Sanatorium Dźwięku is a festival dedicated to contemporary experimental music and broadly understood sound art. Its main objective is to present the widest possible spectrum of the phenomena related to the development of musical forms in the 20th and 21st c., maintaining the balance between the traditions of experimental music of the past few decades and the new, still structureless tendencies.
This year’s event takes place in co-operation with the European Capital of Culture Wroclaw 2016. As part of the Artist-in-Residence Programme A-i-R Wro, eight artist residencies were organized in Sokołowsko, during which artists produced projects to feature in the festival. The invited artists – Keith Rowe, Michael Pisaro, Valerio Tricoli, Mario de Vega, Alessandro Bosetti, Martin Howse, Olivia Block and Stephen Cornford – are among the world’s most prominent creators of music and sound art. A-i-R Wro Programme is subsidized by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland.
The program of Sanatorium Dźwięku has been arranged in such a way that it develops in multiple layers, oscillating around a number of key ideas, including the search in the field of musical notation, the relation between composition and improvisation, the use of the potential of space and the perception of sound space. Festival activities include concerts, installations, lectures, panel discussions and presentations.
Whereas in 2015 Sanatorium Dźwięku was largely centered around improvised music, this edition’s focus will be shifted towards composition, but approached in an unorthodox way: the so-called „other traditions” of composition will be exposed, traditions that cannot be easily placed in the panorama of European academic music.
Among the events that touch upon this issue are concerts of the famous Swiss group Ensemble Phoenix, that specializes in performing unconventional contemporary music. This time they will perform pieces by Robert Piotrowicz, Kasper Toeplitz, Alex Buess and Antoine Chessex, artists that for years have been transgressing the borders between composition and improvisation, and the legacy of high modernist electronic music and countercultural noise.
On the other end there’s Michael Pisaro – American composer and one of the most important members of Wandelweiser, an international group responsible for the renaissance of the post-Cage tradition that has been going on in recent years (although mostly in the non-academic field, far from large concert halls and the system of composing commissions). His subtle pieces have certainly allowed to once again grasp and reevaluate great subjects of the 20th c. musical thought, such as the issue of silence, the perception of sound or the relationship between music and literature and visual arts (primarily on the grounds of notation).
Several of Pisaro’s canonical pieces will be performed in Sokołowsko, but he will also play a special concert together with Keith Rowe (one of the forerunners of electroacoustic improvisation and a founding member of the AMM group). The duo will perform a piece, over two hours long, inspired by the figure of Saint Bede. Since Pisaro and Rowe are currently working on a new record for Erstwhile Records, their performance can serve as a good illustration of the intersection of trajectories of development of the composed and improvised music.
Keith Rowe takes part in another project, Dry Mountain, which has been founded last year with Gerard Lebik, when the two musicians recorded their improvisations and created a score from the selected, several-minutes-long fragment. The composed piece will be interpreted by instrumentalists invited to perform it: Johnny Chang, Mike Majkowski, Bryan Eubanks, Xavier Lopez, Jonas Kocher, Gaudenz Bardutt, Emilio Gordoa, as well as visual artists (Bożenna Biskupska, Radek Szlaga, Alicja Bielawska, Daniel Koniusz), who will create further graphical scores to enable performances in various instrumental configurations. The project as a whole conforms to the broader tendency for experimentation in the fields of musical notation and the interference of different artistic disciplines.
Dry Mountain constitutes an element of a larger curatorial endeavor entitled The Fall of Recording (prepared by Michał Libera and Daniel Muzyczuk), which also includes concerts by Alessandro Bosetti and Valerio Tricoli, as well as special lectures prepared by the curators. In order to approach the history of phonography in transdisciplinary way (far outreaching the bounds of music as such), a number of concepts will be discussed – including those by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, Thomas W. Edison, Dziga Vertov, Glenn Gould and – most of all – Pierre Schaeffer. The intent of the project is to point to the methods that would allow to invoke the idea of recording beyond recording itself – of the ontology of new realism instead of the ontology of representation.
