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Biennale Musica 2023: Highlights, the microscopic nature of sound

Text by CLOT Magazine

Biennale Musica 2023, the International Festival of Contemporary Music, is presenting its 67th edition Micro-Music. From 16 to 29 October 2023 and directed by Lucia Ronchetti, the festival will be dedicated to digital sound and its production and diffusion in acoustic space using state-of-the-art technologies and experimental research. 

The Micro-Music presents an incredibly extensive programme, with a wide spectrum of stylistic trends and creative research of today’s international music scene, embracing installation, performative and online forms, with several world premieres commissioned by the Biennale Musica and co-productions with other major international festivals. 

The main intention behind the theme of Micro-Music is to evoke music generated by means of microphone-receiving devices and to explore the microscopic nature of sound while highlighting the beauty and complexity of digital sound and the new compositional possibilities it offers. 

Brian Eno will receive the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Music 2023 for his research into the quality, beauty and diffusion of digital sound and for his conception of the acoustic space as a compositional instrument. The renowned composer, producer, visual artist and activist, tireless innovator in compositional creativity and applied digital sound technology. He will also present the world premiere of his project, Ships

Location and space are some paramount aspects in the act of listening and experiencing music. The particular acoustic imprint of each location understood as reading the surrounding space through the complex, ever-changing reverberations that the ambient creates will amplify the electronic creations of the various sections of the Festival, which are designed to seek out the magical sounds of the architectural context of Venice’s buildings.

Sound Microscopies, one of the festival sections, will include world premieres of works investigating the complexity and diffusion of sound in acoustic space specially commissioned by the Biennale Musica from Brian Eno, Miller Puckette, Francesca Verunelli, Joanna Bailie and Marcus Schmickler, as well as several Italian premieres: The inaugural concert As I Live And Breathe by Morton Subotnick, who celebrates the 60th anniversary of his first appearance at the Biennale Musica in 1963; the reconstruction of GLIA by the legendary pioneer of electronic music Maryanne Amacher, in collaboration with the CTM Festival of Berlin, Robert Henke’s celebrated work of computer sound archaeology Commodore cbm8032, and a new production of the cycle Professor Bad Trip by the late Fausto Romitelli.

The Sound Installations section presents installation sound works commissioned by the Biennale Musica and specially designed for specific spaces in the city of Venice. Among them, Andrea Liberovici and Paolo Zavagna present Sound Of Venice Number Two, a new Soundwalk project that explores the soundscape of Venice, inspired by archival iconography and documents. Anthea Caddy and Marcin Pietruszewski will present a new sound installation for parabolic loudspeakers, and Alberto Anhaus a sound installation for field recordings, organic materials and smells based on the sonification of fermentation and decomposition of algae in the Venice lagoon.

The Digital Sound Horizons section of the Festival will present installations, online compositions and concerts using new technologies linked to digital sound. This will include several commissions for works from the very young composers and researchers Jaehoon Choi, Lydia Krifka Dobes, Fabio Machiavelli, Estelle Schorpp, Severin Dornier, Leonie Strecker and Alexis Weaver, as well as commissions for a new project by Brigitta Muntendorf, explorer of new digital sound forms, and a Guy Ben-Ary and Nathan Thompson. 

The Club Micro-Music section will present a series of artists that represent a varied panorama designed to explore the forms and expressions of research into the production and diffusion of live electronic sound, with performances of experimental electronic music, including Lamin Fofana, Jjjjjerome Ellis, Jace Clayton AKA Dj Rupture, Steve Goodman AKA Kode9, Loraine James, Aya, Emme, S280F, Soft Break, Yen Tech, Snufkin, the acclaimed composers of soundtracks Nicolas Becker and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, the young Congolese performer and activist David Shongo, and the mythical English collective Autechre.

The programme will also include a series of round tables, theoretical sessions and lectures that will involve the protagonists of the Festival together with international guests. These will create a continuous laboratory for reflection on digital sound, providing the opportunity for an audience, from specialists to the general public, to access the technological research scene addressing new modes of listening and sound diffusion and production.

Overall this Biennale Musica’s programme portrays a series of artists who, according to Lucia Ronchetti, are sculptors of new digital sonic entities, musical archaeologists in search of long-lost sounds, researchers into the mysterious, ephemeral and magical nature of sound, and creators of new acoustic incantations. The act of listening to digital sound, without seeing either the sound sources or the gestural context of the performance and production, invites us to a pure form of acoustic perception and to a new ontology of music made possible by the development of technologies related to the reproduction and diffusion of sound in space.

Just as we can enter inside physical material with the aid of a microscope, in the same way, we can broaden our ability to listen and discover the complexity of the auratic world by means of the microphone and the reproducibility of each and every acoustic event, however liminal, thanks to the digital processing of the information captured in the sphere of the inaudible, thus revealing a sound world from which our perceptive faculties had hitherto seemed precluded.

Through theoretical and performative events, Micro-Music will present forward-thinking artists and current areas of research into the phenomenon of listening, the verification of scientific data through sonification processes, and different biotechnology models applied to the generation of sound.

(Media courtesy of Biennale Musica 2023)
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