questions by mark garry <markgarry@ireland.com> for his essay:


Could you give a brief description of your background in this field i.e. how did you come to work with sound


Regarding back in time, my central interests basically didn't change:

Nature, … in every sense.

Art as a path of spiritual development.

Exploration of relationship(s) between Perception and Reality.

Absolutely obsessed by THE Freedom ...

Improvisation (collective and individual) vs Composition.

Solitary Exploration - Individual Contemplation.

Glimpses from history: Nearly all my childhood was spent with my grandparents on the edge of a vast forest in the mountains of Krkonose, on the northern border of ex-Czechoslovakia. I was completely fascinated by nature, especially insects and reptiles. My first books were scientific: entomology and herpetology. Everything starts there. Nature, nature in every sense, has been the strongest inspiration in my work. I have been drawing and painting with oil colors from a very early age. Initially, my pictures were of a documentary character - exploring everything around me. Later on I started to be interested in capturing more than static forms. I became interested in movement and aural impressions, eventually shifting into areas of interpretation, becoming more and more abstract, attracted by emotion. I don't know when or how exactly sound started dominating my attention. It shifted gradually. Suddenly "it" was there.

The character of sound, as a medium, offers a multidimensional approach: a physical effect on body and an ability to evoke emotions; it provokes mental images and stimulates my mind. Sound develops through time and this allows me to conserve the process of creation.

My first discoveries of sound manipulations date from the beginning of the eighties. I used old mono and stereo reel-to-reel tape recorders, recording sounds (I was very obsessed at that time with metalic objects such as cymbals, bells and gongs, all rich in overtones), slicing tapes, playing with speed variations and creating my first compositions. It was an adventure, diving into other dimensions of space and time, exploring unknown the universe of sounds. I loved situations which were impossible to analyze, maintaining its freedom - the more free construction was, the more space and freedom it provided for a listener.

In the same period, with a few friends, Garuda Band was founded. We were exploring improvised music using exclusively acoustic objects and ethnical instruments. I was fascinated by the potential of free music, communicating on more sensual levels. In which conditions can we co-exist in the same space, creating a common space where everybody is free to interact? The only condition was the mutual respect of participants. However, members of Garuda were reluctant to include electronics within sound-experiments and I joined in parallel with Jaroslav Palat in a duo Quarantaine, exploring more technological possibilities and noise.

    < "MONOTAR" (= 1-string guitar),
       Liege, Belgium 1987

On 1st march 1986 I left Czechoslovakia for western Europe. I lived almost 14 years in Belgium and in October 2000 I moved to Ireland.

I continued extensive free-music experiments in various collectives (NDE, Paradox Total, Frogx, Momentary Nameless, Soun.din) and with different musicians (Peter Jacquemyn, Af Ursin, Martin Klapper, Sven Anderson etc.) and simultaneously continued my individual explorations of sound-media under the name Kwi and later on, from the 90ties, as Artificial Memory Trace. Over the years I have been involved in a variety of projects.

What kind of formal education if any have you undertaken ?

Basically I am self-taught. However, between 1990-91 I was a free student visiting classes of contemporary composition with Frederic Rzewski in the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Liege and of electroacoustic music with Patrick Lenfant in the Centre de recherches et educations musicales de Wallonie, Belgium. Between 1991-93 I studied acousmatic music with Annette Vande Gorne in Musiques & Recherches in Ohain, Belgium.

Did any particular artists, musicians or ideologies influence you to work with sound?

My main interest lies in the phenomena of Perception as the fundamental determinant of relations with Reality.

Nature is my perpetual inspiration.

 

About "influence":
In some sense, we are influenced by our whole surrounding environment within the context of our life and simultaneously by genetic inheritance. With growing experience of exploring "I" (=myself), we are able to hold to our true individuality without being shaped by environment. The relationship is changing; we are not instinctively reacting to impulses from environment, but choosing to respond in a conscious manner.

Thinking further about the notion of influence, inspiration seems a more fitting term. For example, when I discovered Indian raga music, I was certainly inspired by it, but not that I would like to make music like that (=form), rather music that would evoke in me such feeling - its "containing" would effect me.