In order to use the potential of the space in Sokołowsko as fully as possible, festival activities will be spread to many locations, each different in terms of cubature, acoustic conditions and aura. This is particularly important for projects commissioned specifically for Sanatorium Dźwięku, whose aim is to undertake a dialogue with space – not only in the dimension of sound, but also in historical, psychosocial and ecological dimensions.
One such project will be Olivia Block’s Open Air installation that aims to emphasize the sensual character of the buildings of the old tuberculosis sanatorium. A different take on the subject of space is presented by Lucio Capece, whose Conditional Music project is heavily inspired by phenomenology, resulting in the use of resonance in specific rooms as a core element of the composition. In turn, Martin Howse’s Terra Muta and Stephen Cornford’s Migration put emphasis mainly on the relationship between nature and technology. In the first case this is achieved by invoking the concept of psychogeophysics, and in the second – by commenting on the processes of usage of consumer electronics in the context of environmental pollution.
An innovative aspect of this year’s edition is the greater number of solo concerts – smaller, more intimate, thus allowing the audience for a more thorough reception of the invited artists’ works. These concerts are meant to be presentations of new works and complete projects, but also characteristic statements, artistic manifestos. Among artists included in this block are Olivia Block, Lucia Capece, Kurt Liedwart, Anna Zaradny, Mario de Vega, Emilio Gordoa and Kasper Toeplitz.
Integral to the festival are educational activities that aim to promulgate knowledge of the culture of sound. This year’s special guest will be one of the most interesting critics of experimental music – Brian Olewnick (formerly associated with „The Wire”, currently an author of the Just outside blog). Together with Keith Rowe and Daniel Brożek, he will be reconstructing the rich history of the AMM group. Moreover, the program includes two presentations of new publications. The first one, miejsce, czas, (dźwięki), an anthology edited by Paweł Szroniak, is something of an introduction to the issues of Cage’s tradition of experimental music (such as the complex relationship between the sound, time and space, the modality of silence, or the non-standard systems of musical notation). The other one, Noise Traditions in Sound Art, is a book by Patryk Lichota, who comprehensively presented noise as a form of cultural practice, and put it in the context of contemporary sound art. Accompanying the publications will be discussions with Michael Pisaro, Johnny Chang, Kasper Toeplitz and Kurt Liedwart, among others.
text elabotate Paweł Szroniak
THE FALL OF RECORDING
with Gaudenz Badrutt, Alicja Bielawska, Bożenna Biskupska, Alessandro Bosetti, Johnny Chang, Bryan Eubanks, Emilio Gordoa, Jonas Kocher, Daniel Koniusz, Gerard Lebik, Michał Libera, Xavier Lopez, Mike Majkowski, Daniel Muzyczuk, Keith Rowe, Radek Szlaga, Valerio Tricoli
“I don’t want to die. I want to live”. Several notes placed neatly on musical staff, quite catchy lyrics, you may say, and short introduction from a composer, forms altogether almost a song. But the song written down on 26th of Febraury 1903 by a Czech composer Leoš Janáček in his notebook bears a different authorship than his own; he himself was nothing more but a recording device for an unintentional song of his dying daughter, Olga. These were her last words, and a last melody, uttered in bed just before she passed away; almost a swan song addressed to her father sitting by the bed but also to a man obsessed by the everyday passing of melodies of the world we live in. Words, noises, screams, animals and doors, hundreds of different birds and dogs and finally also his dying daughter found their ways to form short songs in his notebooks via the language of music notation. So do we know the final expression of his daughter? It’s all there, on the staff. Perhaps a song, and if so, definitely of swan kind, a document or a memoir but also an emblem of the entire myth of recording media – a song made of dying and about dying or in other words: a recorded song about recording.
