Watching Kacper Ziemianin last night at the Sonology Showlab meetups every month at De Vinger, caused me to think again about how I would present my materials of research in the physical form. His table was awash with many contraptions that he had made, and the delight in his music was also partly due to watching him perform and ‘in the moment’, decide on what to do next. I had a discussion with somebody after this, although not directly linked to Kacper’s performance, about the relationship of the visual to your understanding as a listener, where for instance when you see an acoustic instrument, with a history and attachment to a particular sound you have an immediate sense of ease, because your brain is not constantly trying to figure out what ‘that sound’ is, and where does that sound come from. To oppose this thought, it is also therefore very interesting to be challenged as to where ‘that sound’ comes from and how is one manipulating it. Is this constant evaluation – in someone’s head – ‘good for you’ and for the artist? Obviously it depends on the audience to some extent, but if you serve a mixture of surprises amongst the angst and the ephemeral, there are perhaps enough ingredients to serve a good meal.
Electronic music has all types of form and physicality, as well as invisibility. Some are easier to grasp than others. What makes one different to another? Do we create something that is intentionally difficult to understand, or is that just a side product of a process. What is it that makes one decide on how to present their material? Electricity as we know it, is invisible until it becomes part of a physical object, so it is a very personal relationship, just as much as your energy in your body is invisible until you apply it to an object. The question is, what causes one to expose their personal secrets and individual magic? Apart from ‘your’ sound and ‘your’ personality, and thus ‘your’ ego on display, what is your personal relationship with electricity?
This leads to what I might wish for, what will represent my thoughts, ideals, sound and personality? I play the cello which is a historical instrument with a tightly connected view of its sound production. It is difficult to tear away from this historical relationship. How do I push it to a different stage? In the past I have always wanted to push away from the existing one. The cello can and must exist in many forms and so must its viewpoint. It is not enough for the only successful image of a cellist to be the one of flowing locks being thrown about whilst producing ecstatic sounds. In all my time in colleges, it seems to be this one image that succeeds above all else. I, the outsider, oppose this venomously. Perhaps it is a reaction too great, but whether you’re a classical diva, or a moshing metaller, if you have flying hair then you can catapult into internet greatness.
My safety net in performing and exploring sound with the cello is one that I can rest assured, without the fear of too many unknown qualities. I have also always had the chance to have my cello processed whilst performing with other electronic artists, the difference here is that it really depends on how it is done, if you like it, and whether it is of any interest. Here, I am not ultimately doing anything different, but it is a nice foray into live electroacoustic music.
What do I want my sound to be? Am I too safe? Do I throw away this connection with the instrument? What vital aspects of it would I keep, and what parts will I not need?
Coming back to the connectivity with the visual or non-visual, it is interesting that there are parallels with multiple lines of communication that exist today; in the form of the internet, but also of the computer that everyone might have at home on a desk, and even further, the stock market and classified documents. All these are invisible to the naked eye, but still very much exist. Radiation, of all kinds, leak out into the atmosphere but we cannot see it. Even thinking about the old telephone attached to the wall, it is a physical object, like an instrument, that connects to each person via visible telephone wires, but the actual connectivity is something we cannot see. Of course, using specific equipment, you can detect waveforms etc but to the naked eye it is unseen. What I am trying to communicate here is how does one combine these networks of communicative devices to serve the audience with enough physicality to keep them interested? And when is it enough?
Inspired by Kacper’s performance in his sound and objects, I begin to see the mixer as the ‘heart’ of the many things he had on display. Our own bodies are controlled by a system where the brain and the heart co-exist to manage an extremely intelligent form of network and communication systems. Why not think of the mixer as the heart, connecting all parts together into one big system? Instead of thinking about designing one multifaceted interface, like our own bodies, what about designing small and numerous ‘body parts’ that connect to the heart via arteries and veins; each one accountable for a particular aspect and productivity.
As a performer with an instrument, you could say that we, ourselves, are the multifaceted interface that connects sound to sound. It is I that decides what to do, and my limbs do as I ask. Whilst thinking of small objects that are defined by a simple aspect, you could potentially think of these as part of you. What are these simple aspects and can you build these objects with this in mind?
I would like to tune into this idea more. The ‘body’ of sounds will find its many physical forms, and perhaps this invisibility of communication lines will become clearer.