Tag Archives: collaboration

LINES OF SIGHT #6. Collaborating with Strangers. Brenda Hutchinson

"DB6-1AMNYSubway" Brenda Hutchinson, Daily Bell 2008 project

"DB6-1AMNYSubway" Brenda Hutchinson, Daily Bell 2008 project

The life work of Brenda Hutchinson (literally “life work”, based on the cultivation and encouragement of openness in her own life and in those she works with) covers a range of action from abstract electronic music to year-long pieces such as her ongoing project, “dailybell2008”, a commitment to the simple action of ringing bells at sunrise and sunset every day for a year and sharing the awareness of that moment with others.

In public collaborations such as the “The West 4th Street Quintet”, Hutchinson records people that she encounters on the street, listening and witnessing; in more personal explorations and performances she works with family and loved ones working through grief and loss or fear. A recent turning point is “SoundTracks”, a score/invention and collaboration with her friend artist Ann Chamberlain, whose memory was seriously compromised due to end stage breast cancer. “SoundTracks” enabled Ann to draw by means of programmed sounds, intimate and personal elements of her daily life. Brenda Hutchinson has currently completed hospice and palliative care training to explore extending the potential benefits of the project to others. The “SoundTracks” drawings were shown as part of “Possibility of Action, the Life of the Score”, an exhibition exploring musical notation curated by Held-Subirà and produced by MACBA June-October 2008).

For “Lines of Sight #6”, Hutchinson converses with San Francisco composer/performer Jon Brumit, founder of Neighborhood Public Radio, about the thread of “collaborating with strangers” that runs through their work, and premieres a work in progress with The Cardew Choir directed by Tom Bickley.

Singing Stones (Girona, 2001)

Text Catalan version
The projects:
MATT DAVIS, trumpet: “Orientation of a Disappearance”
ANGEL PEREIRA, percussion: “The fire of the drum”
ANNE WELLMER, voice: “Frozen voices”. In collaboration with the Japanese soprano Mikae Natsuyama Cho
BARBARA HELD, flute: “Samgîtaratnâkara” [The Ocean of Music]
PERE NOGUERA: “Memory of sound”. Installation

“Singing Stones”, (in German, Singende Steine) is a collaborative project about the cosmic dimension of sound, from the point of view of contemporary musicians and visual artists. It is inspired by the theories about musical symbolism put forward by the German ethnomusicologist, Marius Schneider (1903-1982) in his book, El origen musical de los animales-simbolos en la mitologia y la escultura antiguas [The musical origin of animal symbols in ancient mythology and sculpture] (1946), in which the chapter entitled “Singing Stones” is devoted to a musical interpretation of the late XII century capitals in the cloister of Girona Cathedral and the monastery of Sant Cugat, on the basis of Schneider’s research during the time he was head of the ethnology department at the Instituto Español de Musicologia in Barcelona in the 1940’s.

It is well known that in the High Middle Ages the world was still a harmonious whole between heaven and earth, macrocosm and microcosm were linked, and all appearances were nothing more than symbols of a unique truth. Thus it is not surprising that each animal represented in the capitals of the cloister is a symbol of a physical element, a color, a season of the year, a time of the day, a sound and a musical instrument. Schneider’s study traces the perseverance of a megalithic musical cosmography into the Middle Ages, and the correspondence between musical notes and their animal-symbols which had arrived from India via the Sarngadeva treatise in the XIII Century, giving musicological importance to the animal iconography of the cloisters of Girona and Sant Cugat, authentic musical scores of petrified hymns. In Sant Cugat, the hymn is dedicated to Sant Cucufat, and in Girona, to the Mater Dolorosa. These petrified representations of animals are nothing less than the memory of sound as the basic material of the primordial universe, rhythmic sound as the essence of phenomena, the animal cry-symbol, an imitation of the sound of the animals, being the mystical connection between man and nature.

This sound installation that borrows Schneider’s title “Singing Stones” joins music, objects, images and light using the natural rhythm of the hours of the day in relationship to the primordial rhythms of flowing time, the basic structure of the world. From the multi-disciplinary viewpoint of the contemporary arts, it revindicates sound as the prime material of the universe, the acoustic plane as the primordial fount of music and the word. The first created word is a pure sound world. The first names are rhythms that constitute the essence of the things created, as Schneider reminds us, a vision that coincides with that of Walter Benjamin on the onomatopoeic origin of language.

