1 hour composition 'Migration' for the site-specific dance called
'Migrations' - choreographed by Noemie Lafrance, New York, May 4th 2005

Commissioned by The Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria

Part of the performance series 'Resonant Space'
Performed by the Liz Gerring Dance Company....
opposite Grand Central Station on 42nd St, NYC

Dancers float, hang and dangle from window ledges perched above the audience.

My sounds and images interpret this theme loosely by using source sounds from the migration patterns and
movement of nature and its sounds 'above us'. Looking up! I was inspired by my new less urban surroundings
here at home to create a piece using the new sounds and images I have been enjoying around me - collecting
powerful and delicate recordings of: wind in winter branches, flocks of flying parakeets and our feathered
friends on ledges/in trees, flying embers of a spring bonfire at dusk. On holiday in Lourdes I walked into the
main pilgrimage church to find them tuning the upper register of the organ - the sounds swirling above me,
so that was an uplifting moment! Also included is a recording of the dawn breaking in the Amazon as a our
host family woke up and turned on the radio. The signal grew stronger and stronger as the sun rose.

Lots of other sounds arrive along with other musical floating tones etc.... as ever I try and balance the source
material with an element of audio mystery so that it's not to obvious and not over manipulated.

6 page digipack : released by
Bip_Hop, France [Bleep 31]

One of Schaefer's best releases to date.
[Ken Hollings, The Wire]

'Migration' by Janek Schaefer

<<< Buy the CD here from the audiOh! Kiosk >>>

The first half of the journey unwinds slowly and calmly, drifting through night trees and ethereal spaces
as radio waves bounce off the stratosphere at first light in the heart of the Amazon. During the second half,
sparkling sequences glitter in the rising sun and sounds circle overhead. Dense organ drones from Lourdes
cathedral land as embers fly into the sky revealing hovering melodies. The tension unfolds slowly as we depart
into the blinding white light of day with an ecstatic sequence of fierce beauty

60 min composition: Track Listing

[30 min] 1 : to Nairobi to Manaus to Walton............ >Short Real Audio Extract<
[05 min] 2 : to Oval to Cologne............................... >
Short Real Audio Extract<
[15 min] 3 : to Lourdes to Madrid............................ >
Short Real Audio Extract<
[10 min] 4 : to New York to Eugenie to Perth.......... >
Short Real Audio Extract<

download the press release here

"One of Janek's most engaging and accessible albums.
A delightful and cathartic experience for the discerning listener. ."

[Terramotto, New York.]


........ .. ...... ... ...... .........  ..........  ....... .......  .... ... ... .. .... ... ..... .. ...... ..... ......    ...... .. ..... ...... . ........ ... ... 

Hear my radio interview about Migration with Susanna Bolle for WZBC Radio, Boston.
Read the radio interview transcript here

........ .. ...... ... ...... .........  .......... ...... ..... ......    ...... .. ..... ...... . ........ ... ...  ....... .......  .... ... ... .. .... ... ..... ..


I developed the soundtrack while creating the following associated images.

body migration - taken as I arrived for the premier in New York

branches in my garden

the bark of a tree in France

my new willow garden screens

the winter trees and bird baskets in my garden

the Organ in Lourdes featured in the composition


my neighbours bonfire


*Dedicated to Gino, Aimee and Griffin in New York for all your help friendship and wonderful support*
with special thanks to Noemie for having the ideas and offering me the commission


The Wire Magazine [UK]
Janek Schaefer has a unique gift for seeing process in spatial terms: He's a student of architecture who once mailed a sound-activated dictaphone to himself, so it would catch all the noises made while in transit through the postal system. The traversing of distance itself becomes a vital element in the composition. Not surprising then, to discover that the four parts that make up Migration, originally created as a soundtrack to a dance by Noemie Lafrance, are given titles that relate only to destinations.

