Saturday, July 13, 2013

Interview with Jacek Staniszewski

This interview was found here.
Don't know who's asking questions.
Answers: Jacek Staniszewski, musician, art critic, co-editor of Neurobot, one of the first internet magazines deals with sound art and 'aural studies',

What is silence for You? Is it a relief or anxiety?

In the context of twentieth century esthetics, silence is so heavily mythologized and additionally subject to an ideological manipulation that it would practically require forming distinct, extremely individualized meshworks of meaning. Separating silence from the philosophy of silence and silence as a text would be appropriate. Spaces of silence are determined on the cultural level, or on the level that seems more essential to me – that of physiology, genetics, biological process, specimen’s disposition. I do not intend to contest the silence as a notion or phenomenon. I am only wondering whether silence embodied as a physical appearance is not solely available (in the ontological sense) in artificially isolated environments, such as anechoic chambers, sensory deprivation labs etc.
As majority of phenomena registered by means of senses, silence can act – depending on numerous variables – in an entirely contradictory manner. There is an infinitely large number of possible silences, as well as states of anxiety.

Do you remember the moment when you were conscious of the sound in a creative sense? Did you find any differences between the sound and the music if any?

I am not able to recall any specific moment even with an approximate precision. It is possible that I noticed the possibility of influencing my surroundings at an early stage of growth, shaking my cat-shaped rattler toy. It is equally possible that pantokratic fullness of intervence came to me a bit later, using Russian junior-sized accordion (which, however, disappeared from my view rather quickly, what seems understandable to me now). I have to say that I am not convinced that during childhood, especially in its early stages, such clear-cut and mature distinctions as between music and sound are being made at all. After all, no kid is Von Helmholz. Between-station hum and frequency chatter, heard on a pocket Neva 402 radio, was also bringing fractured bits of musics and skeletal rhythms. It has nothing to do with idyllized image of childhood as a realm of primordial values and non-distinctiveness. This recollection rather serves to make a statement on children being connected to the sphere of audible in its totality in a very special way; they do not have to employ many filtering mechanisms, which later ‘normal’ modes of social functioning depend upon.

A lot of research try to discredit the leading eyesight sense, yet the hearing sense is a minor case. Of course we don’t mean the superiority of the senses but not seeing the potential which lies in other of them. How can we use human hearing sense?

It would be good to believe that there are certain possibilities for synesthesia, if not as fully realized grand project, techno-utopian MIT Media Lab package, then certainly as modest, not necessarily based on technology, fit for individual usage and needs. Paradoxically, such low-level experiments with perception are often unwittingly undertaken by persons looking for an escape from daily routine and boredom by means of various ‘recreational drugs’, or in other cases (on the general, less severe for an organism, but potentially destabilizing psyche) assorted meditational practices, states of trance and other varieties of New Age illuminations. It is still not certain whether deregulation of perception is possible to obtain on the non-technological level on one hand, and unconnected with pharmacology and mysticism lite on the other. Also, it would be interesting to try to come up with a conclusion whether such states are in every case desirable or evolutionally substantiated.
Above all, the sense of hearing should be used for active listening, recognizing, ordering and making distinctions.

What sounds do you find most irritating? Which ones are soothing?

Mass media create exceptionally irritating soundscape that, in certain situations, can serve as an impetus for committing an act of plunderphonics, creative sampling, or detournement. In other situations, it just comes as another truncheon beating miserable, dwarved and disoriented citizen of the 21st century cultural space on the head. Obviously, not everyone is enabled to use this varied material as an entry point or a source; not everyone perceives this strategy as meaningful. Such an approach would also be seen as a good one, to paraphrase Genesis.
Back then, I used to take a rest while listening, or just letting it flow, to Hindu ragas and minimal compositions by the likes of La Monte Young, Charlemagne Palestine, Tony Conrad, Eliane Radigue etc. Today I tend to try to stay away from the obvious.

We know that sound is a good way to possess the space. The amalgam of the city sounds which make noise is ambiguous. On the one hand it doesn’t represent nothing but a technological function, eliminating the silence ( or the sounds in-situ), on the other hand it is abstract, so it can transform into musical pulp which enables the space control. Do artists and scientists still perceive the ecology of sound as socially and politically communicative, transgressive or enabling critical activity?

‘Acoustic ecology’ has its concrete relation to intellectual inheritors of R. Murray Schafer, and all other thoreticians and practitioners that were prone to accept main knots of Schafer’s thought, with their connected methodologies. As is the case with all other schools of thinking and institutions, also here (after nearly 40 years since term ‘soundscape’ has been employed by Schafer) certain routinization of approach can be discerned, which can result from universal usage of advanced methods of sound recording and processing on one hand, but also with general ‘viscousity’ of ideas in modern times on the other. Certainly, this does not mean remarks and life work of Schafer himself lost their validity. It would be enough to recollect some original and continuously actualized concepts that made appearance in his writings, such as ‘sonological competence’, ‘schizophony’ or ‘audioanalgesic’ mode of treating sound. Question regarding transgressive nature of acoustic ecology implies the existence of borders that ‘sound activist’ has/is enabled to transgress in order for his work to granted ‘radical’, ‘politically involved’, ‘critical’ tags. But the fact of commodification of experimental music in general, and of the entrance of sound art (as installations, interventions, real-time situations etc.) into the global gallery space can create the circumstance where anti-system, anti-Empire (here, referring more to, popular in certain intellectual milieus, visions created by Hardt and Negri, although Schafer himself has been writing of ‘sound imperalism’) oriented sound art would be indissolubly connected with economic, professional, inner circle-based and highly hierarchic state of affairs which (or the part/s of which) it tries to contest and criticize. Controlling of sound environment and selected social group by means of salvation from other state-, institution- or system-based control traps, effected through economy of sound (establishing the level of excess and deficit) remains, after all, another act in the overall control scheme, although usually enacted using much subtler, ‘soft authoritarianism’ methods.

Gugliemo Marconi believed once that we can hear even the oldest sound adapting the right apparatus. Do you think that sound can resist the trace of time?

Sound has no specific age. Only artefacts and media can grow old, become obsolete, undergo erosion, bitrot and deletion, or – quite the opposite – be subject to conservation, recreation despite missing or damaged elements etc. As in many other ‘civilian’ technological usages, also in this case police laboratories and experts working for government agencies and special services do some pioneering work. But it is mostly restricted to digital media, where recreation of certain logical series is ‘just’ a matter of processing power and appropriate algorithms. At the same time, rejuvenation of common archaic medium of damaged shellac 78 rpm record is a task which even most sophisticated technological tools are not able to accomplish. ‘Sensible devices’ from Marconi quote should be obviously understood metaphorically – not as a technology mastering time, but as development of highly indidualized means of accesing various temporal loci.