{kA}: Oblivious to Gravity
— Chambers for Space Inquiries

keine Ahnung von Schwerkraft (oblivious to gravity)

This project series concentrates on the artistic research of “building sound compositions”.

Starting in Graz, several abandoned buildings in various European cities will be used as sound rooms and become an integral and tactile part of multiple channel sound compositions. For this venture, a series of compositions meant for future reference will be created in and by the characteristics of these different buildings. This will help gain knowledge of how soundart responds to conditions specific to a certain place and of how acoustic characteristics of a particular environment can become part of a new composition. The series will be open to visitors and will be documented and presented at various listening stations.

Composition as an alternative use of vacancy. Temporarly unused spaces are a symbol of opportunity to a different acoustic and aesthetic perception of world. With this the project also enters the current artistical and theoretical discussions about sound, urbanism, architecture and perception.


[…] As powerful as my first experience with spatial music was, it was clear from the very beginning that presenting music in a space meant for other purposes would be a challenge. Spatial music requires new halls that are specially designed to meet its requirements […].

(K. Stockhausen, Musik im Raum 1958).

{ IDEA }

The above words, which were written after the debut performance of Gesang der Jünglinge, describes what is now commonly considered a classic challenge for electro-acoustical performances. In conventional concert halls, studio-produced compositions tend to face inadequate acoustic conditions with regard to the composition’s sound and structure. For this reason, techniques were created which allow spatial compositions to be played independent of spatial conditions and special halls were created for the presentation of electro-acoustic performances.

The approach Gerriet K. Sharma would like to take in the compositional series keine Ahnung von Schwerkraft is different to the ones he has taken before with regard to concept and composition.

For the past three years he has been working on spatial compositions in Ambisonics and Wave Field Synthesis, where the space of a sound composition plays more of a secondary role. Now Gerriet K. Sharma wishes to focus more on space and turn it into an inseparable factor or even foundation of composition. Despite all the interesting theoretical knowledge of and presuppositions regarding Ambisonics and Wave Field Synthesis, Sweet Spot and Sweet Field, Gerriet K. Sharma believes that for the overall sound and perception of each piece, the space in which the composition was created and in which the performance is meant to take place play an essential role, albeit one that can neither be preserved nor moved to another location. Thus space is usually not a prerequisite for production and perception, but it is an inherent component of the composition.

{ OBJECTIVE }

It is not about trying out an idea on compositional theory in buildings, but rather to create grounds for successive research which will ultimately lead to the creation of a basic instrument in an area inspired by working with buildings and the effect it has on artistic composition while taking into account the differences in acoustics, architecture and history of the buildings. The composition as well as the speaker concert should not take place in a hall or studio designed for electronic music, but rather in a place that is normally meant for other purposes and whose architectural character is an integral part of or even the foundation of the composition and its presentation.

The compositions are ephemeral because the buildings will be torn down or rebuild sooner or later. Therefore the acoustic environment can be radically changed through ongoing constructional measures. The audience only can hear the composition during a limited period in the respective buildings.

Es geht also nicht mehr um die Erfindung , Originalität, Individualität, sondern um die Perspektive auf das Vorzufindende, auf das Erzählen mit dem Vorgefundenen, in anderen als den bekannten Kontexten.

(Heiner Goebbels, Komposition als Inszenierung, Berlin 2002, 181)

Objective is to create another (new) practice in spatial sound compositions. Buildings should be able to be compositionally “read” upon entering them – the composition starts from the first acoustical impression. Through experience and skill, this impression should be expressed via an independent spatial sound composition. Gerriet K. Sharma is working on alternatives to existing compositional practices. Electro-acoustical “studio art” should be confronted with every-day life.

{ VACANCY IN ART }

There is one practical reason for using abandoned buildings in this context: you can’t bother anyone, you have the freedom to experiment. And because there is no one to bother you, you can focus all your energy on your surroundings.

The socio-political aspect of abandoned buildings plays an important role in this series of compositions. Of course, there have always been abandoned buildings, but their numbers have been increasing in the inner and outer areas of cities in recent years. It seems some pedestrian shopping areas would be proper ghost towns were it not for the ground floor shops located in the otherwise empty buildings. Real estate agents used to advertise the availability of their objects, whereas now, for-rent signs advertising commission-free rental adorn buildings right next to the many construction sites one now sees so frequently for new office complexes.

Keine Ahnung von Schwerkraft searches for buildings which have been once economically and socially integrated in society (chancelleries, hospitals, department stores, hotels, offices) and which are formed because of their pasts by architectural esthetics, acoustical pecularities (reverberation, absorption properties, etc.) and formed by their own history. After a short time, the vacant buildings fade from public view, creating a gap. Only when it is torn down, the location moves into the consciousness again.

Gaps in perception are starting points for the arts, because here, fundamental questions posed to perception of environment appear: What kind of relationship do we have to the sound of our environment? Is there an acoustic image of the world? Which acoustic phenomena are hidden, which are overlaid by other listening impressions during perception? Etc.

The project keine Ahnung von Schwerkraft makes a temporary dedication to vacancy – to vacant buildings, which are deemed worthless in economic terms and isolated from their surroundings, just waiting to be ripped apart, yet rich in their own history, architectural value and atmosphere. These aspects come to life through this artistic initiation. The composition “on location” here becomes an artistic attempt of alternative, temporary use of vacancy. The one-sided and often pejorative way of looking at/hearing these empty places, sometimes considered ‘non-spaces’, in our neighborhoods can be altered through alternative interpretations.

{ ARTISTIC RESEARCH }

Keine Ahnung von Schwerkraft is to be understood as a contribution to artistic research. With its questioning approach to elaborate the acoustic characteristics of the (social) environment, the project is located in the area of basic research. The artist approaches the buildings with a standardized question-and-answer game. Little by little more detailed questions can be asked and, based on this method, characteristics of material and space with their interaction with environment can be “read”.

A school of acoustic perception will be developed, creating an implicit artistic knowledge. This “vocabulary” can lead to a new, still to be developed compositorial pracice.