Cobi van Tonder is a composer from South Africa interested in ways of achieving abstraction in music. Inspired by artists such as Mark Rothko, she experiments with the reduction of phenomena in order to
expose human sensuality. This has led her to work with drone, microtonal music, nature field recordings, mathematical patterns as musical material and spatial audio-physical elements of sound. The experience of sound and/or vibration in and as space with attention to artificial (or real) acoustics is a prominent part of the material and overall texture. Within this abstract approach echoes a personal political resistance to notions of fabricated realities such as nationality or ownership: similar to not accepting the 12 semi-tones of the equal temperament Western scale, the artist chooses to create unique micro-tonal patterns.
She completed a PhD in Music Composition at the Digital Arts & Humanities Program of Trinity College, Dublin, an MFA Art Practice degree at Stanford, USA; and a BHons in Music in History and Society (Musicology) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Van Tonder has also produced commercially for cinema, television, radio, and mobile media before commencing academic studies. Her work has been performed and showed in New York, London, San Jose, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Seoul, Stuttgart, Berlin, Ogaki, Toronto, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Dublin and Antarctica.
From an early age I realised how thin a layer the conceptions of 'reality' and 'self' are and that beauty occurrs in sensing the inherent structures that make up objects/occurrences/patterns and the unexpected, rather than things themselves. Thus a recurring obsession to pay attention to how the invisible (larger structure) is revealed in the experience of movement. Movement in terms of colour, form, texture, density and space. Vibrations, reflections, iterations, shifts, transformations and process.
My PhD was on plastic continuity in Microtonal music. Strongly influenced by the work and philosophy of abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, I took his ideas about the experience of movement in terms of colour, form, texture and space via methods of abstraction, and applied them to my compositional framework. For this I created a system of generating and storing tunings in Max/MSP; a multi-channel router app and tuner that I could use for real-time tuning of microtonal values to midi plus pitch-bend values for use with synthesizers as well as method to store and display in real-time micro-tonal frequency values.
The main focus of my final MFA Masters project ‘The Audio Tunnel’ was in turn a literal take on spatial audio: rooms, each with microphone and loudspeaker, were daisy-chained in a directional live audio tunnel via the use of a Supercollider Patch, JackTrip, Jamlinks (audio network units) and a Max Router Patch - each individual space, was a node and able to receive audio from another node through the internet and play it into the space through a loudspeaker, record the reverberations and other ambient sounds of the environment and send it back over the internet to the next similar device. The tunnel was live and interactive: the participant becomes the transmitter and is transmitted/ displaced (in sound) in many actual places in fractions of milliseconds. A recursive eavesdropping became possible in this unseen territory. Live sound travels from location to location, reverberating in each space. A borderless territory designed for listening.
In general, projects range from music in the traditional sense: electronic or instrumental as well as synthesis, field recording, installations, interactive projects, sensory enclosures or objects and video.
Material consists of lines and curves, auditory illusions, pitch fields, waves, pulses, flickering morphologies, glows and slow transformations. This material originates from focusing on the internal properties of sounds, for example, the use of microtonal intervals that are clustered to produce beating patterns, third tones and unique colors. Macro forms are determined by this material and range from drone to simplistic, repetitive gestures. The final approach is a focus on the experience of sound in and as space: attention to artificial acoustics as prominent part of the material and overall texture.
My influences range over a vast field, notably Abstract Expressionist Painting, Japanese Zen Gardens, ‘surface’ ideas in electronic music, extreme duration and immersion in Drone music, continuity, ordered dissonance – microtonal worlds, audio physical experience of sound and acoustics, spatial audio.
Sound Art Works explore ideas about existence, identity, translation, architecture, spatiality (specifically in sound, acoustics and sound perception), networked sound installation as a means to recombinant sound space, audio/other sensory hybrid experiences such as audio/visual, audio/tactile (the audio physical experience of sound) and audio/light, sensory deprevation/absense of sensory input as material.
I am also fascinated by new technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and ideas about consciousness and inspired by Science Fiction.