France Jobin has a long career in experimental music. She introduces her works as related to the sonic and architecture, and how she developed works inspired and informed by quantum physics, including the challenges induced by art and science collaborations.
La Montréalaise France Jobin est une artiste audio, spécialiste de l’installation sonore et commissaire d’œuvres. Son art est souvent nommé sculpture sonore et se distingue par une approche minimaliste d’environnements à la fois linéaires et complexes, au croisement des technologies analogiques et numériques. Présentées dans les festivals internationaux, ainsi que dans une diversité de lieux inusités, ses installations intègrent des éléments musicaux et visuels inspirés par l’architecture des lieux. France Jobin a réalisé de nombreux enregistrement sous des étiquettes renommées dont popmusik records (JP), LINE (US), nvo (AT), Baskaru (FR), ATAK (JP), ROOM40 (AU) No-ware (CL-DE) et récemment Editions Mego. Ses œuvres se trouvent également dans de nombreuses compilations de même orientation musicale.
Dans le contexte de la Soirée 4 du festival Akousma, France Jobin présente La fluidité du temps n’existe pas, une évocation singulière des avancées théoriques sur la conception du temps.
« Le temps est mystérieux ; Je n’avais jamais réalisé à quel point jusqu’à ce que je l’étudie dans le contexte de la physique quantique. Le mystère provient d’une façon de penser pleine de bon sens – que le moment présent, que nous appelons « maintenant », n’est pas figé mais se déplace constamment dans la direction du futur. C’est ce que nous appelons l’écoulement du temps.”
L’exercice de PAN M 360 consiste à reprendre les idées sous-jacentes au projet de France Jobin, pour ainsi en savoir plus long sur La fluidité du temps n’existe pas.
PAN M 360 : La non fluidité du temps, voire son élasticité dans l’univers, est effectivement au cœur des découvertes de la physique moderne, déclencheur fondamental pour l’élaboration de la fameuse théorie de la relativité. En quoi cette idée modélise votre œuvre au programme d’Akousma?
France Jobin : Au début de la pandémie, j’ai décidé d’approfondir mes connaissances en physique quantique puisque la majorité de mes œuvres depuis 2009 en sont inspirées et ce, sans avoir de solides connaissances. En étudiant, j’ai découvert ce concept – la fluidité du temps n’existe pas – qui m’a captivée. Il s’agit donc ici de présenter une œuvre qui incitera l’auditeur à perdre le fil du temps, à se laisser flotter à l’intérieur d’un court intervalle.
« Ce concept de “bon sens” du temps est le suivant : imaginez une ligne avec une flèche pointant vers la droite, chaque point de la ligne représente un moment fixe, un triangle dessiné avec la pointe touchant la ligne représente le point en mouvement continu, le moment présent. Il est censé se déplacer de gauche à droite. Certains croient que des événements particuliers sont fixes et que la ligne elle-même les dépasse, de sorte que des moments du futur balaient le moment présent pour devenir des moments passés. Penser le temps comme une ligne implique simplement une séquence de points à différentes positions, de sorte que tout point en mouvement peut être considéré comme une séquence immobile de “snapshots”, en fait, une version de lui-même, à chaque instant. Elle s’apparente à une séquence de photos fixes, projetées sur un écran. Collectivement, les images bougent mais individuellement, l’image ne change jamais. »
PAN M 360 : De quelle manière votre démonstration sommaire rejaillit-elle dans votre musique, du moins dans le cas qui nous occupe?
France Jobin : C’est un beau défi! Les textures et transitions visent à altérer toutes pensées de séquence de temps. En travaillant avec un logiciel et médium qui m’impose une méthode linéaire, je vais utiliser l’acousmonium (l’orchestre de haut-parleurs d’Akousma à l’Usine C), l’espace ainsi que la manière dont le son y évoluera, afin d’y créer une expérience sonore intemporelle.
« Cette idée que le moment présent semble avancer dans le temps est définie par rapport à notre conscience. Mais notre conscience cependant, ne peut pas faire cela. Rien ne peut bouger d’un instant à l’autre, Exister du tout à un instant particulier signifie exister pour toujours. Notre conscience existe dans tous nos moments (de veille). Nous ne faisons pas l’expérience du temps qui s’écoule ou qui passe. Ce que nous expérimentons, ce sont des différences entre nos perceptions présentes et nos souvenirs présents de perceptions passées. Nous interprétons correctement ces différences, comme la preuve que l’univers change avec le temps. Nous les interprétons également de manière incorrecte, comme la preuve que notre conscience, ou le présent, est quelque chose qui se déplace dans le temps. »
PAN M 360 : Comment illustrer musicalement ce concept expliqué dans votre présentation? Comment traduire musicalement notre ressenti des différences entre nos perceptions présentes et nos souvenirs présents de perceptions passées?
France Jobin : En créant des textures sonores qui invitent une exploration vers un univers inconnu et un certain lâcher prise. J’espère ainsi créer un contexte qui permettra à l’auditeur de se retourner vers lui-même, le plaçant dans un contexte de réflexion intérieure, en faisant abstraction du moment présent mais en le ressentant.
« Le temps qui passe est intrinsèque au monde ; il naît du monde lui-même, des relations entre les événements quantiques qui sont le monde, et qui eux-mêmes engendrent leur propre temps. La fluidité du temps n’existe pas est ma tentative d’interpréter ce concept en son, en créant un pièce de musique, qui elle-même est créée à l’intérieur d’un laps de temps… »
PAN M 360 : Comment se décline cette intention « d’interpréter ce concept en son »? Est-ce une évocation aléatoire du concept ou une construction formellequi se veut fidèle aux théories ayant trait au temps relatif?
France Jobin : C’est mon interprétation du concept de la fluidité du temps. Mes études m’ont fait découvrir entre autres l’anecdote suivante : Einstein, dont la mort de son ami Michel Besso l’a beaucoup affecté, a écrit une lettre désormais célèbre à la famille de Besso. « Maintenant, il a quitté ce monde étrange un peu avant moi. Pour nous, physiciens croyants, la distinction entre passé, présent et futur n’est qu’une illusion obstinément persistante. » Cette pièce est ancrée dans le passé, présent et futur, mon défi est d’y créer une illusion intemporelle.
PAN M 360 : Souvent qualifié de sculpture sonore, votre art se distingue par une approche minimaliste d’environnements sonores complexes conçu au moyen de technologies analogiques et numériques. Trouve-t-on dans cette œuvre nouvelle les caractéristiques qui décrivent votre approche générale de la composition?
France Jobin : Cette œuvre est la première sur laquelle je me concentre spécifiquement sur le sujet de la fluidité du temps. Affectée de manière créative par la synesthésie en ce qui concerne les espaces architecturaux, c’est la force motrice qui me pousse à poursuivre et à créer ces explorations sonores. Un architecte conçoit des œuvres qui occupent des espaces. Je crée des sculptures sonores qui s’inscrivent dans le flux du temps et de la perception. Pour moi, l’environnement façonne architecturalement les pièces et comment elles seront entendues. Dans mes installations et mes concerts par exemple, je positionne les enceintes de manière spécifique pour répondre à l’architecture, créant ainsi une sculpture sonore sans qu’elle soit un objet absolu. Il s’agit plutôt de présenter une œuvre qui n’est pas absolue dans sa sonorité mais, au contraire, convertible sur le plan sonore en fonction de son positionnement dans l’espace.
PAN M 360 : Comment situez-vous cette œuvre dans votre corpus? Quelle sera la suite?
France Jobin : Cette œuvre fait partie de l’évolution de ma démarche créative. Mes études en physique quantique sont spécifiquement liées à l’intrication quantique ou l’enchevêtrement quantique. Dans cette optique, je continue de m’inspirer des théories dominantes qui tentent d’expliquer ce phénomène. Une première présentation – Entanglement AV– a eu lieu à Mutek en août dernier avec l’artiste visuel Markus Heckmann. Mes futurs projets seront en lien avec l’intrication quantique et plusieurs itérations explorant ce phénomène. Et bien sur, je continue mes études afin d’ alimenter le processus créatif!
“I transform, manipulate and recycle sounds of everyday life to represent them in a new light.”
