Wednesday, October 07, 2009

An interview with Christian Zanesi, pt. 2

by Matteo Milani and Federico Placidi, U.S.O. Project
English translation: Valeria Grillo
(Continued from Page 1)

USO: Did mass-culture and consumerism create a lack of “listening attention”?

CZ: I think the ear is intact, it is the demand that has to be discovered and awaken. Even if there is a mass culture, to establish there is a dominant thought in hearing. But the border is very narrow, between the dominant thought and the adventure, we can cross this border very quickly, we only have to open ourselves and to create bridges. Also here there are very serious issues, for example the dominant idea of rock - let's take this example - has built a peculiar "ear" and we can recuperate this ear by using experimental musics. So the world is not made of cases separated by inviolable borders, on the contrary, there is no interruption of continuity between sounds; I am very attentive about popular music, because I know that there are cases of recycling, of experimentation, and also a genre which can be experimented. We have to be attentive, we have above all to avoid being dogmatic, fundamentalist or categorical. On the contrary, we have to observe what happens, try to detect in every practice, in every thing something different from the variable design of music, the variable design of humans and see how this can be transcended.

USO: What has been the role of physical space in the sound projection practice in GRM history?

CZ: In the 1950s, when Schaeffer invents this music, musique concrète with his collaborators, they suddenly asked themselves how to let everybody listen to this music in a public space, in a concert hall. Schaeffer said, if we have to go to the Carnegie Hall, how do we do, we cannot use a single loudspeaker on the scene, this was a little ridiculous, and finally the dimension of the concert, the dimension of how to present this music to the public was created, little by little; there is also the cinema industry which plays an extremely important role, since in the 1960s the Dolby firm had already imagined the surround, due to the invention of the Cinemascope, and were forced to position many loudspeakers to occupy the screen, and many more surround loudspeakers all around. So, we have at the same time the desire of people to experience sound in a bigger dimension, and the technology which built that ear. Today, we follow this process, and people is happy to come to a concert, because we think that a concert is going to be a particular and privileged moment, maybe a show, and that there is a difference between experiencing music in a concert hall and at home, that there is something really spectacular in that moment which justifies the concert. So there are many ways to face the problem, we chose one, but there are others.

USO: Can you describe your compositional process? How do you go from the idea to the sound, to the elaboration, to the structure, to the shape?

CZ: This is a personal question, if you ask this same question to another composer, the answers are different. Me, I don't go from idea to sound, but the opposite, I go from sound to idea; that is I need to find the sound that touches me for different reasons - if I had the time I would explain these reasons and give examples, but I don't - and inside this sound there is a potential, and the idea born from the sound is not a sound subjected to an idea, it is the opposite. We can consider the sound like some kind of fugue, which means that there is potential for development, and to work I need to find a sound which will be at the base because there is an emotive shock, there is really something imposing, which will be the source of my work, and at that moment we can listen to the sound in depth, not for what it is, but for what it can become; we hear the sound as a promising element of a musical structure. But this is a personal answer.

USO: Do you work with stereophonic material and perform live spazialization or do you prefer to design spatial trajectories/position in the studio?


I mainly work in stereo, because my studio is not multiphonic, but I have a lot of experience with sound projection in the auditoriums, with a stereo source you can give the illusion of a multiphonic work; I both do live concerts and acousmatic works. Finally you don't know what system we have, where it is, the space, and also the kind of concert we have been requested, but what we experience nowadays is that live practices and acousmatic practices are coexisting pacifically, and they enhance each other depending on the place, time, and project. The concrete music was born in 1950s, and it is about, after all these years, to create a new branch which will be the performance version, and the live version of this music. This evolution started in the year 2000, since today's systems (computers) are much faster than 20 years ago, and the tools for sound processing allow it. But these have developed because there was a strong desire to develop them. There are no technologies which arrive spontaneously, we look back into history, we observe, and what happens sometimes with dreams, there are dreams and conjunctions which make things possible. That's what it is going to happen in about 10 years.

USO: What are your working tools for non-linear editing and sound signal processing?

CZ: At the GRM there are more or less all programs - Pro Tools, Digital Performer - but there is a kind of consent on the tools to use, very quickly we can comment that today's programs are actually a direct-line consequence of the techniques from the 1950s, because with a tape or a disk we could go from a sound to another, create discontinuity, being able to superpose sounds, and create a verticality, and harmony; we have the mastery of time, thus on counterpoint and polyphonie, we could increase or decrease the volume; we need to check that there are the minimal conditions for the program to be exploitable, and finally, checking on today's programs; we have continuity. With the program, whatever that is, we can do anything - montage, superposition, regulate the volume, regulate the space and finally you do the same as it were a tape recorder. These are fundamental operations for the music's world.

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Special Thanks:
Laure de Lestrange
Christian Zanesi

[Listen to Magnetic Landscapes - Christian Zanesi | via]

Related Posts: Daniel Teruggi (GRM, Paris): The novelty of concrete music.

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