With the financial support by:
26 Black Diary, field recordings in MV, sound art installations
26 Black Diary
ongoing electronic project from the sound art course at ATRIUM Berlin
electronic /text works from the sound art course at ATRIUM Berlin
Electronic works - studio work
Florian, Sascha, Isaac, Finja, Shayenne, Til, Lilo, Valerie
SOUND INSTALLATION PROJECT MV
KLANGKUNST IM MV UND EINE INNOVATIVE PLATFORM FÜR KLANGKUNST
MV IN VIRTUAL REALITY-GAMERS PROJECT
FIELD RECORDINGS - LIFE IN MV
FIELD RECORDINGS - LIFE IN MV
Sonische Postkarte Klangkunst im MV
KLANGKUNST IM MV - SOUND ART EDUCATIONAL
by Roberta Busechian
This project was developed in Berlin at Atrium Jugendkunstschule Reinickendorf in cooperation with comX and the Bettina-von Arnim-Schule and funded within the “Kultur macht stark – Bündnisse für Bildung 2018” through Paritätische Bildungswerk BV e.V. and the Programm JEP - Jung Engagiert Phantasiebegabt. The theme of the project, created and developed by Roberta Busechian with the support by Atrium Jugendkunstschule, was sound art practice inside the urban area of Märkisches Viertel, where the school is located.
The project (a one-year long course) “Klangkunst im MV“ - Sound Art in MV offered a space in which young people could deal theoretically and above all practically with sound as an artistic, musical and participatory research and enabled them to experiment with it. The aim was to provide participants with knowledge about sound design (recording and technique, different microphones) and to try it out, to get to know programs for editing and mixing and to use low-fi recording techniques. They explored how spatial acoustics, noise and silence can be used critically to open up new ways of communicating personal and interpersonal issues. In practice, participants were supposed to gain knowledge of music and youth culture, electronic music, and the theory of sound art. Through activities such as performances, concerts, installations, and possibly even radio broadcasts, the young people were approaching the knowledge in the organization and development of sound artistic interventions. Beyond social and ethnic differences, the sound and the possibilities of it (effects, creation, and local references) were used as a means of communication, providing a language and transmission of emotions.
The adolescents in the social focus MV have to deal with problems of a heterogeneous population structure. According to studies of the housing company GesoBau, the MV has a very high proportion of foreigners for Berlin. Many young people are therefore afraid of cultural institutions and are skeptical of their offerings. Therefore, a first part of the project was focused on how to attract participants; they should be motivated to cooperate by their orientation towards their living space and their problems. At the center of the project were the participants, their life, and living space in the Märkisches Viertel; for this reason the decision was made to present it in the comX Kinder-, Jugend- und Familienzentrum (Youth Recreational Space).
Coming from the street
It was August 2018: school had just begun and energy was still high after the warm summer holidays. Roberta Busechian went for the first time to comX, bringing some flyers forthe course and her laptop to play some sound installation tracks in the spaces.
Boys and girls of different ages (from 13 to 19) were sitting on tables, on sofas, playing table football or video games. In the back, in the recording studio some of them were recording a live radio show. Within this environment, the first step for Busechian was to sit and observe the situation, to begin taking part in the dynamics, and to introduce herself. A first interesting piece of input surfaced as a group of young boys mentioned their interest in hip hop and rap music. From there, a conversation began about the main elements of hip hop music, electronic sound, and the binom voice-text.
Before going further is necessary to explain this connection between hip hop and rap to sound art, as this was the main sphere in which the students’ musical knowledge connected with sound art practice during the course.
Rap and sound art
Coming back to the first goal of involving the young students in the project, after the first approach, discussions and a further presentation of the project in all the classes of the Bettina von Arnim School, the group was built and ready to start.
At the beginning, the participants were introduced to a theoretical view of sound art, with many examples from the Berlin sound art scene and a presentation by the sound artist and musician "Golden Diskò Ship - Theresa Stroeges" The first goal was to get a sense of the acoustic codification of the social focal point MV, which would be achieved by finding the places that were most suitable for sound installation and performance. By wandering the neighborhood, the students were sent to look for places. This experience provided a first educational method to introduce students to sound art experimented during the course. Instead of beginning with a development of projects or single projects, Roberta Busechian started at the end by asking them to find a place for their performances.