This work, without touching on the esoteric, takes music as the archetype of cosmic order, transmitter of the primordial time of creation before objective consciousness of space; in Brahmanic philosophy, the pure quintessential space of aether is transmitter of the sound from which the other senses and material elements (air, fire, water and earth) are derived. The mystic symbol OM is the creative sound of the universe, symbolically transmitted by the buzzing of bees. According to Schneider, sound is also the breath (prana), the fundamental principle of life; all that lives must sound: sound=breath=wind=creation of life=language=heat (fire)=the mystical syllable OM.

This installation unites the spirit and energy of its creators who participate in this primordial acoustic rhythm, associating each musical instrument with its time in the cycle of the light of day (trumpet-morning, percussion-midday, voice-evening, flute-night). It is a converging of the luminous nature of sound with the voice as creative force, individual and untransferable, of the breath as flux of the rhythm of visual image, it is a reference to the buzzing of bees as bearers of the original sound, the ritual of sacrifice associated with creation, the presence of the four material elements and the relationship between architecture and music, by means of a sculptorial use of harmonious geometric forms.

“Singing Stones” combines light, sound, image, objects, materials and technology in a contemporary vision of the creation. It is a return to the cosmic dimension in music, an investigation in many idioms that flows into a new rhythmic order of the the world, which, at the same time, is its origin.

PILAR PARCERISAS, Curator of the project “Singing Stones”, 2001

claustre 1

Canten les pedres
Un projecte musical sobre les teories simbòliques de Marius Schneider

Paral·lelament al Festival de Músiques Religioses del Món, la ciutat de Girona va programar per a l’estiu 2001 el projecte “Canten les pedres”, que es desglossa en dues activitats, un concert a l’Auditori de la Mercè el dia 3 de juliol i una instal·lació sonora a les Sales Municipals d’Exposició des del 30 de juny al 31 d’agost.

Aquest és un projecte musical de Barbara Held -la qual hi intervé com a compositora i flautista- qui ha convidat als músics Matthew Davis (trompeta), Àngel Pereira (percussió), Anne Wellmer (veu) a participar d’aquest projecte, així com a l’artista Pere Noguera per a l’elaboració de l’espai de so i la part plàstica del concert. Adolf Alcañiz s’ha fet càrrec de la realització d’imatges.

El projecte “Canten les pedres” aborda des de la música contemporània la dimensió sagrada del so, inspirant-se en les teories simbòliques del professor i musicòleg Marius Schneider (1903-1982), les quals relacionen el repertori iconogràfic animal dels capitells romànics del claustre de la catedral de Girona amb tot un sistema de correspondències místiques entre els animals, el so, els astres, els instruments musicals o els quatre elements, d’acord amb una teoria de la Índia del segle XIII que identifica certs animals amb determinats sons musicals. El resultat d’aquesta investigació es revela en unes partitures que constitueixen una mena de mandales musicals, referència per als quatre compositors que les interpretaran lliurement d’acord amb els codis de la música contemporània.

Marius Schneider, musicòleg i estudiós de la mitologia i la cosmologia antigues, va ser molt amic del crític i poeta Juan-Eduardo Cirlot, a qui va influir sens dubte en la confecció del seu famós Diccionario de símbolos. Schneider, que va venir a Barcelona l’any 1943 convidat per Higini Anglès a treballar en un projecte en col·laboració amb el Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas sobre la creació d’un institut musical de folklore, va sentir-se atret pel romànic català i especialment pels claustres de la catedral de Girona i del monestir de Sant Cugat, autèntiques partitures musicals en el ritme , repetició i representació de la iconografia dels seus capitells. L’any 1944 fundà i dirigí fins l’any 1951 el Departament d’Etnologia del Instituto Español de Musicología de Barcelona. Finalment, arribà a formular les seves teories al llibre El origen musical de los animales-símbolos en la mitología y la escultura antiguas, escrit i publicat en castellà a Barcelona l’any 1946, reeditat per EdicionesSiruela (1998), en el qual dedica precisament el capítol titulat “Canten les pedres” a la interpretació musical de la iconografia d’aquests claustres.

