Interview with Lea Bertucci by Falso Raccord

lea bertucci

Foto: Alex Philipe Cohen

In her later musical pieces, composer Lea Bertucci explores the acoustic nature of unfitted spaces, like warehouses and industrials vaults to establish a physical acoustic experience and to shape a particular resonance, that can only responds to this specific sites. Her compositions are the point of departure in which space will find a sonic responses and unsuspected acoustic reverberance. Her musical pieces will inscribe an unwritten musical piece that redoubles a physical-pshyco-acoustic sense. Now the massive columns and thick walls are intangible resonant field.

Falso Raccord: The importance of the space in your latest piece “Terminus” 2017  a quartet for four saxophones, was crucial.  ¿Why was so important the relation between space and resonance, and what does it mean to you?

Terminus was a piece specially conceived for the extraordinary acoustics of a former grain elevator in Buffalo NY. I was able to spend about a month in this location, experimenting with sounds that could really bring out certain interesting qualities of the acoustic environment. The building consisted of a series of cast concrete silos, each about 8.5 meters wide and about four stories high. The extreme acoustics created by this building was the musical and conceptual basis of my piece, and I wrote musical gestures that were designed to highlight this natural processing of sound by the space. In general, the relation between sound, architecture and internal/bodily perception has been a guiding principle of my work for quite a long time now. I have always been fascinated by the physical properties of sound, which might be why I am attracted to more abstract forms of music. Opening a line of inquiry into the nature of physical/spatial perception of the listener, the subjective experience, and pushing aesthetic boundaries are ideas I hope to approach with these site-specific and site-responsive approaches.

Falso Raccord: ¿How far or near you are from the idea of a wall of sound employing this kinds of warehouses?

The concept of a wall of sound is mostly interesting to me when used as a dynamic element – an experience that forms and dissolves within a composition. Here, I think mostly of a piece I did for trombone and tape titled “Our Collective Cynicism is a Product of Failed Revolution”. The concept was to explore the way that human beings tolerate extreme changes over a glacial tectonic scale. It describes the changing conditions we as individuals and society put up with as long as they are introduced slowly and subtly. Really, its a political work. The piece begins softly and in the very lowest thresholds of frequency, then over the course of about 20 minutes, it builds to a loud, dense wall of sound. At the moment it achieves maximum saturation, there is a quick cut to silence and the piece is over. The silence is almost like a punch to the gut after such a long duration of sustained, dense sound.

Falso Raccord: What were your conclusions at the end of your residence in Buffalo?

After working in such an acoustically extreme environment, and producing a piece that really can only be performed on-site, I became interested in using electronic processing to recreate the specific acoustic phenomena that I encountered in the silos so that I could use the musical gestures I developed there, to any performance context.

Falso Raccord: Are you thinking in work again in this relation between space and resonance?


Falso Raccord: ¿Wich musicians you think are working in this direction right now?

Sarah Hennies is a wonderful percussionist and composer who has melted my mind many times and is very attuned to these ideas. Alvin Lucier, of course, has been a longtime Pioneer of psychoacoustics. I have a longtime fascination with spectral and post-spectral European composers, particularly Kaija Saariaho.

Falso Raccord: In the late sixties free jazz shape a kind of sonic war machine against the state and racism, nevertheless, this fight had a very masculine sense. ¿Do you think that is urgent and  necessary to establish a kind of sonic war machine more feminist?

Because women have lived as second class citizens for so long, I believe we have a unique understanding of suffering; this understanding is one of the elements that made the free jazz of the 1960’s so powerful and revolutionary. I don’t believe in either a “masculine” or “feminine” aesthetic. Beyond being a false binary, that sort of thinking reinforces rather tired tropes of how men and women should express themselves. The first step toward a real feminist revolution within music/art/science/literature/academics is equal representation. The fact that women make up half the population and are not represented as such in music festivals, record labels etc. shows us that there is still much territory to be gained. There are more women making creative work than ever before in our world, and it is time that we are given proper space. We are currently living in a singular moment where women seem to be collectively standing up and throwing off the chains of our civilization. We have lived as second class citizens for far too long. Of course this change has been going on throughout the 20th Century, but I am excited by the most current wave, which is characterized by a push toward greater inclusivity of women with different racial and economic backgrounds. The plurality of our experiences only makes the revolution stronger and more encompassing

Falso Raccord: Despite that you are a trained musician since nine, you study film. ¿Under what circumstance you establish a relation between filmaking and sound?

I do not draw much of a distinction between a composed piece of music and a work of cinema. Both are architectonic structures that unfold over time and describe specific textures and themes. I see this relationship mostly in my own work in terms of my tape collages, which are basically montages of sound, with layering and mixing, etc. Of course the relationship of sound and film has always fascinated me. I love good sound design and scoring, but am also interested in the more essential, abstract qualities that can be achieved when experimenting in sight/sound works. Flicker phenomena for example, color fields, etc.

Falso Raccord: ¿For you, wich filmaker has been working strongly in this relation?

Early on, I always loved the works of Maya Deren, Fellini, Anger, etc. More recently I have come to appreciate Paul Sharits, whose abstract films involving a flicker between different colored frames synched with a similarly mechanistic soundtrack. I tend to like a lot of experimental cinema in which the materiality of film is somehow used. Tony Conrad’s flicker film would fit into this category of filmmaking. I do, however always find myself coming back to Stan Brackage’s work. I recently saw Mothlight again and was really blown away by the rhythm of it and the translucent layers of images.

Falso Raccord: Your music patterns are a vehicle for open associations. ¿Do you have a point of depart such as a composition or do you start with a clear plan?

It really depends on what specifically I am doing. I would say that with my tape and saxophone pieces, such as the ones on my new record, Metal Aether, the process is more improvisational and intuitive. I will arrive at a final product through a process of improvisation, listening, and editing. With my compositions for other instruments, I do generally begin with an idea of the type of world I want to create, a feeling I want to evoke, or an idea I want to explore.

Falso Raccord: ¿Today, what is the meaning of composition?

It seems that composition in the 21st Century has greatly expanded from former notions. I am very interested in composition that sets forth a set of rules or even just circumstances that allow for musical possibilities. Rather than the score as a strict set of instructions as how to accurately recreate a very specific musical vision, it seems that composition is moving in a more curatorial direction, that allows for indeterminacy, creative interpretation and vast difference from performance to performance.

Falso Raccord:  Wich one is your favorite bird?

The owl!

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