Alex Cecchetti At the Gates of the Music Palace

NEUTRAL OBSERVATIONS:

As you enter the space, you are confronted by a weathered looking door that looks out of place in the gallery. It doesn’t look like you can go through the door, so you walk to the left instead. There are graph-like colourful prints on the wall in frames to the right. In front of you there’s a big copper satellite/like piece hanging with a cord hanging down from it, which appears to be a sensor on closer inspection. As you walk past it, frequencies sound. Then you follow the space round to the right, and there’s a huge wave like piece made from copper and fabric. It looks like a ribbon suspended in air, or a sound wave. There are also some benches with books on them. As you continue there’s a cabinet of erotica drawings and simple line drawings. There is a central room in front of you, and you enter through a curtain. The room is pink lit, with a thick carpet, cushions on the floor, and little speakers set up in a large circle around the room. There’s a sonic installation playing, each speaker sounding a different voice in a choir. Close to one of the corners is a huge mobile of blown glass, it looks like a circular cascade of colour. Inside is a windchime and a music stand. At the opposite end of the room, piano strings run from a high shelf to the opposite side of the doors that you saw as you entered. As someone opens the doors, the piano strings are strung, creating more live sound.

(Please excuse that I accidentally filmed it portrait, below someone else’s footage)

PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS:

It was a strange experience, because it felt unnatural and forced. The whole exhibition felt disjointed, like the curator was trying to force different pieces together. Only when I read the information leaflet did I realise that the benches and erotic portraits were part of the exhibition at all – they seemed completely removed from it. The satellite piece that sounds when you walk past is a good idea, but it just didn’t work as I expected. It only sounds if you walk down one side of it, and it’s the same frequency pretty much, there isn’t any variation to sustain your engagement with it. As for the speakers installation, it just felt like a rehashing of things I’ve experienced before that are better executed. It all just felt very naive. The bird beak blown glass mobile etc all felt like it was clutching at straws, trying to make you think a certain way about the work rather than letting you make your own opinion.

My main gripe however was the piano strings piece. I think the idea is brilliant – I’ve worked with exposed piano strings in the past, and their sonic capabilities are amazing. I just felt the way this was executed let it down. The doors looked out of place so you didn’t feel like you could enter through them – only when I saw the invigilator open them did I realise you could. This is that tricky issue of whether or not it’s better to show people like that, or put a sign up to tell people (which draws away from the experience). But I think certain elements could have encouraged you to open it more naturally. If you had to open those doors to enter the gallery, you would have interacted with them. If the doors didn’t look so out of place, they would seem less intimidating.

The writing about the exhibition from the artist is so ‘flowery’, it just makes you cringe:

‘Dear You,
Let me welcome you as a musician and not as a
spectator. Dancers, singers, readers, builders, sleepers
and dreamers, this is us, constantly busy, willing or
not, to participate in the world. No exhibition or
representation can suspend for a moment the joyful
and inexorable process of becoming.’

What exactly is, ‘the inexorable process of becoming’? It all just feels so forced and overly poetic. I feel like it creates an atmosphere of not allowing you to think for yourself.

MY OWN PRACTICE:

Overall I did enjoy the exhibition, even if I didn’t love it. It allowed me to think critically, and I think it had a lot of interesting ideas that just didn’t get executed well. I think this shows how much my knowledge of sound art has increased – I’m not in a position where I can compare and critique sound art in a wider context.

I want to try and work with exposed strings more after this. I think they have a unique resonance that changes entirely when removed from their conventional instrument, creating an ambiguity that sustains intrigue. I also think my anger over exhibition texts recently could really help with my dissertation. I want to write more about how text in exhibitions can really restrict your experiences of them, and create my own language for talking about them in the process.

 

Advertisements

Werner Herzog – Into the Inferno

I watched Werner Herzog’s ‘Into the Inferno’ recently, and two main features interested me in terms of my practice. Firstly, the way the lava shaped itself and moved reminded me of Robert Pepperell’s teachings on visual indeterminacy. Any frame could have been paused and an interesting image would be left on screen.

The main things that caught my attention though was the soundtrack. Most of the volcanoes they were filming were in South America, Africa, or Indonesia specifically. Yet every time there was a clip of the lava etc, they had Christian choral music playing. I found this a strange combination – the music was mostly serene and calming, yet it was played with this destructive footage of volcanoes. I think they complimented each other well, though. The people watching this documentary would mainly be a western audience who are familiar with this kind of music to some degree. Sacred music from other cultures wouldn’t necessarily be recognised in the same way, as people aren’t as familiar with them. The use of it with the footage heightens the sense of awe we experience of the volcano.

This could be something worth playing with – using existing music or footage that you wouldn’t expect together, and creating new contexts for them in their combinations. I think thinking of existing music as a tool to create with as well is an interesting angle – music carries both it’s inherent emotional impact, but cultural connotations etc as well which could be interesting to play with.

Venice – Sarah McMenemy

I found this book by chance in a little shop in Bristol, and had to get it. It’s an accordion fold, so similar in format to some of the books I’ve been looking at. It has a little box, and then the whole book folds out. I like how the book continues from one side to the other by not having two covers – this creates a natural flow from one side of the paper to the next. I like the idea of having the open continuous form like this, but I think I still want it to be within a cover. If it’s got a hard sleeve like this one it will be too formal I think. I want it to be almost sketchbook like, as the content is a representation of ways of working.

