Anne La Berge


© Keke Keukelaar

Playing Louder Than the Flute Permits (Andreas Fellinger / freiStil, Magazin für Musik und Umgebung) English translation Kimi Lum

Flute, text, and electronics. Performance, improvisation, and composition. These are essential components of Anne La Berge’s music. Moreover, the Amsterdam-based interdisciplinary artist is keenly interested in emphasizing the social settings that inspire her aesthetic intentions. Bob Gilmore comes straight to the point in the liner notes of her fabulous CD Speak: “Her performances bring together the elements on which her international reputation is based: a ferocious and far-reaching virtuosity, a penchant for improvising delicately spun microtonal textures and melodies, and her wholly unique array of powerfully percussive flute effects, all combined with electronic processing.”

Anne La Berge was born in California and grows up in a musical family in Minneapolis. Her mother plays violin, her father, a psychologist by profession, was the choral director of the local Bach Society. That left its mark. She studied at Northwestern University, and transfered to the University of New Mexico where she studied flute with Frank Bowen. Parallel to this she immersed herself the music of Varèse and Stockhausen, Oliveros, Feldman, and Cage and received her Masters degree at the University of Illinois.

In 1989 Anne La Berge moved to Amsterdam, where she has lived ever since.

Anne La Berge, Cor Fuhler, and Steve Heather founded the internationally renown improvisation series Kraakgeluiden in 1999. During this series La Berge, Fuhler, Heather and their guests explored the various combinations of acoustic instruments, electronic instruments, and computers, mainly in squatted buildings in Amsterdam.

In 2006 Kraakgeluiden’s glory days came to an end. The follow up is La Berge’s involvement in Splendor Amsterdam, an old bath house that is home to a collective of roughly fifty composers, musicians, and performers, “… a sparkling cultural mecca … incredible place!” Anne La Berge exclaims.

Her Early Days of Electronics

Anne La Berge on her early experiments with electronics: “My first use of electronics was the use of the microphone. Playing the flute with a close mic amplifies some of the most magical aspects of our sound: whistles, harmonics, consonant and vowel resonances, to name just a few. I went on to use hardware to process the flute audio starting with commercial FX units and then using the Clavia Micro Modular, the Clavia Nord Modular G2 and now I am a dedicated Kyma System user. I have also performed works using Max, Supercollider and Ableton Live. I use Max in conjunction with the Kyma in most of my own pieces. I am intrigued with extending the sounds of the flute by using electronics and I appreciate that I can use an incredible dynamic range with the aid of electronics. Sometimes, in an ensemble setting, the flute cannot be heard. I have developed audio processing where I can be heard in almost any musical situation if need be.”

Text as an Integral Part of the Composition

Text, its precise, completely novel use, and the plethora of possible forms play an important part in her musical work. These give rise to an almost mathematical facet as well as an unbridled desire to play with language. “I choose my texts for compositional purposes. Oftentimes I write poetry or prose to inspire me and then I use it in the performance. This has become such a trusted way of working for me for the last decade that I’ve come to regard text as an integral part of my compositions and then when I don’t use it, I feel like I’m taking a radical step.” For many years, La Berge often played in two ensembles: Shackle and MAZE. Shack was a duo with the laptop musician Robert van Heumen. They developed a digital system of communication that emerged as a third band member. MAZE focuses on alternative scores and aims at giving listeners a new understanding of music and expanding listening perspectives for both performers and audiences. This is reflected in older works by Cage, Lucier, or Ashley as well as contemporary ones by Marclay, Lockwood, or MAZE members Kyriakides and La Berge. In addition she was also a member of Cor Fuhler’s Corkestra, Lucas Niggli’s Big Zoom, and Ensemble Modern. She has collaborated with bassist Joe Williamson, vocalist Stephie Büttrich, electronics musician Gert-Jan Prins, guitarist Lukas Simonis, trumpeter Stephen Altoft, David and Diamanda Dramm to name a few. In answer to my closing question as to whether she finds that to her the acoustic and the electronic have long since become inextricably entwined, so that she can no longer imagine one without the other, Anne La Berge is ready with a surprising answer: “I enjoy playing the flute alone and with other musicians in purely acoustic settings immensely. I actively seek out performing opportunities where I can improvise or perform without electronics. Acoustic instruments have such a rich repertoire of sounds and the music that is composed for us or that we improvise keeps me endlessly fascinated and aesthetically enriched.”

Participation in IMA projects
IMAfiction portrait #07
Hidden Alliances_versteckt verbunden
IMA.15 The Gala - The Video Book
IMAfiction 2018
IMAfiction Portraits Heroines Of Sound
IMAfiction 2017