Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sguardi Sonori 2008

Turn up the Volume: The Audio Archive and Ways of Listening
Sguardi Sonori presentation at Discoteca di Stato and the Center for American Studies
Rome, Italy
June 27, 2008

By Neil Leonard

This year’s edition of Sguardi Sonori is hosted, in part, by Discoteca di Stato (DDS), an extensive archive and study center dedicated to the preservation of sonic memory. The archive houses tens of thousands of hours of sound from around the world, with an emphasis on the unique sonic culture of Italy, including music, political speeches, and ambient sound of social events.

In this venue, Scanner (Robin Rimbaud), Kim Cascone, and I will present a concert of live electronics works. The personal collections of sounds we each work and tour with mirror DDS’s comprehensive collection. In our case, however, the collections are not the final product or center of discourse, but rather, raw material that we process to generate new works.

I was introduced to Scanner’s early work by my students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in the early 1990’s. They were fascinated by Scanner’s inventive recycling of disposable sounds from police scanners, which he collected for his early compositions – and from which he adopted his stage name, Scanner. His use of the disembodied voices and electronic noises, produced by scanning devices, did much to focus our critical discussion on the writings of Luigi Russolo and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and on the work of Marcel Duchamp, whose readymade sculptures of the early 20th century strongly suggested that sonic equivalents were just a matter of time.

Mining the airwaves, Scanner built an important body of work that changed to reflect the character of each location in which he eavesdropped. While John Cage explored similar ideas of appropriated broadcast and sound maps in his Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (1951) for 12 radios, digital technology handed Scanner the means to create real-time sound-maps that include the most private transmissions.

Like Scanner, Cascone has spent years constructing a sonic archive that fuels his current performances. Cascone’s work draws on a vast collection of sounds he created with hardware and software synthesizers. He builds home-brew software to navigate this repository in concert. After recycling and mixing these sounds algorithmically, to create a meta-soundscape, Cascone remixes them again on stage.

Cascone’s work epitomizes the extent to which new technologies are continually reshaping the ways we listen to, and work with, audio. In his recent Spectral Space, for example, Cascone uses indeterminacy to mimic the media overload that surrounds us. The work examines our ability to assimilate and decode this dense, omnipresent chorus of disembodied sound that has nothing to say, and yet, dominates our cultural soundscape. The result is a non-narrative performance in which Cascone finds “tangles of sounds that glint, shimmer, collide and implode within the fabric of noise.”

My own sonic archive has a distinct component of field recordings I collected while I was living in Italy for much of 2006. The sounds range from recordings of ancient Lazio ritual, that Dr. Massimo Pistacchi, Director of DDS, generously shared with me to recordings I made of Joseph Kournelli’s installation (located at La Marrana, the private estate for environmental art in La Spezia) to my recordings of Padovan a cappella groups -- comprised of workers from the open marketplace whose voices are quickly being replaced by the homogenous din of broadcast media. With the aid of computer processing, I have extracted, exaggerated and juxtaposed aspects of these keynote sounds to create a personal sonic statement.

My recent Italian commissions provided opportunities to leverage these sounds in three large scale works, including a permanent installation on the top of a mountain overlooking the Ligurian Sea, in a surround audio installation in the remains of the Templar church, Chiesa San Galgano, and most recently, as part of a 400-meter installation in the porticos of Padova’s historic district. These works explore the colliding sonic identities of new and old worlds and the relationship of the visitor to local histories.

Our short residency at Discoteca di Stato and the Center for American Studies provides several ways to reconsider the audio archive as an essential resource for 21st century art and examine how technological is changing the way we listen to and create sound works.

Neil Leonard
Sguardi Sonori 2008, Curator
Director, Sonic Arts @ GASP
Professor, Berklee College of Music

Boston, May 2008

Monday, June 4, 2007

Sguardi Sonori 2007 - Official Press Release


Sguardi Sonori 2007 is a festival of media and time based art featuring artists from New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Havana, Israel, Egypt and Italy.

Artists working in sound: Gary Chang, Neil Leonard, Olivia Block, Pamela Z, John Duncan, Phill Niblock, Katherine Liberovskaya, Steve Piccolo and Gak Sato, Amnon Wolman, Duprass (Ido Govrin and Liora Bedford), Patrizia Mattioli, Mauro Sambo, Ignazio Lago, CarDioTest, Fathi Hassan, Alessandro Pintus, Morena Tamborrino and Marco Benda Dj set. Emerging artists include Anthony Baldino, Jess Hewitt, Pierce Warnecke, recent graduates of the Music Synthesis Department del Berklee College of Music.

Artists working in video: Candice Ivy, Harvey loves Harvey, James Nadeau, Jen Schmidt, Justin Beckman, Matt Gamber, Taha Belal, Carlo Fatigoni, Fathi Hassan, Alberto Magrin, Alessandro Pintus, Gianni Moretti, Marco Benda and Marilena Vita, Pierce Warnecke.

Featured Exhibitions: Italian Dreams and Sognando l’Italia, works by Fathi Hassan, Maria Magdalena Campos Pons, Carrie Mae Weems, Carlo Fatigoni, Florindo Rilli, Marco Zoi, Daniele Brocchi, Alberto Magrin, Laura Troiano, Gianni Moretti.