As the evolution of electronic music continues to accelerate at a pace far quicker than what we most likely realise, it’s not uncommon to learn of new and inquisitive ways that producers are breaking ground in developing their sound, wherever it may come from. Once Scandic doom and metal artists can now be heard basking in the deeper often darker echelons of dub and drone, while those with punk origins can find themselves embracing the industrial, even disco, and EBM edge of dance music. Closer to the dancefloor still is jungle, breaks and UK bass culture that’s seeped its way into the BPMs of house and techno. Nothing is off limits.
For Canadian minimalist composer and installation artist France Jobin, her place within electronic music is ambient. For the past 20 years, Jobin has created works in the rich realms of this multifaceted genre and produced music under both her own name and the moniker i8u for a wide-ranging arc of explorative labels such as Line, Baskaru, ROOM40, and Murmur Records. With her music and installation work exploring all matter of elemental themes and surround sound concepts too, Jobin’s work, either live or static, has appeared in formal and unconventional spaces the world over; be it on stage for Montreal’s Mutek, Berlin’s Club Transmediale or Museolaboratorio in Citta’ Sant’Angelo, to her architectural installations at master classes at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and the EMPAC Concert Hall in Troy, New York.
As technology accelerates so does its power to enhance the music making process, and Jobin, exploring these fields, peaks and dimensions, sees her own productions – full of lush tones, modular algorithms and binary coding – sitting deep within a macrocosm of ambient academia and sound art.
“I use field recordings that I manipulate using only plugins that come with the software…a minimal aesthetic in the larger sense of the word. The manner in which I will be able to transform and manipulate sounds will inform my process of composing for either an album, sound installation or a live performance and exploring new software is always interesting because it sends one down a different path. Dialling through Bitwig’s resonator banks, reverb, blur effects and frequency shifters, to distortion presets and the system’s modulation abilities, the thing that jumped out at me are the subtleties I am able to achieve while processing field recordings.”
Jobin’s research into field recording and its manipulation, she says, is finding new interpretation through how Bitwigs plug-ins can be stacked; adjusting their parameters to work independently or in chain reaction of each other. “The nestled device chains have a great impact on this,” she says. “The way in which the panels are connected and the access to the arrange and mix view,” Jobin adds, “provides me with a direct connection in order to transpose my ideas-concepts into a viable sketch.”
“Dialling through Bitwig’s resonator banks, reverb, blur effects and frequency shifters, to distortion presets and the system’s modulation abilities, the thing that jumped out at me are the subtleties I am able to achieve while processing field recordings.”
Drawing attention to this kind of detail lends extra attention to her most recent album, released via Atom™ & Material Object’s No.Ware label, called Intrication. Look up the word and you’ll be led to what the internet defines as quantum entanglement: “a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated, interact, or share spatial proximity.” Expressing ideas, concepts and feelings in the most direct manner is part of the process, Jobin explains, when producing, and “in that sense,” she says, “Bitwig will facilitate my ability to translate abstract concepts to a blueprint.”
“I enjoy using the architecture to ‘play’ the space in order to accentuate its properties,” Jobin says, and believes that architecture, the materials used in its construction – a space’s size and shape – all effect how deeper listening can be appreciated. “Bitwig,” she says, taking into account the more complex environments she’s worked, “enables me to explore this in a different way as I set to create sound installations and performances for multichannel works.”
Jobin’s natural, real-world concepts form an equal basis in her installation work, most notably in Inter/sperse from 2017: an eight-channel, 11-room, site-specific sound installation for Italy’s Museolaboratorio. “My audio art is distinguished by its minimalist approach to sound environments at the intersection of analog and digital,” Jobin says. “Although we experience an endless stream of diverse sounds, we are conditioned to tune them out,” Jobin feels. “I transform, manipulate and recycle sounds of everyday life to represent them in a new light,” she explains, posing that by extension her focus is on the physical comforts of the audience through a specifically designed, physical space.”
Jobin recently completed an artist residency for MESS (Melbourne’s Modular synth archive and workshop). MESS, an initiative of the Australian audio-visual artist Robin Fox and sound researcher Byron J Scullin, is dedicated to the creation of electronic music and is offering artists the possibility to record and produce their music in a fully functioning sound production workshop, which holds one of the most unique, eclectic and historically significant collections of electronic instruments in the world.
“I had access to incredible vintage and modular synths, which prompted me to explore how to connect Bitwig to them,” Jobin explains. “Manipulating the modular synths with Bitwig was a great discovery that sent me down a rabbit hole of creativity that will continue in my own studio.”
“Each of us has a unique identity-sensitivity; it is our job to develop and hone our skills in order to communicate as clearly and directly our ‘music personality’,” Jobin says. “It is the artist’s creative personality which will shine through,” she adds. “Bitwig will certainly enhance and ease the production rate of ambient music so long as artists are doing their job, capture their unique sensitivity and refine it to make that come through in their work.”
MORE ON FRANCE JOBIN
The video is an excerpt from the upcoming audiovisual performance (AUG 24) as DUO with Richard Chartier for Mutek Montreal.
Your favorite virtue ::discipline, persistence
Your favorite qualities in a man ::
intelligence and humour
Your favorite qualities in a woman ::
intelligence and humour
Your favorite occupation ::
Your idea of happiness ::
swimming in Kipawa lake where time stands still
Your idea of misery ::
the present world political climate and the rise of intolerance.
losing a child to illness or death.
if not yourself, What I would like to be ::
an experimental physicist
Where would you like to live ::
Japan or Italy
Your favorite color ::
Your favorite flower ::
Your favorite prose authors ::
Your favorite poets ::
Your favorite heroes in fiction ::
Your favorite heroines in fiction ::
Your favorite painters ::
Your favorite composers ::
de Bussy, Satie, William Basinski, Richard Chartier, Mika Vainio, Akira Rabelais, Bach, Mozart,
Your favorite heroes in real life ::
humble heroes – fathers
Your favorite heroines in real life ::
humble heroines – mothers
What character (s) in history do you most dislike ::
Abusers of power
Your favorite food and drink ::
pasta, ramen noodles in Fukuoka, coffee, coffee, coffee
Your pet peeve (something that easily annoys you) ::
The change you most anticipate ::
A gift of nature you would like to have ::
How I would like to die ::
vacuum decay (google it)
What is your present state of mind ::
For what fault have you the most toleration ::
Your favorite motto ::
Follow your bliss
28 mars 2019 – 13:02
France Jobin is a sound / installation / artist, composer and curator
photo by Fabio Perletta
Wednesday, December 20th 2017 @ 10pm eastern time
B E A U T Y = beamed electronically across underlying true yearning
tune in on http://radio.computer
the show will be uploaded on mixcloud
every wednesday 10pm eastern time
Derek and France will discuss the meaning of beauty, sound, field recordings and all matter of the unknown!
episode 5: fragile beauty guest: france jobin
toshi ichiyanagi – music for living space (1969)
rnn_lstm – neural network tries to generate english speech
bass communion – ghosts on magnetic tape (liles reconstruction – part i)
i8u – grasshopper morphine
france jobin – 3_m
france jobin – scène 4
***france plays dj***
pinkcourtesyphone – wishful wistful wanton – Foley Folly Folio – LINE_SEG01
material object – synthesis – Alive01 – No.915
atomTM – riding the void – HD – Raster-Noton – R-N 147
evala – crackling/hush – acoustic bend – Port- PTCD005
photo by mick bello
[infinite grain is a series of interviews inspired on microsound procedures, exploring a wide variety of topics in dialogue with artists who work with sound on installation, composition and improvisation]
Above all, she is a listener, not just attentive to sound but seduced by it, completely rapt and fascinated with the delicacy of echoes, the internal processes of time. Her work is thus a faithful evidence not only of how important is the relationship between the contemplation of sound and the process of composing with it, but also the transformation of those details of the sonic materials appearing inside and around us.
We are talking about Canada-based artist France Jobin, whose work perfectly exposes such process of contemplating the incredible amount of microsonic possibilities in the adventure of listening. Her work reflects not just a fine manipulation of sound but also a profound experience with it in the practice of being immersed on its the actual field. This makes her art to be as silent as sonic, as still as massively active, hence revealing a profound level of detail of the sonic continuum that unfolds to build and surround us.
The act of listening is crucial here, as it instinctively dictates how much sound to gather, to recycle, to process, to compose. In Jobin’s case, such way of measuring sound –both aesthetically and mathematically– is finely intertwined, as her compositions, often playing with limits of sound and its perception, create subtle dance between memory and reality, absence and presence, audible and inaudible. And despite of being open to such poetry of listening, her sounds are do not renounce to be geometrical, very precise, abstract, mathematically shaped, as beautiful sonic numbers between the acoustic and digital domains.
