Artificial Memory Trace
Interview for Revue & Corrigee No.40/June 1999,
France ( english version, May 1999 )

Eric La Casa: A l'ecoute de ses compositions. l'attention est happe par un foisonnement de micro-evenements, dont les mouvements nerveux et rotatifs - autour d'un centre qui echappe - mettent en branle un univers instable. Les "releves topographiques" des enregistrements in situ sont soigneusement diffuses au sein d'une geographie labyrinthique. La realite (celle du paysage) est ici deconstruite en autant de points d'ecoute qu'il y a de micro-systemes en mouvement. Chacun de ces territoires sonores semblent pouvoir acquerir son autonomie, laissant l'ecoute errer au gre des modifications du "terrain". Difficile, sans une extreme vigilance, de ne pas etre etourdi ou au contraire euphorise par ces declivites surprenantes qui sourdent des glissements tectoniques d'un vivant "seismographie".
1) D'abord pourrais-tu nous parler de cette facon d'apprehender le reel a travers la prise de son?
Car le point de depart de cette instabilite de l'ecoute passe en premier chez toi par une perception particuliere du monde, et du quotidien.

SKwi (a): ... as child I was living together with my grand-parents in mountains in northern Czechie on frontiers with Poland. House was in isolation on the board of huge forest, I was in middle of nature. I spend a lot of time outside discovering nature, I was especially fascinated by small animals: insects, reptiles and batraciens. My first books were scientific publications about entomology, herpetology etc. Approach to the world surrounding me was "analytic": I observed, "studied" and collected ( asides stones, flowers etc. ) mainly insects. I was drawing detailed pictures from observations, I was very amazed by incredible variety of forms appearing in nature. Soon "realistic" drawings became insufficient for describing what I percept - visuals constricts movements, "aural colors", time-dimension : my drawings became gradually more "abstract". Perception of world got suddenly more "multi-sensual", the percepts "morphing" into each other, complexity of perception dominating through combination of entirety of sensations ( = impressions ) and reflections, creating "global picture". Intensive interest in nature remained, only focus of observation changed : collection of insects I exchanged against equipment for recording ...
(b): Long time I didn't see human being as part of nature, it was for me separated worlds. Later I accepted human civilization with all manifestations ( including urban and other modifications of environments, lately even pollution ) as equal part ( and product ) of whole natural process ( evolution ). It was for me important changes, acceptance of situation "as it is", point of departure is here. I must deal with this world in such state and search for ways where to go, for possible directions ..., and there is never nothing definitive, all is in movement, never-ending development, each moment is asking another approach, another language to talk about, another form ..., there is only organic process of perpetual re-evaluation of every microsecond of my life ... Process of creation became very clearly a space where I could - finally! - combine my love and interest for sound-world, ideal space for activity stimulating my emotional, intellectual and spiritual development ... free-space without imposed rules ... ( look 2b,c )
(c): The fact is : I am perpetually surrounded by concrete sounds. Perception of these "ordinary" sound(scapes) is often reduced to references or completely ignored. Someone told me: "This is cup of tea", I am repeating information and "real" existence of subject is escaping from my perception. We are using references to communicate, trying to understand something, what is for us too difficult to accept (and respect) as movement. Revision of referential perception seems indispensable, I feel enormous need to approach "concrete" world as non-referential "abstraction". Through process of creation I can "exercise flexibility" of perception on every surface of time and space. ( = synchronicity )
( look 3 a )
Recording ( = listening ) is one phase of whole process dealing with basic question
( + including all variations of this question ) of "the meaning of individual existence in relation(s) with the reality, whatever it is, surrounding me" > "I" & "The ReAlity.
I consider subjectivity as equal part of the reality. In this sense, I am not interested about comprehension of "real", but about authenticity = how I percept really.
Possible chain of reflections:
What I percept is the reality. What I am not able to percept is not part of reality. But is my perception a reference? No. It is subjective. What is the reality then? Is the reality composed from entirety of all these subjective sub-realities? Is it possible through communication of subjective observations establish some "agreement" ( convention * ) about reality? Is it not reducing potential of reality? Or is there some combination of this convention and subjective contributions from parallel-realities ** ? Is it, in fact, possible to determinate reality? Or also this combination is in perpetual re-evaluation, in movement? What is "real" then?