The longest and most ambitious is 'To Nairobi To Manaus To Walton', a subtle and delicately worked intertwining of field recordings and effects lasting more than 28mins. As befits such a one-way journey, the piece creates drama out of expectation, its most remarkable moment coming somewhere towards the middle, where Schaefer includes a recording of dawn breaking on the Amazon; when a radio is switched on the signal grows stronger as the light increases. Both 'To Oval To Cologne' and 'To Lourdes To Madrid' transform the extended swelling of sustained organ notes into a grand swirling of tones: the former into dry clusters of static swept from the left channel to the right, and the later into gamelan loops. 'To New York To Eugenie To Perth' builds to a delirious cacophony, only to fade out softly on the subdued trilling of distant birds, which seems an entirely appropriate conclusion to a work patterned upon notions of instinctive flight. One of Schaefer's best releases to date. [Ken Hollings]

Migration listed in The Wire's own 'office ambience' chart feb 06

Warp Records [UK]
"Excellent.. and a real pleasure"

World renowned sound artist Janek Schaefer composed this record for a site-specific project which involved dancers balancing on window ledges at the Whitney Gallery in New York (attached by bungee cords). His music was apparently influenced by the migration patterns of birds which he watched from his Thames-side flat in London, which linked to the dancers perching in New York somehow. Made up of several field recordings taken from different countries; Migrations comes across as less difficult as one might think. Each recording seems to be quite heavily processed, with synthesized elements drifting in and out of subtle found sounds and traces of familiar scratches and creaks. This is a record which in all its artistic minimalism also comes out the other end as quite beautiful, at times resembling the work of Philip Jeck or even Fennesz. Recommended for all you beardslooking for something a little friendlier than usual from your experimental stew.

Our beloved busy architect (and daddy now) is of course Janek Schaefer, who has released a whole catalogue of CDs and strange
pieces of vinyl for such fine labels as Kraak, Mutek, Sirr, Staalplaat, Fat Cat and his own AudiOh! label, and some which I
forgot. Here he makes his first appearance on Bip-hop. It contains a piece of music which acts as a soundtrack to a dance by
Choreographer Noemie Lafrance. Dancers were attached by bungee cord so they could lean forward into open air and defy gravity -
hovering above the audience. Much like the dancers above the audience, the music is inspired by birds, which migrate above us and
culled from Schaefer's library of field recordings comes the sounds of Nairobi, Madrid, Perth, New York and Madrid - to mention a
few. The piece, divided in four parts, starts out softly in the first two parts, with carefully processed field recordings, but
with lots of small events happening. In the next two piece things start to work into a mighty crescendo of organ like sounds
(thanks to Lourdes) and orchestral sounds in the final 'To New York to Eugenie to Perth'. Here is where things take off and starts
flying around. Quite a captivating piece of work here. Even without a dance it sounds great.

With a penchant for architecture, the sound collages of Janek Schaefer are often the outcome of a deconstructionist methodology: essentially, Schaefer breaks apart pre-existing reels of tape with the intention of digging through and underneath them so as to uncover their fundamental, hidden parts. Once isolated, such components are then manipulated, organized and layered into elaborate blocks of sound that are thoughtfully connected and exquisitely detailed.
This hour-long composition - which was initially constructed as a soundtrack for a site specific dance choreographed by Noemie Lafrance - is largely devoid of conventional rhythms and harmonies, and instead takes as its fulcrum the development of minute tones and textures. That being said, the moods explored in the ensuing compositions lie in neither of these terms in themselves - on the contrary,  they are born of their relation. Put differently, the granular particles of sound that are on display here are of a finite quantity and stand in a network of differences such that the timbre and fibre of the sound changes depending upon the other patterns with which it is embedded. As such, all of these percolating details are thoroughly enmeshed much in the way the elements in a painting are intricately interconnected.
On the first composition, plaintive birdcalls are shrouded in a distended cacophony of Elysian bell tones, vague liminal noises, and a low-end hum that gradually shifts the dynamic of the piece, as it takes on a more upfront, immediate, altogether humid aura. When Schaefer shifts back and allows pieces to grow sparse yet again, he demonstrates fine judgment and a high level of technical skill in the manner in which he is careful to maintain form and tension through subtle clusters of granular sound and filtered organ chords looped to infinity. Near the end, these fragments of sound gather together and coalesce into a slightly discordant roar of paranoid ambience. Even taken away from the artist’s intentions, the markings of this document are elegantly arranged, and imbued with enough substance to induce a wealth of interpretations. [Max Schaefer]