Inspiration.
In the moment some particular situation attracts my attention and I am able to connect with it, automatically it stimulates my interest and consequently desire to interact. Such encounter becomes mutually influential, it is resonating within me. I am exploring this relationship (= reality and I), through creative dialogue resulting in documenting this process. Sound-media offers a unique mode of expression; it is sensual and holds its own independence of existence, impossible to translate into a different mode of communication (= e.g. describtion of sound isn't sound itself). It certainly might evoke an intellectual process of comprehension, but it still stays within the area of very individual interpretation. Interpretation is always subjective, it never contains the entirety of the original object. It manifests an individual relationship to the object. The potential of the object is growing with the number of subjective interpretations.

However, some personal encounters were very significant in my life and certainly made me question and overlook my practice from another perspective. I accept it as part of my overall process and the character of life-itself. I was encouraged by Czech composer Vlastislav Matousek, American composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski, Belgian radio engineer and sound artist Ward Weis … and some others, to whom I am grateful.

Can you differentiate between people who make music and people who make sound art? If so, can this differentiation be simply defined by the cultural context that the work is placed or discussed within? Or by the process that the artist/musicians uses or the intended outcome of the work ?

Technically, there is no difference between music and sound-art.

John Cage: "Music is the organisation of sounds and silence".

Adding a psychological dimension: "Any sound-situation which attracts my attention becomes automatically musical". There is no importance if it is intentionally generated by human beings or coincidentally produced by the sound-environment. In the moment I am according, from whatsoever reason, attention to it, it has meaning. In this sense, active (generating sounds) or passive (listening) has the same value.

The term "music" can be limiting regarding its cultural reference. Generally it is associated with a conditioned and reducing definition of music: melody and rhythm, conventional instruments etc. However, music is sometimes defined as "art of sounds", though the criteria stays the same as noted above. The term "sound-art" suggests more options than "music". Sound-art includes music and anything else dealing with sound-media.

Sound-art seems to be coming from a visual-art background, approaching sound-media morphologically - e.g. perceiving sounds as colours, textures etc. and includes also sometimes objects generating sounds as an equal part. Modern electroacoustic music (incl. acousmatic and "musique concrete"), though coming from "classical" musical background, recognizes the morphological character of sounds too. It seems to stay in the realm of sounds only.

The boundary between sound-art and music is blurred, if there is one …

In either specific or general terms what does your practice involve? What kind of technologies do you use when generating, capturing/recording manipulating or outputting sound? I am aware that a number of you incorporate a number of quite complex contemporary technological mechanisms (indeed some of you design your own computer programs) how if at all are these elements incorporated in your practice?

My interest is in the process of creation as an organic phenomena. The form is conceived as a consequent result of this process. I am focused on 'state of mind'. Creation [and all included in this process] is clearly a tool. The form documents momentary states of perception, including subjectivity, automatically. I would employ anything that comes to my mind, which seems appropriate during the process of creation. It changes due to the character of each project, of course.

I do not design computer programs - so far I didn't need it. I have no interest in technology itself, other than as a tool. However, in the last 10 years I am using digital computer-based editing and processing systems. Before I employed analogic reel-to-reel tapes. Aside obvious techniques of editing/mixing, the main processes I am using are filters (eq) and pich shift (slow/accelerate) only, sometimes reverbs (almost never effects). Majority of sounds explored would be field-recordings recorded by myself. Recording itself is an important part of whole process. Sounds are captured with binaural microphones and dat-recorder (or minidisc) mainly. Output is mostly on CD, some projects on multichannel digital tapes (as Adat 8-track).

I am also creating various "low-tech" sound-objects / instruments using rotating motors, solar-powered devices, shaving machines, timers etc. and simple, mainly acoustical, sound-devices using any material suitable to each specific project (as performances, workshops).

Does your practice incorporate any other elements such as film, painting, sculptural objects or performance?

Yes, but mainly sound oriented. Sound seems to be dominant factor.
In sound installations I am using various speakers as mechanical interfaces - "optosonic objects". Various devices are attached to vibrating cones of speakers creating other layers of acoustical sounds. The materials can be of a natural origin (such as reeds, wooden branches, feathers), a large web created from nylon strings with "exploded" ppballs through space, or anything, aluminium foils, metal strings etc. - whatsoever attracts my attention.

