Sound Space Body | The Dance of Attention

“Sound Space Body” and “The Dance of Attention” are two residential workshops curated by Attila Faravelli and Enrico Malatesta and specifically developed for Unidee – University of Ideas – Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella IT

guest: Adam Asnan

TOPICS: Media history, sympathy, vibration, rhythm, surfaces, concrete music, traditional music, experimental geography, field recording, walking, ecological perception, mediation.

Module outline

The module, by means of both practical and theoretical sessions, confronts forms of direct action and perception with ones mediated by technological means of sound recording and reproduction.

Given a world which sees an ever growing wide-spread use of advanced technological tools to capture and share one’s experiences, as well as a conditioned reflex by artists to heavily rely on forms of audio-visual documentation to show their work to a broader audience, the workshop aims at deepening the questions which arise “as soon as we press ’record’ on a device”: Where in our own culture (present and past) lies the urge to overly develop and refine techniques to sort fixed things out of a flux of living matter? Is it possible to turn these techniques into levers to de-stratify perception, even if they were partly born out of a desire to objectify reality? What strategies to adopt in order to find a ‘simple’ use for these complicated tools?

To follow the lead by the Japanese sound artist Toshiya Tsunoda, “documenting is based on reality, but it is not a secondary supplement to reality. Documenting is not just a hollow version of reality, but is in itself a complete, autonomous being that exists within its own space and time. In other words, documenting plays its own role in our world. For instance, although footsteps are just a physical mark on the ground, we acknowledge them as independent matter, separate from the ground itself. This is because we have the ability to recognize ‘images’. This ‘image’ can be described as a ‘trace’ left by many factors colliding in a given space. I prefer to describe my recordings as a ‘trace’ of reality, rather than a ‘relation’ to reality”.

In our daily routine, as we go about our business we actively prioritise certain elements and eschew others, sound functions for us as a carrier of useful information: “A given sound provides information about an interaction of materials at a location in an environment” (William W. Gaver). E.g. we know from the sound of a car in an alley its provenance and we use this information not to be run over, or we focus our attention on the voice of a person talking to us in a crowded space, filtering out the background noise.

But what if we’d bring a microphone into the world, into the very same “environment” we live in?
The microphone’s horizon of listening is unconcerned and unbound, purely shaped by its technical capacities. Sound recording practices are not just a mechanism through which objectivity can or should be transmitted, they are instead a powerful creative tool through which “To experience the texture of the world without discrimination. Texture is patterned, full of contrast and movement, gradients and transitions. It is complex and differentiated. To attend to everything the same way is not inattention to life. It is paying equal attention to the full range of life’s texturing complexity, with an entranced and unhierarchized commitment to the way in which the organic and the inorganic, colour, sound, smell, and rhythm, perception and emotion, intensely interweave into the aroundness of a textured world, alive with difference. It is to experience the fullness of a dance of attention.” (Erin Manning and Brian Massumi).

Despite the balance of the workshop tilting toward sonic practices, the topics discussed, as well as the exercises proposed, aim at facing broader questions related to the relationship between unmediated and mediated experience.

Sound, Space, Body
[2016]

Attila Faravelli, Enrico Malatesta

guest: Nicola Ratti

TOPICS: Sound, space, body, research, aural awareness, participation, field recording, walking, ecological perception, affordances, experiential design, appropriation, media cultural history, traditional music, sonic unconscious, rhythm, idiophones, alteration.
Module outline

The module revolves around sound and its modes of perception and production, with a focus on its fundamental relationship with body and space.

The week will be evenly divided between theoretical sessions and practical exercises, seeking to offer the participants a series of both conceptual and experiential tools for questioning common but too simplistic opposites like action vs. perception (active performer vs. passive listener), intentional music vs. unintentional noise, composition vs. improvisation, musical instrument vs. performer’s body, clean signal vs. effect.

In the theoretical part of the laboratory achievements will be discussed from fields as disparate as the Sound and Media Cultural Studies, the New Materialism philosophy, some heterodox branches of anthropology, non-western musical ethnography, paleo-acoustics, ecological perception and experiential design, experimental music; what emerges amidst such diverse approaches is the exclusive role played by sound in showing the fundamental interrelations between humans, animals and the just apparently inert materials and forces present in the environment. If considered well beyond the simplifications offered both by dominant musicology and the common discourse (or the absence of any discourse about it) in art critiques, sound can push toward an ethical incitement to explore and experience such complex and creative connections.

The practical part of the laboratory will take place in the greatly diversified spaces of Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto and in the foundation’s neighbourhood; the proposed exercises will consist in both site-specific sonic actions and field recording sessions.

Each participant will be provided with a series of very easy to use proto-instruments and guided through their use; these simple objects, unlike a musical instrument, are not so much intended for producing sound per se, instead they are conceived either as tools to enact the aural potentialities of a site or to display the specific responsiveness of the material itself they are built from. The aim of the proposed actions is to produce sound out of a negotiation between hearing-listening by a specific body to the site’s affordances, wherein the participants are asked to listen to themselves while in the act of producing sound in a specific space and time, realizing an embodied awareness of the complex aural capacities of body and space.

The field recording sessions confront the soundscape of the environment in its rougher, unmediated form, as an apparent collection of unrelated and unintentional sonic phenomena, forcing the listener to seek for different kinds of organizational structures and forms.