Concert/Installation Venues:
June 20, Auditorium Parco Della Musica, Teatro Studio, Roma, Italy
June 21, Piazza Santa Sofia, Chiesa di Santo Spirito, Benevento, Italy
June 26-27, Isola di San Servolo, Venice, Italy
June 28, Cattedrale di San Galgano, Siena, Italy

Exhibition Venues:
June 8 - 24 Teatro Junghans (Giudecca) Venice 
June 10 - July 8 July Rocca dei Rettori Benevento
July 15 - August 15 Scuderie Aldobrandini Frascati


Associazione Culturale FaticArt
Il Presidente
Carlo Fatigoni
Cell. 3334824310
Via Strada Eugubina, 217 – Bosco - Perugia



Date: June 20
City: Rome, Italy
Venue: Auditorium Parco Della Musica, Teatro Studio, Roma
Concert works by Neil Leonard, Olivia Block, Pamela Z, 
Steve Piccolo & Gak Sato
Sound Installation "Sanctuaries" by Gary Chang in the theater, 18:00
Concert: 21:00
Installation: 18:00
Directions in Italian and English

Date: June 21
City: Benevento, Italy
Venue: Piazza Santa Sofia
Concert works by Neil Leonard and Anthony Baldino, Jess Hewitt, Pierce Warnecke (Students of the Music Synthesis Department, Berklee College of Music), Dj set Obo Music
Sound Installation by Gary Chang, Chiesa di Santo Spirito, 17:00
Installation hours: 17:00-20:00
Concert: 21:00
Artists talk with Gary Chang and Neil Leonard: 17:00

Date: June 26-27
City: Isola di San Servolo, Venice, Italy
Venue: Chiesa di Santo Spirito
t. +39 041 2765001

June 26, 20:00, Isola di San Servolo, Venice
Neil Leonard
Gary Chang
Amnon Wolman
Phil Niblock & Katherine Liberovskaya
Pamela Z
Patrizia Mattioli
Dj set Obo Music
Sound Installation "Sanctuaries" by Gary Chang in the church, from 18:00

June 27, 20:00, Isola di San Servolo, Venice
Duprass (Ido Govrin & Liora Bedford)
Steve Piccolo & Gak Sato
Cardiotest con Fathi Hassan, Alessandro Pintus e Morena Tamborrino
Mauro Sambo & Ignazio Lago
John Duncan
Dj set Obo Music
Sound Installation "Sanctuaries" by Gary Chang in the church, from 10:00

Date: June 28, 20:00
City: Siena, Italy
Venue: Cattedrale di San Galgano
Sound Installation by Gary Chang and Neil Leonard
17:00 to 23:00
Admission €10
tel. 055 5978308/09 – fax 0555979687

Schedule for Italian Dreams e Sognando L'italia
June 8 - 24 Teatro Junghans (Giudecca) Venezia 
June 10 - July 8 July Rocca dei Rettori, Benevento
July 15 - August 15 Scuderie Aldobrandini, Frascati

Sponsors include: Regione Lazio, Provincia di Roma, Comune di Roma, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Altrevie, Comune di Frascati, Provincia di Benevento, Regione Campania, Stregheventum, Comune di Venezia, Provincia di Venezia, Teatro Junghans, PIUTTOSTO PUCK,  San Servolo Servizi, Teatro Fondamenta Nuove, TARALABS, WIARD Synthesizers, SOUNDFIELD, t.c.electronic, blue sky, Carlo Gavazzi Space, Telematic Solutions e BLOWUP Magazine.

American Sound Art on the Italian peninsula

American Sound Art on the Italian peninsula

Last summer, I woke up in Carlo Fatigoni ’s countryside home in the hills of Umbria. Over espresso, we asked ourselves, “What if we staged a festival of media and time-based art in Italy?” I also asked “How could I contribute by showcasing North American artists that I have followed, presented and played with in recent years?” Drawing largely on the roster of artists that I presented at GASP Gallery in Brookline, we soon began to formulate the present festival. The result is the Sguardi Sonori festival that premieres this summer in Roma, Benevento, Torino, Venezia and Siena.

Our exploration of 21st century sonic arts in the United States inevitably led to the work of minimalist composer and intermedia artist Phill Niblock. Now in his 70s, he has led the way for three generations of sonic artists. His use of thick, loud drones, filled with microtonal gestures create a unique omnipresent ambience, much like Giotto’s omnipresent Blue in the Scroveni Chapel in Padova.

Rome is an ideal city to hear the work of electro-diva Pamela Z. Through the use of interactive technologies, Z single handedly creates polyphonic vocal works in real-time, providing a unique opportunity to reflect on the rich traditions of vocal music that blossomed in Rome over the centuries.

Much like Rome, Hollywood fostered an unparalleled community of artists and artisans that collectively built center pieces of culture. For Sguardi Sonori, Los Angeles based composer Gary Chang appropriated the tools of the entertainment industry and repurposed them for use in sonic mediations for the Templar church in San Galgano, Siena.

Amnon Wolman immigrated to the US from Israel and soon established himself as a protagonist in New York. His investigation of the nature of temporal relations in music led to a series of sound performances and installations that blend artistic wit and scientific inquiry in a mode that is reminiscent of Piero della Francesca.

I first heard Chicago based Olivia Block’s work when I presented her Rhime and Glaze at Berklee College of Music in Boston. This work examined the vast distance between silence and tonality, seemingly retracing the birth of sonic arts. The work did in sound what Luigi Russolo’s Futurist Manifesto did in words.

Europe has long been a haven for the finest artists from the US. Stephen Piccolo (working closely with Gak Sato) and John Duncan developed much of their most important work outside of the mother land, in much the same way as American jazz musicians thrived in Europe in the mid-20th century. Their work is evidence that the uniquely American approach to sonic arts continues to thrive and endure in the 21st century, all over the world.

Neil Leonard
Sguardi Sonori 2007, Music Director/Curator
Director, Sonic Arts @ GASP
Associate Professor, Berklee College of Music

Indianapolis, Indiana, May 2007