An appreciation of sonic subtlety is so implicit on Jobin’s approach to composition, that it would be unfair to just assume her work is about listening to sounds, mainly because her way of opening the listening experience suggests an attention to a particular level of sonic abstraction in which time scales appear as result of grains, frequencies and other elements extracted from field recordings. Molecular, atomic and granular structures of sound, both in time and frequency, appear as microsonic forms which can be shaped, combined and structured over time, generating an ecosystem of minimal elements which create a life on each listening, always with the right sounds, in the right place.
Listening becomes micro as well: molecular, quantum, granular. As sounds are made of very fine lines of frequencies, and subtle sparks of time, in the same way listening is able to be opened to the micro realm; fibers and grains of sound, as delicate as time as such, softly intertwined on each of Jobin’s pieces. Her role turns to be similar to that of a collector of sighs, a traveller of echoes, follower of the resonances and their reflections, getting merged together with no other purpose that one of attracting to the process of listening as a way of stillness, detention and suspension; listening as a stop, a way of addressing sound and letting it be. That is, to value the process of composing as a way of conjuring immersion, sonic absorption, where to contemplate what is sounding, is at the same time, to be the sound as such: be lost on listening, pointing to oneself on it, feel one with it.
Each listening experience Jobin weaves is presented as a habitat for quietism, a quiet village of sounds which despite of their artificial reproduction –as it is created with means of contemporary technology–, doesn’t lose but expand their spirit; openness that comes from the special direction of this artist to what’s so fine, perfect and exact, at the same time so organic, natural and simple, the latter not understood as ‘non-complex’, but as ‘what has been stripped of the unnecessary’ and is even expressed in a quasi-geometric and accurate form, perhaps a finer, more pure sound, a microsonic substrate of the quintessence, of subtle signals that constitute the universe as such.
Jobin’s work is therefore a sonic cosmogony, both myth and science, art and math; present in the beauty that is expressed in odes to the laws that hold matter, but also in the ineffable, what can’t be found in any science but only in full contemplation. This form of articulating scientific knowledge and contemplation, both conceptually and in the aesthetic practice, is unique in Jobin, resulting in an fascinating adventure whose rudder is the minimal sound, but whose point of arrival is infinite one, so uncertain and eternal as the art of listening it carries and suggests.
Hi France, what are you listening right now?
Hi Miguel, I listen to a lot of music when I am not working at my own projects. It varies from Miles Davis to Ryoji Ikeda, but as of late, I am somewhat intrigued by beat oriented music, whether it be techno and its various forms, and other genres. I have been listening to James Holden, Rrose, Jeff Mills, Erycah Badu, TM404 and Atom TM’s HD.
Presently, my focus is on two albums: A Day in New York, Morelenbaum 2/ Sakamoto and Divertissement – William Basinski & Richard Chartier.
Otherwise, my regular playlist includes Richard Chartier, Pinkcourtesyphone, Steinbrüchel, Elektro Music Department, Akira Rabelais, Fourcolor, Evala, Mika Vainio, William Basinski, John Coltrane, fourm, Robert Curgenven, Schneider TM, Stephan Mathieu and many more.
I wonder how was your introduction to sound and how has that changed over the years until today. What place sound has in your life?
Being a difficult child, it didn’t take long for my parents to realize they could keep me quiet and out of trouble by placing me between 2 speakers. For a child who asked too many questions and who would get overly excited over simple things like music, it seemed natural to send me off to learn classical piano.
I had trouble reconciling the fact that the sounds and melodies I fell in love with were not always defined as music: for example, the sound of tires rolling over snow.
Synchronized swimming had a decisive influence on me as well; it transformed the way I listened to traditional music. The sound system used for this purpose was often positioned on a table next to the swimming pool (late 60’s). While submerged under water, I could hear the music playing above me, and, as you might expect, it was very different. I was left to execute elaborate moves, counting time to music I could hear, but not the way it should sound. I liked this much more
Sound has always been omnipresent in my life. Being affected in a good way by synesthesia, where architectural spaces are concerned, is the driving force that compels me to create these sound explorations. Field recording provides me with rich sound sources, whose melodic qualities are often hidden; I like to uncover them.
I think there is some implicit (let’s say) precision in your work, both aesthetically as technically speaking. You seem to be so sensible to the wide variety of timbres around us, but your compositions are not so overcharged of sounds and timbres, but rather minimalist and reductionist, always featuring just the precise and enough elements. How this approach emerged and how has it evolved in your work? I also wonder how you find these ways of leading your work to be so pristine and clean, and also if it’s hard to deal with such subtlety. Why do you prefer to work with those elements at the first place?
Thank you Miguel, I am touched by your comments concerning my work. This approach manifested itself through a series of experiences and thoughts.
Playing blues and touring was a great “school of sound” for me. While touring, one is often subjected to less than perfect conditions in regards to the venue, the sound system, etc. Among the things I witnessed for instance, was that the good blues players would always talk about the “feel”. No matter how technical a musician, if he did not have that “feel”, the subtleties of the idiom were not assimilated in the playing. Less notes, more “feel” was always the aim. I realized this was my initial exposure to a minimalist approach.
Another expression often used was “being in the pocket” or “staying in the pocket”, which was aimed at the rhythm section – drums and bass – and the important relationship between the two. If they were in sync, anything was possible; if they were not, the whole structure fell apart.
These concepts shaped my listening experience. I listened to each instrument individually and to all of them, as one. We constantly had to adjust to each room we played as venues differed in construction materials, size, etc.
The decision to move towards quieter dynamics and constructions happened gradually as I began questioning myself musically, and I no longer felt challenged. One moment in particular stands out: while listening to Miles Davis Kind of Blue, it occurred to me that I may have been looking at this all wrong. I thought of a staff and notes and wondered, “What if it’s not the notes that create music, but the spaces between the notes, the rests and silences?” I applied this concept to my approach in programming sounds, that subsequently led me to minimal sound art, which, in turn, led to a new-found interest in science, quantum physics, the elegant universe, and the tiny world of particle science.
I discovered that presenting quieter works engages the listener in a different manner. Quieter dynamics does confront one to one’s act of listening; perhaps there is a need for us to re-educate ourselves. Now, we often listen while busy doing many different things. I am hoping to make people stop and listen, simply listen.
I work this way basically because it is challenging. I have to work very hard to “zone in” on every sound I create, to peel away its layers in order to get to its true essence – this process is what makes it so fascinating. I am not interested in working within my comfort zone, that’s boring. What I fear most is stagnation, so I try and stay away from anything that will create a routine.
Perhaps I should make a distinction here between routine and discipline. I am very disciplined where my work is concerned, but the approach cannot be routine. I try and work differently every time, using different methods, concepts, etc., but I work every day. I have what I like to call an “inspector 12” within me that checks everything for validity of thought, process, and clarity of intent. If it does not meet these criteria, it gets discarded very quickly.
In that way, you mention in an interview at attn something about you work with quiet sounds when composing and how important are those for triggering certain states in the listener. Why and how do you think it affects not only your workflow but the actual way of valuing the tool/technique itself? What’s the importance of technology in your artistic procedures?
Working with quiet sounds is a way of focusing in; it forces me to work from within, not from outside in. If I can draw a parallel, some actors study the personality traits of a character and can be in character without the makeup, costume, etc: this is working from within, the actor who requires make up, costume, set, etc., works from outside-in. This process enables me to be completely attuned to what I am doing. Technology is important insofar as how can I best express what I hear in my head. In that sense, I do not choose technology for what it can achieve, I choose the best technology that will enable me to express myself. Most times, I am pushing it in terms of what the technology can do for me and I go about this without reading manuals; I experiment. Technology is a tool, it does not replace substance and content, it helps me communicate in the closest possible way I intend it to be, but it is a tool, nothing more.
I wonder how much are you concerned with the limits of perception and if that is reflected in any way in your methods and approach when developing listening experiences.
Yes I am, it is important to understand everyone’s base of reference and how it can be approached to bridge the gap with sound art and electronic music. If you are playing 4/4, you are appealing to a more physical aspect of perception, one that will give you a downbeat and make you want to dance. If playing more experimental works, one appeals to a more cerebral perception that, while it may also be very physical, the reception won’t be so easy from a listener’s point of view (hearing). The same can be said of classical music or jazz.
