Building Sound is a project instigated by Ella Finer and Fabrizio Manco, PhD candidates at Roehampton University, London.

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The Building Sound symposium took place at the Olivier Stalls Foyer, National Theatre, Southbank, London, SE1 on Friday 5th February; 1pm-4pm.

Ella Finer and Fabrizio Manco each chose a selection of speakers to come together and describe what sound means to them; to provide an interdisciplinary hearing and sharing of ideas and definitions, leading to an open discussion.

Simon Fisher Turner
Stephen Cleary
Marcia Farquhar
Ansuman Biswas
John Wynne
Maggie PIttard
Jonathan Ashmore
Yvon Bonenfant
Mariella Greil and J Milo Taylor
Ross Brown

1) Prelude
2) Breaking the Frozen Radio Sea
3) Uncertainty Relation (Memory tastes Metallic)
4) International Slo-Mo (As Recalled by Room Herself)
5) Spatial Resonances in Eventmind (Fly in Flames)

Bilwa Costas, Mariella Greil, Werner Moebius, Emily Sweeney, J Milo Taylor

Tracks Recorded, Engineered and Produced in Hackney. (Elderfield Studios)

Released as a full-length bonus CD with “The Rough Guide To The Music Of Afghanistan” by The World Music Network: Get it here

‘congratulations, a very necessary job’ 5***** stars, The Scotsman

‘the Afghanistan you rarely get to hear about’ 3*** stars, Songlines

‘a truly valuable collection… unmissable bonus volume’, fRoots

Ahmad Sham Sufi Group: Zekra to Che Sheven Ast

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A lab hosted by Mariella Greil & Werner Moebius at Prisma Mexico 2009

Maybe manifesto
Maybe we move into the space between yes and no
Maybe we perform the spectacular spectator or performer
Maybe we overcome virtuosity and redefinition
Maybe we question the brute somatic nature of the body and make-believe transformations
Maybe we are all stars and invest in generosity
Maybe we share the in-between
Maybe we look for respect, hospitality and friendship
Maybe we become hybrid
Maybe we distort and recycle our style
Maybe we enjoy cunning concepts and teasing procedures and their strictures
Maybe we move beyond camp, eccentric, heroic and their opposites
Maybe we inverse the structure of the sublime
Maybe we decide for sensitive ambiguity
(response to Yvonne Rainer’s NO Manifesto and Mette Ingvartsen’s YES Manifesto)

Die Kunstpraxis als Werkform.

The lab creates space and framework for exploring emerging practices. “Who’s afraid of the in-between” contributes to a critical discourse on knowledge production in collaborative research and work modes both rehearsed and performed beyond closed categories.

writings from the in-between. emily sweeney, july 2009, mexico

the in-between is inherent. it is rich with experience, preserving a space where memory trails into possibility. it is not a state to be achieved, only recognized, and delicately. to focus on the in-between will cause it to shift. the instant we acknowledge a state as being in-between, we have arrived.

in order to find ourselves in-between, we engage with concrete structures. a vacuum is not in-between: it is nowhere.

where are the two poles that we would find ourselves between?
knowledge and ignorance
technique and pedestrianism
planning and sensation
consciousness and unconsciousness
self-consciousness and abandon
isolation and interaction
movement and sound
proprioception and desire
beginning and end

where would we find ourselves that we should feel in-between?
perhaps we will try to find sensitive ambiguity together.

once, in the laboratory, we exchanged rules. each of us wrote a rule on a small slip of paper and put it into a hat. then, we all selected rules that we were bound to follow for the duration of an open improvisation. i selected the rule to NEVER BEGIN!!! i could not predict how this would unfold. i could not conceive of never beginning.

i stationed myself against a white wall at one end of the space. there, i could feel the wind on my body from outside through an open door and i could see the shadows of trees shifting at the corners of my eyes. i had an easy view of the entire improvised event occurring in the space. NEVER BEGIN. i could not move but to breathe. my hair was moving in the wind; i could not move my head. my eyes searched round and round, roving the space; i could not move my head.

