Barely Dry Ink

In September 2021 I was featured on Barely Dry Ink, a webzine part of  Gaudeamus festival in Utrecht. I talked about my upcoming piece ‘Shadow Index’, an audiovisual work composed specifically for the Pentacle surround system.
Interview available in english and dutch.

Written by Rebecca Kreyenberg.

In the many concerts during the Gaudeamus Muziekweek, a lot of works are performed of which the ink is only barely dry. We talked with several composers about the composition that we commissioned them to write.

Irene Cassarini a.k.a Guenter Råler will perform her new work for the Pentacle at Gaudeamus this year during the Saturday Night in TivoliVredenburg. In 2020 she already made a piece for Gaudeamus as part of the Archive Dive project. It was a tough year for artists, but also a successful year for her. She graduated with a master’s degree in Music & Technology at the HKU and was one of the five winners of the HKU Prijs. A good starting point for her career as a composer, producer, DJ, visual artist, sound designer and curator.

‘Guenter Råler – where does this name come from?’ For her bachelor’s degree she went from 2016-2017 to Stockholm. Laughing, she said that she then illegally downloaded a software program where the fake license was named Guenter Råler. The idea of having a second identity seemed like a nice way as an artist name. “I think using my real name would be too attached to myself and how people know me. That’s how the idea came to embrace a new identity and take distance from me.’

Before coming to the Netherlands she did a Bachelor’s degree in electronic music in Italy, where she comes from. It’s a study that mainly focuses on electroacoustic music, about the kind of groundbreaking sound between the ‘50s and ‘90s. “So it was quite experimental, but that certainly shaped my interest in experimental sounds.” Ultimately, she didn’t just want to become a producer for pop, techno – or commercial music, which brought her to the Netherlands to study at the HKU. As a result, her interest in visual art grew and she began to combine digital media with her music productions. ‘I learned a code language to create my own visuals from there. It was fun at first, but it quickly became a bit limited, mainly black and white geometries.” She wasn’t really looking for that and so she started collecting images from the internet and archives. “I really like this very raw aesthetic that you find online.” This is reflected in her live performances, such as in Shadow Index. A performance with live visuals, which almost resemble a kind of game world. When I asked her if she’s a gamer type, she laughed and replied, “No. I was mainly inspired by social media and internet trends. Which made me want to bring this aesthetic back without using direct references specifically. This naturally creates a world of its own.”

In her work she addresses social and political issues, such as internet culture and queerness. This motivation came from the need to not only make dance music. She wanted to delve deeper into social and political activism. “How can I still fight for what I believe in while making music? Music is a very abstract art, but I was able to find my own language in it to express this’. She undertook this research in her master thesis ‘Music as an agent of societal change: self-expression, introspection and activism in avant-garde electronic music’. It can also be heard in her 2020 released EP ‘Data/Death’. A pretty extreme title in my opinion, so I asked her what it meant. During the onset of the pandemic, she focused on her relationship with her phone. She thought it was a strange idea that all these big companies that she knows nothing about own her data. The question of what would happen if she decides to step out of social media and what happens to her data was a big part of the making. “I thought about the idea that my online persona is dead on the internet, but lives on outside of it.” It is ultimately a piece about the relationship between the existence of online and offline. A theme that also concerns me because I come from the generation that grew up with social media. Today I find it very difficult to find a healthy balance between the online and offline world, whereupon I asked her if she is looking for an answer in her music and for her audience. “Social media is of course a very useful invention, but we sometimes forget that the algorithm can be polarizing, leading to discrimination against queer people, people of color and black people, for example. I don’t really give an answer, but with my music I want to reflect on what our position is in relation to the internet and social media’.

Irene constantly challenges herself as an artist and human being, which can also be heard in her latest Dekmantel release ‘Scores III’. In this work she brings together natural sounds with mechanical sounds for the first time. “I focused on the sound of our ecosystem while making it. Of course also focused on the consequences of climate change. I tried to give that problem a sound, but from a very peaceful and dreamy aesthetic.”

In the Netherlands she has the feeling that she gets a lot of support for her ideas, which led to the founding of the queer collective ‘Queer in wonderland’ in 2019. A collective that (actually) organizes events in clubs for and with the LGBTQIA+ community. She understood that she had a voice that she wanted to use for a greater purpose. “It sounds very cliché, but I just like the idea of using my platform to do something good for people.”

‘Art is a form of extremism’, a sentence that I noticed while listening to her music. After I spoke to her, I understood better what she meant by this. You will probably see this sentence in her performance on September 11, 2021 in TivoliVredenburg. An audiovisual performance with the Pentacle Surround Sound System where all her ideas about internet culture and queer theory come together and lead to a world of experimental club music and post-digital aesthetics.