Für das – nun noch etwas länger – bevorstehende micro currents Festival hat Helene Heuser Lorenz Rommelspacher und Jiyun Park zu einem Gespräch getroffen. Lorenz kommt vom klassischen Gesang und arbeitet nun in der elektronischen, multimedialen Performancekunst; Jiyun hat in ihrer Medien- und Klangkunst erst kürzlich die Stimme als Material entdeckt. Zusammen entwickelt sich ein Gespräch über System-cla(ssi)shing, Perspektiven der Stimme und die Bedeutung von Feedback.
Das Interview wurde auf Englisch geführt.

Lorenz Rommelspacher und Soheil Shayesteh in „dialogues“ (c) Soheil Shayesteh

H: As you two haven’t met before, let’s start with some information on your artistic background and what field you are currently working in. 

L: I studied classical singing in Cologne and Düsseldorf, but already during my studies I came to the conclusion that the path of a singer is not for me. So for my masters project I refused to do a recital and instead I did an experimental theatre musical piece about me explaining why I don’t want to sing. After that I wanted to specialize in electronic and experimental formats. I went to Amsterdam, where I studied Electronics and Creative Performance and now I work on multimedial and interdisciplinary projects, performance and installation, where I use light and sound and projection.

H: Do you remember the moment, when you knew you cannot sing anymore?

L: To answer that, I think I have to go back even further for that. I started studying oboe but had to stop that due to an accident. So I opted for singing instead, but I was never a fan of opera. Even then I thought about not doing the masters, but I did it anyway. I thought that a change of circumstances might also change my approach to the topic, but it became evident early on that it was not the circumstances. I think a lot of it has to do with the way classical music works. There is a very strict preconceived notion of what you should be and how you should do things if you are a classical singer and I never wanted to subscribe to that. My masters project showed me that I need the process of actually creating something. As a classical musician you will always be recreating, but I needed this process of coming up with an idea, finding a way to communicate my idea and then bring that to the stage. I mean everything is possible, if you put your mind to it, but not the way it is kind of predrawn for a classical singer. So I decided against that.

J: Can I ask about your current projects, what are you doing nowadays? As you said you stopped singing, but you trained your voice for so many years. Is it really separated?

L: I still use my voice as a sound generative source, but then again when it comes to actual singing.. It was really important for me to say “I am not a singer anymore”. I think I am, as a lot of artists, constantly trying to find my voice. Right now music-wise I would put myself somewhere between experimental techno and contemporary classical. I experiment a lot with sounds, I also build instruments as a way of creating my own sound. I currently build my instruments out of metal square tubing, that have slots cut into them and they create a rich sound that is not traceable to a specific root. I was thinking about the ‘problem’ that electronic music sometimes has, that you have a performer with a laptop on the stage and they could just press play and check their email, and for me also coming from an opera and theatre background – that just doesn’t really work. I think art should be for everybody, who is interested in art. I think by using or by triggering other senses you can create an immersive experience that people don’t necessarily consume from a cognitive standpoint but let them experience it in a much more physical and emotional way.

Lorenz Rommelspacher | Foto: Carmen Böttcher

J: In so many points I also felt similar things. I am currently studying at KHM. In the beginning I was working with materials and through trial and error I tried to activate the material. I build electroacoustic instruments and use feedback to activate them. At some point I had a concert where I collaborated with students from the HfMT and I met a composer, but the way the composer wanted to use my instrument in his composition was completely different from my approach, but it is not up to decide for a composer or anyone, my instruments don’t work that way.

L: You want to explore the instrument while you play it?