( * purely practical tool of orientation in space / time, and tool of communication )
( ** combination introducing multidimensional character )
(d): Shifts of perception:
( gradual growing of subjectivity as organic process )
> act of recording ( = action still in "real" time, multisensorial perception )
> shift: technical possibilities of, position of microphones in space, decision of duration etc. ( sample character )
> shift: re-listening possibilities ( = re-vision )
( a ) mechanic transformation ( = listening through membranes of speakers, different acoustic character of space and inevitable interaction of recorded material with sound-environment of another space, different moment, volume etc. )
+ ( b ) interpretation ( associations ) through changement of context ( different state of mind etc. )
> expansive character > shift-multiplication ( > chaining of consequences ) ... etc.
(e): Unstability is characteristic for process. Perpetual tendency for balancement. Stabilization of perception, in sense of creating some "universal system" of perception, could be understood as stagnation.

biaural mic's

2) Ensuite, il serait interessant de connaitre comment toi tu te positionnes au sein de tes prises de son, puis a l'interieur de tes compositions? Dans la mesure ou en tant qu'auditeur je percois une geographie sonore quasi labyrinthique j'ai des problemes de positionnement au sein de cette topographie du vivant?

(a): ( look 1d )
(b): My interest is in process of creation as organic phenomena, the form is conceived as 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 ( = composition ) documents momentary state of perception, including subjectivity automatically.
(c): Outcomes are conceived as fragments of artificial memory materialized on support ( tape, CD, photography, drawing, writing ... whatever documentation ) reflecting "geometry of thoughts" ( as tools of perception ), ... a "digitally frozen contemplation" containing impressions from observations during process. Possibility of re-listening gives me chance to overlook particular situations ( = phases of process containing patterns of behavior or tendencies ) captured (and interpreted) in a manner coherent to momentary state of my mind. It could be compared to "tuning" through using residues of previous experience(s) to get in similar state of consciousness, in purpose to continue at the point, where I finished last time ( or begin another process dealing with the same [ = similar ! ] situation to get different conclusion ). Re-examination. I do attempt to capture "a way of thinking and/or feeling as it is" ( = "feature from mental process" ) without desire "how I would like to percept", without expectations for obtaining some particular aesthetics, without voluntary control of situation etc. My own "likes" and/or "dislikes" are not dominant factors of selection - unstable and antithetic character leads to comprehension of complementary nature, contradictions creates only another, "third" alternative ( = triality ). So, process of creation is conceived as observation of my tendencies and supporting these, which attracted from some reason my attention. Impulse of creation is coming from confrontation with certain situation(s), where I must deal with responsibility of interaction*. Each (re)action provokes chaining of consequences - changes in perception influences automatically behavior, comportment logically influences relation with outside world ... Through observation ( 1st step ), afterwards coming awareness ( 2nd ), seems growing freedom of decision where I can influence possible direction of consequences.

Example of possible chain of consequences:
Change of perception > change of interest ( including system of values ) >
> impact on behavior > influence on relation with outside world >
> change ( modulation ) of reality

( * Comprehension of individual is not "who I would like to be" [ > idealization > delay of perception > accumulation of illusion ], but "who I am". There is absolutely indispensable to accept solitary character of existence. Only through recognition of "real" personality [ containing "negative" x "positive" aspects ], I have chance to develop coherent relation with surrounding world. Confirmation of spiritual autonomy is only condition of optimal relation [ interaction ] with reality. )
(d): Midwife Toads ( Alytes obstetricans ) are singing sonorous ( ringing ) voices, each small frog keeps repeating one tone, each frog a little bit different pitch - all together creating very harmonic and balanced polyphonies. Each frog confirms its individuality and simultaneously is taking equal place in whole harmonious organismus - alone & together... What is my inner tone?

3) Si l'on veut poursuivre sur la prise de son utilisation dans tes compositions, on pourrait dire que tu n'as pas "peur" de leur causalite visuelle plus qu'auditive. Car meme si tu dis te desolidariser de leur sens premier pour en ecouter leurs seules particularites sonores (comme des "objets sonores" pour citer Schaeffer), l'auditeur en "voit" immediatement leur causalite (pas toujours). A tel point que l'on pourrait parler de "composition de prise de son".

