The Machines           IAAA Music Department             Institute of Artificial Art Amsterdam     


As Is

Audio-CD by Remko Scha and The Machines
Production: Van Lagestein

Recorded at the exhibition Anti Qua Musica,
Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, 1989.

Released in 1990 as a co-production between
the labels Helmholtz Theater and Staalplaat


'As Is' is performed by six electric sabre saws (The Machines) on Guitar Mural # 14, a spatial construction with nine electric guitars and three electric bass guitars. Ropes, strung between the sabre saws, run across the guitar strings. The sabre saws, moving at different speeds, create different patterns of standing waves in the ropes; the impact of the ropes on the guitar strings makes them Flare, Ooze, Lick, Stride, Reel and Rasp.

Guitar Mural # 14 was commissioned for the exhibition 'Anti Qua Musica; the 'open' musical instrument in art and anti-art' at the Haags Gemeentemuseum, August-October 1989. Curated by composer Dick Raaijmakers, also known for his ongoing investigation into the conceptual foundations of music, Anti Qua Musica staged works that analyze and decompose the process of 'playing a musical instrument'. It included works by Chilius van Bergeyk, Michael von Biel, John Cage (prepared piano), Mauricio Kagel (Zwei-Mann-Orchester), Nam June Paik (Fluxus Klavier II), Dick Raaijmakers (Le Tombeau de Glenn Gould), Horst Rickels, Jon Rose, Remko Scha and Karlheinz Stockhausen (Mikrophonie I).


Liner notes by Hermann L.F. Helmholtz:

"Graceful rapidity, grave procession, quiet advance, wild leaping, all these different charcters of motion and a thousand others in the most varied combinations and degrees, can be represented by successions of tones. And as music expresses these motions, it gives an expression also to those mental conditions which naturally evoke similar motions, whether of the body and the voice, or of the thinking and feeling principle itself. Every motion is an expression of the power which produces it, and we instinctively measure the motive force by the amount of motions it produces. This holds not only for the mechanical motions of external nature, but equally and perhaps more for the motions due to the exertion of power by the human will and human impulses."

[On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music, 1863. Chapter XIV: The Tonality of Homophonic Music.]

Catalogue essay

Remko Scha: "Muziek en Mechanica." In: D. Raaijmakers (ed.): Anti Qua Musica. The Hague: SDU, 1989, pp. 67-72.     


Mason Jones: "Remko Scha and the Machines 'As Is (Guitar Mural #14)' CD", bbn.internet.nm-list, October 5, 1991.


Mark Dery: "Remko Scha's Sawtoothed Tremors." Guitar Player, August 1992, p.14.


[Review of "As Is" in Guitar Player, August 1992, p. 14]


Mark Dery

Remko Scha's Sawtoothed Tremors

      Remko Scha is a saber rattler.

      On As Is (CD, Staalplaat, distributed in the U.S. by the Ooze, POB 83296, Portland, OR 97283), the 47-year-old Dutch sound artist/computer scientist rattles up a hailstorm of overtones with the aid of saber saws – portable electric jigsaws whose thin, vertically mounted blades are usually used to cut curves and other troublesome shapes. In this case, however, they're rigged to vibrate strings or springy metal rods, jouncing them against the low strings of nine electric guitars and three electric basses. The instruments – all makes and models, tuned by ear "to a chord that makes some sense to me" – are suspended, by means of securely anchored ropes, in a "spatial construction" Scha calls "Guitar Mural #14."

      When the machines are switched on, their blades stab the air, joggling the rods or lines resting against the guitar strings to produce bumblings, shimmerings, ting-a-lings, and clickety-clacks. By adjusting the speeds of the saws or changing the proximity of the moving objects to the guitars, Scha is able to effect subtle changes in the overall sound. Beyond such minor meddling, no human interference is permitted.

      "You get the drone, but that becomes the background," said Scha in a recent interview. "You also get these completely spontaneous melodies on top of the drone, and you get a rhythmic variable because the motor does not run regularly." In "Flare," the first cut on As Is, a metallic jangling is tossed about in the choppy backwash of an outboard motorish pulse. "Ooze" uses harmonic clusters, chunked out at quarter-note intervals, to generate a fog bank of fleecy, billowing sound. In "Lick" and "Stride" arrhythmic clangs glance off each other while a metronomic chugging churns up the lower register.

      Squint your ears, and you'll hear Alvin Lucier or La Monte Young, minimalists whose music exploits the resonant frequencies of rooms and "beating" effects, the interference patterns produced when closely-tuned tones are sounded simultaneously.

      Scha sits most comfortably in the modernist tradition of scientist-musicians. A professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Amsterdam, he prefers to discuss his music in terms of mathematical randomness and information theory. Strange, then, that what begins, in one underground magazine interview, as a rather dispassionate description of musical processes ends with an orgasm. "The music is about physics and resonance phenomena," says Scha, "but it has this high energy level that you can feel in your body and to which people respond very directly. It's closer to sex than to anything else."