In a live setting, the work I present must take into consideration the architectural space. Sound and frequencies react differently according to space and speaker placement. I now look at each room I play in as an instrument; it becomes part of the performance.
In a recording environment, I work differently to achieve this since I cannot guess how this work will be experienced, through a laptop with headphone, a sound system or a phone. I need to draw the attention of the listener in, to get the listener to stop and listen.
In an interview for tokafi you talk about your interest on quantum physics and how that conception of the universe deeply affects you, which is even directly present in works as Valence (LINE), Illusion of the Infinitesimal (Baskaru), among others. What it means for you to discover a way of conceiving the cosmos so different from what we commonly experience? Also, how do you relate those scientific theories with microsound, which is also atomic, quantum, etc? How the actual link between art and science that happens around microsonic conceptions actually influence your way of working?
Quantum physics describes the nature of the universe as being much different than what we see. This is exciting to me because every field recording I make, I listen to in this way, I do not hear it as it sounds, rather, I hear what I can take from it to create a new sound.
Looking at the world through this lens has really helped me in my own understating of myself. I recently read A brief history of time by Steven Hawking, and although it is an older book and he now disagrees with certain ideas he discussed in it, it is a fantastic book if one has no prior physics background. It goes about explaining the history of many theories and how each scientist went on to disprove or improve on a given one. For instance, I had no idea there were 2 theories of relativity.
General relativity: abandons the idea of absolute time and special relativity, is all about what’s relative and what’s absolute about time, space, and motion, meaning that the laws of science should be the same for all freely moving observers, no matter what their speed.
What I like about all this is that it teaches me that life is in constant flux; the world in is constant flux. It helps reconcile me with the idea that we are just passing through.
1: “For instance, a scientific theory is just a mathematical model we make to describe our observations, it exists only in our minds, it is meaningless to ask: which is real, ‘real’ or ‘imaginary’ time? It is simply a matter of which is the more useful description.” – A Brief history of time, Stephen Hawking, p. 179, Bantam Book (Trade paper edition), 1990
2: “Singularity: because mathematics cannot really handle infinite numbers, this mean that the general theory of relativity (on which Friedman’s solutions are based) predicts that there is a point in the universe where the theory itself breaks down. Such a point is an example of what mathematicians call a singularity.” – A Brief history of time, Stephen Hawking, p. 46, Bantam Book (Trade paper edition), 1990
This pursuit of knowledge in science translated to a similar path in my music and naturally influenced my approach to sound and composition. My sound processing slowly became about the peeling away of each superfluous layer until I reached the essence of each sound. From that, it effortlessly moved to each movement within a piece and the composition as a whole. My superficial understanding of science helps reconcile certain concepts I have and, in my work, the only link between science and music is my interpretation of certain scientific principles translated into sounds and composition.
How is balance and approach toward electronic vs. field recorded/acoustic sound present in your work? How important is for you to merge them, preserve some of their qualities or alter what they produce for perception?
My creative process consists of gathering field recordings and processing them to an unrecognizable state. Many sounds are available to us, but we are conditioned to tune them out. I transform, manipulate/recycle sounds of our everyday life, to be re-presented in a new light.
I recycle sounds.
Relating to that, there is sonic matter. Do you value sound as some kind ‘material’? Something beyond, perhaps? I wonder how your own definition of sound gets placed among the transitory yet present nature of its physical manifestation.
Sound is intrinsic to life, in the womb one cannot see but can hear; this is temporary. It introduces us to this nice little paradox, just like sound and time – we are simply passing through, always transient.
Following that, I wonder if you could expand a bit more about how this relates to your practices of listening, during your daily life, during field recording, composing, performing, etc. I mean how your relationship with sound affects the whole spectrum of sonic experiences and connections and also how different situations alter your way of listening.
At times, it’s a blessing or it can be a curse, I am attuned to listening more than anything else in life. As much as I can recount musical passages, overused gear and plugins, I also hear everything else more acutely, which, at times, can be very unpleasant.
I discover cities through exploring their sounds. I have found that, while travelling, all senses are heightened and sharpened as one tries to familiarize oneself to new environments. This puts me at great advantage to find and record new raw material. While composing, there is a more intimate relationship; I am very attached to my sounds while composing, I feel I need to treat them gently and honor them. Once I am done, I completely let go.
It is something innate in me that has me relating to sound the way I do, the architectural synesthesia, the understanding of sound in a space and how it relates to the architecture, as well as how the architecture shapes it.
I would say this is the strongest influence, which explains why I like to work in situ in an installation context.
My state of mind dictates how I listen.
Do you have a particular criterion for choosing your palette of sounds. How you generate, pick, organise or define where to place them?
I generally work within a geographical region as most of my field recordings are done while on tour, travelling. They are somewhat a sound diary, which reminds me where I was and the wonderful people I was so fortunate to have spent time with. Each recorded moment draws on different of forms of programming, colors and nuances that emerge from the experiences as well as my memories of it all.
Next, I will program the sounds by listening to these recordings, literally splicing small segments to work with. In 20 minutes of recording, I can create 200 different sounds with this splicing method, programming with various plugins, changing color, frequency, timbre etc.
The placement of sounds is very instinctive, the nature and quality of the sounds is so important to me that when it comes to composing, it is almost like a puzzle: some sounds fit, others don’t, some sounds like each other, others don’t.
You also talk about the intentions you have with your work, by using certain dynamic range, quiet sounds and an immersive space/situation, so you can make people stop and listen. How this interest on quieting people and inviting them to listen emerged? What to you think about the link between listening and detention and how important is for you to dispose ourselves to the contemplative experience of sounds? Would you see that process as something spiritual, therapeutic or socially important in a way?
I think we live in a society that demands a quick fix for everything. People are generally stressed, running from one thing to the next, without ever having one moment to stop and reflect. My work, I hope, acts as a catalyst and incites people to stop and pause. In doing so, if I manage this much, my work really becomes secondary as it has achieved its aim – to get people to listen, and, perhaps, to quiet down enough to listen to themselves. In that respect, only the listeners will determine the nature of their own experience, and, at that moment, my work becomes secondary.
Having your experience with immerson, I wonder how is your conception of the sonic space and the actual exploration of the listener point/comfort. How do you think it affects not only the sounds but the listening experience as such? Could you tell us about any experience you remember from the states or situations triggered at those gatherings?
immerson came about from my experiences both as an artist and a member of the audience. I noticed how very little care was given to the actual physical comfort of the audience, which I believe affects their ability to listen. The premise for immerson was simple: I thought that one cannot expect an audience to be physically uncomfortable while confronted with intellectual discomfort. I felt that if people were physically comfortable, they would be more receptive.
With immerson, this is what happened. Some people would be so comfortable that they would slip into this half-awake half-asleep state, where music just hovered over and around them.
I have also concluded that the context of presentation of works is fundamental to the intention communicated, which must be respected, be it minimal, lo-fi, noise, etc. Each one requires a specific approach in the context of presentation to ensure that an artist’s work being presented in the best possible way. When that happens, it is an honest proposition, and the public will react according their frame of reference, but, at least, the intent is clear.
Photo by Antonello Carbone taken during Liminaria Residency, Italy
And how this spatial concern affects your work in the studio? What’s the difference with the performance environment in terms of your approach, intention and way of working?
If I may start with a small parallel, an architect creates works that occupies a space. I would say I create sculptures that fit in the flow of time and perception. The environment architecturally shapes the pieces and how they will be heard. In installation and concert works, for instance, I may position speakers in specific ways to respond to the architecture, therefore creating a sound sculpture without it being an object. It is about presenting a work that is much different that which one hears dependent on one’s placement.
In my studio, my approach is entirely different. Here, I can really focus on clarity and precision. In a concert or an installation, I am thinking outward; the outcome is decided by external factors. In my studio, where I program sounds and compose, it is a much more intimate relationship to sound – a direct connection that I can exploit as I wish, not dictated by outside factors. I can obsess over a fade, a transition or a 2-second segment if I want.
The space you create in your compositions is often so clean and sublime that silence and sound become one; sometimes your silence is so sonic and your sound is so silent and I find that truly fascinating as I feel deeply in my own experience, often giving me an impressive sense of embodiment and completion that leads me to think your ‘use’ of silence as a sonic element, reflected in the fine sounds you choose but also in what it causes in terms of mental states. Following that, what is your concept of silence? Do you think about ‘it’? Also, do you think in some way you compose ‘with’ it?
