In the previous post i spoke about the physicality and the weight that accompanied the actions we were taking to amplify the sounds we were making. For the sake of curiosity, what if we were to consider the weight of the last blog post in light of no amplification at all? – The discussion would read quite differently – i’m reminded of an article i read in the 400th issue of the wire by David Toop, who spoke of performance with no amplification at all. Toop recalls a performance in the Wysing Festival: O Yama O, which on that occasion was Rie Nakajima and Keiko Yamamoto, the duo use tiny everyday objects that she builds into layers of sounds.
“How often are we in such intimate closeness to the materials of sound, the physicality of a naked voice, without chairs, microphones, distance, so conscious of light, climate, atmosphere, the nearness of other bodies” (Toop, 2017) To be loud could be seen in light of submission, engulfing with the forced engagement with sound; without volume we must listen with intent. Which is a very different relationship to that perhaps the club venue – After seeing Tetsuya Umeba at Cafe Oto in 2015, stacking up tin cans on the heat of a gas stove, pouring in rice, waiting for them to emit a penetrating deep lowing sound. When asked about this strange rite, they reply ” I don’t do ‘performances’ actually, its more like some kind of action. – Such a statement resonates with me ever since reading it. Such an action feels devoid of characterisation, a phenomenological impulse of sorts. I almost feel as though this best describes what we do in the studio – always these are my favourite recordings, raw unfiltered documentation, when we totally forget about what exactly we are doing, engaging in an action of curiosity, moving and interacting on a different vibration. What would it be like to drop all amplification other than our laptop speakers? Wishing we had thought to try this in the studio the other week. I’m stricken by what feels like an odd contrast, this simplicity in action and movement, while i set in motion the computational task of splitting a 3 second long sample of audio into 1000 pieces slowing each of those pieces down by 20% while simultaneously removing at random 50% of those 1000 chunks of audio… I’m not exactly sure how the process of forces set in motion sits with the heavy computation of my laptop? Or whether this is an important question to ask at all? Are they for better or for worse the same thing? in regards to them both being reactions of sorts, one happens in our immediate space, while the other within this abstracted piece of circuit board that is my laptop. Both curious actions neither the less
One could argue there is comfort in the literary visual appearance of performances such as Tetsuya Umeda or O Yama O (insert photo) but actually there is equal complexity in the sense of there inability to fit within genre. Within the same article Toop recalls names such as Yuko Mohri, Ryoko Akama, Elico Suzuki, Takahiro Kawaguchi, Rie Nakajima, Pier Berthet, there predecessors and ancestors, ‘phenomenologists’ as he describes for want of a better word – are neither in or out of what e think of as music, art installation, sound art or performance. “They focus on the slow intensification of process, movement, the sounds that emerge when forces are set motion. At present, they have nowhere to sit other than youtube and those few performances an art spaces that accommodate their need to be public. Far away and very close” (Toop, 2017) I cant help but speculatively position what we’ve been doing within this middle ground so to speak – uneasy with the idea of sound art while not really fitting in as music?
Might a source of future inspiration, score or metaphor for our sonic process be like that of a weather system? Unpredictable and in constant proximity. Composition as climate? Bearable or not, it surrounds us, its where we live. Like that of weather or sound, either may be dissonant and demanding, is this what we should expect if an action is to respond to the present moment? It is where we are now.
Within my collection of web and video links sits this video lecture by David Toop and Rie Nakajima which i think we’ll lead nicely from this writing to the next.