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Transparent Sound 2021 / Christof Ressi & Szilard Benes: game_over, Terrain Study

Composer Christof Ressi and clarinetist Szilárd Benes are the resident artists of the 2021 Transparent Sound New Music Festival. The world of video games and the artistic aesthetic of new music come together in their works. The duo’s planned program for Budapest, including exhibitions, workshops, concerts, and presentations, were postponed to a later date of the year. However, we present two of their collaborative works, game_over and Terrain Study, in an online form. True to the traditions of the festival, we will also have short introductory sessions relating to the pieces, and to finish off the evening, we invite the audience to a Zoom meet and greet.

game over is a series of explorative musical video game environments which can be either played live on stage by a performer or presented as interactive installations. In this performance, a clarinet player navigates an avatar through extensive complex 2D game worlds with the help of a motion sensor on his/her instrument. Since almost every action triggers musical events, the performer is invited to freely explore the environment, interact with its (computer-controlled) inhabitants and exploit the game mechanics to provoke unconventional musical structures. The game worlds are collages of well-known 2D game genres which often superimpose or blend into each other; they are thought of as musical scores which can be always read anew. Occasionally, the composers intervenes with the game play by sending events or reprogramming parts of the game in real time. There is a notable tension between “reasonable” game actions on the one hand and purely musical decisions on the other hand. Since they often conflict with each other, the player is constantly challenged to maintain a balance and find meaningful goals within a vast space of possibilities. The performance is a reflection on the role of the individual within a system of constraints and searches for the expressive potential of rebellion against predefined rules. 

Terrain Study
Terrain Study is a work for solo performer and virtual reality system. The player starts in a simplistic 3D world consisting of only three basic elements: a randomly generated, slightly undulating terrain; a texture mapped cube which creates the illusion of an endless horizon (a so-called sky box); and several metal-like spheres hovering above the ground which the player can interact with musically.

The performer can move freely within a space of roughly 25 m², with his/her field of view being projected on the screen. The virtual acoustic space is created with higher order ambisonics and depends on the position and orientation of the player within the 3D space. While the binaural rendering – only heard by the performer over headphones – suggests a static environment, the reference point for the audience is the player perspective seen on the screen (like in a first person video game), so that the acoustic space is constantly shifting and rotating according to the movements of the performer. By and by, the visual and acoustic representation of the game world is manipulated by the sounds produced on the instrument, leading to bizarre structures and surreal perspectives, eventually questioning the division of subject and world.


Christof Ressi and Szilard Benes pursue the idea of confrontation of extreme psychological states by the means of music and media art. The instrumental sound of the clarinet dynamically interacts with electronics, video and body movement and lets the audience enter a manifold artistic vision of a landscape of the human soul.

Both musicians share a desire for crossing frontiers: Szilard Benes is constantly seeking to extend the sonic possibilites of his instrument, being inspired by contemporary music, free jazz and also klezmer, while Christof Ressi loves to design live-electronic setups and computer programs which allow him spontaneous and direct manipulation of sound and video. Together they are searching for new means of expression which they believe to find in the confrontation of different media, keeping a personal definition of music as open-minded as possible.

The pieces are mostly audio-visual concept improvisations focussing on various aspects and forms of musical interplay as well as interaction between different media like sound, image and movement. 

Szilard Benes (HU) – clarinet
Christof Ressi (A) – electronics, video

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