I do think about it greatly; it is something I finally understood from my prior musical training. As I realized that the rests and pauses were the architect of the notes surrounding them, I also understood silence as an intrinsic part of my sound. This is how I approach programming: reaching for the unique essence of each sound enables me to leave space for silence. When I am using one of my favorite hi pitches, silence is below that frequency; the frequency exists to let you hear what is not there, even though it would appear it is all you hear. The amplitude also affects this in a nice way; if I am working with low volume, silence will seem to be more present while changing the nature of the sound, while working with loud volume enhances certain frequencies.
Why your interest towards simplicity? I guess your minimalist approach to sound comes from an actual minimalism that is implied in your daily life. How is that relationship? Are you influenced by minimalism in other ways rather than sound? And how do you think those ways actually relate to sound?
Simplicity is really a state of mind I am attempting to reach. My life is really chaotic with family, travel, and so on that, often, my work, in some way, represents a headspace I am trying to grasp. This minimalist approach is more a mental one than it is present in the physical realm of my life, although I do appreciate minimal art, architecture, and design – they all help me reach the calmness I am aiming for. For instance, in my studio, I have only one print on the wall facing me, Mono.Poly.Chr Print by Richard Chartier, based on his designs for the two double cd releases on LINE by Bernhard Günter. This print is a solid grounding force if I feel I’m too scattered.
How was your recent experience on Empac? I wonder how did you manage the relationship between your sound work and the features of that piece such as the speaker system, acoustics and light. Also, how is typically your approach to these multichannel explorations of your work? Is that related to your “immersound” philosophy?
Empac was truly incredible! I am still reeling from the experience. This project, curated by Argeo Ascani, was a residency that resulted in a concert. I arrived at Empac with an idea that I wanted to explore, knowing that I would have to develop it further on site.
On my first visit of the concert hall, I was able to not only realize the full scope of the project, but, most importantly, the multitude of possibilities that I was faced with. The biggest problem was to make the right decisions for each speaker placement, each sound to use and where to use it, etc. This is as scary as delightful a position to be in, exactly where I like to be in my full creative zone. For that purpose, I spent 10 days in the concert hall, playing, testing, and walking around a lot in the hall to test every sound in specific speakers (30 to be exact) as well as the plenum (floor vents).
My approach to live concerts is very different from immerson, though the idea of exploring the limits of perception remains. immerson is an event I created for other artists to perform in, dedicated to minimal music, which takes place in a very intimate context. When I perform live, in a big venue such as the concert hall of Empac with a good system, anything goes in terms of pushing those limits. For this reason, my live shows are very physical contrary to my recorded works, which deal with a different listening context and approach.
The concert hall at Empac combines the outstanding acoustics, refined materials, and the comfort of great concert halls of the past, yet with the additional flexibility and technology of the 21stcentury. The hall’s superior acoustics comes from a number of innovations. Convex walls and other shaped surfaces allow performers or loudspeakers to be anywhere in the hall, redefining the notion that music comes only from the stage. A fabric ceiling was developed for the first time ever for both its acoustic and aesthetic properties. Air rises quietly from under the seats rather than being forced down by noisy fans, this is the plenum.
At EMPAC, I was able to delve in areas I do not normally explore, including beats, which I had not yet performed publicly. These beats were issued and recorded from a previous artist’s residency at EMS in Stockholm in April 2015, using the Serge and Buchla 200 modular synthesizers. I presented a new work structured for the EMPAC Concert Hall and I also collaborated with Alena Samoray, who created a subtle lighting design that was complementary to the sounds. Alena uses the architecture for lighting the same way I use it with sound.
Alena and I now have a new collaborative sound and light multichannel piece:
4.35 – R0 – 413 to be performed in concert or presented in an installation context.
Last but not least, could you please recommend us something to read or listen? What moves your interests lately?
Reading: Well, first of all, would be A brief history of time by Stephen Hawking and I am now reading Hyperspace by Michio Kaku.
Miles Davis, Kind of blue
Donaccha Costello, together is the new alone
Akira Rabelais, The Little Glass
:zoviet*france:, the decriminalization of country music
William Baskinski, variations for piano and tape
Evala, Acoustic Bend
read – TOKAFI
France Jobin is not trying to understand the world – but her own place, in it.
France Jobin is a sound artist’s favourite sound artist. Minute attention to detail, a penchant for precision and an ear for beauty in unusual places have translated into a discography that may not be overly prolific, but continues to impress the true sonic connoisseurs. It is also the result of an anything but typical biography, which saw her rebelling against her classical education by performing keyboard in a blues band for many years, before discovering her affinity for the electronic medium. Despite emerging as one of the leading artists of the microsound scene of the early millennium, Jobin’s style always remained deeply personal, infused with a sense of fragility and sensitivity that resulted from an intimate relationship with her sounds and where they might lead her. After more than a decade of operating under the i8u moniker, Jobin switched to using her civilian name on the occasion of her 2012 work Valence on Richard Chartier’s LINE imprint, a decision she would stay true to for her latest full-length The Illusion of Infinitesimal. In many respects, the album marks an acme within her oeuvre, although, as she stresses, it is merely the logical result of continuing her proven style and philosophy: “I felt it important to maintain and respect in the tradition that Richard Chartier established for his label. One of consistency and uncompromising attitude towards minimalism. With The Illusion of Infinitesimal, I attempted to push further this notion of peeling away superfluous layers so that only the true essence of each sound remains.”
You once asked yourself: “Why do I love to hear classical music but loathe playing it?” I’d be curious about your answer to that question.
Perhaps, I have today come closer to an answer. I still love classical music but I think it was not the right medium through which I could communicate properly. I found that many of the emotions I felt were not being conveyed clearly through playing the piano and interpreting someone else’s works. My aim was to communicate what I felt.
You have gradually moved from your background as a classically trained pianist towards different interfaces. How content are you with these interfaces compared to the keyboard?
Moving to interfaces and electronic music as a whole really freed me. Electronic music for me flows effortlessly and is close to what I am trying to convey. I also love sound, I love the variety of sounds that exists. When I was playing keyboards or piano, I was under a traditional music sphere of time signature, keys, notes, chords, etc. It is possible to get away from those with keyboards and sound programming, but personally, I always felt restrained. I needed to unlearn all that I had learned to enable me to make experimental music. When one plays keyboards, one is playing one bar while reading the next. This implies that you know what to expect. I felt this was a hindrance for experimental music. I had to rid myself of the years of training except for one thing, the actual act of listening. Everything else had to go. I can now say that I have started incorporating elements of my old training back in my work, I have been including piano and “musical elements”, as “sounds”.
For a few years, you would be active as a performer in a blues band. What were some of the experiences that would lead you towards the discovery of ‘the room’ as part of the sonic experience?
Playing blues and touring was a great “school of sound” for me. While touring, one is often subjected to less than perfect conditions in regards to the venue, sound system etc. Jazz festivals present a different dynamic, outdoor stages, where the sound is often lost. One learns very quickly that the most important person to a musician, is the sound man and that including him equally in the process is intrinsic to the performance. Among the things I witnessed for instance, was that the good blues players would always talk about the “feel”. No matter how technical a musician, if he did not have that “feel”, the subtleties of the idiom were not assimilated in the playing. Less notes, more feel was always the aim. I realized this was my initial exposure to a minimalist approach.
Another expression often used was ” being in the pocket” or “staying in the pocket”. This one was aimed at the rhythm section – drums and bass – and the important relationship between the two. If they were in sync, anything was possible, if they were not, the whole structure fell apart.
These concepts shaped my listening experience. I listened to each instrument individually, and to all of them, as one. During that time, we would have to adjust to each room we played, the guitarist with his amp and effects, me on keyboards and again, the band as a whole. If one room had too much treble, we would have to compensate, if the stage was set in front of a huge window, we knew that meant trouble as the sound had no solid wall to bounce from. I cannot tell you how many times we walked into a room and had to adjust on the fly because of so many different elements such as what the walls or floors were made of, how high was the ceiling and so on. It became such a regular occurrence that eventually, I found myself walking into a room and within seconds, know exactly what the room would sound like. When having to do our own sound – which was often the case – I was the one designated to do so. As I gained experience, it became obvious to me that the room played an integral part of the performance.
Once I switched to experimental music, I was able to take this experience further, using the room to my advantage. I feel I can really push this notion to its fullest with the use of frequencies that “bring out” the acoustic qualities of a room and exploit them.
