kneading, resting, assembling

Angeliki Tzortzakaki, Enrico Floriddia, Jérôme de Vienne on behalf of bi-


Nevermore — Remix

Julian Zehnder


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Katherine MacBride and Miriam Wistreich


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Boris Klyushnikov

The composition is a reinterpretation of the song Nevermore by the band Susurration. The beginning is based on the classical constitution of a hardstyle remix. In the further course of the song, however, the parameters of the genre change gradually, and reflect the song in a unique way. Various forms of digital modifications of the original voices are implemented and also renegotiate stylistic approaches of electronic music. The text, originally sung by D. Bäsecke, is re-contextualised by Julian Zehnder in his composition, thus rethinking the functionality and connections between sound and language.


This sub-genre of electronic music is now considered one of the most common methods for creating a commercially viable new interpretation of existing works. We find hardstyle remixes of all genres, from AC/DC to Bach to pleas from Donald Trump. In the piece Nevermore — Remix this style is to be reflected artistically.

Already after a few bars (from 0'26'') the first foreign elements are introduced: synthetically generated sound material, developed based on hardstyle tutorials. The build-up to drop begins: one of the most important recognition elements of the style. A musical arc of tension leads up to the kicks, over which we sometimes hear a motif from the original, e.g. chorus melody, a part from an instrumental solo or even a completely newly created melody. Instead of the original instrumentation, synthesizer voices are often used, which are mainly characterised by the use of square wave oscillators. Another typical element of the genre. In Nevermore — Remix the conventional voice is gradually replaced by synthetic sounds, but these have the same harmonic progression as the original. The vocals are preserved until the drop. On the off-beats there are claps to be heard, which is to increase the tension even more. From 1'05'' on, the claps are doubled in tempo every four beats, which is often used in hardstyle remixes as the highest and final increase before the drop. Also, very characteristic is the fallacy before a drop 1'12'', here realised with the word "vandalism", which can be interpreted as a reflection of the whole remix process.

After the drop we hear the melody of the bridge. In the original version played by the violin, a mixture of the original voice and synthetic sound material that was already hinted at before the drop is generated here. The motif can be heard twice and then develops in its own form, which has little to do with the hardstyle sound language. So here 1'28'' ends the homage to the genre, only the kicks swing a bit further,decrease tempo and finally fade out completely. This section will be reflected again in a later part of the piece, starting at 6'23''. In this recapitulation we immediately recognise a reference to the first hardstyle part, when the continuous kicks start on the quarter beat. Above this, a voice with timbre typically used in hardstyle-remixes can be heard. But this time tension is released before the expected drop: the continuous beat in the kicks is broken up and changes into a heartbeat-like pulsation.

Speed modifications

In the first part 0'00''-1'03'', the piece Nevermore by the band Susurration is reproduced quite close to the original. Only the tempo is heavily modified, so the quarter value, originally 123 bpm, rises to 155 bpm, which is an average value of the commercial norm of the subgenre Hardstyle. Thereby the pitch of the original is maintained.

From 3'43'' to about 6'40'' we experience a complete countermovement: voices from the original are played back much slower, which also leads to a transposition to a much lower pitch. The tonal result could be perceived as a dark rumble, which is further amplified by modified samples in a very high frequency range that resemble a sine tone or the signal tones of working devices.

The third verse 4'36'' — 5'36'' is also played back at a greatly reduced playback speed. Further, however, other processes are applied here, which will be explained later.


Vocals are probably the most important element in a pop song, so here are some thoughts on how it was handled in Nevermore — Remix.

In the beginning, apart from the tempo modification mentioned above, the voice is quite true to the original and well audible. Also, on the textual level, the first and second verse are understandable, as well as the first development of the chorus. However, the voice seems to be more and more displaced by the instrumental accompaniment. This is confirmed after the drop, where the singing is completely absent for a long time. Between 4'36''-5'36'' a third verse is created, which appears in a very reduced and abstract form: by a modification procedure the consonants are separated from the syllables of the second verse, so that only the noise elements of the voice remain. The potential of a song to convey a concrete content is thus completely dissolved. Singing as a very organic and physical form of music is transformed into a construct that oscillates between recognisable vocal elements and synthetic sound. At the very end, starting at 7'18'' we hear a voice that has been generated artificially: a synthetic voice from the site naturalreaders.com apathetically repeats the song title and ends the piece with the words of the chorus and finally the word "Nevermore".

Added elements

Most of the track "Nevermore" is based on samples of the different single tracks in the original song. These have been modified to a greater or lesser extent, as described above, by tempo modification and other effects often based on the use of IRCAM tools. In addition to this, there are common studio processes like compression, reverbs, equalising etc. Synthetic sound material has been added, which is partly in contrast to the acoustic samples, but also depends on the conceptual ideas, such as the development of a hardstyle sound.

One element was added independently from the original piece: from 2'20''-3'38'' and at the end between 7'25''-8'07'' two field recordings have been implemented. The first one is from a forest clearing, the second one from a bay at the sea. On the one hand, these parts function as a contrast to the otherwise very artificial and synthetic sounds, bringing back the natural sound that was lost with the elimination of the voice. On the other hand, they refer to the text: "and many years I travelled, so many miles from home". Here they refer to a journey that the lover apparently takes to find his princess. In the end, however, he lands on the shore and has to abandon his plans. This path, which finally ends at the sea ("shall I seek for your eyes in the shore"), is illustrated with two different concrete points of view, which are acoustically very similar and could at most be kept apart by the differences in the bird calls, forest birds and seagulls, but were recorded at a completely different location. It is made clear that a path is taking form - from one place (the forest) to another (the seashore).

Here is an attempt to introduce an extremely abstract narrative, which probably can hardly be interpreted by just listening, but which is somehow at odds with the rest of the musical events. Thus, perhaps this encourages thinking without the necessity of fully understanding the actual meaning.

About the artist

Julian Zehnder, born 1995 in Bern (CH), lives and works as a composer and artist in Zurich. Besides studying electroacoustic composition and fine arts at the ZHdK, Julian Zehnder works on his own projects as well as in collaboration with various artists. To establish connections to other disciplines, he uses techniques of interactive control, generative sound synthesis and works with multi-channel strategies. Thus his compositions can be experienced in other forms of presentation such as installation, performance or video, in addition to the classical concert format.

Julian Zehnder, Nevermore — Remix, 2019


About the work