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Austrian musician and sound artist, Bernd Klug offers an interactive art piece in response to Genesis 11:1-9.

Genesis 11:1-9

Confusion of Tongues


Bernd Klug


Curated by: 

Jonathon Roberts


Sound Installation

Image by Giorgio Trovato

Primary Scripture

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This piece is based on the story of the Tower of Babel, from Genesis 11:1–9, in which the confusion of tongues frustrated the construction of this spectacularly high edifice, scattering its people over the world. I aimed to decode this text (and the passages leading up to it, describing Noah’s settling and ancestry) through different internet-­based, real time translation programs in order to investigate the seemingly open and direct worldwide information exchange of modern communication. I also wanted to juxtapose the ongoing conflict among various interpretations of Bible texts with the cultural ignorance which has long plagued religious movements (as in the Middle East, where Babel and most of the Old Testament were located and which remains a similarly diverse and problematic area in recent inter-religious/cultural dialogues between East and West).

Although I am a native born Austrian, I wrote this piece from an English-speaking perspective, the “native language” for our western internet realm. I used the New International Translation, commonly used in the US, and recorded a speech translation into each language, and then tried to re-translate it in real time with this software back to English. Each of the audio files is a recording of this process, using languages which relate to the place (Arabic), the historical translations of the story (Greek, Latin, and Hebrew), my own mother tongue (German), and the world’s most common languages (Chinese, Spanish and Hindi). This decision was also based on the narrow possibilities free translation programs provide and is in no way meant to be judgmental or prioritizing already established power dynamics, but rather to point to the limited accessibility of global understanding and the dangers of cultural appropriation.

Spark Notes

The Artist's Reflection

Bernd Klug­ – sound art / double bass (US/AT)

Bernd Klug is an Austrian born, Brooklyn-based sound artist and double bassist. In sound installations and solo concerts, his music encounters our everyday circumstances as found forms and questions our perceptions of sound and social space.

His installations make use of acoustic phenomena like feedback, room frequencies and electromagnetic waves and explore strings, wood, metal and other materials as audiovisual components. Recently Klug has shown his works in solo exhibitions at Harvestworks (NYC 2013), Art Now at Monmouth University (NJ, 2014, ce.ins_0006) and the Austrian Cultural Forum NYC (2015) as well as collaborations with Daniel Lercher at mo.ë (Vienna 2014) and ‘Bearing’ with Johanna Tiedtke at Galerie Freihausgasse (Villach, AT April 2015) and group shows, such as, Groundswell 2015 (Olana, NY) and Klangmanifeste (Vienna 2012).

His solo double bass work (cupreous donkey and the CD ‘Cold Commodities’ Innova 902) focuses on the world inside and around the double bass: the bow, the body, and room frequencies lay the groundwork for a radical reduction of both the composer­performer’s role and the traditional musical narrative. He has played solo concerts at CTSwaM Fridman Gallery, Share Issue Project Room, Biegungen Ausland (Berlin), CoCART ­- Tarun (PL), CNMAT (Berkeley) and Radiokulturhaus and the Porgy and Bess in Vienna. As an improviser and bassist, he has collaborated with Burkhard Stangl, Keiko Uenishi, Shelley Hirsch, Radu Malfatti, Franz Hautzinger, Butch Morris, Bernhard Lang, John Butcher, Gust Burns, Danielle Dahl, Mimu Merz, Daniel Lercher, Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø, Laurie Amat, Brendan Landis, Lucio Menegon, Kjetil Hanssen, ctrl, OENCZkekvist and Ritornell. His most recent bands include the experimental techno noise band T­-Shit (w/ Bernhard Hammer and Sixtus Preiss) and the dramatic chamber duo Rash (with Meaghan Burke, cello). His compositional cycle “sine tempore” is a series of works experimenting with sound designs in non-­dramatic contexts.

Together with New Yorker cellist Meaghan Burke, he is an organizer of the Transit Festival, which provides a platform for connecting experimental music with different musical genres, audiences, places and countries.

Bernd Klug is a Wave Farm Artist In Residence 2015 and was recently awarded the award for interdisciplinary arts 2015 from the Carinthian government, AT and the “New Austrian Sound of Music” prize for 2014­15. His compositions received commissions by New Music USA and the BKA (Austrian Federal Chancellery). He was granted an educational scholarship at Harvestworks (NYC) in 2012­13, and received the BM:UKK Startstipendium (federal Austrian grant for artists) in 2011. He graduated from Bard College’s MFA program (Music/Sound) in 2015 and holds a BA in bass performance (popular, contemporary, and classical music and music education) from the Vienna University for Music and Performing Arts.

Bernd Klug

About the Artist

Bernd Klug

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