TIJD [Belgian Daily newspaper]
In het voorjaar van 2005 vond aan de buitengevel van het New Yorkse Grand Central Station de performance 'Migration' plaats, een groots opgezet spektakel onder leiding van de choreografe Noemie LaFrance. Bungelend aan elastieken, scheerden dansers boven de hoofden van het publiek, net zoals (migrerende) vogels. Voor de soundtrack zocht de choreografe de Brit Janek Schaefer aan. Die is sinds goed tien jaar bekend met zijn vaak erg verstilde doch scherpe composities die hij voornamelijk op draaitafels creëert. Vaak werkt hij met niet meer dan een tiental bestaande (pop)platen. Na ze te bekrassen, beschilderen en vervormen ondergaan die zijn 'triphonic turntable': een zelfgebouwde platenspeler met drie uiterst gevoelige naalden en verschillende snelheden. Die basisgeluiden schikt Schaefer op zijn desktop tot een compositie. De dertiger vertrekt werk vaak vanuit een imaginair concept. Voor 'Migration' zijn dat, voortvloeiend uit de idee van de choreografie, noties van lucht(ledigheid), vliegen en beweging. Dat laatste vatte Schaefer letterlijk op door in de vier lange nummers tientallen veldopnames in te voegen, vaak van vogels. De registreerde hij tijdens zijn reizen in ondermeer Keulen, Madrid, Perth en New York. 'Migration' resulteert in een krachtige, uiterst melancholieke geluidenstroom waarin verschillende lagen zich tegenover elkaar spiegelen: het in loops gegoten, metalige krassen van de pick-up, stemmen en achtergrondgeluiden en - vooral - tonnen verschillende vogelgeluiden. In het eerste deel van de plaat houdt Schaefer het enigszins donker en ingetogen, maar in de volgende nummers verwarmt de sfeer tot broeierige, haast exotische hoogtes.

TERZ [Germany]
Von den ruhigeren Tönen zu den ganz ruhigen: das Thema Migration ist mittlerweile - durchaus nicht immer adäquat und in all
seiner widersprüchlichen Komplexität - vom Rand an die innere Peripherie gesellschaftlicher Diskurse angekommen. Schaefers
Klangkunst, im Frühjahr 2005 live präsentiert unter der Choreografie von Noemie Lafrances durch die Tänzer von Liz Gerrings
Ensemble, die an Bungee-Seilen hoch über den Köpfen des Whitney-Galerie-Publikums performten, vollzieht das Spektrum von
internationalen und kontinentalen Bewegungen auf eine nachvollziehbare wie gleichsam verstörende Weise. Zwischen Zugvögelgesang
und Güterwaggon-Containerverschiebe-Bahnhofgeräuschen entwickelt sich ein immer intensiver und packender werdendes Szenario.

MANAMANA [Hungary]
Schaefer mester igazi, régi motoros, olyan kiváló kiadók vannak már mögötte, mint a Fat Cat, az Asphodel, vagy a Mutek. A Bip-Hop is kiválóan illik ebbe a sorba, hiszen megkerülhetetlen, mint a modern elektronikus törekvések egyik fontos központja. A Migration címû legújabb lemeze, ami egyébként a Liz Gerring tánctársulat egyik darabjához készült aláfestõ zene tulajdonképpen field music-ként kezelhetõ még leginkább, hosszan kitartott hangok, gerjedések, távolról beszûrõdõ, torz rádiófoszlányok, pattogások, madárcsicsergés (ez utóbbi elég gazdagon). A számcímek valamiféle
utazásérzetet erõsítenek (to Nairobi to Manaus to Walton, to Oval to Cologne, stb) és ennek megfelelõen mintegy varázsszõnyegen repked a hallgató, nagy, üres területeken át, a civilizáció pedig értelmezhetetlen zajaival épp csak megérinti itt-ott (pontosabban az elsõ fél órában éppencsak, a másodikban nagyonis). Az egész anyag pontosan egy órát vesz igénybe az életünkbõl. Akkor hallgassuk, ha nincs más dolgunk, viszont szeretnénk kikapcsolódni a világból, de nem egy mindent elmosó kellemes ambient párnával, hanem egy kábító hatású, rejtélyes audio-trippel. Utána meg egy jó
alvás! Suefo http://www.manamana.hu/kritika/kritika.html

Bande son d’un ballet orchestré sur la façade de la gare Grand Central de New York, " Janek Schaefer " se faufile depuis la station de métro, habille de sonorités campagnardes les dorures du Hall Principal. Chuchotements d’enfants, discours radiophoniques, chants d’oiseaux, les 44 quais se couvrent de photos sans visages, les 67 voies résonnent de souvenirs orchestrales. On imagine les grandes orgues rivalisant avec les cascades de drones, les papiers gras tournoyant dans les médulleuses imaginées par Oval , les kiosques à journaux devenant puits de lumières autour duquel se dessinent les
ombres d’anciens voyageurs perdus et les vols d’oiseaux aux plumes charbons ardents.. Une féerie mélodiques commençant dans les airs pour un final trouvant son énergie dans les profondeurs de basses grésillant sur la limaille de fer..

