Repetition to change

Martijn de Geele – Is Repetition Real?


By Cyrine Ghrissi

Does repetitive action really exist? Does change require repetition? Is repetition a way to change/turn to the same loop? To which extent could repetition make a change, or NOT? How much are we affected and influenced by repetition? Are we away from repetition or unconsciously related to it?

Winding tapes between reels in a circular loop above the “ You Brake it, You Taste it“ installation of the artist Ana Lipps, with a repetitive visual that generates redo sounds, Martijn de Geele’s “ Is repetition real ” installation questions repetition in a matter of change and time. Recognizing an abstract sound at the entrance space of Stationskwartier, the place where Media Friesland Young Masters exhibit their Media artworks, without really seeing the tape recorders installation confused me, where was the sound coming from?, the audience was invited to take the short stairs and walk along the overpass to see Martijn de Geele’s audio installation. Looking above the crashed car “ You Brake it, You Taste it “ installation, 5 tape recorders connected each by cables hanging in between, 4 in front of each in squared form, and one big tape stand behind, on the stand along with the speaker, the work appeals more to the ear and hearing senses with an image of vintage real-to-real audio tape recorders turning in an unstopped circular loop. With the limitation of getting closer to the work, I was trying to stay at different angles in a way to contemplate the 3D sound designer work from the 2 closed horizontal mirror windows and staying at the overpass.

Moving in the Stationskwartier first-floor space with all ears concentrated on the sound from different repetitive old tape recorders and recordings from different angles, 3 different rhythms come out and are heard out together simultaneously at the same time. Creating polyrhythms in the space, the sound composer Martijn de Geele has composed music in 3 different layers that repeat in a cycle of 3 minutes, 6 minutes, and 9 minutes. The shorter tape loops have 3, the medium length ones 6, and a longer one on the stand of 9 minutes.

“This effect of different lengths will make the machines dance around each other and synchronize over time.”

“So the sound is similar, but every space has different acoustics that will make it sound different again too.”

Martijn’s work exhibition with Media Friesland in Young Master’s Program in the Station firstly was his university project for his master’s at Frank Mohr Groninger where he graduated in 2022. Throughout his family’s musical members, he has been seeing patterns bubbling up. His grandfather used to play every Sunday at the church with an organ that he stills today keeping it with him, also his father used to collect old tape recorders which build a passion and ardor for the apparatus that he was eager to experiment with.

“Like history repeats itself but never exactly the same as how it happened before in history”

“This shows a pattern of repeating actions that are similar but not exactly the same. which led me to think more and more that “true repetition” is not real.”

Building on his childhood repetitive sight and hearing senses, which prompt questions about repetitive actions’ role in change-making, the 3D designer and sound composer has been experimenting with analog mediums integrating digital software, and modular synthesizer.

“I also am doing a similar action every time I compose and play with sounds.”

Investigating the analog mediums for the question “If repetition does exist or not? at the “Nothing Changes” Media Friesland Young Masters Exhibition in Leeuwarden (NL), Martijn de Geele has worked with second-hand reel-to-reel audio tape recordings that play different lengths of tape to produce 3 different sounds by virtue of the physical way the tape deteriorates which compose a new version of the composition in every different space.

Through his creation process, Martijn has preserved some old audio recordings that he found on the old tapes and has added new sound created from a composition he made in VCV rack, a free open-source virtual modular synthesizer that allows him to create sounds that synchronize and unsynchronised over time, afterward, he split the composition into 3 different audio tracks to record onto the magnetic tape for the reel-to-reel tape recorders. To connect the composition to the tape recorder, Martijn used an audio interface to offer the public experience of machines dancing around each other and synchronizing over time.

“It is a cycle of varying repetitions that change over time.”

Being Captured by the abstract sound at the beginning and the picture of the rolling reels held upstairs by the cables that looked chaotic and unreachable, I remember setting behind the window centering my focus on the sound that was owing the whole place and memorizing the repetitive actions in my life and their impact of who I am today. As It looked chaotic and abstract with the sensation of only repetitive actions, and patterns composing the same sound, the “Is repetition real” installation highlights the change that we cannot observe only if we focused on details through repetition.

Direct quotes are Martijn’s quotes from the discussion with the curator Cyrine Ghrissi.


Photo by Tom Meixner