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at93    Lucio Capece  ‘Awareness about’

1 - Gravity Resonance (2015)   12:04

    Lucio Capece - analogue synthesiser, soprano saxophone, room resonance

2 - ‘Groupings’ (2014)   29:23

    Konzert Minimal:  Johnny Chang (viola), Koen Nutters (double bass),

    Hannes Lingens (accordion), Lucio Capece (bass clarinet)

3 - ‘Room Melody’  (2015)   6:01

    Lucio Capece - slide saxophone, flying microphone

4 - ‘Space Tuning - Eiffel’s Halle des Expositions’  (2015)   26:03               youtube extract

    Lucio Capece - location recordings, cardboard tubes, sine waves, flying speakers, soprano saxophone

    Track 4 is a live recording by Franck Dubois at a concert organised by L’Atelier(s) in Evreux, France []

Interview with Lucio Capece

You explain in the sleevenotes to ‘Awareness about’ that the four pieces on the CD are all concerned with exploring the listening experience in different ways. What brought you to an interest in this area?

Since around 2000 I have mainly been doing quiet music that gives an important presence to silence and stillness.

Initially the attraction was the tension and beauty that happens when music is played in that frame. I discovered a rich and intriguing palette of sounds that appear when you explore your instruments and play with other people in that context, as well as enjoying the development of a non-narrative discourse. 

I played with many musicians in the Berlin reductionist scene and also played pieces by and with members of the Wandelweiser collective, without being a founder member of either community. In around 2006 that approach seemed to go out of favour (in the improvised music scene at least), but I kept working on it with musicians like Christian Kesten, Julia Eckhardt and Radu Malfatti, whose interest and focus had remained in that area. Then the group Konzert Minimal started up a few years later when musicians like Johnny Chang and Koen Nutters moved to Berlin (where I have lived since 2004), and I have played with them a good deal.

Having been involved in this approach for several years, at some point I reached the conclusion that the most intense experiences I had arose from the perception experience that happens when you play at extreme levels of quietness. Especially when you work in music that finds ways to stay interesting and keep up the tension without needing to raise the volume or use dramatic elements. What interested me most was what actually happens to your ears and to your perception system when you play more quietly than the space suggests - what happens to you and to the other people in the room. I noticed that the focus of the performance became that experience itself, beyond whatever we were doing with our instruments, the characteristics of the devices we used, or our ideas. In a way, the music was fundamental, but it was not about the music itself, nor the space itself, nor us the performers, but the experience that we and the audience had together through music in that situation.

Taking that experience as a point of departure, I began to explore other possibilities a bit outside the usual performing situation. For example, playing with a speaker hanging from a balloon. I first did this in a concert in April 2011 with Tisha Mukarji, Angharad Davies, Tim Parkinson and Axel Dörner. I had composed a piece for sine waves, and this was amplified through a small headset that was hanging from a helium balloon. We stood around the audience and played the piece by pushing the balloon between each other over the heads of the audience. I realised that using the space above our heads, even with something as fragile as a balloon, fundamentally re-focused our experience of the space and made it more relevant. The frame where we usually play our music, the room, stopped being a frame and became an instrument itself. Also I noticed that not only did we have to use our ears, but also our eyes and our bodies inhabiting the space. Usually in a concert these things are a background for the action of the instruments. I also noticed that there was a delay between the place where I could see the balloon and where I could hear the sine waves, because of the strange way in which sine waves occupy a space.

I was also struck by the social behaviour in the room after doing something as simple as this. The concert became very different to many others I had played before. And afterwards I began to look for ways of doing music in which all the surrounding elements become as important as the music itself. I began to develop technical aspects (like using wireless speakers, and moving the balloons with small propellers) according to specific experiences that I wanted to work with in each piece. I also began to search for technical and theoretical support for what I wanted to do. I found that (and continue to find it) by reading space artists, philosophers and perception scientists.

But the main source of the work remains intuitive and quite intimate, trying to do perception experiences myself with the tools and knowledge I now have. Or perhaps more than trying to do music based on perception and listening aspects, what I have realised is that I need to go back to the basics of music-making itself, re-thinking everything I do from the beginning, pointing out and questioning undecided habits and paradigms in order to offer a music with a truly human dimension, a music that honours humans and what we have, and what we come with when we are born. 

