A Bassano soundwalk

8th August

The focus of the first step of the Triptych project has quite spontaneously become the exploration of soundscapes in an artistic process and the way this can inform the choreographic material.

The encounter of the Triptych artists on the first day occurs through discovering each other’s taste in the selection of environmental sounds, collected during a one-to-one soundwalk with Dany Mitzman through the city of Bassano del Grappa.

In this case this goes along with the archiving of sounds, a practice which has a tradition in Montréal and Vancouver, with respect to the sounds of places which will eventually disappear. The archiving of sounds aims, then, at preserving endangered sound species, one could state.

The recording of sounds is tactfully guided by Dany, a radio-journalist who also reported on the “Boxing Bassano” project.

Dany’s interview to the artists

After meeting Dany, she plays for us a couple of radio interviews of hers and we read the relevant scripts, including notes about its editing. Dany asks a few questions:

Dany: Do you write like this for choreography?

Silvia: I use signs, pictures, I write, so it’s easier for me to have all the piece in my mind. A picture, its colours, maybe a short caption, can sum up different layers.

James: I performed a piece which was entirely written, in a score, and I already had experience with text projection.

Jacques: I used overdub.

Dany:…like in Silvia’s A corpo libero, it was the punchline…

Silvia: it’s rather to connect to the action; sometimes the balance is not easy to find. I want to grasp the idea to use dance as a way to open, not say too much.

Jacques: when you say something, you close it.

Guy: it’s the balance between recognition and surprise, although it also depends on the kind of audience.

Dany: How do you work with sounds? How important are they to you? Do you think about them since the beginning or is it the other way round?

James: sometimes you’ve got a sound-map and you choose your path, sometimes you work with a composer and you interact…

Jacques: I studied music composition and I learned dance through that.

Dany: is sound an active part of a narrative structure or is it a mood enhancer?

James: both, strategically along the piece.

Silvia: it depends on the performance, in A corpo libero I used pop music, done. In another piece I used silence, which helped me to understand its focus.

Jacques: it’s hard to separate them, the aim is to create a mood to serve the narrative.

Dany: do you connect sounds to countries, for example Italy?

Silvia: it’s a very direct, raw sound, acting-like.

Dany: for me, Italy has the sound of church bells, vespas, bars (coffee machines) and the sounds of the historic town centre as opposed to where cars can go.

Jacques: the bitonal siren is certainly European.

James: Vancouver’s sound is the rain.

Jacques: Montréal, in winter, has the chime of the sirens to warn people they have to move their cars, due to snow. It’s sort of romantic.

Guy: Flanders have the sound of carillon bells.

The soundwalk

For the soundwalk, each participant has the following at disposal:

– 15 minutes’ time

– A headset

– A digital recorder

– Dany will accompany him/her.

After the sound promenade, we listen to some of the recordings. The experience has inspired the Triptych the idea to record the sounds of bars in the three partner cities.

James: I have been a lot by the water, by the river. Then I recorded birds, steps, their rhythm on the pavet.

Silvia: I went with the goal to find a specific sound which I couldn’t find. In the end I was more open, and right in the middle of silence [her recording took place during lunchtime, when people are normally at home] I was surprised by some sounds all of a sudden. For example water dripping from scaffolding, a mysterious sound you don’t recognize at first. The sound helped me to see, because through the headphones I could hear it enhanced.

Jacques: it felt like having a magnifying glass. I kept the microphone quite discreet and I even took off my headphones. A coffee-machine in a bar, the “smell machine” at the Grappa museum [but it sounds like a drill!], a sewer.

This walk has fed senses, imagination, the brain has become interested in something, as Jacques states.

At the end of the day Dany puts on a recording of a situation Silvia is supposed to recognise, but she doesn’t. It’s Silvia working in Bassano a couple of months ago. This may spur a research on the memory of sound, the memory of hearing. Allegedly, as Dany says, smell is the sense we keep the longest in our mind.

Guy suggests recording may distort the real, original sound, whereas through the same ingredients you can recreate the same smell.

Perhaps by identifying memorable sound ingredients, the hearing experience could be easier to archive in one’s memory.


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