‘If people turn up – unless they’re being obnoxious or throwing things at you – your duty is to try to meet them halfway.’ We are walking on the banks of the Rhine in Monheim when Jennifer Walshe utters these words. It is February 2020 and the Irish composer, performer, and university lecturer has come to Monheim to visit potential sites for her Monheim Triennale endeavors as well as to give a special performance at Monheims very own 'Zum goldenen Hans'.
But first she continues the reflections on her relationship to her audience. ‘Hopefully, they are curious. I know what it feels like to feel exhausted and not like going to a concert and to prefer to stay home. A lot of people work extremely long hours or work multiple jobs, so if they commit going to a concert, we have to have respect for that.’
In her music and conceptual work, Jennifer Walshe has always explored the way we as humans create oral histories, using her own body and all her vocal cords. Her songs are often highly idiosyncratic, virtually adhering to the composer and singer long after the sounds have passed her lips. And yet no piece by Jennifer Walshe is conceivable without an immediate audience and society as a larger sound space. Her compositions are poised in the tension between musique concrete, minimalism, electro-acoustic as well as song. They are characterized by fascinating exploratory themes and thus so suited for those less formal performance contexts that Walshe prefers for their delivery. Her pieces are as much at home in large opera houses and theatres as they are in intimate venues such as 'Zum goldenen Hans', where she performed together with Angelika Sheridan and Achim Tang later that day.
‘For me free improvisation is like an engine, that´s at the core of everything that I do’, Jennifer Walshe says. A statement that only really makes sense when you see how she gets involved with Sheridan and Tang, ready to be led to places and conditions that had not been spelled out before. ‘It is sort of like the source code. A lot of my pieces, they are generated out of me improvising and taking bits and then massaging and developing them. It is not just a way of making material, it is also a way of being in a community, getting to know people, playing with them – being part of a community that cares about a certain type of art.’
*All quotes are from the Artist Talk with Thomas Venker during Jennifer Walshe's visit in Monheim am Rhein in February 2020.