This Paul Panhuysen work is a composition in two parts. The same magic square is transposed in two versions. One can be experienced by the eyes, the other one by the ears. Both parts are produced from the numbers of the same magic square of 5. A magic square is a series of numbers arranged in a square grid so that the sum of each horizontal and vertical row and of the corner diagonals is always the same.
Magic squares reveal harmony of number and refer to the nature of existence and a cosmic order dominated by mathematical regularity. Number is the origin of all things, Pythagoras said, and Boethius said music is numbers made audible. Presented as a room installation, 'A magic square of 5 to look at' is a floorpiece of 5 x 5 m, and 'A magic square of 5 to listen to' can be heard through a quadraphonic sound system, performing the four staffs of the score independently, starting about 5 seconds after each other. The audience moves around the floorpiece in the space.
The sounds are recorded on computer using the programme CSOUND with assistence of Leon van Noorden. The master CD-R was made with technical assistence of René Adriaans. This work was designed for and premiered as a site-specific sound installation at the Puddles Festival 2003 at Jusshi Square in Tokyo from September 13-24 in 2003.
For many years curator of Eindhoven's exemplary sound art venue Het Apollohuis, Paul Panhuysen trained as a visual artist during the 1950s. In 1968, inspired by Fluxus activities, he formed the experimental music group The Maciunas Ensemble. His multifarious activities since then have often resembled a kind of dada structuralism: reason at work in the absence of a master plan, delineations of pattern in fields of random occurance. He has found music in such varied sources as long string vibrations, the collective warbling of canaries, the noise of dot matrix printers and agitated Mexican jumping beans.
His latest CD documents the audio transposition of a magic square of five, made for installation that also represnted the visual transposition - a floor design - which can be sampled on the cover art. A magic square is an arrangement of numbers within a square grid where the sum of integers in any row, including diagonals, gives the same total. From the orderliness of such Pythagorean numerical regularity Panhuysen has generated an attractive music of sweeping tones, overlapped and interlocking to create a snese of almost animate pulsation acroos the space of 29 minutes and 15 seconds. The sixth century philosopher Boethius suggested that music is number made audible, Panhuysen presents us with an unusually pure embodiment of that idea. His explanatory notes may have a forensic quality, but the sounds he has used are engagingly rich.
OK, for all the math freaks out there, this is a must have. This CD by one of the most famous Dutch sound artists with a resume as long as both my arms is one big mathematician's wet dream. The theory of a magic square is simple enough, but not so simple that I would be able to reproduce it correctly here. What Panhuysen has done is to transpose the theory to image and sound (all the details about this can be found extensively in the booklet). Sounds boring? Well, it may sound that way, but the result is great! Especially the resulting 30 minute sound piece is a sheer beauty. Sine waves are played according to the rules of the magic square and some additional rules and the result is a piece that is hauntingly evocative, yet dry as a desert. This strange contradiction gives the work its strength and tension. The piece was originally conceived as a four channel sound installation but works very well in the CDd format. Together with the booklet and text it is a very hermetic work of art, extremely modernist, and therefore a welcome statement in times of relatively random digital number crunching. A very good work. (MR)