The students were motivated to discover Märkisches Viertel in search of a good open air spots where they might perform or build a sound installation. They searched for places they knew, like a basketball playground, a park, or a spot along a canal. The last one was surprisingly interesting as a choice, because acoustically it was very isolated. The sound of water, away from the traffic noises, was a perfect sonic input. There students began to record. The main idea guiding their approach to the recording technique was to think about recordings they would like to use for their songs.
At the beginning we were still speaking about songs, because it was important to connect the idea of the text, as material, to the voice as sound itself. These recordings could be compared to Annea’s Lokwood environmental sound and life-narratives (linguistic and non) recorded on different rivers - Sound Map of the Hudson River (1982), A Sound Map of the Danube (2005) and A Sound Map of the Housatonic River (2010).
Students started to collect sound recordings and developed a spontaneity when they realized they are allowed to talk during them. An interesting narrative started to take shape. They talked about a Friedrich Schiller’s drama The Robbers (Die Räuber), mentioned at school, and for the first time they could relax during recordings, forgetting about what they should be doing and being themselves while recording. In sum, what could be a good educational method introducing sound art is to let the spoken word (from music, the literature, and everyday life) be present. There shouldn’t be prohibitions during the first recording exercises, everything should be permitted, the one exception being the use of the recorder and microphones, which should always be used with knowledge: wind protection, attention to the way the recorder is manipulated during the recordings, and selecting the recording volume before starting are all important technical aspects.
Soundscape and field recordings
These walks (on the river, in the park, at the basketball playground) were also connected with the visual material of the place as the conversations. This soundwalking is meant in the way Hildegard Westerkamp described it: “A soundwalk is any excursion whose main purpose is listening to the environment. It is exposing our ears to every sound around us no matter where we are. We may be at home, we may be walking across a downtown street, through a park, along the beach; we may be sitting in a doctor's office, in a hotel lobby, in a bank; we may be shopping in a supermarket, a department store, or a Chinese grocery store; we may be standing at the airport, the train station, the bus-stop. Wherever we go we will give our ears priority. They have been neglected by us for a long time and, as a result, we have done little to develop an acoustic environment of good quality.” Those walks, would be also attached to the exercise of mapping the space- producing mental and visual maps of how to decodify the soundscape of MV, using even more listening to catch individual sounds and sound sources, as well as starting to differentiate the sonic foreground and background. Interestingly that was nothing new to them, as it was a skill used to be on the street after school, talking with their friends, listening to the brand new rap songs, writing texts. It was clear that all the students had been listening to music for years and sought to find their own voices as artists.
Here we arrive at the second big question that the project was supposed to deal with: what is the relationship of the artist and the musician, the visual artist and the musician, the producer and the performer, and the musician and the sound artist. Mainly, the students saw themselves as musicians, but not as artists, not because they were not interested in it, but because they didn’t understand what it meant to be called an artist. A simple question was posed: “Is a musician an artist?” Taking into account the technological and conceptual evolutions of the twentieth century that led to the reevaluation of what music is and specifically, what it could be, there are some crucial ideas that could be investigated in order to try to grasp the main concepts. These ideas focus on the use of sound to define the musical activity distanced from the “classical” notion and the birth of sound installation art. In order to fully investigate, it is necessary to go back to the definition of the artist/musician/author itself. In one of his essays, Foucault investigates "What is an author"2 and focuses on the role of the author with a definition of "discourses as objects of appropriation." According to his reflections, the role of the author, when compared to that of the composer, is the same. If you take the role of the composer as the author of a piece of music, as the creator of a score to be read, understood and performed, there is a clash with the fact that the performer interprets the score of experimental music, and then he is also an author as an interpreter. The essential innovation of sound art could be defined precisely in this shift between the author - the sound artist and the audience, that is also the performer.
