For sometime I have been fascinated with music in its widest sense whether it is where it spills into opera or the Avantgarde. It has been an unexpected journey for because whilst the pursuit of all things experimental came naturally for me, opera as art form was not on my map for many years. I was far more obsessed with exploring experimental theatre and where it touched dance and the body as in physical theatre, new dance, post-modern dance, performance art, and other cultural movement forms such as Butoh and Body Weather.
It was by chance through my first visit to Argentina with a travel grant from Wales Arts International that I discovered the work of Oscar Edelstein (Composer) and Manuel Eguía (Physicist). Their joint research into the field of acoustics and music was taking sound into an extended form which contained the architectural qualities that I enjoyed in dance and site specific work. In other words they were exploring the exciting world of audio perception and the sense of sound in space.
Their cutting edge research is actually nothing new. Edelstein and Eguía are taking up a conversation between the art and science of music that has a long and fascinating story.
I approach this without the benefit of a background in acoustical science. musical composition, musicology, or physics but as a multimedia artist dedicated to creating artistic experiences that cross that special line from the ordinary to the extra-ordinary, to the oft quoted liminal space, to that otherness that only poets and maybe priests get to occasionally visit and play.
This extensive collaboration between Edelstein and Eguía (which succeeded in being the first research project in Latin America to win major science funding as well as arts funding) re-establishes the old link between science and music - this ambiguous relationship that developed early on in science from the fact that when so often words and vision failed to find adequate explanations for the universe, musical metaphors were a final resort offering concepts such as resonance, vibrations and so on.
In recent times the metaphor of vision has dominated science. This makes Edelstein and Eguía’s work together at the Universidad de Quilmes so important as they take us back into the prioritising of the ear and the process of listening.
The research of historians like Penelope Gouk of Manchester University offer an intriguing parallel to this modern exploration of music as equally a science and an art, as she establishes the importance of music in the development of modern science. Her book "Music, Science & Natural Magic in Seventeenth-Century England" , shows how in the late 16th century and early 17th century the tradition of new experimental philosophy was developing out of the earlier tradition of natural philosophy, and how natural philosophy itself developed out of the tradition of the natural magician - the picture of the lone experimenter who sought to discover universal truths for his personal use or perhaps for that of an elite master. Often music was the source of metaphors used to represent hidden phenomena that could neither be seen or easily put into words. For example the sympathetic resonance between the strings of two instruments was a metaphor frequently used as a way to understand and control unseen forces.
So as well as taking us forward in the field of acoustics, Edelstein and Eguia's work follows in the footsteps of a long line of experimenters who used musical models to illustrate links between the seen and the unseen, right back to the early experiments of the “natural philosophers” of the 16th century, individuals who were working even from before the birth of whom we now call scientists (which is a 19th century term), and whose work itself followed from that of the so called 'natural magicians.'
These experimenters designed instruments as the first attempts to explain the universe in what has been called the “Naturalisation of the marvellous.”
Many of these early experimental philosophers, explains Gouk. were themselves musicians, such as Robert Fludd for whom the practice of music was a step “towards true philosophical knowledge and divine illumination.”
It was only later with the new experimental philosophy that figures like Isaac Newton (1642-1727) searching for underlying structures would begin to draw on maths as a language to reveal the unseen. Before that the properties of bell, lutes, trumpets, and keyboards were frequently used as musical models to describe the functions of the body.
As pointed out by Gouk, the paradox and perhaps the break with the prevalence of the use of musical models came when polyphony was introduced - it was one thing to listen to one instrument and imagine a universal harmony and cosmic order, but this order was under threat when more than one instrument played together. The practice of tuning and temperament had to be introduced as a way to compensate. It was one thing to imagine universal models linked to antiquity such as Apollo - God of Harmony and Cosmic Order with his association with the lyre - an association that court magician John Dee (1527-1608), frequently used. However, put two lyres together and there was a problem. The cosmic order appeared to break down and new models were needed.
It is in this fascinating terrain that Edelstein and Eguia orchestrate the re-meeting of music in its scientific and artistic form. Their work has been patiently and gently taking weight now for over ten years, and the team is ready to show more of the performative results. As a proud member of the production team, I hope this blog begins to identify some of the exciting aspects of this extensive project. I am only beginning here to scratch the surface of the scale of the project and there are others who can speak better about the acoustical science. However I see this as a space to begin new conversations and to offer some material in English and in layman's terms to go alongside the many scientific papers that the research has produced. I hope that little by little I will be able to share a deeper sense of this intriguingly resonant project.
