Ramón González-Arroyo
Ein MusiCoSlisches Opfer

How shall we place the audience? 

This was not a rhetoric question and, strange as it might sound, it has not been a minor aspect when organizing this concert. The, perhaps, unusual setting for the first part, and the needed re-adjustment of the seats during the pause being the better compromise we have managed, and may well serve as an index of the complexity we were facing. 

The pieces that you will listen to here tonight are part of the musical production of an artistic research project, The Choreography of Sound (CoS). Our lab has been this hall, the Ligeti Hall at Mumuth, and much energy during the time of research has been concentrated almost exclusively on the hall, its possibilities and circumstances. The Ligeti Hall, with its different types of speaker structures, and its computer controlled telescopic system of speakers, offers many possibilities and to know it and to master it has been a pleasure and an effort. 

The musical pieces during our work in the project were not thought with an audience in mind, everything in their conception was only focused on the need to bring forth the idea, within the possibilities and the limitations that the hall was posing. In a certain sense you are not coming into a concert hall but into the kitchen of our research, which does not bring any other problem than this very pragmatic at the level of production. Let us be clear, you are not attending an experiment but a concert of musical productions based on experiments and research. Artistic Research will communicate its results and its findings, its experiments and conclusions through text, software or technology, but there is an important part of the achieved knowledge which can only be shared through the artwork, through our senses, in our case, by listening to the music.

What I have just exposed, no doubt, accounts in a way for the difficulty to present together a number of these pieces, but the most important reason beyond that, is the fact that every piece in the concert focuses on a different configuration of the loudspeakers at the hall, and each one of these configurations suggests a different placement as ideal location for the audience. From one in which every person might stand at ease anywhere in the hall –Skying–, to another which demands a rather rigid disposition at clear cut zones within it –Topoi.

The important noteworthy aspect to underline is that the loudspeakers setup, sometimes invisible, sometimes extremely present, has become a part of the composition of each piece, not only through the design and careful adjustment of its external configuration, but also through the multiple varied ways from which it is approached at by the composition.

Traditionally, in electroacoustic concert music, other than for certain effects looking for reflections or a diffuse sound quality, loudspeakers have always been placed looking at the audience, like in the old baroque theatre, were the characters would always address the audience as a sign of respect and/or for intelligibility. 

As we know, our perceptual mechanisms are able to decode whether a group of people are talking to each other somewhere, or looking in our direction addressing us directly, and understand the situation and understand them in each case. Electraoacoustic music may profit from these nuances to help create groupings, entities made of many and even combine them with others. The loudspeakers setup becomes, seen from this light, a network of potential relationships. Not only one set of relationships but as many as we can create/discover. I have spent much time looking at one or other setup, seeing relations, sometimes slightly modifying it. 

The Choreography of Sound has been a project about the spatial dimension of musical sound. We wanted to approach space in electracoustic music from a compositonal rather than a technological perspective. Within the project the most important motor of research in my work is what we, in our internal jargon, have named as The Plastic Sound Object. The first idea was to conceive musical sound as a compositional entity with inherent spatial properties tightly knitted with all other aspects of its constitution. Musical sound would therefore have spatial extension, would occupy space : as a segment, a surface, or as a body. In order to achieve such a spatial extension it needs to lean on one, two or three-dimensional structures where speakers would occupy their nodes. If that was possible, if the intimate link between qualitative aspects and spatial ones was well built, we would perhaps be able to achieve the illusion of the perception of materiality, sound with the corporality of a plastic object.  

Sound, however, is more like a fluid than like a solid, it unfolds in time, its temporal dimension being an essential part of its perception. Hence in our work with the spatial dimension an enormous care has had to go into all temporal evolutions. Designing behaviours and micro-behaviours, patterns of gesture events at many temporal levels, even if subliminal, have resulted in an essential aspect to bring forth the idea of plastic sound. We have to convey to perception that these elements are together and those apart, that these are defining through their movements an internal space, and we have to provide enough clues so that perception might understand it so.

The Choreography of Sound (CoS), funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF (PEEK AR41), was co-authored by Gerhard Eckel and myself and has counted with the collaboration in the research team of David Pirro and Martin Rumori. CoS has been running from September 2010 to September 2013. In a way this is its deferred last presentation. CoS has had different presentations along its time, all of them mostly for  “inner” circles : institutional partners, researchers, composers. Being extremely grateful for these extraordinary three years, I felt I wanted to end my stay by giving back something, and nothing better could I offer than the music I have been producing along this time. KUG/IEM/Signale have, in their turn, offered me the opportunity to make this concert a reality.