What kind of sound artist am I - GROUPS DIFFERENCES
The next step of the project, was therefore to begin to shape their self-understanding as sound artists, of different kinds. There was a larger group of them who were willing to work on the rap and record an album. One could say that’s not a sound installation art project at all, but it seemed important to let them start with what was familiar to them. The project was meant to be a kind of diary, an everyday taxt, a collection of situation, discourses, and listenings. The “26 Black Diary,” was a live recording session held every course day. Since the majority of the participants involved were particularly enthusiastic about rap, it became clear that the project should also be deepened in its exploration of rap and hip-hop history and the connection between sound art in public space and the rap as a musical direction born from the street,.
Another group, starting in the summer, was more concentrated on the public, willing to go deeper discovering the difference and similarities between field recordings and their effect on the image- as the video. From here we started a different kind of sound art process, focusing on the spatial conformation of MV, and relating it to, as in a video game, different stations (for example the shopping mall as the base of the commando, the underground station the underground of the city, and so on). It was a project dealing with the urban and virtual reality. The group was in a way building a multimedia installation, where the concrete videos of those spaces were then abstracted through the experimental use of sound recordings (electronic sound effects, elaborated field recordings, echoes and reverberation).
Coming back to what we like to call the “text and rap” group, they were concentrated for months on the issue of how to write texts to record, and secondly what to record within their texts. As they were searching for beats over which they can rap and/or sing they texts, they were confronted with the fact that this was not an electronic beat workshop and began to concentrate more on their expression and the contents of their work: whether about Märkisches Viertel, politics, poverty and general communicational “diseases” of the society. The educational method in that case, was also, as before, very liberal. They were free to rap their texts over beats that they had produced or that they had from other sources, but the rule was that they could not be the main focus; they were just giving the tempo, energy and self-consciousness. The main focus was to document through recordings, texts, discussions, photo studio and video sessions their transformations (physical and mental) and the changing of the situations and dynamics they were experiencing in their everyday lives. The results were continuous recording sessions, where they were also approaching the recording technique, building small group dynamics. In these sessions, each student had a role in relation to who was recording - who was the artist, who the technician, who the listener. If we look at the dynamics from a sound artistic point of view, we could say they were a sound project in themselves, performing and installing something different, organic, and changing every time. Organic is also a good word to describe the ongoing process of the course. It was a yearlong course, and as described before, students changed both mentally and physically within their recordings and audiovisual documentations. The final results were works divided in 4 categories: field recordings as documentations of the Märkisches Viertel changes (made for every walk outside), video material- seen more as a documentation of their physical and mental presence inside their text and recordings production, sound installations for voice and recordings, and a documentation of their studio recordings with beats and melody.
At the end
A matter of time
The experience showed that in order to work properly with young people in a way that allows them to approach sound art intuitively and without constrictions, it is essential to think of the matter of time. This is to say that they need to know how long the process of working on a sound installation or sound art project in general is. This could be done by allowing them work directly on the collected sonic material, or even audiovisual material, and confronting them with the fact that they should first reach a familiarity with the technical equipment as with the editing sound composition software. This obviously takes time, and teaches them to confront challenges with patience. The second important time-matter is to refrain from forcing them to understand the theory of sound art. It can be introduced slowly, with small introductions and interventions by invited sound artists, or sound art documentations (as online videos, maps and generally sound artists websites).
During the course itself, it was difficult to get students to open up to the idea of seeing sound art projects outside the school environment, for example during a Sunday workshop or performance viewing. One day, on one of the last days of the course, they were invited to an audiovisual performance held in Berlin at the Errant Sound Project Space. They came that day out of a mixture of curiosity and friendships they built with each other during the course. This is what we speak about when we approach time in sound art education: sound art and even more precisely listening is based on the time experience of the listener. Students were listeners, to both their environment and to each other, over the course of the year. The key was giving them time to relate to each other, discuss, exchange, also about everyday problems. Through the experience, they achieved a degree of empathy with each other and consequently within their sound art projects, as mostly personal projects that they practically developed in groups.