‘Painting sound’ with the Castle in Time Orchestra

The orchestra, led by Matan Daskal, Shalev Ne’eman and Tal Donner, recently returned to Israel from an enthusiastically received tour to four locations in India.

THE CASTLE in Time Orchestra. (photo credit: Courtesy)
THE CASTLE in Time Orchestra.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It’s not easy to classify the music that Castle in Time Orchestra plays. Is it classical? Electronic? Both? From the compositions to the conducting style, CITO breaks away from conceptions of what an orchestra can and should do, setting its own rhythm or, as they say, marching to the beat of their own drums.
The orchestra, led by Matan Daskal, Shalev Ne’eman and Tal Donner, recently returned to Israel from an enthusiastically received tour to four locations in India. Next week, they will present Sounds of Now, a two-part program featuring compositions by Daskal and Stephen Horenstein at Jaffa’s Beit Kandinof.
The evening will feature CITO’s musicians as well as guests from Horenstein’s LAB Orchestra. At no point in the performance will the musicians read sheet music. In fact, the entire show will occur without the assistance of any written music. Both conductors, Daskal and Horenstein, will employ conducting methods based on visual signs and physicality.
Daskal is a self-professed “soundpainter.” The method, in which a conductor communicates with his musicians, dancers or actors via a common set of signs, was devised by Walter Thompson in the 1960s and 1970s in New York City. It is practiced internationally and is akin to sign language. “Walter lives in Sweden now. I traveled there to study with him,” explains Daskal.
His path to soundpainting, in some way, began with India. “In 2017, [Jerusalem cultural festival] Mekudeshet invited us to do a collaboration with Trilok Gurtu, who is an Indian percussion artist. He doesn’t read music but he improvises amazingly well. We had to understand how to collaborate with him in a situation where we don’t read music, we all improvise as an orchestra. I discovered soundpainting as a tool to make this possible. It brings me back to the body.”
Daskal, 31, is a former dancer. He was a member of the Batsheva Dance Company and went on to perform with leading choreographers such as Yasmeen Godder. “I did a lot of improvisation when I was in Batsheva. I really enjoyed it, there’s freedom, play, instinct… I felt a lot of joy and possibilities for self-expression that I didn’t find in other dance experiences. As a musician, I didn’t find that because I was always aware of the limitations of the instrument I was playing. I found it again with soundpainting,” he says.
Whereas Thompson’s soundpainting consists of more than a thousand signs, Daskal and CITO have worked up to nearly 200. “We do it more and more now. It allows us to go into each show and each show is completely different.
The second part of the program will be led by Horenstein. “Stephen was in Chicago at the time that soundpainting was emerging and he developed his own method, which he calls ‘kinetic conducting.’” In Horenstein’s method, the body is used to convey cues to the musicians. Each performance is improvised and unique.
Following these two conductors requires the musicians to be incredibly alert and flexible. “The musicians are incredible. Each and every one of them is an amazingly talented soloist and improviser,” says Daskal.
In both parts of the evening, electronic and acoustic instruments will be played one alongside the other. “In each concert, we strive to find the integration. What drives me is to hear sounds that I haven’t heard before. The combination of electronic and acoustic instruments allows that fantasy to occur,” he says. 
CITO will present Sounds of Now at Beit Kandinof on March 15 at 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.citorchestra.com.