The search for sound

Michael Fahres

with the parts
1. Photos (31'06")
2. Phönix (33'53")

dedicated to Hercule Florence
commissioned by the Fonds voor Scheppende Toonkunst

concept Green Room: T.M.Welling
Midi- en Sample-technics: Arno Peeters
technics: James Rubery

Many thanks to: Instituto Goethe Sao Paulo en Brasilia, Christina Bittencourt,  Kodiak Bachine, André da Silva Gomes, José Joaquim Emérico  Lobo de Mesquita, Brasilessentia Grupo Vocal, Elisa Freixo, Andy Costa and de  Conjunto de Jose Lopéz. Johan Dalgas Frisch, Jacques Vielliard and Kees  Hazevoet gave me the possibility to work with different sound-recordings of  the birds.

1. History

The 1822 expedition
Between the years 1822 and 1829 the Langsdorff expedition took place  in Brazil. By order of Czar Alexander the 1st the German Baron Georg Heinrich  von Langsdorff went to explore the inlands of Brazil up to the Amazon together  with scientists and artists from Russia, France and Germany. One of the Barons  many companions was the in 1804 in Nice born French painter Hercule Florence.  He recorded the landscape, the indigenous people, the vegetation and the animals  in drawings and water-colours.

Beside these activities Florence also described the sounds of the environment,  for example the different animals. (soundscape)
In 1829 he published his book Zoophonia in which he described his  acoustical experiences in words and in a self-developed music-language.
The sound explorer Florence was one of the first men to see the link between  sound and music. He participated in a music-conception which was  further experienced in the 20st century. (Edgar Varese or the Musique  Concrete)

These writings and notes were kept in the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg  and could get in public in 1989 after the political opening of the Soviet Union.

Artistic working up
In April 1995 an artistic expedition followed the traces of Langsdorff.
Artists from several countries and different art fields will try to work up  with their own means the geographical, ethnical, ecological, political, social  and cultural changes in Brazil during the past 166 years.

2. About the music

Part one: Photos
Photos is an interpretation of the notation in a direct or free  music- language, in other words, the score-sketches and stories from Hercule  Florence will be the starting-material for the composition. The descriptive  text of Florence, like for example his descriptions of birds, can be depicted  with similar bird sounds. The score of Florence can be used as a basis, for  example the envelope of the pitch is one data for the composition. The composition  Photos is not an arrangement of Hercule Florences ideas about  sound. Photos tries to interpret, to illustrate and to develop with  an own, characteristic musical view.

Part two: Phönix

The sound recordings I made in South-America between 1987 and 1994 will be connected  in the composition Phönix with new, acoustical impressions  which were present during the 1995 expedition. It will be interesting to see  how far the text sound (1822-1829) of Florence will differ from  the sounds of today. The acoustical manifestations of the past and present will  make it possible to experience and to communicate by musical means the Brazilian  culture and society.

The soundscape Zoophonia is a sound-mirror, an electro-acoustical  photographic travel through the time.

Zoophonia is designed as two different performances, as an audio-installation  including the Green Room and as a concert tape-version where the  speakers are integrated in the landscape.

Work materials:
a. Scores and writings from and about Florence:
1. Recherches sur la voix des animuax ou essai dun nouveau sujet
detudes offert aux amis de la nature. Tipografia de R. Ogier, Rio  de Janeiro, 1831
2. Zoophonia, Memoria escripta em Francez Pelo Sr. Hercules
Florence no anno de 1829, Alfrede dEscrgnolle Taunay, Instituto Historico  e Geografico Brasileiro, Rio de Janeiro,1877
3. A Zoophonia de Hercule Florence, Jacques Vielliard, Editora
Universitaria, Cuiba-MT, 1993.
4. Birds of Brazil, H.Sick, 1993

b. Sound materials:

1. Soundscapes, Brasileiras 1-5, Juan Dalgas Frisch, 5 CDs
2. Birds of South America, Bariloche, private recording
3. Canto de las Aves, Roberto Straneck, 1 mc. and book
4. Tierstimmen, H.J.Eickhoff

3 Zoophonias. Green Room



The Green Room, an English expression for a room in a theatre for  the actors and actresses when they were not required on the stage, has a central  position in the audio-installation Zoophonia.

The Green Room is a green, velvet soundlightpillar,  hanging in the middle of the exhibition space with a diameter of 1,5 meter and  a height of at least 4 metres.

By entering and leaving this tube a light line of two photocells will be interrupted  and in this way start or stop the audiovisual performance.
The visitor of the Green Room finds himself in the middle of a glaring,  green and warm light.

Here the composition part Photos can be heard in a diffused room  acoustic. The birds and animals described in Hercule Florencess Zoophonia  are the artists.The Green Room is the time-tunnel connecting us  with Hercule Florence and Brazil during the Langsdorff-expedition in 1822. Seen  from the outside, the Green Room towers up as a floating treetrunkstump.  It doesnt touch neither floor or ceiling.

The composition-part Phönix can be heard from purple red speakers  placed in the exhibition space where the light is dimmed and only the speakers  are surrounded with purple red light. The space-acoustic of Phönix  has a clearly, separated stereo picture.

Green Room therefore is a space in a space, a story from the past  in the Brazilian world of 1995. Its a soundlight-dream surrounded  by the acoustical landscapes of the present in which Hercule Florence stayed.  The two sketched time-layers can be experienced and perceived by the visitor  separated or connected with each other.

The Green Room is made in cooperation with Michael Fahres and James  Rubery.

Michael Fahres, 4.8.1999

4. Short information about Zoophonia:

Between 1822 and 1829 the famous Langsdorff expedition took place  in Brazil. By order of Czar Alexander the 1st the German Baron Georg Heinrich  von Langsdorff went to explore the inlands of Brazil up to the Amazon together  with Russian, French and German scientists and artists.

Between 2 and 24 April 1995 a group of artists from Russia, Brazil and Germany  followed the traces of Langsdorff after 166 years on invitation of the Goethe  Institut in Sao Paulo.

With the materials of those two expeditions (writings, paintings, sketches,  photos, video, music and more) an exhibition was made which also was the  opening event of the cultural program of the German industrial exchange FEBRAL  in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

This exhibition took place between 26.11.1995 and 20.01.1996 in the MASP  ( Modern Art Museum Sao Paulo)

Michael Fahres, a German composer living in the Netherlands for more than 20  years, is the composer on this expedition and he wrote a composition about the  expedition, called Zoophonia (Duration 30 min.)

To create the optimum surrounding for the soundscape Zoophonia a  special installation was designed which makes it possible for visitors to experience  the acoustical manifestations of the past and present time of the culture and  society in Brazil during the last 166 years.

The composition Zoophonia" was financially supported by the Goethe  Institut Sao Paulo and het Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst in  Amsterdam.

The Langsdorff expedition 1995 was a big project organised by the Goethe Institut.(The  German Cultural Foundation.) The Goethe Institut published a catalogue and produced  a CD. In November 1996 the European premiere of "Zoophonia" took place  in the former atelier of Henry Matisse in Nice.

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