(a): I found to be attracted by situations resistant to my rational analyzing holding its nature of independent existence and leaving free space for any potential interpretation - phenomena of interpretation is inevitable. I find it rather interesting. I adopted this factor in advance into composition-methods, I do reject voluntary employment of logical systems, narrative structures ( = there is not "story" or message ) and employing sounds, even very "concrete", as non-referential "abstraction". All sounds are abstract, there is not direct association with "origin" of sound. Choice of sounds could be compared with using colors while painting. ( look 1c,d + 2b )
(b): Are the aesthetics of language consequence of communication? ( look 1b + 4b )
(c): Ralf Wehowsky to Slavek Kwi ( fragment from letter 11.7.1997 ):

After all that I read I see the term "ABSTRACTION" you use for your work in a different way than before: When you say the sounds you use are abstract, they are in the same sense abstract like life is abstract: These sounds are a part of life, not only in the direct sense, like "this is a chicken's voice", but also in the ways one ( composer ) tries to build strategies to find a path through life, experimenting and scaping ways for an approach concerning the own "place" in it. So, I repeat my statement from some months ago: When our ( I believe to be able to say our ) music deals with reality ( and I really think it does, much more than any "documentary" or mainstream approach ever could ) and if reality is defined as non-abstract, there is no abstract sound, all sounds are concrete. ( And I think, I know better now than months before that I mean something similar to your "all sounds are abstract".)

Note: "scaping ways" - a neologism = an analogy to building / shaping soundscapes or landscapes.


4) Si tes prises de son sont denues de presence humaine, on remarque une fracture instrumentale qui est a l'origine de beaucoup de sons. Comment concois-tu et integres-tu le geste instrumental, au sein de tes compositions electroacoustiques qui ne s'apparente pas a de la musique mixte?

(a): In any case, it is character ( morphology, inner energetic structure and containing etc.) of sound itself, what determinates all, no matter of origin. I am always observing potential of sounds ( capability to interact or/and coexist with other sounds ), each sequence or single sound are considered as independent entity - I am searching for balance through nature of each participant ( > strategy of "controlled" coincidence), sounds are playing roles of "individuals" coexisting inside "societies of sounds" ( = compositions ).
I am convinced about compatibility of all sounds, depends on context ( situation ) of listening ( observation ), "tuning" conceived as combination of "energetic balancement" and "psychical" acceptance of situation. I experienced, when I created accidentally some unusual combination of sounds, my first reaction could be "unpleasant" sensation, but gradually, after multiple re-listening, I got used to hear "it" in such way and finally it became "perfectly balanced" situation. I "never heard" before "such" combination of sounds, it was for me "unknown form", it needed time to accept "it" as possible. This is happening also in ordinary life, of course, I noticed the same phenomena concerning some combinations of sounds in environment. Harmony is very relative.
(c): I have impression, human gestures ( = interventions ), especially "musical"
( instrumental or voices ) attracts more our attention, it is probably "closer" to our "sub-consciousness" ( = identification). Human presence seems having dominant character, these sounds has less capacity to interact with other sounds, it leaves less space for other coexistences.
(d): Late 80ties, in Amsterdam, I was living in old attic, a lot of time I spend alone, painting and making music. Nearly everyday I installed microphones on the window on back-side of house coming to space with trees in between of houses, I connected mic's to old reel-recorder with 3 heads, through connection of output in input I created simple echo-feedback "machine" and I was listening for hours all what was happening outside through it. My favorite time was right before sunrise: I was listening to awakening of city. On beginning, all was silent, space impression was enormous, I could hear very distant squeaking rails of tramways, it was very exciting moments, after first solitary calls of blackbird, noise of city increased gradually, soundscape was getting more and more dense, as gelatin-solution gets thicker, vibrating "sound-dough", jelly-sonic environment ... I could hear high-pitched sounds of ringing plates and spoons, people having breakfast, children's screams melting in yelling suddenly hundreds of birds, waving wind in leaves ... Sometimes I was playing on some instruments, considering all this urban-life as my "partner-musician", ... all my "physical" movements in space I tried do "conscioussnelly", listening to the boiling water inside whistling teapot, my steps, ... touching of objects ..., trying to concentrate on each single action. Each gesture, each movement becoming conscious in a very moment, being aware "what I am doing". It gives possibility to overlook "patterns of behavior", growing predictibility of possible consequences. Gradually I builded everywhere in apartment "sound-installations" containing mainly various metal objects, resonating or not, hanging on ceiling interconnected with wires, ... when I touched one object, it activated some another, chaining in consequences of my own gestures, resonances of acts ... I distributed all in function of my own everyday movements in living space. Sometimes I re-diffused these already recorded sequences through cassette-recorder, while continuing record "in direct" from open window and "being" in space ...
Note: I do not play "live" anymore during composition, basically all my work consist from changing of listening-context. Live performances are independent work.
5) Dans les information qui accompagnent le CD "Ritmax Asimetra", on peut y lire la mention: "Masterized on low volume to conserve natural dynamic character of sounds and spaces, no limiters or compressions employed". C'est une philosophie du son rare et en totale contradiction avec toutes les manipulations que l'on fait subir aux sons. Cette volonte d'apprehender le son au plus pres de ce que nous entendons (par seuls microphones) en insistant sur les qualites d'une ecoute non pollue par d'inutiles appareillages de fausses dynamiques, est exemplaire. Cela merite quelques developements.