Schneider defensa en aquest llibre que en el principi del món era el so, el ritme, que la substància sonora era la matèria prima del món i se serveix de la cosmografia musical megalítica conservada en l’Europa medieval o en els textos vèdics de l’Índia per desxifrar les claus musicals inscrites en els capitells dels claustres del Monestir de Sant Cugat i de la Catedral de Girona, tallats pel mateix mestre escultor.

Es parteix del claustre com a espai que simbolitza una mena de Jerusalem celest, un centre còsmic en relació amb els tres nivells de l’univers: el subterrani dels pous, la superfície de la terra en el sòl i el món celest. El claustre com a cruïlla de quatre avingudes en l’espai d’acord amb l’orientació de la llum del sol: nord, sud, est i oest. Es tracta d’un ordre triàdic (el claustre com a mandala triàdic, de 3 + 1), que coincideix amb la distribució del claustre en quatre parts: quatre músics, quatre instruments, quatre llocs, quatre temps, quatre llums, quatre estacions de l’any.

El projecte musical de Barbara Held s’articula entorn de quatre instruments – trompeta, percussió, veu i flauta- i quatre composicions, elaborades expressament, en les quals els músics creen a partir de les teories simbòliques de Marius Schneider des d’una visió contemporània del so que retorna a la mística primitiva, quan el pla acústic era el més alt i elevat de tota la creació, quan el ritme era l’origen del món. Aquests quatre instruments es relacionen i tenen una equivalència amb les hores del dia, la llum i els animals representats en el claustre de Girona, de manera que el lleó marca el matí, el despertar i el so de la trompeta; L’àliga és l’au de migdia, de la velocitat i dels trons i acull la percussió; el gall dindi, molt representat en el claustre de Girona, és l’au del capvespre i és la veu qui el representa, mentre que el peix, la serpent o el cocodril són els animals que expressen la nit, l’esperit de l’ aigua i la fecunditat, essent la flauta l’instrument que la representa. Cada músic ha elaorat una composició de quinze minuts, de manera que el concert té una durada d’una hora i la visita a la instal·lació sonora també.

Matthew Davis i Barbara Held s’han servit d’imatges per desenvolupar el seu treball musical. Matt ha emprat el pas de la llum a temps real sobre un dels capitells del claustre de Girona per crear la seva composició que es transmet al mateix temps que la seva música. Tant la seva composició com la trompeta al·ludeixen a la llum del matí. Barbara Held empra imatges en moviment de l’aigua i de la nit per marcar el ritme de la seva partitura en una sincronització via ordinador. El ritme de l’aigua marca el ritme de la composició i la interpretació; alhora, la imatge és una ombra del moviment del so. Hi ha, per tant, una interacció entre la respiració que produeix el so de la flauta i el moviment de l’aigua. Àngel Pereira, percussionista molt reconegut de l’Orquestra de Cambra del Lliure, entre moltes altres, se serveix d’instruments objectuals i pedres per crear aquest retorn als orígens del so i l’alemanya Anne Wellmer, coneguda pels seus treballs d’ instal·lació sonora, performance i treballs amb la veu va les fonts directes del cant medieval i a les partitures generades per la disposició dels capitells dels claustres de Girona i Sant Cugat per donar-ne la seva versió, tot vinculant aquest so originari de la música que neix imitant el dels animals, al so dels insectes i les abelles.

