Magazine article Czech Music

The Versatility and Beauty of Sound Art MUSICA NOVA 2016 International Competition

Magazine article Czech Music

The Versatility and Beauty of Sound Art MUSICA NOVA 2016 International Competition

Article excerpt

Today, sound art is a stylistically diversified discipline that has brought into being new sonic worlds, provided unprecedented possibilities for both traditional, modified and brand-new instruments, advancements in spatial sound projection, as well as new formats and blending with other types of art (sound installations, audio-visual works).

The prize-winners of last year's MUSICA NOVA international competition too have presented all kinds of ways of using technology in sound art. Ireland's James Surgenor, who came first in the category of autonomous art electroacoustic music, is currently studying for a doctorate at Sheffield University. A composer, researcher and programmer, he focuses on the "shaping" of sound, its quality and intriguing spatial projection. His piece Twist and Turn is a brilliant result of merging rational algorithmic approach and sense of beauty, the natural sonic quality and the "twisting and turning" of sound in space in a continuum between noise and tonality. As Surgenor has himself written, a composer of this inclination considers competitions an important platform serving to get within the context and into contact with a network of similarly oriented creators. He works with information in a creative manner, he wants, and needs, to know what is going on in the domain and what is new in technology.

Of a totally different vein is the composer who received first prize in the category of music for acoustic instruments and electronic media. Japan's Kotoka Suzuki has a penchant for philosophy and poetry. She is known for employing a variety of formats in her works, including theatre, audio-vision and sound design. To put it in semiotic terms, she does not create her own "language", yet is interested in specific, unique "speeches". In linkage to the traditional Japanese dialectical aesthetics ("there is no light without shadow"), which permeates the entire style of life, there is no sound without silence: "Silence can remind us to listen. Silence can also articulate presence and beauty within it... when there's silence, it can even enhance all the senses together." Unlike Surgenor, Kotoka perceives technologies as solely serving a purpose. In her opinion, we are still somewhat "obsessed with technologies" (admittedly, this evidently applies to Japan to a far greater degree than to Europe), and hence, she has "turned her back on all that, so as to work with something purer, for instance, paper, which is very simple and familiar, and can produce acoustic beauty." In her composition In Praise of Shadows, inspired by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki's 1933 essay, Kotoka also treats silence acoustically and visually. Three performers (the composition was premiered by the Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble) play on various types of acoustically amplified paper instruments of various sizes, with white paper representing a "pure form, accentuated by spot light in total darkness. Moreover, the acoustic and visual presentation is articulated by means of the performers' silent movement and their feezing' between the individual actions".

Another type of creative approach is represented by the Czech composer Eliska Cilkova, the winner of the competition's Czech round, who also received an honorary mention in the live electronics category. She studied composition, yet has over the long term had a passion for sound documentary. Possessing multiple talents (perhaps in part owing to her father, the renowned Czech geologist and philosopher Vaclav Cilek), she also has a degree in phytotechnology, and she is currently studying documentary at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. The intersection of her interests and background has probably given rise to her interest in acoustically documenting the Chernobyl region, the propensity for site-specific projects, and the conviction that authentic audio-recording of spontaneous moments may generate very complex information. In Eliska's own words: "I am interested in transferring site sounds into music compositions". …

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