The sounds and songs of the living have inspired the history of music since its very beginning. Today, many composers and sound artists are exploring a broad range of expressive modes by bringing these "other" beings into their music. It is not simply a matter of bringing these expressive modes into the music, but of striving to make heard, through sound processing, arrangements, and transformations, that which is not normally perceptible to our human ears, or that which is heard differently. It is a question of reinventing the different ways of making continuum between these sounds and the work of art. How do these sounds work? What operations make these sounds perceptible to us, allow us to feel their tessitura, their variations, even simply their existence?
In a panel discussion led by the philosopher Vinciane Despret and the musicologist Nicolas Donin, the composers Robin Meier and Bernard Fort will share with us their concrete cuisine and will let us hear, for one, the stridulations of ants or the experience of musicians who sing with and like mosquitoes, for the other, that of making us feel the exaltation of a skylark or the soliloquy in the chattering of a titmouse.
The latter part of the evening features the musical performance Truce by Robin Meier. To find a mate of the right species, male and female mosquitoes rely on their ability to "sing" in tune. Mosquitoes adjust the sound of the buzzing they produce to synchronize the wingbeats between males and females, allowing for harmonized buzzing and copulation in mid-air. Truce uses the natural synchronization behavior of mosquitoes to coax them into creating music.
In this "concertante" adaptation of the installation Truce (Robin Meier & Ali Momeni, 2009), a Dhrupad singer, a traditional classical song from northern India, sings a slow glissando supported by low, etheric vibrations of ondes Martenot. Stimulated by the singer's voice and the frequencies of the waves, three mosquitoes independently tune their buzzing to these sounds. Activated by the buzzing, a computer generates three distinct electronic voices, reproducing the tone of each mosquito. These three electronic voices enter punctually in harmony with each other, depending on the insects' ability to remain in synchronization with the sound stimulus.
Together, insects, humans and machines compose a song of an inter-species alliance.
Robin Meier composition
Nirmalya Dey song
Christine Ott instruments (Ondes Martenot)
Lionel Feugère (University of Greenwich) Mosquito preparation and scientific advisor
With the support of Pro Helvetia, Fondation suisse pour la culture. Thanks to Laurent Dumas from Groupe Emerige, Mylène Weill, Gabriella Gibson, Lionel Feugère, and Ali Momeni
Jean-Max Colard and Joséphine Huppert, Centre Pompidou
Nicolas Donin, IRCAM-STMS
This evening is a part of the invitation extended to Vinciane Despret, guest scholar at the Centre Pompidou in 2021-2022. Discover the full program.