AN EMAIL BACK/FORTH WITH LISTENING CHOIR CO-CREATORS ADAM KINNER AND CHRIS WILLES
Describe listening choir to a relative or distant family friend - the one who still uses a typewriter and liquid paper to write correspondence.
Listening Choir is a performance that takes audiences on "listening walks" in urban areas. During these walks each participant carries a small homemade audio device that can record and playback sounds found in the environment. We use these devices all together (kind of like a choir) to record and playback sounds in various ways throughout the walk together, creating a continually fractured soundscape that we carry with us as we go. At the beginning of each walk we meet at a given location and teach everyone how the devices work. We also ask participants not to speak, as much as possible, during the walk in order to privilege a certain kind of listening. Then we walk together, for about an hour, agreeing to drift without speaking while we collect and listen to recordings of places, objects, language, and ideas found around the neighborhood. Each walk is different, but they always move with an interest in listening as a way of considering common space, participation, and sound.
Someone offers to fund a project of yours that you've been thinking about for a while. What is it?
We want to do a show in which many people are playing cymbals in a room while reading. They are hitting the cymbals with brushes. The room is empty except for cymbals, readers and spectators, all held in the ethereal sound of voices mixing with soft things on metal.
Hundreds of people have participated in Listening Choir. What are some of the most memorable reactions and interactions that you've encountered so far?
Since the piece takes place in public there have been a bunch of unexpected interactions with passersby in the past. Once in Toronto, as we walked through a construction site, a person came out on a balcony of a condo building several stories up and began playing along to our group’s soundscape on a banjo and singing. It was really beautiful and strange!
The people who come on our walks usually live or work in the neighborhoods we’re walking through. They often report seeing/hearing the place anew, and there have been so many disarming conversations after the walks about how these places have changed. Listening to a place really opens up a certain way of reflecting on the passage of time and one’s own relation to place.
How do you see the artistic discipline of music changing in the next 20 years? How do you wish it would?
We're both artists who try to think trans-disciplinarily and care about work that actively crosses and troubles disciplinary lines. One part of our research has been to think through the ways that bodies and spaces figure in sound and music works. It feels relevant in this moment in which connectivity is becoming increasingly financialized on the one hand, and yet information networks might still have the potential to disorganize normative relations between labour, value and exchange on the other. As the artistic discipline gets trespassed and traversed through different interventions, we’d both like to see how music (and maybe more importantly, the ecology around music) could create conditions for unexpected action and exchange.
Are there any shows in the festival that you find particularly intriguing?
what we are saying by Public Recordings. It's a great show that collides dance and sound in an exciting way. There’s lots of group listening going on in there...
Name someone or something that most people have never heard of or encountered, that they really should get to know?
Really digging Yoshi Wada right now. Ellen Fullman too. Yup.
Favourite comic book character?
Don't read many comics, but Jessica Campbell makes comics and puts them on facebook. They are amazing. The character is herself.
Desert island book and/or recording?
A recording of the ocean played through a homemade recording device?
The book “Listening” by Jean-Luc Nancy? ;)
LISTENING CHOIR is PWYC (10¢ - $10) but registration is required here.
For more information, click this link or navigate to: http://openears.ca/oe16/listeningchoir1
This interview has neither been condensed nor edited for publication.