picking over one track versus another in terms of relevance to Stockhausen’s piece, I'll pick a few favourites. Voices are both at the heart of this CD and at its absence. Janek Schaefer's piece, one assumes, by being first on the compilation is also a favourite of the label. The charming idea of having the 7 women in his family sing the word love over different pitches creates a simple but distinct beginning to this compilation. Schaefer's own practice seems wonderfully reductive at the moment he keeps aside the toys, fireworks and glitch software, that can curdle so much electronic music well away from his work, and sticks to volume, spatialisation and a complex investigation of the human voice, where the inconsistencies of the Schaefer family choir create eerie microtones similar to Ligeti's late 60's work for voices."


Play composition extract: 'Love Song': [with Real Audio]

The photo's below are from the inaugural version at Nieuwe Vide, Haarlem, Holland. 26th April 2003.
It was built in the same space as Philip Jeck's 'Off The Record' installation. This
actually worked really
well as the colours, the sounds and the themes combined to create new meaning together. Polar opposites.


2013 installation with new 36" balloons at Semibreve Festival, Portugal.

Buy original composition on CD or LP from Kiosk!



: Love Lounge :
: Walker Art Centre :
: Minneapolis :

< Valentines Night 2004 >

City Pages Paper, Minneapolis
Full Page Article Published 2/11/04
by Nick Phillips

Meet Janek Schaefer, master manipulator of the wheels of steel

"Hey, if you spent long days with a turntable as your only companion, you might let yourself get felt up by a koala, too:"

Christian Marclay may be the father of experimental turntablism, scratching and mutating and finally crushing a selection of battered vinyl in his 1984 short film "Record Players." But Janek Schaefer is the genre's clown prince. With his Tri-Phonic Turntable, the London-based artist unintentionally invented the best tool for extracting subliminal messages from Black Sabbath albums: a home-built record player modified with three tone-arms that allow the performer to mix several sections of a record together simultaneously, shift speed, or reverse the record at will. Schaefer cut custom dub-plates of locked grooves, then sent the tone-arms shuttling across the vinyl, mixing chance loops into dense aggregations of field recordings. The Tri-Phonic even earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for The World's Most Versatile Instrument--though, if you ask me, the title should have been Best Experimental Music Invention since Harry Partch's 31-Tone Zoomoozophone.

Still, Schaefer--who performs at the Walker Art Center for its all-night Valentine's Day bash--isn't just a one-trick three-disc jockey. His sound art career began in 1995 with Recorded Delivery, an album that followed his voice-activated recorder on an overnight voyage through the vans, mailboxes, and sorting rooms of the Royal Postal Service. The fascinating and slightly creepy results, climaxing with the gauche small talk of grumpy old mail carriers, premiered at the Brian Eno-curated Self Storage exhibition in Wembley, London, where Schaefer earned enough notice that he abandoned his architecture studies. Instead of designing buildings, he decided, he'd provide soundtracks for them.

Not that Schaefer entirely forgot his roots in architectural theory. His sonic work has always approached audio assemblage from a sculptor's point of view, layering washes of hiss and buzz with a keen ear for space. This technique is most impressively deployed on 2000's Above Buildings (FatCat): Schaefer collected field recordings (a prepared piano being retuned, the neon buzz of Las Vegas streets, an amplified microphone capturing a solar eclipse) and processed the results into sinister scrapes that build from near silence into foreboding cinematic drones. Listen to it in complete darkness and it's truly terrifying, burning with a slow-boiled menace that David Lynch might find useful.

The Walker's upcoming "Let's Spend the Night Together" party marks a homecoming of sorts for Schaefer, who recently spent two months living in Uptown as a McKnight Composer in Residence. During his December 2002 sojourn, Schaefer recorded a mobile phone's transmissions floating over a frozen lake, taped Dictaphones to weather balloons for recordings of the sky, and miked the beeps and buzzes of tornado-chasing and -testing equipment. Using none of the postproduction equalization that so attracts many modern knob-twiddlers, Schaefer cut and pasted the results together with archival meteorology sound bites to produce Weather Report (Alluvial), a 21-minute mini-narrative that artfully invokes Minnesota's bipolar climate.

But his February concert suggests something far warmer: Schaefer promises on his AudiOh label's website to deck out his performance room at the Walker with a Valentine's theme. But if his other edgy reworkings of traditional themes are anything to go by, this particular V-Day event promises to be a world removed from Hallmark card romance. Will he play love songs? Maybe. But only if "love" is what made the punk girlfriend on The Real World: London give her boyfriend a pig's heart with a nail through it.
Calendar Info
* Janek Schaefer - Saturday, February 14 - Walker Art Center - 612.375.7600

City Pages Review of the event: Feb 18th

"Dozens of heart-shaped balloons stick to the wall on the 3rd floor gallery; one has the word 'Love' scrawled across it in cursive handwriting. During the last hours of UK experimentalist Janek Schaefer's haunting performance, the balloon has shrivled down to a tiny wrinkled mass. It's 2:00am, and beneath a rosy glow cast by the crimson globes overhead, Schaefer twiddles knobs until a low, mournful drone rises from his kit, warpng Jennifer Rush's 'Power of Love' so that the chanteuse moans like a demonic drag queen. 'I am your lady, and you are my man' she sighs, as if to clarify any gender confusion. In the centre of the room, two women slow-dance to the bizarre ballad, their exaggerated waltz looking like something from a David Lynch film. A handful of voyeurs watch transfixed. Three hours later, just before sunrise, Schaefer is as energetic as ever and wide awake expertly perverting his favourite love songs!"