Gabriel Paiuk on “The Construction of an Imaginary Acoustic Space”

On 23 March there was a Sonology concert in the Arnold Schönbergzaal dedicated to Gabriel Paiuk’s The Construction of an Imaginary Acoustic Space, a composition for ensemble and electronics performed by New European Ensemble. The performance was followed by a lecture, after which the work was performed for a second time. The lecture was about the PhD research on this topic that Gabriel Paiuk is conducting for ACPA. Gabriel tells us about his research, his composition and the performance by New European Ensemble. The performance was recorded and will be published at a later time. 

photo Alex Schröder

“My PhD research is mainly concerned with how the ways in which we listen are not fixed, but rather mutable. It explores how listening is an activity informed by diverse conditions. More specifically, it delves into how listening is influenced by the technologies we use. This entails a focus, not only on how technologies allow us to produce sounds differently, but on how they affect the ways in which we listen. In this case I’m understanding technology in a wide sense, thus: technology is as much the latest-generation machine-learning algorithm as a violin bow.

I’m fascinated with the material/sensorial (almost tactile) experience of sound. My PhD research both explores theoretical concepts that allow us to think how listening takes place and also produces artistic works that experiment with how these sensorial experiences of sound are modulated. My work takes the form of sound installations as well as works for instruments and electronics. I’m currently in the last year of my PhD trajectory, which means that I’m looking forward to finishing my dissertation by the end of 2021.”

Research and Artistic Creation
“I’ve always considered research as a fundamental part of my work, since I believe it is inherent in any inquisitive approach towards artistic creation. Being involved with research means understanding artistic creation as fundamentally entwined in a living, social and material context which exceeds the fields of artistic practice and one’s own singular experience. A research perspective enables an investigation into how the notions, tools, ways of knowing and ways of relating to each other intrinsic to our art-making practices are informed and have implications on multiple domains: historical, geographical, material, technical, even geological, among others. Research implies understanding every art-production as embedded in a complex network rather than as the product of an isolated mind.”

The Construction of an Imaginary Acoustic Space
The Construction of an Imaginary Acoustic Space, the work which was performed for the first time in the Netherlands on Tuesday 23 March 2021, was commissioned by the Österreichisches Ensemble für Neue Musik in 2018 and premiered in Salzburg in 2019. The work explores how the diverse ways in which sound is materially produced play a role in the ways we engage with it.

The work is based on the familiar presence of the sound of string ensembles across a wide array of auditory and cultural contexts, from the concert hall to pop music to the realm of audiovisual spectacles. Interestingly, it is probable that a great majority of people have heard the sound of string ensembles mediated through a myriad kind of recordings and technological devices, rather than in a live context. The way these string ensembles are experienced in their mediated forms is shaped by the acoustic and material qualities of the processes of recording and sound reproduction. The sensorial and affective traces that these processes create is at the basis of the work.

The Construction of an Imaginary Acoustic Space superimposes the sound of a live salon string ensemble with diversely mediated versions of the ubiquitous sound of string ensembles and investigates the acoustic and material imprint of these mediations. This is produced by superimposing different technologies, where one of the ensemble members operates a tape recorder on stage and a four-channel digital soundtrack explores the acoustic qualities of the Arnold Schönbergzaal.”

Performance on 23 March
“I’ve been in touch with the New European Ensemble since a bit more than a year ago about the possibility of performing this work at some point. Evidently, the conditions prompted since a year ago by the pandemic made plans to present it much more difficult. Fortunately, the opportunity came up of presenting it within the Sonology Discussion Concert that happened on Tuesday, and it was made possible thanks to the generous contribution of Stichting De Zaaier.

The work was performed to an audience of 30 students and staff members from the school and a recording was made. Although the work emphasises the irreplaceable nature of the embodied acoustic experience which occurs in the concert hall – and thus it is essentially non-reproducible – we embarked on a sophisticated recording plan, in collaboration with the Art of Sound Department, that resulted in a document of the acoustic experience of the concert in the best possible way.”

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