Gerald Bennett

Gerald and Kit
Gerald (right) and Kit

Gerald and I met in 1980 as I was following the students from one of Walter Baer’s music classes. He told me later that he was so impressed with this particular group that he decided to share a commission he had from the Electroacoustic Music Studio in Bourges, France with them and write a collective piece. And since I was already part of this class he asked if I would like to come along too - which of course I would, very much! We all went twice to Bourges during 1981, once to get the feel of the studio and to gather ideas and then again to realise them. The first piece I wrote was Piece of 4, which, although it interested Gerald, he found unsuitable for the concept which was to tear the various pieces of each of the group members apart and then stitch them together again in a single collage. So my second piece was Krähenalles, a work for flute (later played by a clarinet) and tape based on a poem of the same name by our nephew Renaud Racine. The final piece was assembled and very successfully performed after our return to NZ.

By the time we had returned to Switzerland in 1984 Gerald (together with Bruno Spoerri) had founded the Computer Music Centre in Oetwil am See which offered courses and organised concerts in this new form of electroacoustic music. I attended a number of courses here, each time composing a new piece. The first was Nelson Songs (Harlow texts - Michael was actually here and visited the Centre where his voice was recorded for the second song). Then followed Chinese Songs (performed several times by Franziska Staehelin, soprano and singing teacher colleague from the department of Musikalische Früherziehung Early Music-Education).

In 1987 Gerald suggested I do a course in the Paris studio of UPIC (founded by the Greek composer Xenakis). He felt that the basic idea of the UPIC machine, in which one drew directly onto the computer screen (wave forms, dynamic curves, pitch and duration, overall form) would appeal to my visual approach to composition. I was indeed especially delighted with the possibilities of this computer machine and would gladly have continued with it, but so far I have never seen the promised UPIC for private computer. I went to the course armed with Kokoschka’s picture Flötenspieler und Fledermäuse and also with recordings of bat song (slowed down so that it could be heard by humans). All this material I was able to use and returned with the tape for my piece Flötenspieler und Fledermäuse which was premièred by the flautist Heinrich Keller and later played several times by Dominique Hunziker.

The very considerable help I had from Gerald with the tape for WHALE (no. 80) is documented on that page.

In the years that followed we kept in regular contact and I was often asked to take part in the concerts of the Computer Music Centre which later moved to the Zurich Conservatory where its courses became part of the normal conservatory program.

In 2005 the Centre was reorganised as the ICST (Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology), still connected with the Music Conservatory but as part of the new ZHdK (Zurich University of the Arts). Here Gerald could develop his special interests (Ambisonics - 3D sound propagation, among other things) and was able to engage some of the people he himself had trained: Martin Neukom, Peter Färber, Johannes Schütt, etc. and was even able to find a niche for me as English teacher which ensured regular contact for a few years until his retirement.