You took a break from music after giving birth to your two sons. What were you listening to in these ten years? Did you end your compositional activities completely or are there still some productions from this period?
I listened to all kinds of music as I always do, jazz, electronic, classical, reggae and so on. Among others, this included Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thomas Köner, Richard Chartier, Asmus Tietchens, Pan Sonic, Mika Vainio, Bach, Mozart, Gustav Mahler, King Crimson and many more … Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue was and still is a regular on my playlist.
My sons were born very close to each other, which resulted in a period of chronic lack of sleep. During those early years, I proceeded to transform my studio, learn analog gear and hardware as well as get acquainted with computer generated methods. I spent a lot of time learning computer related methods while “unlearning” my previous musical training. There are no productions from this period but rather, all this work culminated in the release of my first self titled i8u CD. Strangely though, it would take me until 2003 to take the plunge and perform strictly with a laptop.
Especially with your most recent releases, I am noticing your use of terminology from the realm of physics for track titles and to describe the music.
As my children became older and more independent, I had more time to pursue interests. Science, physics, quantum physics were natural choices as I strived to move towards a more streamlined approach to life. Quantum physics describes the nature of the universe as being much different than what we see. This is exciting to me because every field recording I make, I listen to in this way, which is also how I view life. This pursuit of knowledge in science translated to a similar path in my music and naturally influenced my approach to sound and composition. My sound processing slowly became about the peeling away of each superfluous layer, until I reached the essence of each sound, from that, it effortlessly moved to each movement within a piece and composition as a whole.
I am not so much trying to understand the world as I am trying to understand myself, in it.
If I understood correctly, you also began programming your own software tools at one point.
My stint in programming was brief and only lasted one and a half years. I took workshops for MAX/msp and managed to create one instrument that I use when I improvise with other musicians. Although I found the experience freeing and very creative, the amount of time needed for me to become proficient in programming was also time taken away from making music. I was happier programming sounds and composing.
One of the things that would become more and more apparent in your music was your move towards quiet dynamics. What happens when sound approaches the threshold of perception, do you feel?
Everything happens. It changes one’s perception, it forces one to listen more intently and by that very act, makes the listener actively involved with the work. It opens up the floodgates to the myriad of possibilities. Amplitude can change the nature of a sound completely. Low amplitude to me is a great tool, it creates magic as you listen over and over. It never is quite what you heard at first.
The dominant underlying intent throughout my work, be it albums, concerts or installations, is to make people stop, remove all distractions, and listen, simply listen.
Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay once asserted that “writing for electronics requires the same knowledge as writing for orchestra”. Is that something you can relate to?
Absolutely, in electronics, you are composing with sounds instead of instruments.
Why then, as you recently wrote in the press release to your new album, is it an ideal to detach yourself from the sounds?
Sounds to me, are like children, one cares for them, nurtures them and eventually, they detach, and only in that very delicate act of detachment, can their true essence be revealed.
What are some of the criteria that make you feel satisfied with a sound or piece?
I approach each piece with a sound that pleases me at that particular moment. The attention to details comes in the sound processing and ensuring that these sounds delicately compliment each other. Albums are great because they give me the luxury to “obsess” on a 3 second fade for a week or as long as it takes until I am satisfied. I recently had a discussion about this with Christopher Bissonnette and we both agreed that “deleting the dots” is a painstaking but satisfying exercise! I feel a sound or a piece is finished when I have managed to transpose what I hear in my head as accurately as I possibly can.
When you’re immersed in sound all day, digging deep into the details, doesn’t it become less fascinating – because you understand the way certain things work?
Au contraire, being immersed in sound all day has become exponentially more fascinating. Unlike some, who have been conditioned to tune out background noise, I get caught in endless loops of analyzing how it makes me feel, and how I can manipulate these sounds if I could capture them. Mystery will always remain a part of the process as I try to understand what is reality. As I try to interpret and recreate this reality, it is clear to me that sound is the foundation of my own.
How do you see the balance between the emotional and the intellectual in your compositions?
I think this may come from my own attempts to find the same balance in my life. The emotional and intellectual balance is an inclusive one for me, I don’t see how one can exist without the other, within us. Sounds can evoke both emotions as well as intellectual appreciation. I believe that by presenting sounds that are physical puts the listener in a state of receptivity, when that state of mind is achieved, it becomes easier to introduce the more intellectual sounds, which may not be so pleasing at first. It’s a matter of context, and how things are presented.
What is your concept of beauty?
For me, it’s one where artists or musicians are able to communicate their unique identity. If they have found that identity and refined it, it will be clearly communicated through their work.
France Jobin interview by Tobias Fischer
France Jobin photos by Sandor Dobos
France was asked to write a short essay about creativity by Miguel Isaza,
you can read “From insticnt to creativity ” here : infinite grain
February 4th, 2014
It is a frigid February afternoon. Yet here I am, nestled in the warmth of my snowsuit, scarf and “tuque”, paralyzed nevertheless by the cold as the temperature hovers around -20C. Such biting chill and immobility are familiar to me; both bring a stillness in which I find great refuge. I am not here for the car races; what captivates my attention is the sound. Every year, in Quebec City during the winter Carnaval, an annual car race is held on the icy, snowy sinuous roads of the Plains of Abraham. Winter willingly provides both a landscape and sketchpad of packed snow roads, over which the cars speed and skid. The result: a deep, buried, rhythmic sound. I still love the crackling of winter tires rolling over packed snow.
Across the Plains of Abraham is a swimming club to which I belong. I am enrolled in regular as well as synchronized swimming classes. The pool does not have built-in speakers (1970). Our teacher plays vinyls on an old turntable, tapping the time on the pool ladder with a metal hanger. There, I encountered another form of sound transformation. While running through the various synchronized swimming routines, I would often end up vertically upside down underwater as the music filled the echoed space above me. A new version of Maurice Béjart’s Messe pour un temps nouveau would play out, no longer set in time; it was stretched, it was floating, I loved it!
These two moments, imprinted in my being, were instrumental in shaping the way I relate to sound. They helped me to understand how sound is transformed by its environment. A discovery of new listening approaches. This adventure began at the age of 12.
These unexpected encounters initiated my lengthy search (20 years) for a form of music that could enable me to best express myself. The quest led me to explore the classical, blues, reggae, and other musical genres. Classical gave me the love of dynamics; blues, a more intuitive sense of dynamics, and reggae, the appreciation of complicated rhythm. It was while playing blues that I learned to program sounds on keyboards and rack mounts. But what blues really gave me was a first-hand experience of how sound behaves in a given room or space — from individual instruments to a full band as well as the balance between all these elements. Touring and playing in different venues every weekend was my “school of sound”. This experience translated into being able to trouble shoot any technical problem very quickly, but, most importantly, it taught me to know instinctively what a room would sound like, what would or would not work. Later, I incorporated this knowledge in my work by treating the room as an instrument, whether for a concert or an installation.
Still unsatisfied, still looking for the right “language” with which to communicate, I discovered electronic music. As I experimented, one thing became obvious to me: it flowed, it was effortless, I had finally found the language. Now, I had to become proficient. It became my new obsession. Taking what I had learned from programming sounds and applying it to my creative approach was my new focus, one that would later become a signature of sorts. Going from noise to drone, ambient to techno and experimental, I became bored. It had become too easy, and I was not achieving what I had set out to do. I realized I was looking at this all-wrong. My approach was influenced by the years spent with traditional music. My instrument, the keyboard, required that I read the following bar while playing the present one. This technique creates a state of knowing exactly what will come next with certain predictability, and I felt this was wrong for me.
The other elements I questioned were the staff and its musical notations. I came to the conclusion that I had learned to read music a certain way. I thought, “what if it’s not the notes that create music, but the spaces between the notes, all those empty spaces?” I applied this idea to my approach to programming sounds, and it led me to minimal sound art, which, in turn, led to a new-found interest in science, quantum physics, the elegant universe, and the tiny world of particle science.
“Often, my compositions start with a feeling or emotional state. There is a likelihood of finding a certain emotion in a piece, but neither is it guaranteed, nor do I know exactly when or where I will find it. The act of looking for that emotion in of itself will distort the process. Although one might think experimental music allows the artist complete freedom when composing, I feel constrained both by my mental state and the way I build the piece.
