Exploration of a space as an instrument
During our first days in the space, the music students from the University of Guadalajara explored the building with voices, drumsticks and home-made percussive tools, bows and a cello. Questions that arose during this first exploration were:
What parts of the architecture can be activated? In what way can architectural elements be brought into oscillation? How do the elicited sounds differ? Can the sounds be reinforced/softened? How does the rest of the space react to these sounds created in collaboration with the architecture? Does the vibration continue through different parts of the building?
Aerts, C., Christensen-Dalsgaard, J., Kurtz, D.W., 2010. Asteroseismology, Astronomy and astrophysics library. Springer, Dordrecht ; New York.
My work with Musica Munda led to the development of the project Musica Mundana. This project also marks a big change in my practice. In Vokal-De-Konstruktion (2017) and Schnitzler’s Dreams (2015) I worked with already existing music. In Voiceland (2016 -) I collaborated with a composer to create the music. Musica Munda (2018) was my first step into exploring the creation of spatial sound compositions from scratch, based solely on the space and the performers, and their interaction.
Musica Munda took me to new ways of creating. The project started out as a workshop for music students with the goal of a sharing of the results in the form of a performance. Starting purely from teaching the students how to collaborate in their instrument expression with the space allowed me to form something new, independently from a composer. The material for the spatial sound composition was found by sharing my spatial understanding of sound, which I had learned through the projects that preceded Musica Munda. The spatial expressions of the music students were developed, placed, and choreographed in time and space. My own practice shaped into that of a spatial composer.
Musica Munda explored the music of the universe to thematically collaborate with the seemingly endless space of LARVA in Guadalajara. Musica Mundana continues with the fascination for the complex compositions inside of our universe as it is discovered and gradually understood by astrophysicists. With Musica Mundana I take the music of the universe as an opportunity to explore spatial sonic expression further. The performance space, here, can support human sonic expression directly, enabling it to become more spatial, more physical and bigger than human, while also exploring the vulnerability that is inherent to being earth-bound.
Link to Musica Mundana
Improvisation made up a big part of our first week together. Since all the musicians would play this huge space simultaneously, we spend a lot of time exploring different modes of listening to the space and to each other. Sharing space when it comes to sound is something that has to be practiced. One has to negotiate how to take up space and give space, and how to make this communication a conscious part of spatial musical improvisation. Our improvisations were sometimes musical, while at other times the singers explored the relationship of their bodies in the space. Sensing the others as much as listening to the others played an important role in the spatial explorations. Physical and sonic improvisations were combined later in the process.
Playing architecture. Creating worlds.
When I was in Guadalajara (Mexico) in order to create Vokal-De-Konstruktion in spring 2017, I went to see a dance performance at LARVA (Laboratorio de Arte Variedades). Right away, I was awestruck by the acoustics and the potential for sounding that the space promised at first sight and first listen. The ceiling is very high, with a metal grid at about 12 metres from the ground, with an additional 12 metres or so of air between the grid and the ceiling. The walls are mainly made of bricks, and along the walls are metal pillars and other metal structures. To me LARVA seemed like an instrument - a spacious instrument that could be played from inside and experienced from within.
When I was back in Stockholm, I kept thinking about this space and how it would enable me to explore vertical movements of sounds by placing musicians on the metal grid, with the audience able to move freely beneath the musicians. Soon I started to prepare the project by getting in contact with LARVA and the University of Guadalajara with the help of my collaboration partner, the architect and light artist Juan Perdo Ponce Bolanos. I asked for percussionists, string instrumentalists and singers from the university’s music department. Together they could play the architecture in different ways. Since the space was so enormous, I was inspired to use the ‘Music of the Universe’ as the theme. I researched the philosophy and poetics of this idea, and caught up on the newest developments in Asteroseismology, which is the science that studies the internal structure of stars by the interpretation of their surface pulsations (Aerts et al., 2010). In order to explore the movement in the universe while it appears still, I invited choreographer Karina Bosche to join me on this project. Less than one year later I found myself back in the space that had been fascinating me from a distance.
A space, like other instruments, has its unique acoustics, its unique tones, its very own sounding potential, its individual way to resonate in dialogue with other vibrancies. We explored LARVA mainly with vocal activation and percussive stimulation. These two oldest musical instruments were able to adjust to the characteristics of the space. The learning of LARVA as an instrument was intuitive and playful. We practically learned how to play an instrument from the inside.
Back to the portal
For the self-sounding instruments like the voice and the cello there was the additional question of how the sounds they created related to those that were either activated in or reflected by the space.
Video of one of the first group improvisations we did, imagining a constant reaching towards the cello from the singers and a pull-effect on the cello, accompanied by percussion on architectural elements of the space, video by Mareike Dobewall
In order to play the space from the metal grid, the singers received harnesses and safety training on how to move on the grid. We did not play the grid for sound since it is a safety structure, but the opening and closing of the clamps when the singers moved on the structure was made an audible part of the composition in the end.
Video of an improvisation of circular movement of sound on the grid, filmed from below, looking up. Video by Mareike Dobewall