In part two of this year’s CTM festival, Soundwalk Collective present Lovotic, their next interactive sonic landscape. We ask members Stephan Crasneanscki and Simone Merli how the experimental project was born.
In your own words, what is the Soundwalk Collective?
Simone: It was created 12 years ago by Stephan in New York, where we met. It has become an experimental group for sound research. The territories that we explore are at the centre of creating narrative pieces and form the hub for collaboration in every project. Our very first trip was 10 years ago on a boat following the route of Ulysses in the Odyssey and collecting voices in the Mediterranean Sea from radio scanning devices.
We’ve come to a place where our projects are a lot more musical than they used to be, but we’re always exploring new territory in a musical sense. It’s always challenging. It’s always going to new places.
Stephan: Over the years, the idea of memory and landscape has always provided momentum for our projects. We’re interested in sonic landscapes and what they can reveal about memory, time or space. We were thinking about artists who had crossed that landscape a few hundred years ago. There was this idea of digging for silenced layers of sound that we try to capture. We use different recording techniques to capture sonic environments that you might not hear, like the silence of buildings or the silence of the underground.
Over the years, the idea of memory and landscape has always provided momentum for our projects. We’re interested in sonic landscapes and what they can reveal about memory, time or space. We were thinking about artists who had crossed that landscape a few hundred years ago. There was this idea of digging for silenced layers of sound that we try to capture. We use different recording techniques to capture sonic environments that you might not hear, like the silence of buildings or the silence of the underground.
Your newest project, Lovotic, features collaborations from Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe. How does a project like that come to life?
Stephan: Lovotic is a kind of correspondence, and correspondence is exactly what we are doing right now. We go, travel and collect sound. We’ve got a track about Chernobyl, so we had to record the landscape of Chernobyl for quite some time. From there, we’re composing the track, and you can imagine it like a long travelling shot of sound.
It’s like [a film from] Andrei Tarkovsky. It’s a long travelling sonic moment, and she [Gainsbourg] hears it and can envision something that allows her to write poetry. The field recordings offer a map, a constellation for our collaborators to follow.
What does it mean to take a psychogeographical approach to the creation of sound and music?
Stephan: In elements of psychogeography, there is the big idea that the meaning is in the shadow of the words. You could say that for us it is in the shadow of sounds. In general, the focus of landscapes tends to be understood in terms of visual expression. Sounds are something that are just added to our image of a location. But actually, the sound has a deep underlying meaning and a shadow meaning, and I think that is what has really interested us most in our approach. When you start to listen and you start to record, you just hear so much more. Suddenly there are so many more details and so many more elements that allow you to read a landscape or a human experience.
What inspired Lovotic?
Simone: We started working on it two years ago in New York. There was a lockdown in between but, strangely, it helped our creative process, because we relocated during that era and we spent a lot of time in the studio experimenting. Thematically, Lovotic is essentially an exploration of future relationships between humans and machines when it comes down to the realms of sexuality, desire and intimacy.
In a certain way, we’re looking back at notions of gender and sexuality in the 20th century and utilising what we thought we knew and putting it out there to try to create new spaces where a new language around sexuality could be born. Still, we don’t know what that is. The voice is the driving element in creating the piece, and we use algorithms that help make compositional decisions around the voice. That voice is almost like a portal to the future – someone looking back at us, looking back at what we know about sexuality and desire and trying to rethink it and show us how we can relate to it.
Stephan: I think when it comes to intimacy and desire, the voice is one of the most prominent aspects we have. It’s one that we don’t pay enough attention to, but it has immense power that really underpins a lot of our intimate experiences. In that sense, you can think about the voice in this piece as the landscape, the field recording. I think when it comes to intimacy and desire, the voice is one of the most prominent aspects we have. It’s one that we don’t pay enough attention to, but it has immense power that really underpins a lot of our intimate experiences. In that sense, you can think about the voice in this piece as the landscape, the field recording.
You’ve been working with CTM for over a decade. What keeps bringing you back to this festival?
Stephan: For me, as an artist, it’s the best experience I’ve had. I just love everything about them, the way they think, the way they work and who they exhibit. For anyone who is interested in the avant-garde, or music in general, this is the most in-depth curatorial selection out there.
There’s always a clear reason why certain works are presented, and there’s always a question and that challenges your practice. It’s an amazing resource for what’s happening today in sound, art and music. It’s rare to find people who really listen, without having a notion in their head, just listening for the sake of listening, and CTM is one of the few festivals that genuinely have this quality.
The festival is known for its interactive exhibitions. Obviously we have had to wait some time for Lovotic to be presented. Did the experience of lockdown change the way you approach your projects?
Stephan: I don’t know. Most of the time, when we make a project, we think we know so much more than we actually do, and when it’s over, we realise that we knew nothing all along. I don’t know if we ever actually really fully achieved a path that would take you somewhere specific.
Maybe it’s always been a path to nowhere. But that keeps us open to new possibilities. These unforeseen situations become the things that overlap with the ideas that we had, and that is what makes it natural.
Soundwalk Collective at CTM, Sep 3-12, Vollgutlager