Since then I have developed several pieces and there has been quite a deep transformation in the way I do music. Each time I think carefully about what experience I am proposing when I meet people in a room to listen to music. This doesn’t mean that I want to lead that experience in a particular direction, but to suggest perceptive elements with various levels of ambiguity in order to require a personal involvement in the listening and the definition of the work.

Is part of this new direction a greater attention to physicality – of bodies and sound?

Yes, indeed it is. I would add physicality of space. One interesting thought about space which I came across is from Maurice Merleau-Ponty when he said: Space is not the setting (real or logical) in which things are arranged, but the means whereby the position of things becomes possible. This means that instead of imagining it as a sort of ether in which all things float, or conceiving it abstractly as a characteristic that they have in common, we must think of it as the universal power enabling them to be connected.

I find it really strong to think of space as a universal power that enables things to connect. In recent years I have often wondered, why the interest in space? And in this text I seem to have found an answer. I find that the twentieth century was a period of huge developments in many aspects, but also of hyper-specialisation that has left many aspects of human life separated. And now we have to add to this the glut of information that the internet has produced. It’s wonderful in terms of the data and communication that it provides, but is very difficult to manage in many ways. We have witnessed the biggest change in human history in terms of information distribution and acquisition, and we have to be conscious of this. I think that the way music was made by communities that were sharing, working together and exchanging information in physical spaces has changed for ever. As much as possible I try to take this challenge as an opportunity to re-think what we are doing and have been doing automatically in many ways, and to go back to the beginning with the knowledge we have.

When we play live or offer music in a recording, we are creating a space, this space that Merleau-Ponty refers to, where things get connected. The need to make your career and do something special can lead us into offering things on stage which are interesting, but which too often don’t engage the humanity of those who are there listening. It becomes a kind of exhibition of your skills and strength, your ideas and devices. Things are pushed in this direction not only by the artists, but also by organisers and audiences that are also, very often, very specific, and want to see something similar to what they do or know.

This doesn’t mean that we should avoid being highly professional, skilled and inventive in what we do, but I don’t think that music should be about that, or at least, if that’s all there is to it, then it doesn’t interest me.

You can work on the physicality of sound, body and space and be equally “projective”. This means exposing what you do as a main intention. So I try to develop a knowledge of perceptive mechanisms, and an understanding of contemporary technical possibilities and social behaviours, while knowing that what I’m trying to do isn’t just about that. It’s about how I can create this shared, collective and intimate personal space where aspects of us that are separated, can connect in order to be … just what we are.

Things have a subtle wish to be perceived, but that is something which that can so easily be concealed behind our professional needs or just our everyday inertia. When you work on perceptive aspects you realize that what you are trying to do is to take away that veil that we are putting on everything. This is a fascinating work that we can do together, and which – rather than having us be active on something - seems to be about getting rid of our own difficulties and welcoming this wish to be perceived that everything has, and which exalts our capacities in its subtle but demanding appeal.

Sleevenotes by Lucio Capece

“Since 2011 I have been working on pieces that focus on the listener experience. This has led me to search for methods and musical results that work on the listener’s perception mechanisms, and, in particular, on the ways in which she/he hears sound and music, and inhabits a space.

For Room Melody and Gravity Resonance I deduced the resonant frequencies of my practise room and selected some of them to construct a melody. I played the melody on a slide saxophone, an old instrument that uses just one sliding key to change pitch. This not only enables me to play glissandi, but also frees any specific tone from the limitations created when an instrument is built according to the tempered (or any other) tuning system. I recorded the melody, then played back the recording through speakers, re-recording it using a binaural microphone attached to a balloon, which I moved in circles around the room.

On Room Melody I used the re-recording of the melody (stereo) to shadow the original recording (mono).

On Gravity Resonance I looped the re-recorded melody several times using a double looper until I could hear a long constant sound consisting of the dominant frequencies of the melody. This mirrors the technique used by Alvin Lucier in his seminal work ‘I am Sitting in a Room’. However, instead of starting with any sound, I started with the resonant sounds of the practise room, and instead of finding the dominant frequencies by looping the sounds in the space, I looped them internally within the device. Finally I combined the resulting long sound with sounds produced by various kinds of analogue synthesisers.

