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Part of Sound and Music’s wider Composer-Curator touring programme, the much-loved sonic arts festival Cut and Splice will be taking place outside of London for the first time this spring. Manchester will welcome the festival in March with an array of UK premieres, special commissions and installations.
Local curators Distractfold will be taking over Hallé St Peter’s and Hallé St Michael’s in Ancoats, Manchester for two days with an exciting and groundbreaking programme of music that explores technology as an unreliable narrator – a witty, distracted, vague, at times misleading ally.
Linda Jankowska, Distractfold’s violinist and executive director writes about one of the featured composers – Swedish sound artist and performer Hanna Hartman.
Distractfold first met and worked with Hanna in August 2014 during our stay at the International Summer Course in Darmstadt. Any Festival of “New” is bound to be filled with an overwhelming amount of outputs – small and smaller worlds. In this microcosm of classrooms, concert venues, indoor and outdoor events, where people choose to dedicate their vital energies to making sounds, between frazzled questioning of the point of it all and frantic attempts to make a point, the soul will inevitably wander towards sonic environments that feel like natural habitats one didn’t know one could live in.
This is how Distractfold felt when we discovered Hanna Hartman’s sound world and this is why for the past 3 years we have been developing a working relationship with her. The result: Dust Devil, our Cut&Splice 2017 Commission.
On a couple of occasions I have visited Hanna in her Berlin home. There I am fascinated by the micro world of objects and materials she has found, in toy stores, hardware stores, warehouses and gardening shops that she keeps in her studio and uses in her practice. “Why so many of each?” I asked.
“You never know how they are going to sound…” she smiled.
From 10 different super balls she chooses a couple that make the sound she likes or needs for the piece. It becomes the exact sound. The exact sounds form the instrument and the composition at the same time.
Given that Hanna works with objects whose factory production can easily be ceased or combination of components completely altered, the exact sound is quite the concept! Any part of the set up can break or disappear, change pitch or timbre to the point that it doesn’t quite make sense staying in the sonic habitat…She is not too worried. Necessity will reinvent.
Hanna keeps listening – to the hum of a clay pot, to the rattle of a ball bearing…Very focused and curious, she finds new contexts for mundane objects, creates personalised environments in which these objects, seemingly incompatible in their functionality, come together to become something they were not destined to be. Take this anecdote:
Distractfold programmed Hartman’s “Borderlines” for a concert at 2015 NeoArte Music Festival in Gdańsk (Poland). Filling my suitcase with the equipment for several complex set ups late at night, I forgot to pack an element of the piece, a chimney cleaning star; an object so specific and rare that when we discovered it was missing, I burst into hysterical tears. Luckily we were in a region where people still use coal and being a chimney-sweeper is a profession (even if one on the verge of extinction). After an extensive online search for chimney-sweepers and a few ridiculous phone calls (“Hello, my name is Linda, please don’t hang up, I’m a musician, we are playing a concert in Gdańsk tonight, I was wondering whether I could borrow your chimney star for the evening?”) I finally found someone who had the exact object we needed. I sent the sound-engineer over to pick it up, with some money for a bottle of vodka, and “Borderlines” was saved. The chimney star, slightly bent from the actual job of chimney cleaning, sounded perfect!