Touching Extremes [Italy]
Originally conceived as a soundtrack for a site-specific dance by Noémie Lafrance, "Migration" is also a fine specimen of Schaefer's audio documentary, music that crosses the boundaries between a sheer description of a trip - being it real or just imaginary - and the uncomfortable sensation of standing in front of a giant door introducing to an oneiric world where acoustic phenomena have the same importance of magnetic attraction in opposite poles. Through his well known ability to squeeze evocative images of sonic biology from the manipulation of locked vinyl grooves and competent sampling, Schaefer creates textural experiences that can be sublime - throbbing underground pulses accompany our heartbeat; organ loops depict the movement to a superior sphere - or, in some case, a tad more predictable, with natural/environmental sounds and city noises (which, thanks to Janek compositional dexterity, are nevertheless equally pleasing). Everything seems to spring from an extraordinary dimension, alimented by many unknown forces in conjunction with a strong interiority.

Rare Frequency [USA WZBC  FM Radio]
Composed for a site-specific dance in which the dancers were suspended high above the audience on bungee cords, Janek Schaefer’s latest release is made, appropriately enough, using sounds from above, such as birds, radio transmissions, and pipe organ. Though divided into four parts, Migration is a unified piece, best heard straight-through. Beginning with the soft sound of rustling leaves (or is it fluttering wings? or even static?), Migration remains serene and contemplative throughout its first section, “To Nariobi To Manaus to Walton,” which is a beautiful and subtly rendered collage of, among other things, birdsong, voices, delicate rain soaked static, and melodic electronic hums. Things take off, quite literally, in the three subsequent pieces, in which organ tones and choral samples, mixed with sounds that snap and crackle like kindling, eventually build into a delirious, sonic euphoria, before dissipating into the ether. A beautiful release. [Susanna Bolle]

Blow Up [Itlay]
Mettete un particolarissimo spettacolo di danza site specific commissionato dal Whitney Museum of American Art, coi performers appesi tramite cavi elastici ai davanzali di un grattacielo sito di fronte alla Grand Central Station di New York. Aggiungete un'altrettanto inusuale colonna sonora a base di field recordings che allude esplicitamente al mondo che ci sovrasta e alle evoluzioni delle specie migratorie che allietano (influenza aviaria permettendo) quanti hanno l'abitudine post-prandiale di scrutare pigramente l'orizzonte. Protagonisti la coreografa Noemie Lafrance, i danzatori della Liz Gerring Dance Company e il compositore Janek Schaefer. Il quale ultimo per un'ora secca manovra da par suo, in evocativi saliscendi di densi tramestii elettroacustici e crescendo orchestrali, registrazioni ambientali raccolte ai quattro angoli del globo. Tutto molto efficace, ma per non esimersi dal ruolo di rompiscatole ci chiediamo cos'è che distingue in definitiva una registrazione raccolta in luoghi esotici come - mettiamo - l'amazzonica Manaus eun'altra effettuata sul più banale terrazzo di casa propria? (7/8) [Nicola Catalano]

MUSIC SCAN [Germany]

Wenn sich zwei Ausdrucksformen aufeinander beziehen beziehungsweise voneinander abhängen, ist es oft problematisch, wenn ein Teil davon wegfällt. Dies ist auch bei der „Tanzmusik“ von Janek Schaefer namens „Migration“ der Fall, wobei man sich diese Tracks auch problemlos ohne die visuelle Komponente anhören kann. Leicht macht es einem Janek Schaefer dabei allerdings bewusst nicht immer. Langsam zähe Drones und nicht minder eindringliche Hochfrequenzen treffen hier aufeinander und erschaffen über weite Strecken eine eher düstere und fast bedrohliche Musik, die sich nicht immer mit den außermusikalischen Bezugspunkten und Zuschreibungen des Beipackzettels korrelieren will. So vernimmt man eher ein bedrohlich verstörendes Klangsammelsurium, das sich erst durch die zahlreichen Field Recordings wieder in ein optimistischeres Licht kleidet. Wo man sich zu Anfang mit einem etwas strengen Minimalismus präsentiert, öffnen sich die Tracks zunehmend hin zu einer dichteren klanglichen Fläche, die Kontinuitäten stets den dekonstruktivistischen Brüchen vorzieht und schon allein deshalb am Stück gehört werden sollte. Man sollte sich hier von der ganzen Hochkulturgestik und dem entsprechenden Legitimationsbemühungen inklusive Museumspräsentationen nicht abschrecken lassen, denn im Prinzip handelt es sich hier um ein gelungenes Ambient/Drone-Album mit einer Menge Field Recordings und einem erstaunlich vielseitigen Klangspektrum, mit dem man sich getrost auseinandersetzen sollte. [7/10]

