On May 21st composer Gabriel Paiuk will, together with visual artist Sebastián Diaz Morales and cellist Arne Deforce, perform a new version of Sound Theory (The Clouds), which premiered last autumn during the Gaudeamus Muziekweek. We spoke with Gabriel about his sources of inspiration and the relationship between vision and sound.
In the piece Sound Theory (The Clouds) you go back to the origin of the Greek word Theôría (θεωρια). What does this word mean to you personally and in your work?
At the core of this piece lies an interest in how listening is staged. By this I mean the way listening takes place as part of a theatrical spectacle. My interest in the word Theôría comes from its function as the root of both Theory and Theatre. Sound Theory (The Clouds) is an exploration into the ways we listen in this theatrical context. I’m referring to the theatre here not just as the place where a performance takes place, but to an infrastructure of rituals and technical operations that give form to the ways we perceive. I guess one of the origins of the project is my fascination with the theatre as a place where our senses are transformed. I always cherished those silent moments before a work starts, where our attention is transformed through its heightened attention to the slightest details.
You let yourself be inspired by the development of the ‘sound film’, in other words how image and sound play our senses synchronously. What do you think happens when image and sound are out of balance?
We humans perceive the world through several senses at once. That is, we “make sense” of it through the co-operation of different sensorial capacities. We are always performing a balancing act involving all of the senses. In this work I’m after the habits which inform how we perform this balance. Rather than thinking that the visual and the auditory could be “out of balance”, I address the subtle adjustments we constantly make by slightly disrupting this process.
In our contemporary society the ways we perceive our environment and the ways we believe in what we see and hear are more and more saturated by infrastructures of mediation – technologies which organize how we sense the world and act upon it. One of the purposes of this project is to bring attention to the ways in which we become engaged with these infrastructures.
You created the piece together with artist Sebastián Diaz Morales and cellist Arne Deforce. Can you tell us more about this collaboration?
The idea of the project grew out of a dialogue with Arne some years ago in which we agreed I would write a work for him. From the beginning my idea was to design a work in which the cello becomes an axis through which how we listen is exposed, rather than conceiving it as a soloistic figure. We explored then a nuanced field of timbral possibilities that Arne is capable of mastering on the instrument as the basis for the piece.
I have know Sebastián for a long time, and I thought that his own approach to the moving image, focused on the threshold between the fictional and the real, could become a rich part of what I wanted to explore in this piece. The main task was then to develop together a visual content that unfolds a cinematographic logic while relying fundamentally in the act of listening.
What can the audience expect in the Koorenhuis on May 21?
Sound Theory (The Clouds) is a piece about perception. As I said earlier, it is about the senses and the ways we engage with the auditory and the visual. It plays both with that which is heard and seen and with the expectations we have as to what we hear and see. In both cinema and music there are codes that steer how the spectator listens, how the sound is to be attended to and how the spectator locates himself in relation to the sound. This work plays with those codes and challenges our perception.