di Daniela Fantechi
You have been investigating the observation and perception of the space through the sound for several years now. Can you explain how do you come to this subject matter, starting from a classical music training as string player and as composer?
The examination of sound and space has long been an integral part of my artistic work. I started early (4 years old) with comprehensive training in classical music, studied violin, viola and composition, played in orchestras and ensembles and focussed upon spatial performances and new performance practices. And I’ve always had a special relationship to our most natural form of locomotion – long walks and hikes with my family were an integral part of my childhood – even the schools were in a walking distance.
I started to take a conscious interest in the act of walking in 2004, triggered by an experience during one of our annual winter vacations: while sitting on our balcony in Reit im Winkl [a village in Bavaria], I was fascinated to observe people crossing the snow-dusted streets – mostly pairs and small groups – at a strategically important intersection, which at that evening hour was populated almost exclusively by pedestrians. Sharply silhouetted against the white background, they moved along together in similar and differing rhythms. In observing the pairs – strolling side by side, hand in hand, or with arms intertwined – I found it especially striking when two people had similar strides or dissimilar rhythms. Via these observations of walking-together – which functions over longer distances only when companions adopt a similar gait that both find compatible – the focus of my research turned to the individual gait of the single person – how and where it can be recognized and what occurrences and disturbances influence it.
Since then, a number of trials and studies and a series of projects titled go your gait! have been developed. I became especially interested in the individuality of our gaits, which are as unique as fingerprints – an individuality that manifests itself almost exclusively in public space. Our own rhythm arises in the regularity with which we place one foot in front of the other.
Could you tell us more about your specific interest for gaits and for the walkability of the cities?
More than 13 years now, I’m investigating the walkability of cities and its associated spatial perception, through my artistic research and work series go your gait! I am particularly interested in the extent to which we are able to find spaces for walking in our urban surroundings, why and how we use them and how conscious we are of the environmental influences. Summarized I will say my artistic research is about: How does the built, controlled and organized urban environment and its atmospheric qualities influence our walking behavior and rhythm? This question is investigated based on human auditory percepiton by attentive and concious listening during walking in urban space.
I would like to emphasize two aspects of my artistic research: Observing a site (Platzstudien – Place Studies), and personally experiencing space while walking (my gait!, SchuhzuGehör_path of awareness).
- In the audio-visual works Place Studies walking movements are sonified according to a compositional principle to the pavement pattern of the square. The “players” go their ways, creating audible traces that begin to mix with and against each other. The sine tones used to sonify footsteps distinguish themselves from the familiar stepping sound and direct concentration onto the rhythmic element through their abstract technical simplicity. For example Gendarmenmarkt was the first of 24 audiovisual works and compositions.
- The format SchuhzuGehör_path of awareness explores an individual‘s personal experience of space through walking, particularly the interplay between sound event (footstep) and surrounding architecture, influenced by the permanently changing interactions. For example the audiovisual composition of the path around La Friche in Marseille or in Tehran or in Berlin.
In many years of exploration of different places, which are the main interesting aspects you have been facing with?
The liveliness of a city is reflected in the activities of its inhabitants: how, when and where they move around in it. Most cities are perfectly designed for motorized traffic but not for pedestrians. Walking is the most individual form of locomotion in terms of its direction and speed. Sidewalks, pedestrian areas, traffic-free roads and squares are the public spaces most preferred by those navigating a city on foot, marking its pavement and paths with the pulses of their steps.
A gait is a person’s most distinctly individual pattern of movement. Audible in the sound of footsteps, our rhythm emerges from the regularity with which we place one foot after the other. An individuality which we reproduce almost exclusively in public, where one person’s step rhythm joins in polyrhythm with that of another.
The interesting thing about getting to know a city on foot is that you never leave the large, perceptible urban setting and the slow pace of movement enables a high level of attention for sensory impressions – ideal conditions for exploring a city from an aural point of view. Our cities are full of machines, infrastructure systems and motorized traffic sounds. Wherever they start to dominate the urban soundscape, people can’t hear their own footsteps or start to communicate to each other in a loud voice. High level background noises steal the depth of auditory space and space looses its audible richness. This changes human behavior.
Could you tell us more about your last experience in Montelupo? What have you found out in the exploration of this small city and how have you conceived your workshop there?
From the 4th till the 12th of November I came to Firenze/Montelupo Fiorentino to do my kind of artistic research based on human auditory perception by attentive and concious listening during walking in urban space. I started with a walking and listening investigation over 4 days in Montelupo Fiorentino. These researches and observations led to define a route for my art work SchuhzuGehör_path of awareness_montelupo fiorentino, which is a soundwalk designed to emphasize the self-consciousness of the walker with regards to his relationship with space through walking.
This is a recording of my walk along the path with a pair of ‚soundful shoes‘, binaural microphones and a headmounted videocamera. In postproduction I combine the binaural recording with stills or excerpts from the video footage related to the walking rhythm, so that the visual is more for orientation, the auditory for location in space. To best experience this audiovisual composition I recommend using headphones. The course of the route is created while walking it several times to experience and investigate site-specific situations and the daily rhythms and dynamics in its social and economic interactions. F.e. the saturday food and textil market; the water level of the rivers Arno and Pesa; the traffic managment with cross walks one-way streets, crosswalks and tunnels; the different pavings especially the clinker; the different bell sounds and meanings… During our workshop-days in Montelupo we walked together along the path and its environment – doing exercises, obersevations, experiments and recordings. We were analyzing situations and sounds regarding its information content and cultural backround.