o, music for haiku
The project 'o, music for haiku' was originally performed in its first incarnation at Festival En Boite, Lyon (F) in April 2007. Olivia Louvel performed in the electronic bandstand designed by Cocktail Designers. 36 headsets are distributed from the platform for the audience to tune in on.
The event was curated by La Salle De Bains, contemporary art space (F).
In December 2012, 'o, music for haiku' was released as a numbered limited edition CD of 100, packaged in gold metallic bubble bag with hand drawn artwork of 'The Magic Fish Dog' by Olivia Louvel.
About 'o, music for haiku'
'o, music for haiku' is based on haiku by poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. In 2005, I came across the book, 'Cent onze haiku'. I was immediately attracted to the minimal layout of each page and the calligraphy. As well as displaying the text in kanji, there was also a version for each haiku in western alphabet which enabled me to pronounce the words. On the fringe of my electronic textural songs, I began to develop a more minimal approach, I composed a sparse soundtrack articulated around the voice and handmade percussive instruments. I sang through an old gramophone in the outdoors. These source materials were collected during a collaborative residency with choreographer Satchie Noro in France.
The aesthetic is simple, humble, closely inspired by the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi, introduced by Leonard Koren in 'Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers'. Wabi-sabi is about the acceptance of time passing and its effect on us, the suggestion of natural process, the truth coming from the observation of nature and getting rid of all that is unnecessary. Wabi-sabi is private, intuitive and organic, of sad beauty.
About the language of the haiku: Anthony Brandt, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Language and Music Cognition Lab, UMCP University of Maryland, states that “Infants listen first to sounds of language and only later to its meaning (…) As adults, people focus primarily on the meaning of speech but babies begin by hearing language as an intentional and often repetitive vocal performance. They listen to it not only for its emotional content but also for its rhythmic and phonemic patterns and consistencies. The meaning of words comes later.”
It was with this child-like freedom that I approached my composition. I did not feel intimidated by the precision of the language, singing in Japanese I used the vowel of the haiku as a material with which to play, as I would have treated any sound. The sound being more important at first for me than the true meaning. With this composition, I allowed myself to tell one of my childhood tales in an encrypted version through the language of Basho.
'o, music for haiku' was performed in its first incarnation in April 2007. The event was curated by La Salle De Bains, the contemporary art space in Lyon, France. I performed in 'Le Kiosque', the electronic bandstand designed by Cocktail Designers. 'Le kiosque' consists of four glass panels on a raised platform containing the technical equipment. 36 headsets are distributed from the platform for the audience to tune in on. This set-up enhanced the immersive and meditative aspect of my pieces.
During the course of 2007, I began experimenting with digital video, capturing my rural environment as I was living for the first time in the countryside of West Sussex. I began editing footage until the images formed a suitable visual object. A selection of audio-visual poems were shown, in 2008, at Festival Electron in Geneva. There was no wish for perfection to reach with the images, as they were being captured in a simple non-narrative way, the intention was to create a space for one's own thoughts. The duration of the observation of nature is being stretched deliberately to lead to a reflective mood. You can abstract yourself from it while doing something else in your room but it marks the time within the rhythm of the music.
I can see myself returning to this project in the future, it retains a timeless feel when I listen to it which is not something I often experience when I happen to listen again to my other compositions. I am looking for unusual space, unusual configuration, outdoor space where to perform this project.
'Late Junction' BBC radio 3
Art Space La Salle de Bains
Publication 'Cocktail Designers’ music furniture'. Les presses du réel
Nominated Prix Ars Electronica 2013. Digital music & sound art