“I find an unlikely parallel in quantum theory and composing. The electron that can exist on a different orbital plane can never have its velocity measured or even its exact location known, due to the intimate connection between the particles and waves in the wacky world of subatomic dimensions.” Excerpt from the text on the album Valence LINE_054, February 2012
The focus of my work is replicating as accurately as I can what I hear in my head — an enormous undertaking I thoroughly enjoy that constantly challenges me. As I grew closer to reaching this goal, one problematic issue emerged: the context in which I was presenting my work, be it a live show or an installation. Logically, this new irritant became an ongoing preoccupation, parallel with my work. Concentrating on the context of presentation made it more difficult for me to disseminate my work the way I wanted it be presented in live venues. I also found it difficult to hear artists’ compositions, whose work I love, in contexts that did not do justice to their work.
The Listening Experience, The Context
I imagined a space where a recumbent position would afford greater physical comfort to the audience, freeing them of physical constraints enabling them to open themselves to listening wholly during a sound art event that could be intellectually demanding. The premise can be expressed thus: if people are physically uncomfortable, they are not in a state “to receive” challenging, minimal sound art; if the audiences are comfortable, they will be more receptive. I created immerson.
Although the principle seems limpid and almost self-evident, articulating this awareness was not. immerson emerged only after lengthy reflection on the listening process of audio art disseminated in public presentation venues. Thus immerson: a dedicated listening environment, focusing on the physical comfort of the audience in a specifically designed space. The premise for immerson is to seek out/explore new perceptions and experiences during the listening process by pushing the concept of “immersion” to its possible limits in order to maximize the experience for the public.
“Between notes and sounds lie rests and silence. I have come to regard these as the most fragile parts of music.”From the sound installation, Entre-Deux, part of the new media exhibit Data/Fields, curated by Richard Chartier in the Washington, DC area, along with Ryoji Ikeda, Mark Fell, Caleb Coppock, and Andy Graydon.
Written in 2013 by France Jobin, sound artist founder of immersound, a concert event/philosophy which proposes to create a dedicated listening environment by focusing on the physical comfort of the audience through a specifically designed space. The premise for immersound is to seek out/explore new perceptions and experiences of the listening process by pushing the notion of “immersion” to its possible limits.
Tell me about your philosophy/event series, immersound. It’s fantastic to see that sound is being presented in an environment where every aspect of the experience is taken into consideration (lighting, sound reproduction, physical comfort etc). How and why did the series begin? How is the space itself optimised for the listener experience?
The series began following a lengthy reflection on the listening process of audio art within the framework of public presentations. Experiences I encountered, both as a sound artist and member of the public during various audio art performances, led me to realize that a proper context of presentation for minimal sound art was clearly needed. I set out to create an event in which I would like to perform in, one dedicated to the listening environment by focusing on the physical comfort of the audience through a specifically designed space. My premise for immersound-immerson was simple: if people are physically uncomfortable, they are not in a state “to receive” challenging, minimal sound art; if they are comfortable, they will be more receptive.
I consulted with Stéphane Claude, Head of Research of the media lab’s audio sector at the artist centre Oboro, where immersound-immerson has been held annually since 2011. I shared my thoughts about having the audience lying down and we decided to use a 6.1 surround sound system and 26 zafutons (Japanese style cushions) specifically made for the event, in order to transform the space into an intimate listening room.
The zafutons are placed on the floor inside a perimeter defined by the speakers which are set up around the room low to the floor, using special stands that enable their positioning at an angle toward ear level. A “shower” of small speakers hangs from the ceiling in order to create a continuous multidirectional movement in constant flux. Only the speakers are lit by low intensity blue ceiling lighting, dimmed at the beginning of the performance.
I find it very important to set the right mood for the evening. I have people waiting outside of the concert space when they arrive, as a playlist created for the event unfolds in the background. The atmosphere is quite relaxed and gives people a chance to wind down from their day as well as creates anticipation for the event. When all is ready, I bring 2 – 3 people at the time through this dimly blue lit anti chamber where, for a moment, they are literally in between 2 worlds, this enables me to draw them in so that, at the moment they enter the space, their mood is already set.
Such an emphasis on listening environment brings me back to thoughts on your most recent record, The Illusion Of Infinitesimal. The nature of your sounds – delicate, low in volume – evoke an awareness of my own listening space and the noise within it. Is there any particular reason behind your preference for quieter constructions?
The decision to move towards quieter dynamics and constructions happened gradually as I began questioning myself musically and I felt no longer challenged. One moment in particular stands out, while listening to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, it occurred to me that I may have been looking at this all wrong. I thought of a staff and notes and wondered: “what if it’s not the notes that create music, but the spaces between the notes, the rests and silences?” I applied this concept to my approach in programming sounds, it subsequently led me to minimal sound art, which, in turn, led to a new-found interest in science, quantum physics, the elegant universe, and the tiny world of particle science.
I discovered that presenting quieter works engages the listener in a different manner regarding their listening habits. Quieter dynamics does confront one to one’s act of listening, perhaps there is a need to re-educate ourselves. We often listen now while being busy doing many different things. I am hoping to make people stop and listen, simply listen.
Do you have a personal favourite space in which to listen to The Illusion Of Infinitesimal (that is, if you listen back to your own work at all)? For me, the record struck its most potent connection when I listened on headphones in one of empty meeting rooms at work, long after everyone else had gone home.
I am more inclined to listen to the work I am currently involved in rather than past works. However, I did spend a lot of time listening to The Illusion Of Infinitesimal during the mastering phase. These were very “concentrated listening” sessions taking place in my studio.
Is there a particular set of circumstances (time, location, disposition) that you find optimum for composing your music?
Part of the liner notes I wrote for Valence on LINE convey my state of mind best: “my compositions start with a feeling or emotional state. There is a likelihood of finding a certain emotion in a piece, but it is not guaranteed, nor do I know exactly when or where I will find it. The act of looking for that emotion in of itself will distort it.” This still holds true today.
My studio is my place of choice for programming sounds and composing. All that is important to me relating to music and art is in this room. I have my equipment, gear, monitors, my father’s old 35m camera, projector and editing table. The walls are painted neutral grey in order to minimize distractions. Only one print on the wall facing me, Mono.Poly.Chr Print by Richard Chartier, based on his designs for the 2 double cd releases on LINE by Bernhard Günter. This print is a solid grounding force.
You were recently involved in Quark: How Does The Invisible Sound?, which came out last month. Can you tell me about your own contribution? How did you find the experience of using the Cconfin software?
Quark’s approach was defined by its creators, Fabio Perletta (farmacia901) and Ennio Mazzon, Cconfin (custom software).
The project is based on the intent of exploring the possible inter-relationship between sound and the invisible, strictly related to science and physics.
I was thrilled to participate in this project, it enabled me to delve deeper into areas of science I have been interested in. Cconfin, the software, is inspired by elementary particles interactions and a physical phenomenon known as Colour Confinement, the software defined the guidelines for programming sounds. I managed to explore melodic textures to create a work that holds a visibility that is not quite discernible.
You refer to your pieces as “sound sculpture” in your website biography. I’ve spoken to a number of other artists who perceive their work as “sculptural”, although the interpretation of the term has been different on each occasion. How is your approach to your work informed by your perception of it as “sculpture”?
If I may start with a small parallel, an architect creates works that occupies a space, I would say I create sculptures that fit in the flow of time and perception. The environment architecturally shapes the pieces and how they will be heard. In installation and concert works for instance, I may position speakers in specific ways to respond to the architecture therefore creating a sound sculpture without it being an object. It is about presenting a work that is much different that what one hears, dependent on one’s placement.
You also put together a wonderful sonic self-portrait for our livingvoid compilation. Can you tell me about your own interpretation of the term “self-portrait”, particularly in a sonic context?
For me, the term self-portrait elicits feelings of awkwardness and artistic nudity. In finding that nudity, as painful as it may be, I began by peeling away superfluous layers of sounds in order to uncover their true essence. The time limit imposed by the project led me to apply this notion of “removal” to both sound and time simultaneously.
What’s next for you?
Following The Illusion of Infinitesimal on Baskaru, the vinyl album sans repères is being released in Japan on the new popmuzik label in the spring- early summer. In late May, I will present a concert at Manif d’Arts, part of Guérilla du bruit series in Quebec city, and the world premiere concert version of sans repères at EM15 (ELEKTRA MUTEK 15) in Montreal.