La participació plàstica de Pere Noguera, artista conegut per les seves instal·lacions i accions, constitueix la base de l’espai de so de les Sales Municipals, on ha utilitzat com a mòdul repetitiu per a un espai sonor i alhora escultòric i simbòlic, una columna de testos fumats de Quart en posició de boca-boca fins constituir una mena de columna sens fi. La ceràmica actua com a símbol dels quatre elements i la forma acampanada i sonora del test -gairebé un instrument de percussió- es distribueix alhora sobre el terra en diversos seients. Test que referma al mateix temps la seva forma de trapezi, com la del mateix claustre de Girona, la qual en la seva doble posició, dreta i invertida, Schneider relaciona amb els elements terra i aire. L’altre element simbòlic emprat per Noguera és una rajola, una simple rajola hexagonal, la qual conté, si la dividim per la meitat en dos trapezis i al mateix temps en dos rombes, en totes les formes que simbòlicament constitueixen, segons el musicòleg alemany, els quatre eements: terra, aigua, foc i aire. Amb aquestes rajoles l’escultor construeix una pila fins crear una estructura de rusc d’abella. Altres elements integrats en l’espai de so són les imatges de l’aigua que es projecten amb la música de Barbara Held i les del pas de la llum sobre el capitell en sentir el so de la trompeta de Matt Davis. La llum, també com a element primordial, rep un tractament especial, tota creant una mena de partitura de llum a la sala.

L’espai semicircular de les Sales Municipals constitueix un espai d’informació presidit per la pila simbòlica de rajoles, vitrines amb diversos objectes relatius al món del so, un espai de documentació dedicat a Marius Schneider, a les seves partitures mandàliques, als capitells del claustre de Girona triats i a la informació sobre els compositors i artistes de l’exposició.
El concert conserva el mateix esperit que presideix la instal·lació sonora de les Sales Municipals, si bé els músics hi ofereixen una variació musical, que és el treball conjunt de tocar alhora en el pas de les composicions que marquen el trànsit de la nit al dia.

PILAR PARCERISAS, Comissària i coordinadora del projecte “Canten les pedres”, 2001


MATT DAVIS, trumpet: “Orientation of a Disappearance”

Play: Orientation of a Disappearance

This is a piece related to the morning played on an instrument which corresponds to the first hours of the day: the trumpet. It is a semi-structured improvisation, recorded live in the site specific space of the cloister of Girona Cathedral.

Davis has attempted to recreate the first symbolic resonance and opens the composition with a long sustained note that aludes to the beginings of the day and the sense of the orientation of the light. After this long sound, like the light itself (which he recorded on video in the cloister whilst playing the piece and used as a score), the sounds occupy a more austere and dry space, on the borders of percussion.

The music tries to relate itself to the initial state: a state inside a mystical order between man and nature which, in this case, corresponds to the in-between, dream-like state of awakening.

The piece utilises as its base one of the themes of the project The Singing Stones, namely a series of symbolic elements which act as a map to initiate changes of energy and direction in the music by organising different areas on investigation and theme.

ANGEL PEREIRA, percussion: “The fire of the drum”

angel stones

Play: The Fire of the Drum

In “The fire of the Drum”, a composition for the solar hour of midday, Pereira brings to bear all his vast and diverse battery of percussion instruments in the service of this igneous creation with its deep, full sounds, redolent of acoustic primitivism, structured around the thunder-roll he produces with such virtuosity on the range of percussion instruments.

The drum is associated here as in the different mystical positions of the Vedic drums with the rituals of offering, sacrifice and purification, with the sacred fire, but also with the rhythms of Nature, such as the fire of the earth, the precipitation of the rain, the reverberations of the thunder and the breaking of the storm, the rippling whisper of wheat fields, the water of the streams, the drum as an hourglass, as an inverted pot and a bell of low, sad sounds.
Pereira paints a sound landscape based on an improvised constellation of sounds that draw on the most essential objects and materials of so-called primitive cultures stone, wood, metal and seems to invoke the power of Agni, swelling into a repeated series of drum beats and reverberating gong strokes that project sonic pillars of smoke. Pereira ends one of his compositions with a bass thunder-roll on a smoked earthenware pot from the town of Quart that is part of the sculptor Pere Noguera’s contribution to the project.

ANNE WELLMER, voice: “Frozen voices”. In collaboration with the Japanese soprano Mikae Natsuyama Cho


Play: Frozen Voices

A specialist in sonology and in the electronic treatment of the voice and sound for the stage, Anne Wellmer is the composer of the piece Frozen voices. In it she has worked with the voice of the Japanese soprano Mikae Natsuyama Cho, who sings the hymn dedicated to the Virgin of Sorrows, the melody that is encoded in the stone carvings of animal figures in the cloister of the Girona Cathedral. The electronic manipulation of the voice carries us off to another, preterite dimension of the song, which ends by merging into the buzzing of insects and bees, bearers of this original mystic sound. Here once again we are reminded that the syllable Om (=aum) is the fundamental sound of the universe, which Schneider associates with the buzzing of the bees.