The myth – or history, if you like – of recording is full of dead bodies, not unlike Olga. There is this anonymous screaming girl in the wriggling lines on paper captured by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s phonoautograph. There is Adolf Hitler emerging from noises on magnetic tapes in the collection of Electronic Voice Phenomena founding figure, Friedrich Jürgenson. There is an unknown Salvadoran soldier at this very moment being buried by his son and accompanied by the little boy’s lament in the field recordings of Bob Ostertag. There are sounds of countless people who were not able to recognize their voices while listening to them played back from the wax cylinders. Not to mention the entire 27-Club on tapes, vinyls and CDs, on your computer in mp3 format or whatever else you want to keep them in, perhaps, there is also someone you actually knew, someone whose voice you heard live, your grandfather or his aunt, captured on reel-to-reel or magnetic tape, perhaps you have heard those tapes, or perhaps you didn’t, perhaps never came across them in this amorphic grand archive of recorded sounds spreading out from Library of Congress to rundown attics and computers all over the planet.
The entire history of this myth of recording, from its earliest beginnings until now, is oscillating around and preoccupied with death. The whole discourse developed around it, is a discourse about death. Some say, the dead bodies in the recordings has deprived us of the real experience of music. They say, we will never again be able to hear a live sound without it being haunted by the very possibility of being recorded. A bit like eavesdropping and bugs – there is no more innocence and disappearing in live speech. The others say, the dead bodies democratized and globalized music and our hearing. We know Beethoven’s music even if we have never visited philharmony. We know how Javanese gamelan sounds like without going to Indonesia. But whatever the range is, from fear of the dead to a sort of Halloween celebration, the myth’s main presumption is that the recorded sounds are irreducibly dead, taken out of their live context and deprived of their original setting. This is what happened in 19th Century. A fundamental and irreversible change in music and hearing caused by recording.
There is one element missing in this myth or perhaps one corpse which is never there. It is the corpse of the recording itself. This lack is crucial to the very foundation of the myth. If recording changed the music so drastically and irreversibly it is because the death of recording itself has never been thought of or imagined. If we believe the recording has changed everything, we do so because we believe it arrived for good, it will stay and never die.
Now think differently for a moment. Think of recording not as a mythical feature but rather a historical incident, maybe even a side effect. A phenomena which origins can be traced back in time, with has its own genealogy, its own attack and peak, decay, sustain and release. Think of now, think of early 21st century as the beginning of its last phase – not decay; release. Think of recording as a historical phenomena which did not arrive to stay with humans forever but a moment in time, actually a pretty short moment, which is now about to fade away. Think of it as a short chapter in the whole history of sound and hearing. Think differently and imagine recording coming to an end. Soon, we will not need it anymore. Already now, we are flooded with archives, redundant and overwhelming, a clueless problem rather than salvation. Already for some we are misinformed by these archives of recordings, our history is not getting and more understandable and clear, our knowledge of the once-alive people and situations is not closer to us because of the dead media.
There are good reasons to think that way. First – there are historical reasons. None of the great inventors of recording media, be it Scott de Martinville, Thomas Edison, Dziga Vertov or Pierre Schaeffer was interested or aiming at saving audio data. Even if all of them are considered godfathers of the new technology. None of them was imagining an archive and none of them wanted to become a librarian. In his diaries from 1948, Pierre Schaeffer, when imagining music concrete, did not start with the idea of recording. The other way around – recording came as an incidental or handy but at the same time disappointing solution to problems otherwise unsolvable. On his way to music concrete, Schaeffer, not unlike his avant garde predecessors, was aiming at a sampler triggering everyday sounds in real time. He called it the most general piano possible. Or noise piano. An instrument which would enable to orchestrate or play or conduct the concrete sounds rather than store them. Technologically speaking – it was impossible in 1948 and only because of that, he came up with a solution of using recorded sounds. To bypass the problem he couldn’t solve. The thing is: we can do it today. We don’t need the tape with recorded sounds.