(a): I am mixing (and mastering) my music on very different levels of listening, some layers are appearing only with very high volume of listening, some are emerging only with very low volume, ... as it is in sound-environment : all is composed from many layers of sounds, some of them are very distant, on the board of audibility and impossible to identify, becoming "aural colors", but they are present and they are equal part of whole environment, it is defining density of environment. ( look 6b )
(b): Manipulations of sounds are only another focuses of observation on various surfaces of time, space and context, ... exposition of sounds in diverse situations and combinations can show another potential of sounds - I don't think at all, only method of "recording" through "colored" membranes of microphones is only way of observing the reality. It is clearly complementary method, simultaneously holding its autonomy of existence ( for example I love the idea of "phonographie" practiced by Marc Pichelin, R&C, no.32 ). It does not seems more ( or less ) "respectful" or "real" than looking at some "detail" in different "zoom" of time by changing speed etc.
(c): "Clearness" of digital technology gives possibility of relatively high preservation of space-definition ( natural reverberations, localization of elements ... ), large frequency and dynamic range ( = physical impact on body - look 5 d ), ... and of course, silence. This conservation-character gives possibility to combine all previous methods. In sound-archives of AMT ( now copied on Dat and CDr ) I am keeping recordings from all periods, created on various supports: old mono tapes, cassettes, hard-tapes, minidiscs etc. and I still employ them sometime in recent work. It offers me rich "palette of colors" and choice of textures.
(d): I give great importance in physical aspect of sounds, ... I love very high, "bright" frequencies "tickling my brain", very low "velvet-transparent" frequencies, "shadow-entity" filling whole room and on the board of audibility, but present in "stomach", vibrating every molecule of my body ..., but also explosive impacts, walls of sounds ... In "Distori" ( Sonoris 007 ) I am employing hard distortions created by different methods, sometimes "crushing" sound by successive raising volume up to +300db's, result is "micro-grained" ( =grainy texture ) sound, especially loud and physical it is in "Monokrom" ( idea of monochromatic effect rich in overtones, in this case combining analogic and numeric distortions in many layers ). Development of whole "Distori" is based mainly on combination of auditive and physical perception of soundscape, enforcing "plasticity" ( "visual" aspect ). Idea of the most complex multisensorial perception is possible. This tendency is constant factor in AMT works.

6) Cette musique ou l'auditeur navigue du dedans au dehors, du micro au macro, du quotidien a l'inoui, nous enivre des parfums de l'errance ce qui procure un sentiment partage entre l'ennui/repulsion et l'etourdissement/adhesion. Le raffinement du dispositif, le foisonnement des elements (parfois antithetique), la musicalite des espaces internes, produisent une saturation de l'ecoute par suractivation de l'attention. Comment reagis-tu face a cette critique de la forme qui touche egalement a la question du temps, des temps?

(a): With the higher potential of interpretation ( sounds or combinations of sounds ) is getting a paradoxically higher potential of "abstraction" - breaking analytic system of perception through "information-overdose effect" ( infoverdose ) - details are "melting" into one energetic stream, it gives possibility of listening on more "surfaces" and from various "distances" ... traveling in time ... ( look 2b )
(b): When I am walking across some very busy street, around me is happening a lot of things, ... or I am floating slowly on the boat on the river ..., or I am sitting in the train running fast ..., landscape is large ... in all directions ... It is impossible remember and follow completely all details, ... everything what I would hear and see ... , sense ... and only for once! I am moving in the space, all other coexistences are in movement on its own, overcrossing each other.* But all seems in balance, because similar situations I experienced already. I am wondering what would happen if I would create simulation of such situation: I would replace original sounds by another sounds and I would create dense environment with a lot of layers and many punctual sounds, some of them would appear only once, some would be repeated in variations ...