Deborah Claire Procter
Multimedia Artist & Mentor
Founder Clear Insight Productions
For questions and more information: email@example.com
 Gouk, Penelope, Music, Science & Natural Magic in Seventeenth-Century England, (Yale Uni Press, 1999)
 Natural Magic itself in this moment was seen as an antecedent to the ancient tradition of Priscia Theologia (Original Theology) and the belief that God had revealed the processes of nature to Adam who in turn revealed them to the “magi” - e.g. Abraham, Moses, Hermes, Orpheus, Pythagorus and so on. Gouk p.103
As a performer, video maker and production collaborator from Cardiff, I have been working with Argentina's best kept secret, composer Oscar Edelstein (who is seen as Latin America's own Stockhausen by many people for the far fetching sweep of his musical universe) since 2003 when I gained a Wales Arts International travel grant called "Go and See." At that point being based in West Wales I travelled with fellow visual artist Angharad Taris to meet with our host, the Argentinean experimental choreographer, Siliva Pritz. The trip allowed us to visit Patagonia with all the obvious emotions of discovering your mother tongue being spoken 11,000 miles from home.
Whilst I speak only fragmented Welsh, there was something in this triangle between Welsh, English and Spanish that continued to inspire me to make further trips up until the point that I am now pretty much bi-lingual English - Spanish.
For those who know little of contemporary culture in Latin America, Edelstein is a composer with a well developed history as an artist, and an incredible ability to provoke and crystallise in equal measure. What's more - he has all the added flare needed to survive in the volatile artistic and political climate of Argentina and Latin America.
This distinguished career, in brief, lead Edelstein to being in 1992 the youngest artist to win Argentina's prestigious award of the Antorchas' Scholarship for Outstanding Artists of the Intermediate Generation (which he used to compose his opera El Telescopio), and then to more recently in 2011 the Fondo Nacional de las Artes presented him with the Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution.
My collaboration with Oscar Edelstein - beginning in 2003 - has led to an exploration of vocal work that has become part of the recent concerts of one of Edelstein's projects, that of his own ensemble, the Ensamble Nacional del Sur.
I am honoured to have received critic that have compared the vocals to pinnacles of contemporary music and jazz, namely Cathy Berberian (the soprano who famously worked with the Italian composer Luciano Berio), and the free jazz vocalist Lauren Newton (known as a founding member of the Vienna Art Orchestra).
The comparisons were fascinating because my references points for the vocals that are in the live concerts and the recent disc of the ensemble, (ENS for short) were different and neither of the comparisons were sources known to me.
My line of work is far more orientated in the lines created by Grotowski that I had the chance to explore in depth after my graduation when I had the opportunity to work with Theatre Alibi in a project that took us for two weeks training in Poland with "Gardzienice" Theatre Association (founded in 1977 by Włodzimierz Staniewski). Their intensity and dedication to practice, studio work, training and exploration is second to none and no doubt marked my ear, breath and body.
Thus my vocal work emerges more from theatrical practice than from lyrical or jazz traditions. I am searching for lines as if walking a tight rope blind folded yet convinced of the rope that spans one side to another. It comes from a complete trust and intuition in the power of, and the need to communicate.
It is hard to capture the intensity of a concert of the ensemble that runs for just over an hour without pause and with changes of dynamics that are for the audience mesmerising.
This recent video of a sound check goes a long way to give the essence and it gives a snap shot of the wonderful duo I share with saxophonist Martín Proscia who is a composer and a researcher studying multi-phonics in the saxophone, alongside running his own ensemble.Video whilst now easy to share high quality images still lacks high quality sound - so this sharing is a translation that requires intelligence and sensitivity for the viewer. What cannot be heard has to be imagined and for this reason, as an artist keen to create new spaces for cultural experience, I have begun to use the format of posts to form a back up. In this line I discovered some writing around 2003 which in many ways anticipates the work I am now making in collaboration with Oscar Edelstein.
This search for bridges still intrigues and motivates me. I hope to continue to be able to extend the span and reach of this work with much respect, humility and gratitude for my many teachers.