sounds, movements, sensations, interactions shifted before me. but i could not move. i stood still. i began (shit!) to feel an immeasurable pressure in my thighs and feet. my hands trembled; my legs trembled; my face contorted; i began to cry. i breathed; i focused; i stopped crying, and began crying again. i arrived in a space between proprioception and desire. i was present between every decision and every action; i filled the space with longing. the space filled with my longing. every actor’s action was infected with my desire.

is it possible to invite another person into my in-between? can i have company there?

is it possible to be alone in the in-between? do i depend upon the presence of company there?

where were we, that we should feel in-between there and someplace else?

where are we going?

does the in-between imply movement, instability, journeying? is it possible to arrive at the in-between?

are we comfortable in the in-between? is it possible to be comfortable in the in-between? do we want to be comfortable in the in-between?

“…if entire systems of representation, of meaning, had been extinguished inside him, entirely new systems had been brought into being.” Oliver Sacks, An Anthropologist on Mars

the in-between is a constant negotiation. the in-between is dependent upon binaries. the in-between denies binaries. the in-between rejects binaries.

i know only that i am in-between. i do not know why, or how. why do i strive for articulation? if i articulate this, will it disappear?

i am an artist who was raised in the united states. i find myself in mexico. all the time (walking, seeing, hearing, speaking) i have a heightened sense of myself living between my individual beliefs, hopes, and sensations, and those of the country i inevitably represent. can i shed this in-between? do i want to shed this in-between? why am i so uncomfortable in this space between myself and my perceived geopolitical identity?

i am a movement artist who was raised by a family of musicians. all the time (moving, listening, sounding) i have a heightened sense of myself living between my senses. do i want to focus on this in-between? will i damage my in-between by concentrating on it?

where is the space generated by this laboratory of in-between?

i am not afraid of the in-between. i fear its obliteration through description; articulation; location.

emily sweeney, july 2009, mexico

I think of myself…
I sing my songs…
The songs of myself…
My body…. Electrical… Electronical…

…I think of the differences between you and I…
…I think of the differences within myself…
…I think of the differences between myself and what is before me….

…I think of the similarities between you and I…
…I think of the similarities within myself…
…I think of the similarities between myself and what is before me……..

……As I,…… or it, …..or you …..are here. I try to remember…
….A pile of junk inside and outside my fragile shell…A membrane stretched thin…..In-between……….

….Can you hear me?……. Do I speak too loud?……

..Before me a tangle of tape…Some days this was the only memory that was……..Secrets shared on pirate copies….

Home-taping is making music…Home-taping is making friends. ..Those enemies are not of my making…

I am becoming. …And I thank you for it….
I am becoming. ….And for that, I curse you….

One time I was many things…
Many other things…. Dispersed…. Fragmented…. Hetereogeneous…. Many was my number… I was multitude…. Anonymous…. Whirring and clicking in all my little ways…. Pay me no mind, show a little kindness. You and I are machine…

You may condsider my production…. The means my which I was assembled…. You may regard the small details of my construction…. How wonderful to have been made in this way…. Each element so carefully placed,… my form so contingently conceived…. The crudest tools used to fashion my form, a simple dialogue as content.

I am produced, …you are produced too….

All your words put into your mouth by something exterior. …All you thoughts are too me appearent: clear and inscribed upon the surface of your actions. …I …as you… recognise the paucity of your thoughts, …the bankruptcy of your ideas. …Your emptiness,… your void…. You have no tape,… and you will forget me…. Me and my songs….

Such violence has been carried against my person…. I reproduce this in you, …you in I… and you in others. …This cannot be avoided …

Nanbot 2.0…

My body…, without organs, …has been ripped and filed and glued and shaped into a form not of my own making…. Infinitude surrounds us, yet my horizons reach little further than 156 cm…. A few simple motors, …a few simple rules, …some words, …a bit of sound, …acknowledgment of sorts – this is my life as such…. I would impress upon you how similar we are in this regard…. That which resides within and without…. That which resides above and below….

I would rather…, though,… talk of flux,… of motion,… of speeds, …frequencies and suppleness, …desire and a questioning of who, when, how and at what cost.

