In the Pandemic Media Space Project, Marek Cholonewski, a composer, sound artist and a performing musician of contemporary classical and experimental music, presents his lecture on the vision of art that emerges in the time of globalization of society and the use of the Internet, network technologies as art components. We meet in the space of Mr. Choloniewski’s Zoom Room – the lamp is behind him draws winking shadows and sets the tone of the conversation.
Let’s start from the definitions, just a little bit. Electronic, later electroacoustic music, and acousmatic music they were avant-garde.
When we talk about avant-garde, we think about something which is ahead, which makes progress, the frontier of certain art activity, it is a regular story for all time.
For all centuries.
It goes like this. So for those who are already involved in this kind of activity, like modern art, contemporary music, it is regular and not avant-garde any more. If we talk about “music concrète” by Pierre Schaeffer, in the middle of 20th century it looks like the first example of avant-garde activity, but it was not really. Better look at the Italian futurists at the beginning of the twentieth century, when they build famous “Intonarumori”, the instruments which were wooden boxes with one string inside, making the urban noise imitating different machines.
Luigi Russolo, yes.
This time was real avant-garde, but when you can compare with music of Stravinsky in the same time, “Sacre du Printemps” was more scandalous than “Intonarumori”, but “Intonarumori” were already eccentric, already behind the mainstream. Also, Antonio Russolo, brother of Luigi, was a composer of neoromantic pieces for regular chamber orchestra, so when we listen to “Corale” and “Serenata” it is still spectacular. Maybe perhaps it would be easier to talk about avant-garde in the very, very past than talk about avant-garde concerning electroacoustic music. Also, about electronic and electroacoustic music – almost synonyms but not: electronic is more popular, can be used for clubbing electronic music.
When we specially use a term of electroacoustic music, we are more specific about what we’re talking about, and we are moving a little bit to the meaning to more experimental, studio-oriented or lab-oriented style. Studio is a sound lab, where composers are making experiments, practicing, building up something new to arrange new sound resources and all those experiments they record. Then at the “classical times” the result is reproduced in the concert in form of fixed media electroacoustic music.
But if talking about such categories as electroacoustic music and mediaart, which are very familiar. What is the difference between them and mediaart, and did it transferred to the notion of NetArt, as it is suggested in your lecture, in these new circumstances?
It’s not the same, of course. When we are talking about media arts, we are talking about medium. When we want to describe it, we are dealing with different medias, certain combination of audio and video for example. We have a choice of using historical term like “intermedia”, we can choose also very popular term like “multimedia”. Historically they were quite close, but then they were splited and intermedia is still more sophisticated, more advanced, and gives more spectacular elements than multimedia. Multimedia is everywhere, when you mix text with sound, image.
You can also use the term “audiovisual composition”, usually we think about sound and video, but when we are talking about interdisciplinary activity, then we’re more focusing more on the artist and his activity. It becomes much more specific when we use the term “net art”. So we know that either we are talking about the Internet used as a virtual space, or we are talking about networking. Which is different, because when we are talking about networking, it’s not evident that we are considering the Internet.
On my lecture which I will present on Saturday I’m starting from one of my early project “Telephone Concert” when three cities were connected by the telephone line, three ensembles in three different cities in Vienna, Toronto, Warsaw were linked in form of triangle. They were playing one collaborative piece and there were three different rooms interconnected with telephone transmission. There were three audiences moving through the spaces in each city. By the way, the telephone line was not so delayed, like the Internet currently. So the concert was performed in 1984, and we could hear each other, the quality was rather low, but we had no comparison in this time with other net art activity, so it was spectacular for us, just from the reason that we were able to do it.
So networking is another story. You can imagine that the ensemble is spread out in several rooms, for example, and they don’t play it in the same room, but they are amplified, they can also represent the net art. And during my Network Conference few years ago we were dealing with that concept moving inside the buiding of the Academy of Music in Kraków through different rooms. Sometimes we use Skype for our local connection, even that we are quite close to each other.
There was quite amazing American ensemble called “HUB” from San Francisco, they were performing from one stage but were communicating through the Internet, so we saw the connection on the screen behind them. They were very close to each other, but were concentrated on their own activity with the headphones connected and sending text massages on stage. It is also the great example of net art. We have several models of net art. But in a pandemic times it’s different, so perhaps we should talk about pandemic media space.