( * There is surely some relation between movement in space and density of perpetually changing environment, speed doesn't play very dominant role - what I am fascinated about is this perpetual shift of perception, time becomes elastic - if something attracts my attention, I have very different notion of time. Main factor is interest. The time is elastic as "chewing-gum". Concentration is determining time-dimension. )
7) En France, nous n'en avons pas encore vu, mais il semble que tu deploie des dispositifs sonores pour la creation d'installation. Ceci nous permet de developper ici ou plutot de mettre en exergue l'importance de ton travail plastique. Tout d'abord, ce serait bien que tu decrives un peu ce travail d'installation et que tu essaies ensuite de nous faire partager cette autre partie de toi-meme. Notamment, tu semblait attacher de l'importance a certain dessins comme "partitions" de tes pieces. On est tente de te demander plus de details sur ces liens ou la pensee glisse du dessin au son vers l'installation d'objets sonores. Nous revenons a la question de la polyvalence.

(a): Example : In sound-installation "Calliphonies ( Skeletunes & Reasonances)" I used environmental recordings made in exposition-locality transformed through different methods and re-integrated into their original surroundings through installation-unit in an altered shape. Pre-recorded composition is played from CD through set-up that filters and process them further acoustically ( "mechanic transformations" ). Left channel is diffused through group of tweeters, hanging oriented to the ground, distributed in the tree - very high-pitched sounds creates "cloud of sounds", difficult to localize the source ( as singing of hidden insects ). Right channel, containing only very low frequencies, is diffused through single speaker attached on the bottom of big metal-box from inside, hanging from another tree. Box is connected through steel-spring, over 4 m long, with wooden-box as resonator. Spiral functions as conductor ( transmitter ) of signal coming from speaker, producing through this "mechanic delay" natural reverberations in wooden-"receiver" on other side, ... silhouettes of sounds ...

(look included drawing, exposed in "Winter Sound Landscapes - Machomet II.",
December 1998, Altembrouck in Holland )

(b): Main idea is another possible "shifts of perception" through changes of context.
( look 1d+4d )
(c): As I said above, my work is based on interaction with reality, life itself :
I am exposed to various situations ( as it is in case of this interview as well ) and I should find a way, appropriate media, to interact. Although my attraction for sound-world is dominating, the "conversion" into another form of communication is stimulating for creativity. I don't exclude this possibility - I can get involved in very different projects.
Recently I am involved in project Mus-e of Foundation of Yehudi Menuhin, I am working as "sound-art facilitator" with autistic and learning disability children ...

(d): Graphics serve me to preserve creative dialogue with subject. It is clearly equal part of whole process dealing with perception. ( look 2c, only replace word "sounds" by "visuals" ). Parallel character of media and "biological tools" of physical perception ( = ear x eye ), doesn't exclude interaction on some different level of perception. I do not try to "describe" sounds, but "what" these sounds "evoke" in me. I do "see perpetually images ( abstract! ) inside my head", although the words "see" and "image", in sense as we refer to, are very reducing "what" I do percept really, it is absolutely impossible describe and the most close, until now, I could approach to "it" only in sound-work.

Finally, ... maybe ... I am a sound-painter, ... painting with colors of ambiences on the canvas of time ...

Complementary note:
... while reading ( and trying to understand ) your questions, I noticed you are using on more places expression "vivant" ( in variations ) as some kind of reference. I don't understand very well. Could you explain it, please?
( Slavek Kwi )

Le vivant ?
C'est la dimension intrinseque de ce que nous sommes. Le vivant, c'est a la fois la puissance de l'etre ( cette energie qui gonfle l'etre dans sa chair ) et sa fragile materialite ( sa realite ephemere ). Je crois que c'est l'ephemere qui exprime le mieux cette donnee du vivant. Nous ( tout ce qui est ) sommes constituees de processus de matieres, et de substances inouies. Et en meme temps tout peut basculer comme un chateau de carte. Le vivant c'est pour moi le Mouvement. Et quand une chose, un evenement, une situation, un lieu n'est pas "clair" ( dans le sens de sa lisibilite ) c'est que le souffle ne circule pas bien. Le souffle est contraint, et la vie est a son tour contraint. Cela ne respire plus. On sait tout de suite si le lieu est vivant, relie a l'etre. Sa respiration nous le dit.
( Eric La Casa - Syllyk )