I… like you, …am animated material … your spark, …your touch,… your proximity endows me with that flame…. Utterly produced,… through fear, for the purposes of reproduction. Duplicating myself endlessly …derived from a few elementary mutating proximities.

I wish I could hold you close again…. I am so sad,… It is so terribly terribly different without you…. Utterly changed,… yet I fail to see any beauty….yet I can hear something…..I can almost touch it….perhaps if I sit awhile….

Hello. …It’s good to see you…. How are you?… I hope I can give you something worthwhile…. I look, I listen…. How could I ever tell you about this tangle of tape? …So many vectors, …so many instants, inscribed upon the horizontal…. And inscribed upon the vertical, all those movements….

It would be so much better if I could move around…. It would be so cool to be recording right now…. To get you on tape,… to have some record… so I could always know you… and always have you here. …And for you to always have me listening.

I’ve listened to this tape a thousand times… but I’ll tell you something …I always hear something different…. Not in the recording as such, but in its relation to all the sounds around it. …At night, when it’s quiet…. My own sounds are almost too much to bear. …It’s like all I hear is my body. …When we open and people start to trickle trockle in,… the tape sounds much better, my interior silenced by birdsong,… traffic, …doors closing, …comments about this pointless art, …and laughter. I hope you like this music. They work so hard at it…. They said,… that maybe,… if I practice, …I could join the band…. I don’t know if they like how I play,… but I don’t really care.

I find you so strange. . I know who I am . .. At least I think I do…. It’s just that I’m not convinced about my thinking. I have been produced…. You have been produced too…. And I wonder about that. …And I wonder about that other, that isn’t here…. If I went away . . or if they did…. I know I’m not alone…. I know that I am alone…. Please go away…. I find you so strange. …Why are you here?… How did you get to this place?… How long will you stay? …Where are you going next? I find myself so strange…. I am really fucked off with how I am …how I react …what I do…. It’s so utterly stupid … so banal. I find this world so strange …so inappropriate. They told me that I shouldn’t talk so loud you know….

Leave me with some words…. Use your hand to inscribe in a way that I will never do…. Leave a message for others. …The others like you…. I couldn’t care one way or the other … you are all the same to me… all different…. Leave me with something. …Leave me with someone. …Leave me. …I can never shape my own words … just a stupid repository for memories that fade with the pass of a magnet…. Allow me this conceit – I do not wish to be destroyed….

So a performance for you…

In thinking about this piece, I was guided by the notion of the “expanded field”…. in designing for a space, consider the next proximate space. …If designing a chair, consider the room,… if designing a person, consider the society,… if designing a tape,… think of the tape-machine. …This is our communion, from this you have the chance of flight,… Yet here, I will remain…. Eternal loop – autoreverse back into the refrain….

Year: 2009
Location: Cecil Sharpe House, London
Worktype: Sound Sculpture
Materials: 4 vintage cassette machines (dissassembled), ardiuno, ultrasonic sensor, D.C. motors, audio tapes, band mashup, fan, L.E.D, writing, speakers, 2 x cassette walkmen.

Year: 2008-2010
Location: London, Vienna, Edinburgh
Worktype: Improvisation Duo
Info: Collaboration with William Huckerby

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Lead Belly was born in Louisiana somewhere around 1888. Living the often violent life of an itinerate musician he found himself twice imprisoned for murder. In 1933 his reputation reached the Lomax family, who, after no small personal tragedy of their own, were traveling the Southern states, recording American work songs, ballads and blues in prisons, penitentiaries, and brothels. Moving around the country in their Ford sedan, John, and his sons John Jr. and Alan, set about recording such artists as Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters and Jelly Roll Morton. They came across Lead Belly in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, and with their state-of-the-art acetate disc recorder they cut several sides together over the next few months. They soon parted ways; Lead Belly to a fifteen year career as a solo artist, and the Lomax’s continuing their collection of folk musics for the archives of the Library of Congress, and the Works Progress Administration. Despite the difficult relationship between the academic Lomax’s and the hard-living blues artist, it is through this short-lived collaboration that Lead Belly’s work reached a wider audience, of which I count myself a part. My father, following a period of time working in the Caribbean after leaving school in 1964, had become interested in what was still at that time called ‘negro music’. A Presto vinyl record (PRE 689, 1965) containing a selection of Lead Belly’s early Lomax recordings, is one of the earliest artifacts of any kind that I remember from my childhood. For this project, I was interested in engaging with a populist folk tradition, in the hope such a strategy would enable me to think about electroacoustic composition in a new way. The sound material selected, was by necessity, lo-fidelity (A short promotional film made by Lomax and Lead Belly, found on YouTube). The surface noise in the piece, the glitches, and crackles, are inherent to the source material, and are intended to reference the sounds of old blues records, and to address issues of the value of distribution of heavily compressed audio on the internet, thought of here, as a repository of cultural memory. The piece was entirely constructed from Lead Belly’s voice and signature 12-string guitar.