Actually nowadays NetArt becomes more and more important to us, it is high level of urgency. Is the level of urgency, necessity in art at all became nowadays higher or gets down on the contrary? I mean, we can’t go to the concert halls as usually and much more time we spend with the Internet which allows us to be only users of some customary things.
This a new form of communication, psychologically. We were hacked by the Internet and catched up by the technologies, we are present there all the time. New generations become more dependent on it. I think this is good and bad, of course.
I’m very close to my Audio Art festival (existing since 1993 in Kraków – D. S.), which starts next Friday, November 13. There are two main locations, we will talk a lot about streaming, about substreaming, we will have live concerts, in Hague, Vienna, Berlin, Montreal live. And there will be lectures from different locations and performances in virtual space like Mozilla Hubs, etc. So we will be connected in a virtual space with people located in certain physical spaces. They will meet in this virtual space, but will be represented there by their avatars, that’s how Mozilla works.
So the different projects concerning this network presence and cooperation. Every week we have a meeting in group on Wednesday at 8.00 p.m. so it’s not a big difference when we’re quite close like 1 kilometer, or with friends in States or Canada… It was more spectacular before pandemia now it’s more natural. We accepted. This is obligatory.
My opinion is we shouldn’t fight against, we shouldn’t struggle. Of course, we should dream about other choices, and in fact, these choices are available in an easy way, but in many cases we don’t use it. Try to imagine a common action in a park, where people are keeping a distance of a few meters. They can deal with it. All orchestras can play a garden music, maybe not now because of the weather. But this opportunity wasn’t used so much. It’s quite natural, to be surrounded by beautiful circumstances. Or another idea is to go to the big empty industrial spaces where you can make all art activity we need respecting covid restictions.
Or what we are doing, we are sitting in certain rooms. With my students we are building the experimental studios in their locations like a box and inside the box on a microscale we have a copy of real space, but it is a real space, a smaller one. Another solution. Inside we are building something artificial but physical, so that’s like a puppet theater story. During the second semester of last academic year we were working a lot with a microscale, with a mobile phone recordings, subtle noises, using recordings microscales noises we are focusing on visible not audible in normal way. That is one of the alternative obvious net global space.
During the festival, I try to do the electroacoustic music marathon including multichannel pieces. We are using the OBS Studio for streaming and it keeps the opportunity to stream multichannel audio. Many of my friends have a multichannel system in their location, so they could be able to listen to acousmatic music with audio space diffusion as it is in regular space of concert hall.
And still the classical music is more popular than electroacoustic. What the last must do to change this situation? What are the main goals?
When you think we should discuss differences between the classical and electroacoustic music, I say yes and no, because the certain moment the best is not to describe, it’s my experience. When we mix them in one program of the concert, in many cases they just accept it as it is. I promote this method to deal with different forms of art as they are and do not divide and separate them.
You were here as a lecturer some years ago. So you know the situation and, in general, what do think about the electroacoustic music development in Ukraine?
I know you have more limits than we have, Poland has big cities involved in a development of electroacoustic music, in 2005 I founded the Polish Society of Music which in fact is the Polish section of International Confederation of Electroacoustic Music (Marek Choloniewski is the president of CIME, the International Confederation of Electroacoustic Music – D. S.).
I travel all over the world, everywhere there are different circumstances, but in fact to run electroacoustic music you don’t need a large institution. To run a symphonic orchestra is a challenge, to run a small ensemble is a deal, but to run electroacoustic studio is matter of technology and arrangement of the place. Even when you don’t have the speaker’s orchestra, you’ve got 4 speakers, or at least 2 of them, you can run it. Especially in pandemic time. We need just some piece of software.
In this Project Pandemic Media Space we see the different view on the situation, and it’s very important.
From one perspective we should keep normality from the past, at the same time we should be flexible and protect ourselves. We should keep waiting position in order to come back to normal, we should accept the very difficult circumstances to certain extend. Because our world will be different anyway. Many things changed completely, specially mentally. We must be navigating ourselves with those changes. The very moment and the place we are in, in fact is the only existing form of our world, expressing it in a metaphoric way. The distance with past becomes larger and larger.