I work with sound and music, but also with site-specific sound installations, with wearables, with listening experiences. I like to experiment with found materials and spaces, inventing new artifacts devoted to particular listening modes, new tools to understand and listen to the environments in which we dwell.
Through a site-specific approach, I aim at embedding my intervention within the space, integrating the act of listening (even tactile listening, which means that one listens with one’s body) in the landscape or environment, thus creating listening spots which let us experience spaces from a different perspective.
I bring various tools with me: a computer, a handy recorder, contact microphones and sound devices which are embeddable (mostly vibration devices, which can turn some surface into resonating bodies, allowing for tactile sound experiences).
My works often try to create a hybrid between the natural element, the artificial design or the architectural object and the musical instrument. This practice opens up the path for a reflection about the nature of our living environment, the use we make of it and the architectural planning of the landscape; nevertheless a crucial concept is the “intimacy of listening“, a one-to-one listening experience (not always carried on with one’s ears only) which enables us to enter a more close dimension with the natural/artificial element and to establish a deeper, unspeakable connection with it.
By attaching contact microphones to different surfaces I can reveal their hidden, microscopic sounds. This world of small sound can then be processed and/or returned to the original surfaces, making them resonate thanks to portable, embeddable vibration sound devices. Another way of working is to identify a material or an object that, once embedded into the landscape, can make an otherwise anonymous place become a listening spot, or a place where a participative, hybrid sound instrument is available to the visitor.
Another field of research is the design of new devices or artifacts that let us listen in a different way. Be it sound microscopes, software, tactile sound gloves; these tools are meant to let people discover hidden soundscapes and experience alternate ways to listen.
Especially regarding tactile sensation, pieces created in this frame make use of vibration motors or contact speakers, i. e. devices which lack a resonating body but rely on their capability of inducing vibrations into other surfaces (for example wooden planks, canes, or objects such as tables or chairs),
The attention to space, the embedding of vibration-based devices into instruments and the curiosity towards the inner structures of sounds also pervade my music production.
Some of my works incorporate space as a core-feature: such pieces, where certain instrumentalists may be displaced or distributed in the performance venue, or hidden. This idea is derived from my practice of sound diffusion on the Acousmonium (the orchestra of loudspeakers), where live spatialization is a means to express a personal interpretation of acousmatic music pieces. In this sense, musical objects are characterized by a certain spatial position, and the experience of listening deviates from the traditional, frontal image of sound to engage with a more complex spatial configuration.
The use of vibrational devices shown in my tactile-based sound installations have also invaded my music. I tried to attach vibration speakers on pianos, double basses, guitars, violas. These pieces turned out as reflections about the concept of sound source. When objects are equipped with vibration speakers, the composer questions and re-defines the practice of live electronics, being the instrument also the carrier of the processed sound, without the need of a separate resonating body.
Finally, the use of contact microphones as “sound microscopes”, letting us discover the inner sound life of objects, has to be traced back to a certain interest towards the sound spectrum, which also reverberates in pieces such as Zoom/Connect for orchestra. In this piece, where all the material is derived from the spectral analysis of a timpani roll, the melting of the orchestra sound into that very same percussive gesture sounds like a path from the organized structures of music deep into the unstable micro-world of sonic energy.
© All pictures by Michela Benaglia