Groupings was composed for the Berlin-based ensemble Konzert Minimal. The piece is concerned with the way our brains organise groups of ideas in order to understand a musical language. The structural source for the piece was the sound, timing and intensity of the quiet noise produced when an accordion is opened or closed without intending to play a tone. Whenever ‘white noise’ is produced by an acoustic instrument, it contains some frequencies that can be heard more clearly than others. The principal tone of the accordion’s white noise became the tonal basis of the piece.

The tonal elements of the work are developed using basic auditory illusions that create ambiguous perceptions about the presence or absence of sounds depending on what occurs before, during or after these sounds. I also used other auditory illusions related to the overtone and undertone series, as well as a combination of harmonic spectrums, overlapping the Equal Temperament and Just Intonation tuning systems.

The piece was first performed at Ausland in Berlin on 23rd September 2014, and was recorded there without an audience on 29th July 2015. 

Space Tuning - Eiffel´s Halle des Expositions is the latest version in a series of location-specific pieces called ‘Space Tuning – Conditional Music’. These have been realised at Bern Cathedral, the Mambo Museum in Bologna, the German Pavilion in Barcelona built by Mies van der Rohe, the countryside around Kleylehof at night, an abandoned swimming pool in Aiguelez, a public library in Oslo, a former factory in Oxford, and a backyard in Buenos Aires.

Performances involve the playback of recordings made in the space by placing a microphone inside cardboard tubes of differing dimensions. These recordings are analysed for their spectral characteristics and then edited into an assembled soundfile. The soundfile is played back live within the space via a PA, and is combined with three other sound sources: selected sine tones based on the harmonic spectrum and formants of the recordings, electronically produced white noise (both of which are amplified through mobile wireless speakers hanging from helium balloons), and some live sounds which I play on soprano saxophone.

This latest realisation took place on 20th May 2015 in the Halle des Expositions, which was built about 100 years ago by Alexander Gustave Eiffel in Évreux, France. I used six flying speakers, three moved by people, and three moving in circles powered by small propellers. For the first time in the series I made the initial recordings of the space by placing the microphone inside cardboard tubes with dimensions selected to create the resonating frequencies of the Halle. Also, compared to previous versions, I used very low sine tones which were chosen to embrace the characteristics of the space.

On the day of the performance it was windy, with clouds being blown across the sky. The sun heated the glass roof of the building, but when the clouds returned, the glass cooled, producing cracking noises that can be heard during the performance. Birds also landed on the roof, making sounds with their feet on the glass.”

Konzert Minimal


“The wonderful new Lucio Capece : more than one hour of transfigured space and sound. An intense and immersive experience. Recommended.”

Julien Heraud, Improv-Sphere

“When is a field recording no longer a field recording? I originally started to phrase this question “where is the line between field recording and…” but stopped when I couldn’t think of anything to put for the counter-example except “music”. As previously mentioned, field recordings in music tend to walk a fine line between being sufficiently dull to qualify as “sound art” or sufficiently rich to leave one “wallowing in timbre” (cf. Feldman, contrasting sound with music).

Do some of Alvin Lucier’s pieces count as field recordings? Considered as phenomena observed in a specific acoustic location, the line of distinction with field recordings gets blurred. I was thinking about this again when listening to Lucio Capece’s CD Awareness about. Similar considerations appear, of spatial location of sound as an acoustic characteristic, of the resonance of spaces. The last piece on the disc is a long recording made at the Halle des Expositions, Évreux, France, or rather of the Halle des Expositions. It’s part of a series titled Space Tuning – Conditional Music:

Performances involve the playback of recordings made in the space by placing a microphone inside cardboard tubes of differing dimensions. These recordings are analysed for their spectral characteristics and then edited into an assembled soundfile. The soundfile is played back live within the space via a PA, and is combined with three other sound sources: selected sine tones based on the harmonic spectrum and formants of the recordings, electronically produced white noise (both of which are amplified through mobile wireless speakers hanging from helium balloons), and some live sounds which I play on soprano saxophone.