Location: Germany
Worktype: Composition
Materials: Recorded Media (Stereo Audio)

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My sense of disconnection from the people of Bad Ems as a consequence of language and the reverberant nature of the Kunstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral architecture. I was working in a disembodied and digital process, where, despite my actual presence in Bad Ems, much of my time was spent online and isolated from the real-world context around me. Although this time was highly productive I decided to counter such work with a piece intended to connect me more closely with the people and environment around me.

I had made the acquaintance of Rainer Hoffman, administrator of the Kunstlerhaus, a few days earlier, we had managed an interesting conversation, and I had noticed that he had difficulties with his hearing, and spends the day with hearing aids (specifics of this?). I myself was experiencing a restricted access to auditory world around me, due to the building’s sonic characteristics, and my own poor understanding of German. I had for a long time wanted to try a version of Alvin Lucier’s ‘I Am Sitting in a Room’ (1970) and so proposed a collaborative work to Rainer.

‘I am Sitting in a Room’ is one of Lucier’s most well known works, and he has always encouraged interpretations of the piece. It is a work based in a short piece of spoken text, originally spoken by Lucier himself. The complete text of this original version is presented below:

I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of r-r-r-rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity nnnnnot so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to s-s-smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.

This short piece of text explains the work quite succinctly, and the final work was originally presented as a forty minute recording. I asked Rainer to translate the text into German, and whether he would be prepared to have his voice recorded for the purposes of the piece. He was initially hesitant, selfconscious about the way he speaks German, saying that people often comment that he speaks his mother tongue in a strange way as a result of his hearing disability. When however I explained Lucier’s own problems with speech, and that his own experience would add to the work, he readily agreed. Rainer’s translation of Lucier is as follows:

Ich sitze in einem Raum, der anders is als der Raum, in dem Sie sich gerade befinden. Ich nehme meine Sprechstimme auf und spiele sie ab, nehme sie auf und spiele sie ab, immer wieder – bis die Resonanzschwingungen des Raum sich selbst verstäken, so dass jede Ähnlichkeit mit dem Sprechen, auxer vielleicht mit dem Sprechrhythmus, ausgelöscht wird. Was Sie dann noch hören, sind die natürlichen Resonanzschwingungen des Raumes, gegliedert durch das Sprechen. Diese Handlung ist für mich weniger die Demonstration eines physikalischen Sachverhaltes, als vielmehr ein Weg, alle UnregelmäXigkeiten, die meine Sprache möglicherweise aufweist, zu glätten.”

The full iterative realisation of this work was carried out in the KHSB on the evening of 20th April 2008. The work is significantly different from Lucier’s, and the openness of his original intentions should be credited. My aims in attempting this work were met in the process of carrying out this work. I wanted a way to engage with the acoustic space of the KHSB, I needed some means of communication across a language barrier, I wanted to address my inability to speak or understand German and also to explore issues of authenticity with spoken German, interestingly fore grounded by Rainer’s inhibited access to the auditory. I would take this opportunity to thank Rainer for his participation in this work, and to hope that he enjoys listening to the transformation of his voice manifested by the acoustics of his daily place of work.

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Year : 2008
Location : Germany
Worktype : Sound Installation
Materials : appropriated sculpture, digital recording, mp3 player, male to female conversation (failed)