The words of this medieval hymn of stone are in Latin, and the notes of the score are the result of the correspondence between sounds and the animals that symbolize them, according to the ancient Hindu system of assigning a rich body of meaning to every note of the musical scale: Cunctis intere o stat generosior Virgo Martyribus: prodigio novo. In tantis moriens, non moreris. Parens, Diris fixa doloribus. Amen.

Wellmer, with great subtlety and taste, makes use of the most sophisticated electronic media to take the voice and the word back to the origins of sound, to the primordial buzzing of bees and insects, the bearers of fire and warmth. The voices still echo through the passages of the cloister as the crackle of the flames gradually invades the space, in subtle memory of the Inquisition.

BARBARA HELD, flute: “Samgîtaratnâkara” [The Ocean of Music]

Barbara Held, flutist, explores the luminous and expansive nature of sound, accompanied by images of water in movement and of nocturnal light approaching the break of day (until the high Middle Ages the dawn was described as a singing light). This is a piece made in collaboration with video artist Adolf Alcañiz, in which video images move to the rhythm of the breath, light and sound uniting heaven and earth and connecting us to the rhythm of creation and the roar of the primordial waters.

In Samgîtaratnâkara, [The Ocean of Music] (named after a 13th century treatise about music that begins with a detailed cosmology, and includes information about the human body such as the stages of pregnancy from month to month, and about religion, philosophy and music) music returns to its primordial place as the archetype of cosmic order. It is a living relationship, a concert piece in which the image is led to the rhythm of the music, changing its form in each performance. The video images_light reflected on water, ocean waves, urban night light_ are open sequences connected by the music, which marks the internal rhythm of the the image and its composition, a flux between image, sound and light. Reflections of light on water act as an hypnotic introduction to an interior voyage, nocturnal, dangerous. Here, water is a mirror that reflects sound, the inaudible original sound that we represent when we play music. Held and Alcañiz were inspired by a passage of M. Schneider’s book in which he speaks of “the clearest manifestation of the rhythm, of the interior law of the individual” that resides in the voice. He interviewed the members of an African tribe and relates their belief that each living being has its own song, and that this melody is the reflection of the immortal part of the human soul, just as the shadow is the reflection of the mortal body. In the words of Quasi, agni tribesman: ” each living soul is made up of two parts, one mortal, and the other immortal. The spirit of a living man is a shadow that changes place and shape according to the position of the body in relation to the light of the sun. This spirit can also be an image that comes from water singing sadly when one is close to a river. ..” “one must be very careful because this spirit attracts your body toward it with its song.”

PERE NOGUERA: “Memory of sound”. Installation

light and pole

A single space embraces the four pieces of music by means of a symbolic column of smoked earthenware pots from Quart placed mouth to mouth inside a circle of stones which occupies the centre of the space. Earthenware alludes here to the four elements, and a number of bell-shaped pots, with their acoustic potential, are also laid out on the floor to be used as seats. To complement the two visual projections corresponding to the pieces by Matt Davis and the duo Held/Alcañiz, in the space devoted to percussion-fire (Pereira) Noguera has placed two stones, set opposite one another, and a lamp, while in the space devoted to the voice with the sounds of insects and fire (Wellmer) there are seven beehives (borrowed from a local beekeeper), structures that confront the void and the full in terms of the before and after of the creation of the beehive, with its skeleton is in the form of a pentagram. The whole work is generated on the basis of a hexagonal tile, split up to create two triangular and two trapezoidal forms relating to the four elements (earth-water-air-fire) and their associated colours and sounds and give a cosmic vision of the memory of sound with the presence of contemporary earthenware objects. The form of the trapezium is apparent in the tiles, in the pots and in the form of the cloister of Girona Cathedral. Using 800 tiles with this basic form Noguera has laid out on the ground a three-dimensional spiral mystic symbol of the evolution of the universe in a structure which closely resembles a beehive. The objects in the display cases reflect the origins of the musical instruments and their relation to the four elements of nature.