"I look for something soft, natural, unexplained – somewhere between stillness and silence, motion and memory. I search from the “don’t know” space that is filled with echoes, reflections, and glimpses of children’s games. From the archaic English term, wright, I feel like a wheelwright, a cartwright - only my ears, eyes and hands are trained to shape and craft play. I fish in the land of paradox to catch edges, moments unseen, and words un-whisphered; to mix vulnerability with skill, and to keep things as raw and fresh as possible. I want my intuitive leaps to lead to something timeless and hypnotic– creating a space to pause and re-figure. If I could fill a bottle with anything it would be with light, more than one P.O.V., Beckett, Brecht and a little Shakespeare."
(Deborah Claire Procter - Artist's Statement 2003)
CLEAR INSIGHT PRODUCTIONS / CYNYRCHIADAU GWELEDIGAETH GLIR - founded in Wales by Deborah Claire Procter (Cardiff) to explore lines between different art-forms and to hold out the idea that art and culture bring new ways of being, doing and knowing.
It’s wonderful when you see a new performance that is more than the sum of it’s parts. When you watch thinking “Is this Butoh, or Bausch, or Beckett?” Then realise that it is at the same time all of those and none of them. “Papeles” in the Norah Borges at the Centro Cultural Borges (Buenos Aires), directed by Adriana Barenstein and performed by Graciela Martínez and Sergio Pletikosic is a gem of a piece. The studio space is small and a typical “black box” experimental space. The performance has that magic that makes you feel you are in the middle of someone else’s world, somewhere, maybe close, maybe far, but certainly somewhere else where you are a privileged witness and a special guest.
The original music of Juan Pablo Amato amplifies the mood without getting in the way. Martínez and Pletikosic give performances that leave you feeling very lucky to be there.
At 78 years old, Martínez with her long track record as an avantgarde and experimental performer, has a subtlety that is transcendent. Pletikosic accompanies, anticipates, advances and retreats like a magnet.
We are in Buenos Aires, this is not tango, yet you feel you are witnessing a dance that has a detail invisible to the naked eye.
The programme notes offer a line to follow;
“A shattered song, a broken voice, some lost phrase, various things wiped out, the remains of some melody. They may be able to talk, conceal, lie, confess, repent, conspire or whatever they want.... They demonstrate at times and hide at others. How many newspapers are needed to cover up a story and an irreversible life?”
However the magic of this performance is that you have no guide nor need one. You are in the safest of hands to go, as says the old tango of genius Roberto Goyeneche in “Naranjo En Flor” (Orange Tree in Bloom) "without thinking" yet fully feeling how so pertinently papers both reveal and hide the truth;
“Primero hay que saber sufrir
después amar, después partir
y al fin andar si penasmiento...”
First you have to know to suffer,
then to love, then to leave,
and finally to walk without thinking...
“Papeles” is for a limited capacity audience, and only one show every Friday. You will remember that you were there forever.
Today in Argentina it is a national holiday as the country celebrates it's Independence Day.
It seems a good moment to become a little nostalgic and share a gathering of information about an opera performed in 1998 called "El Hecho" (The Fact) that Oscar Edelstein wrote and dedicated to the enigmatic composer Juan Carlos Paz. The opera took a score that Paz mysteriously wrote only months prior to his death. Edelstein created an opera around this enigmatic moment in an attempt to try and explain what could have been the motives of Paz.
The opera was extremely well received and performed in both Spanish and in Portuguese.
It was a poetic look at the both rational and irrational sides of the creative process, and also a warning about what happens when overly academic strands try to overtake the poetic.
Edelstein says “I was interested in the moment when Paz chose, instead of the precise path, the labyrinth. I wanted to create from that act, from that “fact.”
As with much of Edelstein's work, he is fascinated by the lines between the poetic and the academic, between art and technology. This motivation was behind his work El Telescopio: ópera de máquinas furiosas; pasión y verdad (The Telescope: Opera of Furious Machines, Passion and Truth) as early as in 1994, leading to him being the youngest winner of the prestigious Antorchas Prize for outstanding artists; and it continues to inspire his collaborative work with colleagues such as the physicist, Manuel Eguía (Associate Professor at the Universidad Nacional de Quilmes in Buenos Aires and a member of CONICET, National Science Council) whose background is in Complex Systems, Nonlinear Dynamics and Theoretical Neuroscience.
The fascinating work of Edelstein and Eguía on amongst other projects, the research programme "Acoustic Theatre" and in LAPSO (Laboratory of Acoustics and Sound Perception), follows these intriguing intersections between arts and sciences that in poetic form were traced in "El Hecho."