Listeners familiar with Lucier would recognise features from some of his better-known works here. The resonance of the space (I Am Sitting In A Room), the cardboard tubes (Vessels), the movement of the sound image (Bird And Person Dyning). I’m not saying that the music is derivative, but that it consolidates and builds upon a legacy. Like many other pioneers in music, Lucier has often been described as a “one-off” – a term used more in hope than in admiration by musicians uncomfortable with the prospect of having to question their assumptions. It’s heartening to hear music so informed by a new tradition.

The soundworld of Space Tuning – Eiffel’s Halle des Expositions is satisfyingly cavernous without being overly ornamented. In two smaller pieces, Capece plays solo in his practice room then plays recordings of the sounds back into the room while binaural microphones attached to a helium balloon float around in circles. The resulting music stays clear but with a complexity of subtle details that never becomes dense.

The other long work, Groupings, is an entirely acoustic quartet but doesn’t sound like it. The slowly unfolding webs of sound are built out of auditory illusions, using white noise (air through an accordion, rasp on bow against string) as a filter for other sounds, playing off small differences in intonation of tones to emphasise or subtract from certain parts of the harmonic spectrum.

It’s a fascinating collection of pieces that focus on the most elemental but often neglected aspects of sound. Without being didactic, the musical beauty of the pieces allows the listener to explore for themselves how these sounds came about and consider how these phenomena appear in daily life.”

Ben Harper, Boring Like a Drill

“Lucio Capece is an Argentine improviser and electro-acoustic musician who has collaborated with the likes of Mika Vainio, Rhodri Davis and Kevin Drumm. This record collects four experimental pieces exploring perceptions of space and sound by deploying feedback mechanism and a variety of imaginative speaker systems.

If you're familiar with Alvin Lucier's classic I am Sitting in a Room then you will know what to expect as all the pieces here make use in one way or another of Lucier's technique for expanding the specific resonance frequencies of the performance space through repeated playback and re-recordings. Capece however doesn't use his voice as the material but tends to use minimal instrumental input, such as from a slide saxophone or analogue synthesisers, or simply recordings from the performance space.

On the two shorter pieces Gravity Resonance and Room Melody these techniques produce a variety of striking textures. In particular on Gravity Resonance a simple melody played on the saxophone is looped and repeatedly fed back into the space producing a strange tension of rising and falling drones which are given a sense of depth and movement by Capece' moving his microphones around the space by means of a balloon. The sound is ghostly and a little unnerving. Like a lot of these feedback resonance experiments they almost seem to be evoking a hidden elemental force within the conjunction of space and sound that takes on a life of its own.

The longest of the four pieces presented is Groupings which is performed by the Berlin ensemble Konzert Minimal. The exact method for this piece is strikingly complex, involving an improvisation around the barely present sound of an accordion opening and closing without playing a note. This barely perceptible white noise is the tonal core around which the other players, on viola, double bass and bass clarinet improvise. Capece has composed the piece such that the players contributions "create ambiguous perceptions about the presence or absence of sounds depending on what occurs before, during or after these sounds". It's a strange experience comparable to listening to some of Feldman's most minimal and abstract pieces. The ethereal 'out-of-almost-nothing' feel of the composition is perhaps its signal triumph. At the end of its near half-hour duration you're left wondering whether you have just listened to a piece of music or some kind of séance.

The final piece is Space Tuning - Eiffel's Halles Des Expositions and is part of a series of site specific works going under the general title of Space Tuning - Conditional Music which Capece has performed across Europe. These are particularly impressive realisations of the techniques used on all the previous pieces. Of special note here is the use of speakers suspended by balloons which while playing back electronically produced white noise are moved around the performance space. Indeed aside from very minimal additions from Capece on his saxophone the whole of the multi-layered composition is produced from resonance recordings from the room or sine tones selected as to accord with the amplified room recordings. Comparisons could be drawn with recent work by Robert Curgenven or some of the more performance orientated composers on Richard Chartier's LINE label. However there is a singularly alchemical quality to these pieces that allow them stand out in a field crowded with works of space orientated minimal electro-acoustic music.”

