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Speechscape 31° 47’ N / 35° 13’ E | Sound-print left on paper-material | The 100/DRAW Art Talents Experiences | Yoann Ximenes©

In this 31st issue, CULTURAMA continues its investigations off the beaten track, exploring the relation between body, spirit and music.

For more information on an article, click on the corresponding images
[YIM] in action | Jean-Marie Lavallée©

Eric of MA’A*: You designed [YIM] YOUR INTERACTIVE MUSIC, an artificial intelligence that allows people's movements to effect sound and composition. What were the stages of its creation?

Jean-Marie Lavallée: I got the idea of sharing musical composition with the audience for the first time in 1985 at the
Les Immatériaux exhibition at the Georges Pompidou Center. It was Rolf Gehlhaar's installation, to which I pay tribute today: a room filled with photoelectric cells triggering synthetic musical phrases. Unfortunately, the device did not work, so I never got to hear the result. It is probably this frustration that originated my desire to invite listeners to influence my composition with their movements. In 2014, with the emergence of DIY and accessible robotic components on the Internet , I started the project.

It took me a few thousand hours of work, shared between the discovery of computer languages, ergonomic testing and manufacturing several prototypes, to reach the current stage. I have been a documentary film music composer for over 30 years and, without realizing it, I've made an inventory of sound resources that could be translated into computer science.

Playing with [YIM] | The Ruche-Seydoux Foundation | Jean-Marie Lavallée©

Eric:  What were the goals for the last version of [YIM]?

JML: I worked with Cyril Blanchard, a prototypist. In the specifications, there were several technical and aesthetic obligations. [YIM] had to meet standards of ergonomics, interaction, mobility and lightness. The object also had to be "industrializable" and attract sympathy. Choosing a form that evokes a face, whether human, alien or animal, makes it possible to establish an emotional connection with the public. And the translucent material makes the synchronization of the lights with the notes visible.

[YIM] prototype | Jean-Marie Lavallée©

Eric: What are your best memories of experimenting with [YIM]?

JML: I remember that with the first version of [YIM], to test the reliability, I would leave it on all day and forget about it. I was always surprised by the little melodic musical phrase, which was different each time I walked past the sculpture. It was a real surprise to listen to the fruit of musical algorithms I had created.

I did not imagine being overtaken by the potential of the [YIM] creature. The interaction with the dancers is also a part of my fondest memories: Katia Petrowick at the Fernand Léger Gallery in Ivry-sur-Seine, Lisa Dali at the Morocco Solar Festival, Dana Mussa during an exhibition at the Ruche-Seydoux Foundation. The interactive music process enables an incredible fusion between improvised choreography and the music it generates, like a dialogue between music, artificial intelligence and the body. The most unexpected moments were probably during meetings with disabled people. I have, for example, brought a means of artistic expression to a woman with Charcot disease; she was trapped in her body, able to move just one finger. Creating these moments of happiness in an artistic exchange probably surprised me the most because I had not imagined this function at first.

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All matter is music | Onyx Ashanti©
Onyx Ashanti's musical expertise and sound design are used to design a process for reprogramming human body. He calls it sonocybernetics. He believes that musical information, once grafted into sonomorphic structures through a digital signal processing language, will result in thought forms that are more capable of representing higher-order resonances; a new kind of imagination where thoughts are transduced into data-music, called Metabit. Such data is capable of projecting information that is simultaneously understandable as both human musical structure and computer data.
Elsa on the Moon | Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles Paris | Mathieu Zurstrassen©
Elsa on the Moon | Brussels | Mathieu Zurstrassen©
Elsa on the Moon is a robotic sound sculpture that pays tribute to Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, an eccentric baroness who lived around the same period as Marcel Duchamp. She is the one who ambiguously claims Fountain: an iconoclastic work created in 1917. In this context, Fountain, which is already charged with a sulfurous reputation, raises the question of the exclusivity of Art. Mathieu Zurstrassen considers History as an element in motion, changing according to perspective. Elsa on the Moon, like a clock, comes alive every hour like an incursion into history, a known and controlled landscape.
Fragments #43-44 | Interactive device | NUMEDIART©

Imagine a theatre piece where body and machine become one, where the real and the virtual interact with each other to give birth to visual forms and raw emotions. The performance Fragments #43-44 intertwines melodic spontaneity with audio vibrations and pictorial scenes developed by choreographed movements which turn sound into pictures. These reactions affect visual projections which translate into music. Fragments #43-44 is a spectacular work that must not be missed!