TEXTURA [Canada]
If ever a recording cried out for a DVD presentation, it's Janek Schafer's Migration. In the absence of visuals, one struggles to mentally conjure the 2005 performance Noémie Lafrance created for the Liz Gerring Dance company presented at a space opposite NY's Grand Central Station. Attached by bungee cords that allowed them to hover over the audience, dancers positioned themselves on window ledges inside the Whitney Gallery sculpture court and performed to the accompaniment of Schafer's heavily-edited field recordings.
The subtly evocative, twenty-eight minute opener “To Nairobi to Manaus to Walton” begins with ripples of gouged vinyl noise suggesting a boat adrift at sea. This seeming journey down the Amazon unfolds unhurriedly, the listener serenaded by bird sounds before entering more unsettling territory where radio waves buzz and thrum. Schafer pays especial attention to the mix throughout, as sounds pan back and forth, the movement of noises mirroring the imagined positioning of the voyager. Still, as much as the piece demonstrates Schafer's mastery as a sound artist, the piece is finally more a work of sound sculpture than music per se.
The second half exerts greater impact. The extroverted “To Oval to Cologne” focuses less on the manipulation of pure field recording elements and more on arranging organ filigrees and drones into bold splashes of carnival noise that cycle magnificently. If anything, “To Lourdes to Madrid” is even more impressive. Here, steely Lourdes organ drones stream alongside fiery embers that loudly crackle and pop. Choir fragments and organ tones drown within dense industrial haze and clatter during “To New York to Eugenie to Perth,” the hallucinatory, even nightmarish piece that ends the album.
Migration takes the listener on a provocative trip, though Schafer interestingly displaces the emphasis from the first half's more literal evocation of a geographical locale to an inner psychological journey in the second that flirts with derangement and psychosis more often than not (naturally, one is reminded of Marlowe's journey—mental and physical—in Heart of Darkness). Having noted the difference in character between the work's two halves, one wonders whether the dance piece revealed a similar change in character—a question best answered by those lucky enough to have witnessed the original performance.


La danse contemporaine est de plus en plus friande d'expérimentation musicale. Mais à l'exemple des installations sonores, les bandes-son ou compositions exclusives qui accompagnent les ballets sont parfois indéchiffrables sur disque; tant ce genre de textures acoustiques est inséparable de sa "mise en situation"… Un CD étant dénué du contexte, du mouvement, des visuels et, en l'occurrence, des corps qui structurent ce type d'environnement sonore. Pourtant l'écoute cette "migration", conçue à l'origine pour la chorégraphe Noémie Lafrance, n'en est pas moins évocatrice. Les 5 pièces qui composent ce digipack ont été rassemblées pour former un véritable album. Entre field-recordings ("To Nairobi to Manaus to Walton" / "To Lourdes to Madrid") et plages dark-ambient ("To New York to Eugenie to Perth"), Janek Schaefer nous entraîne dans un univers musical à part. Un paysage abstrait, si ce n'est abrupt, esquissé avec textures granuleuses, des bruissements insolites, des drones, des bruitages numériques, des bourdonnements étranges, un soupçon de musique concrète, quelques cliquetis numériques, une atmosphère post-industrielle et des gazouillis d'oiseaux.

Autres Directions [France]

Migration de Janek Schaefer est un compte-rendu sonore d’une création que l’"architecte sonore" brittanique a réalisé pour un spectacle de danse. A son habitude, il s’agit ici davantage d’ambiant, d’évocation : les field recordings sont légions, agrémentés de quelques manipulations sonores, et l’ensemble se veut évasif. Quatre titres, comme autant de périples, dans une jungle électronique (To Nairobi To Manau To Walton), dans un habit de notes et de drones (To Oval To Cologne), dans des structures craquantes plus enlevées (To Lourdes To Madrid), dans un environnement plus inquiétant, bourré de bestioles électroniques (To New York To Eugenie To Perth). Migration, ça veut surtout dire voyage.