Ute Wassermann, voice artist, composer, improvisor is known for her unique, many-voiced and extreme sound-language, which she has brought into experimental/contemporary music in diverse ways. She studied visual arts (sound installation, performance art) at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg with Henning Christiansen and Allan Kaprow among others, and subsequently visual art, music and singing at the University of California, San Diego. Her work engages with the areas of improvisation,composition and performance art.
Ute will play at the Dystopie Sound Art Festival. The festival runs from 16 October to 1 November and explores dystopian scenarios related to current political, technological and environmental developments. The festival plans to offer a broad spectrum of acoustic, electronic, and interconnected installations, performances and concerts.
1: Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970
2: My voice vibrates with the sounds of the world around me
3: Art is beautiful but it creates a lot of work (Karl Valentin)
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Listening. Improvising. My voice tuning into the sounds of the world around me: insects, birds, animals, machinery, electronic sounds. Sounds from the inside of my body, imagined sounds. Contemporary Circus. Monty Python, Karl Valentin. Naomi Klein.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
As a baby exploring all the sounds my body can do and discovering the endless possibilities of non-verbal articulation. At the same time listening to the outside world. My mother did sing with us a lot.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Kraftwerk, Laurie Anderson’s ‘Oh Superman’, Mahalia Jackson, Demetrio Stratos, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Talking Heads, Jützli from Muotatal… it´s already more than 5 and there are many more.
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
A vibrant and inspiring community, artistic exchange, space, swimming in lakes – living on a human scale in a big city.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
In Berlin: top of the TV tower at Alexanderplatz, Iceskating on Rummelsburger Bucht in 2009
Near Kiel where I grew up: the cliffs and the beach at Dänisch Nienhof.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
‘Guerilla’ by Nazar.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Jean Paul Gaultier.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
I don´t want to rank them.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
Technology influences my vocal language as it surrounds us in every day life. I make my voice sound like a motor, an oscillator, a synthesiser. I have fun to produce, electronic sounding bleeps, crackles, glitches or distortions. For these purely vocal sounds I use the “filters” of my body, my tongue, throat, various ways of breathing and articulating. Also I can sing through the skin of my throat and face. Different ways of amplification with a variety of microphones is important. I use technology to create multi-channel pieces. I work on objects and costumes for the voice using lo-fi electronics for the creation of speaker objects or resonators. Some insects, frogs or birds sound like electronic music which I find fascinating.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
My sister is a ceramicist. We work in different artistic fields and appreciate each others work a lot.
Ute´s vocal language takes the voice beyond itself. Her singing seems to be disconnected from the human voice creating a soundworld of birds, machines, electronics. Further she uses methods to extend the voice including bird whistles, palate whistles, speaker objects, resonators and fieldrecordings.
Numerous performances as a vocal soloist in festivals, galleries and clubs throughout Europe, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Asia and USA. She is a member of bands touring regularly with speak easy (with Phil Minton, Thomas Lehn, Martin Blume), MUT (Thomas Rohrer, Michael Vorfeld), N.E.W. (Sabine Ercklentz, Andrea Neumann, radio tweets (with Birgit Ulher), Tree 23 (with Joke Lanz). She performs with musicians like John Russel, Raed Yassin, Mazen Kerbaj, Michael Thieke, Andrea Parkins, Magda Mayas, Lotte Anker, Isabelle Duthoit, Jaap Blonk, Michael Zerang and many others.
As an interpreter of contemporary music she has given premieres of numerous works composed specially for her voice, for example by Richard Barrett, Chaya Czernowin, Henning Christiansen, Hans-Joachim Hespos, Michael Maierhof, Michael Finnissy, Ana Maria Rodriguez, Simon Steen-Anderesen, Cathy van Eck with ASKO Ensemble, Elision, Munich Chamber Orchestra, KNM Berlin, Basel Sinfonietta and others.
Ute Wassermann has received commissions for compositions by Fonoteca Nacional de México / Poetica Sonora, Distractfold Ensemble, Ensemble maulwerker, Eclat Festival, University of Amsterdam, Transart Festival and Ryogoku Art Festival.
She has received several grants like a residency at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in 2015, the Stipend for New Music and Soundart Berlin in 2017, a residency at Akademie Schloss Solitude in 1993/94 and a DAAD-grant for a 1-year residency at University of California at San Diego in 1989/90.
Her music is published on confront recordings, treader, mode records, Psi, creative sources recordings, olof bright, nurnichtnur and Spricht Editions.
Photo © Michael Vorfeld