If we go back to godfathers of recordings, we can see that the recorded sound was usually a mediocre compromise to the ideas they had. Hence, another set of reasons to believe recording will soon come to an end. These are mostly technological reasons. They seem to be both more in line with the initial ideas and completely against the path it took over the last hundred years. We know the speaking pianos of Peter Ablinger; we have the foleys and the vocal ensembles imitating field recordings; we know more literary and sensitive forms of recording of sounds then just capturing them; we now have the extended instrumental techniques and the universal instruments are reachable; we came up with streaming methods and online mixing and we imagined that records can be nothing more but just scores. With all that at hand, it is probably a high time to create an answer to an overwhelming crisis of recordings’ nostalgia, retromania and hauntology of the archives – an ontology of new realism in place of ontology of representation.
Because the myth triggered by Olga Janáček was also connecting one more element to this already rich constellation. The recorded sound became an object that meant more then the singular uttering that was presented just for a handful of ears. The voice became language of another sort, the one that is bringing meaning by the sole possibility of repetition. Thus the world of objects seen by chance by Schaeffer is a place of everlasting meaning and the terrible truth is that for this reason a reduced listening and unintentional ear is impossible. Recording means organizing and saving because the heard sound is worth something, has a potential to be of value. The world opened by this act is a world of signs, that will always bear the guilt of the necessity of having a meaning.
The Fall of Recording is nothing but a cloud of interests, observations and speculations we share with musicians, scholars, critics and curators. It is an ongoing research and a number of conversations, fantasies, ideas on paper, hints for possible music commissions and unresolved paradoxes. This cloud is now reaching its first incarnation at Sanatorium Dźwięku in Sokołowsko with a few (hard to count them, really) concerts and a lecture all aiming at complicating and differentiating the history of recordings cause what else can you do in the final chapter of some accidental phenomena in history?
Alessandro Bosetti will premiere a new take on his Janáček research. Already in his Ars Acustica winning piece “The Notebooks” he was dealing with hundreds of notated speech melodies of a composer who did what we are doing with our recording devices. His’ was a pen and a staff. This recording obsession of his lead to dozen of notebooks kept in Brno which are literary field recordings.
Keith Rowe’s Dry Mountain project originated in Sokołowsko and came into being as a painterly recording device. A short piece of music recorded together with Gerard Lebik served as reference point to four visual artists commissioned to score it. Now four duos will perform the very same piece of four different scores simultaneously, in open air.
Finally Valerio Tricoli’s premiere deals directly with the aforementioned diaries of Schaeffer. Taking his memoir of 1948 as a sort of guideline through a piece, he prepared a hybrid performance using the recorded sounds of Schaeffer – both the sounds he was using in his research and his voice – for and against his methodology of music concrete.
Michał Libera (1979): sociologist working in sound and music since 2003, now mainly involved in producing and staging sound essays and other experimental forms of radio art and opera which brought him to collaborate with Martin Küchen, Ralf Meinz, Rinus van Alebeek, Alessandro Facchini, Joanna Halszka Sokołowska, Komuna// Warszawa and others. Libera is a producer of conceptual pop label Populista dedicated to mis- and over- interpretation of music as well as series of reinterpretations of music from Polish Radio Experimental Studio (Bôłt Records). He curates various concerts, festivals and anti-festivals, music programs for exhibitons and received honorary mention at 13th Venice Arhcitecture Biennale. Other regular collaborators include National Art Gallery Zachęta, Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, Polish National Museum (Królikarnia), Galerie West in The Hague, Satelita in Berlin. His essays on music and listening „Doskonale zwyczajna rzeczywistość” were published by Krytyka Polityczna. »
Daniel Muzyczuk is a curator at the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź. Curator of the numerous projects, among others: Long Gone Susan Philipsz, Gone to Croatan (with Robert Rumas), Mariusz Waras and Krzysztof Topolski. Factory, MORE IS MORE (with Agnieszka Pindera and Joanna Zielińska), Melancholy of resistance (with Agnieszka Pindera), Views 2011, Sounding the Body Electric (with David Crowley) and Deliberations on Economics Cooked Up In the Back Room. 30 Years of Wschodnia Gallery. He is the winner (together with Agnieszka Pindera) of the Igor Zabel Competition in 2011. Co-curator of the Polish Pavillion for the 55th Venice Biennale (with Agnieszka Pindera). Since 2015 vice-president of AICA Poland.