di Timoteo Carbone
[Sonic Acts è un importante festival di musica sperimentale e arti multimediali che si svolge ogni anno ad Amsterdam dal 1994. Timoteo Carbone, compositore e sound artist di stanza a L’Aia, ha seguito per musicaelettronica.it l’edizione di quest’anno (21-23 febbraio 2020) e ha intervistato due artisti ospiti del festival. Qui di seguito, la prima parte del suo report.]
Essere al Sonic Acts come giornalista è stata un’esperienza nuova e, grazie a un magnifico lavoro di squadra, sono riuscito a contattare e intervistare Marja Ahti e Roly Porter. Istintivamente vorrei parlare di tante cose, di come Sonic Acts è uno spazio catalizzante per le varie realtà artistiche olandesi, della sua impostazione progressiva e transdisciplinare, delle mie impressioni e dei forti quesiti sociali che il festival si è posto quest’anno, come il tema dell’ecologia e della minaccia esistenziale portata dal cambiamento climatico. Ma voglio dare spazio alle interviste che due artisti di grande talento ci hanno offerto.
Per dare un minimo di contesto, Marja Ahti e Roly Porter hanno presentato al pubblico, nella serata principale del festival, due nuove performance. Questi due lavori sono stati inseriti nel contesto di “Expanded Experience”, un programma di performance musicali e multimediali all’interno di Paradiso, la discoteca storica della città che coopera col festival dalla sua prima edizione. Gli artisti in programma di questa sezione del festival sono stati Jonas Gruska, Marja Ahti, Kali Malone, Roly Porter e Holly Herndon.
Il giorno del concerto, prima del soundcheck, incontro Marja Ahti a un caffè del centro. Quella sera presenterà The Altitudes, la sua nuova performance per otto altoparlanti. Marja Ahti è un’artista sonora di origini finlandesi e svedesi; il suo lavoro si contraddistingue per un uso raffinato di field recordings, sintetizzatori e microtoni.
Ci sediamo a un tavolo e, dopo aver ordinato, incominciamo l’intervista.
- Puoi raccontare il lavoro che presenti stasera? Come è nato il progetto?
Marja Ahti: The piece that I have been working on for tonight is called The Altitudes. It combines a lot of different elements. When I started to work on it, when I approach a work, I start intuitively. I gather field recordings from my library, that I collected during my travels or in the middle of everyday life, and electronic sounds, just found through working with synthesizer and experimenting with tuning. I work till I find an element that impresses me, I record it and then I have the pieces that I can use together as a collage. So, I usually don’t start with a concept in mind. I just start working intuitively and I try even to abandon musical concepts. I don’t think of tuning, I don’t think of metric rhythm, I try to just work as organically as I can.
- Potremmo dire che, nell’abbandonare i concetti musicali, questi diventano liberi. Oppure no?
Yes, exactly! I listen to these sounds and I try to find out what they are like. What is their energy and form. How they settle along each other, how they complement each other, how they contrast. Maybe even how they clash against each other. Which is the case with tuning: if I tune by ear, I can search for microtonal beatings clashing with one and other. They create clusters that are textures I can use. Then after a while, when I start to put these pieces together, something starts to take shape. At that moment I back off and start to think: what is this emerging shape? What have I been doing? I take the outsider role for a bit. I try to find some threats. This is the case with the pieces I have being creating in the past months, one of which is Altitudes. A series of works that will be part of my new record The Current Inside.
When I was working on these pieces, I found that I was drawn to the sounds of the elements, like air, water and electromagnetic fields. There was an analogue with synthesizers as well, which also are a form of element by operating with voltage current. So, I thought: ah! there are a lot of currents appearing from my process, electronic current, air current, water current… I thought it was an interesting coincidence. Then I thought: this is the mystery that I am going to explore! First there was just listening to the sounds, then there was the realization of what they are and how they function as a story.
- Qual è la tua relazione con la narrazione? In che modo utilizzi il lavoro che fai nei field recordings e nel tuo studio di registrazione all’interno della creazione di una storia?
I think I started to work outside, traveling and gathering field recordings, as a means to not always stay inside a studio. To find a connection with my own life and not always being in a very technical realm of music production. When you start to let life leaking into the sounds then you are in the zone of narration. I mean, some people would argue that all music is narrative. When you put things inside a time order you have then a narration. It is how sounds unfolds one after the other. But when you have acoustic sounds, real life sounds, then maybe a sense of narration can become even more tangible. I don’t want to make over narrative works, it is not a cinematic story I am looking for.
- Vuoi dire che eviti una narrazione illustrativa, una rappresentazione?
Yes! What I like is when I am able to find that there is an illusiveness in a piece, grasping at something like poetry. A piece that is telling you something from around the corner.
- Puoi raccontare il tuo rapporto con il suono degli elementi naturali che menzionavi prima? Come viene esplorato questo rapporto in The Altitudes?
In The Altitudes, which is about the atmosphere and currents, I mainly refer to the sound of air and water. Other elements I explore are how sun radiation, heat, electromagnetic radiation affect the overall system of currents in the atmosphere. It was really fascinating! After a while working with these sounds, I felt like there were separate layers developing. Sounds of thunderstorms, sounds that feel like pressure with close tunings clusters. While researching, I found a beautiful description of the physical condition of the different layers of the atmosphere: it is funny how these layers are actually so separated and different. They have different features concerning pressure, speed, electricity levels, for example. I made a work that reflects this layered structure.
- Quali sono i tuoi progetti futuri?
I am working on three different projects. One is my upcoming album The Current Inside, of which The Altitudes is a part of, coming out the 8th of May. The other is a collaboration with my husband who is also a composer, a project that we started five years ago called Ahti & Ahti, and we will publish the new album Why Do Birds Suddenly Appears? soon. The last project is an experimental opera titled Thousand Times; it will be performed at Kiasma Theatre on May 6th. An experimental chamber opera for soprano, chamber choir, electronics and objects. It’s a collaboration with Jenny Kalliokulju (libretto, visuals) and Essi Kausalainen (director, visuals).
Foto 1: Maria Ahti performing at Sorbus Gallery, Helsinki, March 2016 (© Sorbus)
Foto 2: Maria Ahti performing at Sonic Acts 2020 (© Pieter Kers)