Paul Panhuysen
'A Magic Square Of 5 To Look At' and 'A Magic Square Of 5 To Listen To'
Plinkity Plonk plonk 15
CD only

*This CD received an honorary mention at Prix Ars Electronica 2004 - Digital Musics!*

This 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.

Paul Panhuysen (1934) is an internationally recognised artist. Best known for his site-specific long string installations all over the world, he also is involved in systematic visual art. Calculus links his visual and sound art together. Furthermore he has been the artistic director of Het Apollohuis for about 2 decades. At the festival he will present a new installation entitled "A Magic Square of 5 to Look at and a Magic Square of 5 to Listen to". Paul Panhuysen is also a member of the Macunias Ensemble. His works were released a.o. by Apollo Records, Table Of The Elements and Experimental Intermedia.

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listen to excerpt


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)
Roel Meelkop in Vital Weekly 421

Plinkity Plonk plonk 15CD
by Julian Cowley
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.
(The Wire 245, July 2004)

Der audio-visuelle Konzept- und Installationskünstler PAUL PANHUYSEN wurde in den 80ern bekannt durch seine Long String Installations. Bereits diese Arbeiten im Geiste von Terry Fox und Alvin Lucier fußten und beriefen sich auf Pythagoras. Bei seiner für das Puddles Festival 2003 in der Jusshi Square School in Tokyo (September 13-24, 2003) designten Sound-Installation A Magic Square Of 5 To Look At - A Magic Square of 5 To Listen To (plonk 15) nahm Panhuysen wiederum Bezug auf den antiken Sphärenharmoniker und Guru, dem die Zahl als der Ursprung aller Dinge galt, erweitert um die in Boethius' De Musica vertretenen Auffassung, dass Musik hörbar gemachte Zahlen sei. Einem Magischen Quadrat aus 5 x 5 Feldern mit den Längs-, Quer und Diagonalsummen 65 entnahm Panhuysen die Anordnung der Parameter Tondauer (15 und 20 Sek.), Frequenz (96 Hz bis 4050 Hz), Tonhöhe, Timbre und Lautstärke. Die Weiße Magie des arithmetischen-mystischen Talismans, der in sich Maß und Übermaß des Kosmos zusammen zieht, wird, in Schwingungsverhältnisse übersetzt, zu Musik. Während nun die erwürfelte I-Ging- und Astro-Musik eines Cage die 'natürliche' Kontingenz walten lässt, wählt Panhuysen aus dem Hintergrundrauschen den Logos, der als reine Frequenz dann in seinem dröhnminimalistischen Konstrukt harmonisch auf und ab schwingt, ein und aus atmet. Ebenso konstruktivistisch wie der Audio-Part ist die ebenfalls aus der quadratisch-arithmetischen Magie entwickelte Op-Art. Trotz denkbarer Steigerung zu mehr und mehr Komplexität, trennt Panhuysens apollinisches Paradigma vom dionysisch-anarchischen der Slapping-Pythagoras-Fraktion, die es unter den Minimalisten ja auch gibt (Tony Conrad et al.), ein 'Abgrund' an 'Weltanschauung'.
(Bad Alchemy #44)

Sur un autre label animé par F. de Waard, Plinkity Plonk, on peut entendre l'album A Magic Square Of 5 To Look At - A Magic Square of 5 To Listen To, de Paul Panhuysen. Basé sur un travail mathématique autour du carré magique, l'album adopte un séquençage des fréquences qui lui est soumis. Abondamment commentée et expliquée dans le livret, la démarche n'est pas le seul intérêt puisque l'émotion naît aussi des vagues disciplinées, de leurs réponsesm de leurs enchaînements qui, peut-être inconsciemment font naître une perception architecturale. Beaucoup de lumière, de plomb aussi dans ces rayons d;orgues lisses qui se succedent et se chevauchent, comme des vents stellaires programmés.
(Fear Drop #11)

Paul Panhuysen
In een magisch vierkant geeft de optelsom van de cijfers 1 tot 5, in eender welke richting, steeds hetzelfde resultaat: tovenaarspeelgoed voor wiskundigen. Als je de cijfers vervangt door kleurencombinaties en het geheel vergoot tot een vlak van vijf meter op vijf, dan krijg je een heus wiskundekunstwerk. Vervang de vijf cijfers vervolgens door vijf computertonen en je krijgt muziek volgens de spirit van Anicius Boethius: een hoorbaar cijfer. Het conceptuele plaatje klopt perfect (we hebben de negenproef gedaan), maar zoals wel vaker bij dit soort releases is het boekje interessanter dan de cd. De subtiel wisselende dreunende pulsen (denk Hafler Trio) kunnen ons exact vijf minuten boeien. Nadien worden we geconfronteerd met een vierkant hoofd als onaangename bijwerking.
(Gonzo Circus website)

The music of the composer, Paul Panhuysen, was first introduced to me by Hassni during a Splintered tour of the continent in 1997. While at Eindhoven in The Netherlands, we had several hours to kill before our being due to play, so Hassni suggested we pay a visit to Panhuysen's Het Apollohuis building which was situated nearby. Surprisingly, once we got there, not only did the man seem overly pleased to have some visitors but his congeniality went as far as to demonstrate his latest long-stringed installation (which occupied a room of its own) and, later, to come and watch Splintered perform, along with his wife. To this day, I still wonder what he must've thought of these idiotic, half-drunk or stoned post-punk-weaned noiseniks whose curiosity in his work would have seemed entirely at odds with the layered gtr drone trance-out we subjected him to. Anyway, his latest release, A Magic Square of 5 to Look At (Plinkity Plonk, NL, 2004), is a two-part composition spanning almost 30 minutes dedicated to a square grid of numbers to both look at and listen to. This itself took the form of an installation premiered in Tokyo during September 2003 and amounted to a 5m square floorpiece and a collaboration with Leon van Noorden, who sonically translated the audience's moving around the piece through a computer, resulting in some incredible cyclical & shimmering tones. To hear this outside its original context as an audio-visual art-piece doesn't really give it the justice it warrants. Relying on the magic square(s) duplicated on the CD's sleeve to nurture the appropriate setting has its limitations, unfortunately, although I'm certain that anybody who has trained themselves to meditate and/or block out all other distractions or stimuli will find themselves capable of reaping all the rewards offered. Write to Korm Plastics once more for further information. (RJ)
(Adverse Effect Volume 3, number 2)