“Hans Reichel (1949) is a German improvisational guitarist, experimental luthier, inventor, and type designer.” So saith Wikipedia so you know the statement has passed many semi-clueless scrutinies to emerge supported, probably not without revision.
But, yes, he is all that and more. The 'more part' includes creator-of-the-Flash-interactive-audio-visual-daxo.de, which we shall look at. Looking at daxo.de is also to look at Reichel's work in all of the above categories. Daxo.de is a really cool trip through Reichel's work. He invented, makes, and plays an unusual instrument he calls the daxophone.
But daxo.de is also a kind of work of art in its own right, as Flash art. One of the reasons I bring it up in this forum on 'electronic literature' is because of the nature of the narrative. Narrativity has to do with the way one thing leads to another. At daxo.de, one thing leads to another by some sort of action on our part. What are we asked to do? Sometimes we must find the clickable element amongs many possibilities. Sometimes it's obvious. But usually there is just one clickable thing on the screen. Sometimes the advance triggers an audio-visual character to vocalize to us, or play to us, rather than an advance in the presentation.
The narrative or presentation of daxo.de is mainly about Reichel's artistic life. His experiments in creating unusual and beautiful guitars. And then his creation of the daxophone. And its evolution, which involves the creation of 103 “tongues”, each of which creates different creature-like sounds or 'voices'. And his work as a typographer, a maker of typefaces. One of which is a typeface of the 103 tongues of the daxophone. O yes there is a language thing going on here.
But there are other excursions as well. For instance, http://daxo.de/pages/page8.html , the eighth piece of twelve, is not so much about Reichel's work as it is like media art pieces of the exploding interface. If you follow net art at all, you'll be familiar with what almost could be described as a genre of the exploding interface. Error messages are the signature of such pieces. Usually that's about all you get. But in Reichel's page8, the interface does indeed explode in a totally entertaining and somewhat pointed manner.
We're presented with quite a complicated mixer interface and, by contrast, a cartoon pair of eyes informing us that “now you can record a song of your own”. This claim turns out to be false. But it isn't so much false advertising as the premise for a kind of satire on musical software and software more generally.
The audio environment of daxo.de is of exceptionally high quality. So we barely care that we are no closer to recording our own song as page8 proceeds. And it's interactive. Often the interactivity is of the 'page-turner' variety, just to move the presentation along. But, very often, the interactivity is more meaningful. If we are spared the difficulty of feeling like one of the band (which is OK), we nonetheless feel that our choices and actions are well-motivated, engaged, and in game with the piece or with Reichel himself, who seems to hover over the experience like a cross between the impish meercats–who invite the wreader to “PLAY WITH ME” in one of the daxo.de pieces–and the more abstract cheshire cat of legend.
After we find the clickable element in the above screen, we are presented with a vocalizing red recording button. Is it burping in an infinite loop? It has a mouth. Would you trust this recording button? Well, it has character. It doesn't look like a very reliable 'record button' but it's very amusing.
When we click the 'record button' things begin to go wrong. The sound of an explosion. The slider controls all fall off the mixer board. Only one slider control remains, and it is twitching next to maximally peaked out audio meters. So we mouseover the twitching slider control. And, lo and behold, that brings us back to the burping record button and, otherwise, the scene we see above. The slider controls have returned. We're ready to record. Again we press the record button.
This time we've really done it. The slider controls all fall off, the entire mixing board interface turns purple, tilts 20 degrees, and animated golden nonsense letters escape from the bottom of the interface. Soon after that, the color of the interface changes again, it reverts to its initial angle, and an error message appears: “maybe somethn went rong [error #51827] – 1 mo try?”. The question mark is upside down. We can choose between “Yes” and “No”. But when we mouseover “Yes”, it turns to “No”, and when we mouseover “No”, it turns to “Yes”. We can get the one we want, but it takes a boolean reversal of logic. This piece has its own logic–the logic of a hypermedia work of art. It goes on for some time in the destruction of the interface and the never-fulfilled recording of your own song. But it always entertains and engages us in this comic explosion of the interface.
We also note that this explosion of the interface is much stronger as art than many an interface in which you can record “somethn” or other. Too often, art-tool interfaces are heavy on the tool side and not lively enough on the art side. Reichel's page8 is a triumph of liveliness, of art experience over the routinized digital recording experience.
There are other satires at daxo.de. In one of the twelve works, we're asked “Join the band?”. This proposition, common in interactive audio pieces, is toyed with in a very interesting way in page4 of daxo.de.
Page4 is and isn't of the 'join the band' variety of interactive audio pieces. The promise, in such pieces, is usually disappointingly hollow. We are offered a simple mixing board, typically, in which we can mix up to a dozen or so sound. Not very creative. We can't do that in Reichel's page4. But we can play a mock game that Reichel has set up. Again, it's very well done. The satire is very good but also the actual experience itself is quite rewarding–more than what usually transpires in a 'join the band' type of interactive audio piece.
Reichel has done a lot with minimal knowledge of Flash coding. This is another reason why I wanted to write about Daxo.de on netpoetic. Daxo.de is a kind of exemplar of Flash hypermedia of a certain kind: dumb as a meercat about ActionScript programming (well, no, not quite), but wicked on the animation side, sublimely energized in its audio, fundamentally hypertextual in its narrativistic progressions, and triumphantly amusing and uplifting as a work of art in itself. See how it is done, o ye of the simple Flash thingy.
Daxo.de currently consists of a dozen Flash pieces. There is some value in doing them in order, 1 to 12. Because there are references later on to things and to easier idioms of interactivity brought up or learned earlier in the sequence, though the chronology of the sequence, in terms of Reichel's life work, is not strict, but by subject, field of endevor as “a German improvisational guitarist, experimental luthier, inventor, and type designer”.
Reichel is the inventor of the daxophone. which you can read about at Wikipedia and elsewhere–and experience in Reichel's narrative through daxo.de in many of its stages, incarnations, and “tongues”. There is even a downloadable true-type font he made of the “tongues” of the daxophone.
And what strong music he makes with it! Unreasonably good stuff! The Flash works of Daxo.de contain quite a bit of daxophone playing. Sometimes it seems like a whole orchestra of creatures is at work.
Reichel bows or strikes the “tongue” of the daxophone to produce the creature-like sounds we hear at daxo.de. He also uses a “dax”, a wooden device he holds in his other hand. As he bows the “tongue”, he moves the “dax” along the surface of the “tongue” to change pitch, as we can see on youtube.
But that is for a different piece of writing. This one is long enough already. Go see http://daxo.de to experience the full Reichel treatment yourself. Shoo now. Go see it and hear it. This is one of the best hypermedia works of its kind that I've experienced.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.