an open-air/ homage to Arseny Avraamov


4 metalworks / 4 beton mixers / 4 rock drills / 4 gardenvacs / 4 asphalt punners /  2 circular saws / 2 canons / compressor / audio projection / soprano / 2 trumpets & 2 trombones / 4 sirens / 4 tin plates / 2 bikes / 2 jeeps / 2 infantry combat vehicles

Commissioned by The Transart Festival

Special thanks to Sergey Khismatov

(for field recording and working score scroll down)

Conversation with Transart director Peter Paul Kainrath

Your music-performance project “Voicity” starts from the 1922 first performed “The Symphony of the hooters” by Arseny Avraamov. In which kind of sense this project was “avant le garde” in this time?

Avraamov was a true communist fanatic. He was obsessed by an idea of destroying the old world and creating a new one ab ovo. Everything, from social habits to the environment, was to be replaced/transfigured by new means and values. The same goes for musical instruments: for instance, Avraamov suggested to destroy all pianos, because the piano implied for him an essense of bourgeoisity. (From this we can conclude, how much was widespread the home music-making in that time; nowadays we can hardly imagine a battle around any music instrument, as the media has dramatically changed and one doesn’t play piano at home anymore.) This mode of making everything new, of inventing a world, say, a sound world – doesn’t it resemble a great modernist paradygm after 2WW, for ex. Stockhausen? Of course, historical parallels are much more rich, from Wagner or Skriabin till Plato with his ethic power, compulsory for music and musicians. Avraamov was not a true musician, he occupied a metaposition towards music and was absolutely untouched by the reasons of preserving tradition or even taking it into consideration, unlike any person really involved in the music process. So for this barbarian it seemed easier just to eliminate the “bourgeois” sound body – and voilà, her is the true revolutionary music; a piece you write, say, for hooters should occur by default more revolutionary than a piece for violin. In other words, Avraamov was completely concentrated on the sounding and ignored the fact – obvious for a musician – that music history is being moved by something hidden behind the sound, like syntax, time treatment, narrative manner etc.

What makes interesting this historical piece for a contemporary composer like you?

Besides the abovementioned reasons that constitute “causa Avraamov”, the most attracting is his maniac desire to increase the sound body, to make the city sound as a single entity, to make the sound result superhuman, at least unheard for an individual listener. The “piece” was impossible to grasp as a whole, at no place in the city of Baku in 1922 you could observe the Symphony of Hooters like a concert-goer does. We might think of it as a reflection in the mirror: while the “musicians” together create a sound body, the same do the “listeners”, they also create together a body of perception from individual bricks, a kind of musical collective unconscious. That’s why the size matters: the sound body should be giant enough to not allow a single listener to grasp it. And that’s why the factor of space and location plays an important role.

How many traces of this original work are left in “Voicity”?

To be honest, not much. Physical sound for me is not a key feature; if you can refer to the prototype using some similar sounds, it’s enough to refer the listener’s imagination to the original work. Here less is more, i.e. less information is more involvment, more participation. I had no aim to remake SH, neither historically nor as a sonic event. But the thrust of creating the sound milieu (while not being musicians) should be very encouraging for the people, I hope, like in the original SH.

Can you explain the relationship between movement of the interpreters and the sounds that they are creating?

There are no ideological or literary meanings for the spatial plan. Some sonic sources move, the others remain in their places; there are some simple principles. Similar sounds are separated in space, and vice versa, different sounds form spatially more compact ensembles, moving and immovable sounds come together, different velocities diversify similar timbres etc. This is not for articulating ideas, but just to organize perception and to hold attention.

What are the biggest difficulties for the composer on one hand and for the interpreters on the other hand?

For me the hardest thing was timing. How to organize a big form by means of different time principles (chrometrically, trigger-like, parallel processing etc.)? They should be different, as each group of sound sources is (physically) operated in its own way, and this situation is totally different from the situation with musical instruments and their masters, flexible enough to comply with any rules. It was also very difficult to find a true balance between the sounds so dissimilar acoustically.

Сan you give some instructions to the audience which maybe is not used to perceive this project as a musical project?

One day I had a brain tomography check. It lasted one hour. I was lying inside the tomograph listening to the sounds it produced. If you’ve been into it, you remember that they were similar to shots. I was being shot at for one hour, and the shots constituted a very whimsical form – a maximum of invention with a minimum of tone material. I would say it was a music form, but the matter is that it was music only for me, who looks for it everywhere. So the feedback rules: your perception depends on what you expect to hear. If you behave like being at a concert, you might get an impression of a big piece, say, for a great amount of percussion. If you think of it as an open-air, you see a number of venues with different simultaneous happenings. If you like to find yourself at a trade fair, you can have fun with all those demonstrations of building machines. Anyway, I would suggest not to remain at the same place, move where you may, follow the sound, contemplate actively.

In what consists the real power of this project?

In its loudness. (Just kidding.) I only hope that the power of the project is the other side of its risks – ambiguity, dependancy on what you might wish to hear in it or extract from it. But this is the usual dichotomy as to academic (classical? serious?) music. “Causa Avraamov” just makes it more obvious.

Members of Schlanders Brass Band, workers of Marx Schlanders, workers of Stahlbau Pichler, Iveco pilots, citizens of Schlanders and Bolzano, Natalia Pschenitchnikowa, author. 25.09.2011, Schlanders, South Tirol.

Working score