I do like the pop up structure of the book and the construction. Though not appropriate for this piece, I want to make more books in future and this could be an interesting way of doing so.

 

Special Collections

I went to the special collections section in the library to see some physical copies of artists books and get an idea of construction etc. Due to copyright issues etc I can only post about the ones I could find online, but the whole collection was amazing. The way you can fold and construct paper to change the way you navigate a book can heavily influence your experience of it. The most interesting one I found was Tsunami:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

https://www.brainpickings.org/2011/09/26/childrens-nonfiction-books/

On Boxing Day 2004, a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the Indian Ocean, killing more than 230,000 people in 14 countries. To commemorate the victims, West Bengali scroll painters Joydeb and Moyna Chitrakar created a ballad and a stunning picture scroll in the tradition of Patua, a form of narrative graphic art, transforming the tragic news into an artful and poetic fable. The fine folks at Tara Books, who brought us such handmade gems as The Night Life of Trees and I Like Cats, turned the Patua scroll into a book — but it’s no ordinary book. Tsunami is made entirely by hand and silkscreened onto handmade paper. It unfolds like a scroll and even features a hole from which to be hung on your wall. Its thick pages exude the rich smell of the authentic Indian dyes used in the screen-printing process, breathing even more mesmerism into the project’s extraordinary feat of bridging the fodder of newsrooms with the ancient art of Patua storytelling.

This was a beautifully made book. From the handmade paper to the concertina fold, it felt like an object to be treasured. I really liked how the images flowed across the pages. I want to do something like this for my graphic score – a continuous drawing with no breaks. This could be a good format for that.

 

Graphic Scores

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When making the Venice piece, I made a lot of sketches an drawings to help construct the piece, graphic scores if you will. I used to draw graphic scores of places, music etc a lot and I think it’s worth getting back into it. I found it a useful way of a) organising and planning what I was making, and b) exploring how sound translates to visuals etc. I’ve realised recently how interested I am in this translation of the senses – vision to sound, touch to vision, etc. I also wanted to document the Map of Venice I made for G39 in some way more than just the piece at the time, and a graphic score seems the perfect way.

To help me visualise the layout I want to use, I’ve been researching graphic scores again. I think as a musician, interpreting graphic scores is an exercise in interpretation, but as a writer/composer, the creation of one is an exercise in representation/understanding. I like the individuality of graphic scores – no performance from them will be the same, and no reading of them will be taken in the same way. I think they have the capability to express more than pitch and time as western musical notation does – they can express so much more. Possibly their most valuable asset is their ability to rewire our brains to see sound. They could act as a tool for this?

I really love Roman Haubenstock-Ramati’s scores – the use of line and colour really expresses musicality I think, yet there is still a structure to them that you can work around. I haven’t worked with colour really for 2 years now, but it’s so linked to sound that I think it’s worth exploring. I like his combined use of shape, line, symbols and text as well – perhaps it’s worth considering using text in my score as well? It could express the language I used in the piece?

Stop Speaking: Andy Akiho

I saw this performance originally on young muscian, and then found this video afterwards. I really like the combination of automated voice and percussion – there’s something very intriguing about a conversation between something live and something recorded. I think these huge contrasts in this piece are what makes it so interesting. It’s like a more complex version of playing to a backing track.

It reminds me of a piece Cinzia Mutigli did with Freya Dooley at g39 – they were collaborating, bu Freya wasn’t able to be there for the performance. To get around this, Freya recorded her part and it was played during the performance, and Cinzia spoke hers live.

For me, performances like this are in a strange realm between performance and installation, flexibility and rigidity. I want to explore performance in future, so this could be an interesting way to work within that.

As for the piece itself, the range of sounds produced from one instrument is amazing, both from performer and composer. Playing instruments/objects like this could lead to a wider range of recorded sounds, and abstracted sounds too – worth exploring to create wider sound library to work with.

Maki Ishii, ‘Black Intention’

I found this piece the other day, and never before have I witnessed the humble recorder played quite like this.

  • The ‘normal’ way of playing the recorders was disrupted. By making the performer play two simultaneously, Ishii forces them to use the instruments in a different way which then changes the sounds produced.
  • I felt like there was a constant struggle between dissonance and resonance in the piece, which is partly why it’s so exciting. This constant push and pull creates a feeling of constant change.
  • I felt the music called for more drama. The piece demands effort, and the performer acted it well.
  • I felt the recorder was exploited widely – a huge range of sounds were had from it.
  • The gong and deliberate nature of actions in the piece gave it a ritualistic air.
  • The lower recorder sounds breath like when performed, like it’s been personified.
  • Another example of physicality, visuals and sounds working in conjunction.
  • Voice and recorder were used in conjunction with one another. Made me think about the distinction between speech and music. The swooping notes too were more like speech than music. Interesting crossover.
  • The gong in the background was a continuous ambient hum, creating a concentrated state.
  • There was great contrast of incredibly lyrical moments, and intensely rhythmic ones. This constant change is what keeps it exciting and keeps us engaged.

 

 

I think I’ve learnt a lot about sound construction from this. Durational pieces have to have contrast and change if they want to demand attention. In my artist crit at G39 people said there was no big moments of change, so it kept it mellow and ‘soundtracky’. If I want to make more standalone pieces, this is something to consider. I also want to over the summer think about performance more. Maybe that could be a way of combining the senses in one piece?