The Object and the Subject is a reflection on our relation to the Other. For this project, photographer-filmmaker Adrien Blondel submitted a set of images to an eye-tracking test that calculates and reveals the movement of a gaze. It is a study of fiction that we build around an unknown and foreign object. The eye-tracking technology creates a trajectory that delimits the vision of the Other and reminds us of the limits in our relationship to the Other. "I interpret the data as physical traces of immaterial events," explains the artist. "By diverting artistic practice from scientific imagery, I interrogate our relationship with data and technology, thus questioning the trust we place in science and the ability of data to create images of the reality. My work focuses in particular on the data of the living, on the information obtained through the technologies, which allows us to reach the invisible, the immaterial, and whose representation can help an intuitive understanding of mankind and its environment."


Miles to Midnight | Musical collaboration between Atrium Carceri, Cities Last Broadcast & God Body Disconnect©

Eric of MA’A*: You do not create music, you construct a place, an atmosphere, stories, tangible worlds without images. How do you tackle the images that accompany your albums?

Simon Heath: Usually, I do artwork when creating music. This way, the one feeds into the other, and vice versa. This is a back and forth process: you tweak your artwork, then the music needs to be changed to fit the artwork, or you modify a few things in the music and the artwork needs to be adapted to the new atmosphere.

Eric: I remember how surprised I was hearing the Russian language in Faces of War. I think the sample was extracted from a radio dispatch of the USSR army in Afghanistan. How do you select the musical samples?

Simon: These days I record samples myself. But that one in particular I got from one of my Russian friends from
Koan, an Electronic Psybient project, who guided me through some old Russian footage.

Radhuset metro station in Stockholm & Cover of the Metropolis album by Atrium Carceri©

Eric: Do you prefer recording outside, on the spot, or simulating sounds in the studio?

Simon: I mostly field record outside, or in specific locations. For example, for my third album, Kapnobatai, I used samples from abandoned tunnels of the Stockholm subway system. But some of the sounds are produced in the studio, or in my garage where I simulate some fragmented noises. This said, I've stumbled upon great eerie locations that had no interesting sounds in them, and I’ve also come across not so visually great locations that offered unbelievable sounds to capture. In any case, it all comes down to selling an illusion.

Eric: As someone who's wandered in abandoned places, how would you define their atmosphere?

Simon: I think abandoned places are fascinating: they remind us of the effects of time. When one walks through them, there is a sense of lingering memories of what used to be and what is no more.

Eric: Many of today’s visionary ambient music projects are Sweden-based: there is you, as well as Beyond Sensory Experience, and many others. Why?

Simon: I think it's due to the long dark winters when the sun rarely comes up. It makes us feel isolated. We tend to escape into other worlds in such moments. Escapism is pretty strong and is taken quite seriously in Nordic countries, be it movies, books, music, or video games.

Simon Heath© & Visual representing his label Cryo Chamber

Eric: Was your love for experimental music, and the whole Atrium project, born as a consequence of that Nordic escapism?

Simon: Yes, absolutely. Psychedelics, occultism, music, books, video games, cinema, they are all ways of being in other places. And me, I always tried to get as immersed into the experience as I possibly could; after all, isn't it the point of escapism? It was only natural that I would eventually start creating my own worlds to travel to.

Eric: Except the sewers, what was the most extreme escape for you, physically and creatively?

Simon: The notion of extreme is a question of time: waking up at 4 in the morning and going out to capture specific bird sounds in the freezing moist morning of remote Sweden dark forests, that is a unique experience. What lunacy to be out and about at such time, in the middle of nowhere.

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 « Music is noise that thinks. » Victor Hugo

15th Festival of Visual Music of Lanzarote©
Cymatics | Water, light, vibration | Ben Browne©
John Cage's 4'33 | John Cage & William Marx©
The Nocturnal Fairies #6 | Fées d’hiver©
Videobar #69 | Videoformes©
Marble Machine | Musical instrument built with 2000 marbles | Wintergatan©
Cymatic experience | Haute couture presentation | Iris Van Herpen & Kazuya Nagaya©