Roger Batty, Musique Machine

Toujours plus de labels, toujours plus de formats, toujours plus de communication. Les disques prolifèrent, les artistes aussi, y compris dans les musiques expérimentales. Pour ma part, je trouve qu'il y en a trop, vraiment trop, ce n'est pas forcément que tout soit mauvais, mais une bonne partie des disques publiés chaque année passe vite aux oubliettes. Les musiciens ont tendance à enchaîner les projets, les collaborations, les tournées, et tout le monde ne s'investit pas de la même manière dans son travail. Le résultat ? une pléthore de disques convenus et attendus, de répétitions d'une même idée, de variations sur un genre. Contre cette tendance, certains privilégient la qualité sur la quantité, certains travaillent longtemps sur leur idée, sur leur méthode ou sur leur musique avant de la juger véritablement digne d'être publiée. Une étape que beaucoup oublient. Certains, avant de publier le moindre disque, vont se demander si ce dernier va, ou peut au moins, apporter quelque chose. Et c'est le cas de Lucio Capece, un de ces musiciens qui n'est pas tellement prolifique, mais apporte toujours quelque de nouveau et de surprenant, surtout dans son travail en solo. Awareness about en est encore une nouvelle et excellente preuve.

Trois des quatre pièces qui composent ce disque sont consacrés directement à la physicalité du son, et surtout à la sonorité de l'espace et de l'architecture. Les procédés sont variés : Lucio Capece enregistre des mélodies au saxophone qu'il joue et réengistre avec des micros mobiles dans un espace donné, ou bien il utilise ses haut-parleurs volants dans des ballons, haut-parleurs qui diffusent des enregistrements du lieu à un autre moment, auxquels s'ajoute des synthétiseurs, etc. Quand on lit les notes ou les interviews de Capece (disponibles sur le site du label, voir lien ci-dessous), le discours peut paraître technique et conceptuel. On peut s'attendre à quelque chose d'ardu et abstrait. Et pourtant non, bien au contraire.

La musique de Lucio Capece a quelque chose de gracieux et fluide, et la présence constante d'éléments mélodiques (même rudimentaires) n'y est pas pour rien. Si ce dernier s'intéresse à des concepts assez en vogue aujourd'hui, et souvent traités de manière brute, voire absconse parfois, Capece s'y intéresse pour en faire de la musique avant tout. Il trouvera toujours un élément mélodique ou "musical" à tirer et à exploiter des espaces mis en scène. Awareness about est consacré à différents espaces, à différents lieux. Des lieux enregistrés, joués, réenregistrés, rejoués, diffusés, et encore enregistrés, des lieux qui possèdent leurs propres harmoniques réutilisées pour former des mélodies. Il ne s'agit pas d'enregistrements fantomatiques, pas du tout, il s'agit de donner corps, de donner musicalité à ces lieux. De les transformer en œuvre d'art.

Les sonorités propres à chaque espace deviennent la matière première de composition. Et derrière ces compositions se cache un talent génial d'écoute, d'observation, de sélection et d'interprétation. Car les éléments musicaux ne sautent pas aux oreilles, il faut aller les chercher, parfois loin, dans des profondeurs inaudibles, mais Lucio Capece parvient toujours à tirer une leçon sonore et musicale des environnements choisis. Vibrations sonores réverbérés, enregistrements d'un même lieu joués simultanément, harmoniques du lieu interprétées sur instruments, moyens d'enregistrements et de diffusions mobiles et ouverts. C'est tout un édifice musical, majestueux, qui est construit à partir de l'espace et du son. Car Lucio Capece n'utilise pas l'environnement comme une simple matière, il se l'approprie comme un musicien peut s'approprier un instrument, ou plutôt comme un compositeur s'approprie un orchestre.

A partir d'un environnement, de plusieurs environnements, ou du simple son de l'accordéon quand il se déplie sans faire de note, Lucio Capece compose un univers musical unique. Ce qu'il se joue ici, c'est un travail énorme, méthodique et poétique, de fabrication et de composition d'une musique nouvelle, belle, innovante, et profonde. Un travail qui part de matériaux bruts et primaires, mais qui arrive à un résulat colossal, raffiné, où cette matière est transfigurée par le travail de recherche et de composition.”

Julien Heraud, Improv-Sphere