Hugo Morales is one of the most prominent composers in The Hague of his generation. His latest work Automatic Means of Human Labor is the result of his residency at the Instrument Inventors Initiative in The Hague. Hugo talks to us about the creation of this piece, his collaboration with Nemø Ensemble and why he ‘hacks’ devices.
Automatic Means of Human Labor is the result of your residency at the Instrument Inventors Initiative in The Hague. What has this residency brought you?
I have been working on Automatic Means of Human Labor for about 2 years now, at the invitation of the Inventors Initiative (III). During my residency, the work has gone through different phases of development. It was very inspiring and productive for me to get the space to realize this piece in the open and pleasant environment of III.
How did you come up with the idea of using hacked devices, such as tools and household appliances?
I regularly use instrumental hacking in my work. I like to find different ways to play traditional instruments (hacking) and at the same time invent instrumental possibilities of simple objects. In the case of Automatic Means of Human Labor I mainly focused on motorized objects. Objects intended to facilitate or support human labor in two very different fields: power tools and sex toys. The inner workings of these devices are very similar, but they serve very different purposes. In Automatic Means of Human Labor, these machines co-exist in a meta-tool created by multiplying and amplifying these simple robotic devices.
You were partly inspired by the absurdity of automated labor. What makes it absurd to you and how do we hear that reflected in the play?
Automation, and in particular the arrival of artificial intelligence, raises questions about the future of human labor and rising unemployment. In this context, with Automatic Means of Human Labor I try to explore the role of the musician as a ‘machinist’, whose repetitive tasks and futile actions are eventually taken over by machines. The music consists of the sounds produced by these machines through the actions of the musicians. By viewing the musician as a ‘machine driver’ and the machine as a musical instrument, the piece creates absurd situations that reflect a very complex and worrying phenomenon in today’s society.
You work together with two percussionists from the Nemø Ensemble. How do you like this collaboration?
Working with Nemø was a great experience. They dived into the project with great dedication and professionalism, always optimistic and very open throughout the creative process. The piece is also developed according to their skills and musical interests. Without them, Automatic Means of Human Labor would not be what it is today.