   < optosonic object: "jelly-fish", 
      PERMACULTURE exhibition in 
      Project Arts Centre,
      dublin, 2003

In what other capacities do you work with sound outside of your "art" practice? (I know Jody engineers and produces musicians and Slavek works in sound therapy) How if in any way does this inform your practice?

My practice of art is not separated from life, it is an integrated part of my life. I consider art as a spiritual discipline: changing my mind, enhancing my perception, growing awareness of myself and consequently relations to reality surrounding me, whatever it is … In this sense, all my activities are inter-connected creating feedback to each other. Information is processed and applied as appropriate to each specific area.

Example from sound-workshops methodology:
Exploration of acoustic materials, discovering sound potential of ordinary objects, based on their diversity of textures such as paper, plastic, wood, metal, simple devices created from these objects, for example, plastic bottles of various volumes with one glass-marble or grainy materials placed inside etc. and, of course, voice. Gradually adding more complex sound-objects and musical instruments as various percussions, whistles and string instruments. Through "playing" the objects, creativity is stimulated by the freedom to experiment and discover the potential of each object as a means of making "music". By observing the effects of each sound, participants begin to create their own "language" and develop techniques automatically. This individual research within the group evolves into an awareness and sharing of "language", establishing an integrative (co-existence) and/or interactive environment. From an awareness of sounds, participants select particular sounds based simply on subjective likes. Through engaging with a specific sound, natural curiosity is awakened, stimulating further exploration and creativity.
E.g.: ... this has certainly effect on my free-music practice, it is basically the same approach.

How if in any way does the notion of critical listening impact on or inform your work?

My work is based on intense listening … Over years of practice I developed my sense of self-critical listening, there is nobody who could possibly judge my work better than myself - it is my responsibility, what I make available to the public and I have to accept the consequences. I will never let you hear something I cannot stand behind. As my work deals with exploring unknown territories of sound-potential, I rely only on my own intuition. The response from outside confirms (or not) my intuition, the only criteria is to obtain a real connection with the listener.

Often I would consider critical comments irrelevant. Usually it is based on individual likes and dislikes of a particular person. It informs me not about my work but about the subjective relationship of the other person to my work, which I might find interesting or not. However, it doesn't alter my work.

I am trying to liberate myself from my own likes and dislikes, focussing more on the creative stream coming from my unconscious and consciousness as it is stimulated by specific situations, feelings, state of mind. The perpetual tendency towards balancing the paradox, I and reality, seems to me more interesting than any limited aesthetic or conceptual ideology. The real authenticity seems being able to communicate and connect with others by its fundamental nature. In such situation, the work is only a bridge connecting I and other. The intention to connect must be mutual.

When working in a live or installation capacity how if at all does the architecture of the space you are situated in inform or influence your installations/performances?

Architecture of space, including acoustics, certainly stimulates my creative process. Each specific space suggests many possibilities to interact already and is approached as unique.

Within this capacity do you incorporate existing sonic environments into your responses or compositions?

Yes. The majority of my work takes into account sound environments and its inner inter-relationships. I am interested in complex systems as urban environments and natural habitats, about the way sounds are organized. Situations stimulating awareness of inter-connectedness fascinate me.

Example:
Comparative studies of sound-environments in chain of associations:

dense sound-environment of tropical rainforests > research of inter-relations and co-existances > observing conditions for balanced sound-organism

dense sound-environments such as tropical rainforests and urban in contrast > comparative research of inter-relations and co-existances > possible effects of synthesis

natural sound-environment in comparision with organisation of sound-elements within free improvisation music associated with perception of temporary sound-environment created by participants during musical dialogue, emphasis on sociological research > models of possible social systems

(are there some connections between structures in natural sound-environment and human social systems?)

Have you studied how the ear works biologically?

Yes, … well, have read about it.

Are you in any capacity interested in evoking specific emotional responses to the work you make?

I might observe certain emotional responses within myself during process of creation, I assume that I am not unique and there must be others who might feel similarly. I am leaving freedom to the other to connect or not. The intention to connect must be mutual.