J: Yes I didn’t want to follow the classic aesthetic but to continue the path of experimental music.
I think the core of my work is centered around feedback. I performed in a lot of different locations trying to figure out how the performances change in different locations in regard to feedback. I took that approach to the extreme and did long distance performances. For example, I sent feedback through the internet when I was in Brazil for a piece at Karlsruhe for the KHM where we send each other feedback in real time. Last year I travelled quite a lot to different locations and in Iceland I did a live-streaming performance, sending sounds from three different locations and soundscapes and mixing them in real time. Currently I am delving more into field recordings and sound scape, I am reading a book on the poetics of architecture, which I plan to translate into sound. So my interest in space and sound has moved on to sound and architecture.

H: Let’s talk about working with voice in experimental music. Can you tell us about your individual approaches? 

L: What makes the human voice so unique in comparison to other instruments, is that it can produce words. So if you want to reach someone on a very direct level, talking to them is the way to go.

J: My interest in voice started when I moved here, especially as I didn’t understand german, instead I started to listen to the sound of voices and the pronunciation, the rhythm and melody. Like you said the thing about the voice is that I can form words, but I think it is also interesting if you are not able to understand them. I don’t always get a direct emotional feeling through certain words, compared to Korean, which is my mother tongue. So I feel like I am staying in this inbetween, a little bit unlinked, in ambiguity, misunderstanding information within your voice but at the same time I just really like the sound and frequency of your voice.

L: I think one reason why voice seems to be a medium that reaches people quickly and directly is just simply because that is just how we communicate with each other.

J: I think the voice as a sound generator is really a complicated tool even though it is the most common source of communication and sound.

L: If you use words, people will interpret what you are saying and then it automatically becomes a cognitive process. Words can be extremely powerful, but it is extremely difficult to do well.

H: Are you using words in your performance?

L: I am, my character talks the whole time, but they don’t really make sense, so there is not a storyline, it is more a person, who doesn’t find their place in the world anymore and is not able to finish a thought. It is based on experiences that a friend of mine made in war, and our character is back in this reality, in this normality of the day-to-day life that we live in, and he can’t put these two worlds together anymore and he is trapped in his own prison in his mind. He wants to be able to convey the emotions but can’t. So there are words, but it is the only thing I have done with words in a long time.

Jiyun Park | Foto: S. Ruppiger

H: Jiyun can you tell us a bit more about what you will be performing with Elisa and how you started working together?

J: We started out of curiosity, what happens if I amplify her voice and how we can connect it with the concept of space. We are figuring out her body, and together we trained how we can use voice, this is also something Elisa is constantly working on.

H: So she becomes your instrument, with a microphone attached to her neck and you feed the sound through your electronics and then on the PA? 

J: Yes, but at the same time she also has a transducer attached to her body. Our starting point is using feedback on her body. Really using her body as a material. As I did with my instruments we work with piezo and transducer, she can feel her voice vibration on herself and with that she is singing or screaming again. So it could work without the PA but the volume way is not balanced. Her body is beautiful and wonderful but it is not good for activating, only she can feel that, but we won’t be able to listen to it. She has too many organs to be a resonator. So that is the main reason why we use a PA.

H: So your project was driven by experimentation and improvisation rather than build on concept right?

J: Yes, we are still discussing our project. I think Elisa has a different approach towards it than I have. I really see her as an instrument. Last time during rehearsal, we were so obsessed with each other, because I need to be careful with her and she also needs to see when I make a change. So we really need to communicate and I am always trying to focus on what is going on with the other person.

L: It seems like you are an operator. I think it is a really interesting approach to put a human being in the center of a feedback. Usually you would use an inanimate object but if it is an actual body, it will affect the loop in a very different way. I never thought of that. Maybe a feedback loop in itself has a sort of life to it. It has its own circle. But it being an actual living matter – that is wonderfully weird. It has a bit of a cyborg feel.

H: What I find so interesting about your approach is the simultaneity of power and empathy. 

J: We did not start out with that in mind, but I have been thinking about that a lot lately. And she also has to allow me to control her, but she also has the power to make it end. I didn’t start working with feedback from a conceptual perspective, but now I see feedback more as a metaphor.


Interview by Helene Heuser