In June, I am presenting immerson 6, and after, I will be off to Italy for 2 concerts and residencies being held respectively by Portobeseno festival in Trentino, and Liminaria 2014 (Interferenze festival) in the Fortore region. I will return to Italy in August to play at Flussi Festival. Another tour in Japan as well is in the works later in 2014 or early 2015.
Finally, a new collaborative audio/visual project entitled “Mirror Neurons”:
Sound : France Jobin and Fabio Perletta,
video by xx+xy visuals.
You can view a short promo here : http://vimeo.com/95506484
Question 1 :
A propos de votre animation Obstacle (2003)(1), vous parlez de votre “obsession” au sujet des “transitions”. Et il est manifeste que cette création rend compte de cet intérêt majeur dans votre pratique artistique, pour ce thème, à tel point que l’on pourrait dire qu’Obstacle n’est que “transitions”. Pourriez-vous nous dire d’où vous vient cette obsession? Pourquoi ce thème récurrent dans vos créations ?
A -My obsession with transitions comes from my quest for fluidity. Often we cannot say why we like a particular piece of art. We simply feel, not knowing why. Personally, I can usually discover a disparity that I fail to digest, a failed transition that can cause me not to like a piece. In my music as in my life, emotion and feelings can change and it is in the transition that one is the most vulnerable. It is perhaps a need to teach or to learn, that the transition will hold an important position in my work.
Question 2 :
Cette animation qui part d’un point pour aboutir à une construction très élaborée, excessivement structurée, n’est constituée que de “passages”. Passage d’un point à un autre, d’un ensemble de points à une ligne, d’une ligne à une autre, passage d’une couleur à une autre aussi, passage d’un son à un autre aussi ; avant de disparaître et réapparaître sous une autre forme. Et l’on sait à quel point l’élément sonore occupe une place prépondérante dans vos créations. Ne faudrait-il pas voir dans ces lignes, dans ces points de passage le désir de donner à voir l’invisible ? Ne faudrait-il pas lire votre animation comme un désir de faire réfléchir l’internaute, sur ce qui, justement, ne se donne pas à voir immédiatement, mais à saisir de manière indirecte ?
A – My intent is definitely to make the user reflect on what is not seemingly evident, I am not one to dictate to or walk someone through a work. I believe that its effectiveness lies in one’s ability to draw one’s own conclusions. I do hope the work will trigger a “réflexion” based on one’s own frame of references and what the work may evoke in that regard. As in Plato’s allegory of the cave, some see the shadow, some see the puppet and others the light from outside.
Question 3 :
Vous parlez aussi de cette création en termes de “métaphore”, expliquant qu’Obstacle représente métaphoriquement parlant “les réseaux en puissance, les liens aléatoires entre les idées, les concepts, les étants”. Est-ce à dire que votre création tente de montrer à sa manière que tout n’est que hasard ? Faut-il comprendre que pour vous le monde ne serait qu’un chaos organisé soumis finalement au seul principe d’incertitude ?
A -Art that is abstract in nature is somewhat of a paradox. The static on the TV when a station goes of the air certainly can be said to be random, uncertain and most would say it’s not art, yet my work which can be interpreted as random , uncertain and chaotic still manages to convey a feeling, a moment, a memory. A moment of TV static is not easily remembered. A moment of TV static holds the same place in my mind as any other moment of TV static. Abstract art however, tends to be sorted, dwelled upon. My work is a need to convey to the user a message for that user. Where that message originated could be debated; from the user themselves, from a memory that is invoked from watching the piece, from the music.
Question 4 :
Toujours en travaillant sur “liens aléatoires entre les idées, les concepts, les étants”, mais aussi en invitant le spectateur à réfléchir sur cette notion, est-ce que vous ne souhaitez pas mettre en évidence, ne serait-ce que de manière métaphorique que les éléments aléatoires ne se situent “pas seulement dans les choses, dans les corps matériels” (J. Baudrillard, Mots de passe, p.60), mais aussi en nous, dans la mesure où en tant que microcosme moléculaire par notre pensée même nous participons à ce phénomène, ce qui crée in fine, “l’incertitude radicale du monde” ?
A -The certainty of chaos, being that every paradigm we choose to apply ourselves, we have the knowledge that previous paradigm shifts, have shown us that we were mistaken and often they conflict. We can be certain only that there will be another paradigm shift that will reverse our thought once again with the only certainty we will continue to change our thoughts of art and ourselves.
Question 5 :
En regardant pour la première fois votre création, je n’ai pu m’empêcher de penser au travail de Vera Molnar avec l’ordinateur, précurseur en son temps. Peut-on voir une influence de cette artiste dans votre pratique artistique ? Pourriez-vous nous dire quel(le)s sont les artistes qui ont marqué votre pratique artistique, et qui continuent de l’influencer peut-être encore aujourd’hui ?
A – My biggest influences have been John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Miles Davis and many others. I have only recently been introduced to the visual art field. I am still in transition and my visual work rests on sound as its foundation. I am not familiar with Molnar’s work.
Question 6 :
Lorsque l’on fait l’expérience esthétique de votre animation Obstacle, on a l’impression d’avoir affaire à un tout très structuré, excessivement construit, organisé dans un but donné, clairement déterminé par avance. Obstacle apparaît dans son ordonnancement intrinsèque comme l’opposé de l’aléatoire. Comment expliquez-vous ce choix qui consiste à proposer à l’internaute une animation non aléatoire afin de le faire réfléchir à cette notion d’aléatoire justement ? Pourquoi ou pour quoi ce choix ?
A -There would appear to be structure from which we build the abstract, although that structure can be interpreted in different ways. Like the structure of a music piece played in minor chords tends to bring sadness, even if the chords are played randomly. It is the challenge for the interpreter (user)to build the structure themselves or to adapt it to a structure they have built previously which brings into question what is random about the piece.
Question 7 :
Est-ce pour mieux fixer l’attention de l’internaute sur les points de passage, les lignes de fuite aussi, pour lui donner la possibilité de faire l’expérience peut-être moins d’une esthétique de la participation que de celle de la “contemplation réflexive” ?
A-The non-interactive participation does help to heighten focus, and relieve the user, of the learning curve of technical understanding or discovering the interactivity of the piece. Although some user’s minds may wander, as long as the thoughts or wanderings have the piece playing a subtle role, then I feel the piece has had a desirable effect. Others may find them completely submersed in the work, especially with the technological burden lifted, contemplation is easier to achieve.
Question 8 :
Le choix musical est excessivement important dans votre pratique artistique. Vous avez d’ailleurs récemment participé à UPCOMING RELEASE(2), avec une soixantaine d’autres artistes spécialisés dans les créations sonores. Les sons occupent une place prépondérante dans vos animations. Au sujet de ISÜ présentée à l’occasion de l’exposition Ellipse, sur le site Web du Musée du Québec, ainsi que dans le Pavillon Charles-Baillairgé du Musée, le texte du catalogue d’exposition fait même mention d’un “hommage rendu aux stratégies du mouvement de musique concrète à Paris, durant les années 1950 et 1960”. Pourriez-vous nous dire pourquoi cette “passion pour l’École de Paris, pour l’art du concret ? Pourquoi une moindre attirance pour J. Cage, qui en affirmant que “tout est musique” a contribué à faire de cette attitude, avec 4’33” par exemple, un fait social et universel, historique et philosophique aussi ?
A- This passion is one of many that I draw upon to create a work. In this instance, it is the sounds that we hear and don’t listen to anymore that interests me. Sounds that surround us and that we have learned to ignore.
Question 9 :
Louis Dandrel, lors d’une récente conférence donnée à Paris dans le cadre de l’Université de tous les Savoirs, disait que “Si la musique est l’art le plus commun, elle est aussi l’art le plus réactif au milieu physique et aux humeurs de la société par sa fusion originelle avec la vie. Elle révèle, imite ou s’oppose”. Dans votre animation ISÜ, il est possible de retrouver toute “la documentation audiovisuelle, faite de photographies et d’enregistrements numériques in situ, captant les menus détails sonores et visuels dont se compose l’expérience en cellule”. Aussi, est-ce qu’en construisant votre animation de cette manière afin de faire réfléchir le public sur l’isolement, entre autres, vous pensez, un peu de la même manière que ce musicien, spécialiste sonore, que la question du son est indissociable de toute architecture, comme celle de la lumière d’ailleurs ?
A -The foundation of all my work starts with the sound, the first experience I am aware of when walking into an empty church, is the reverb. Only then, do my other senses get a chance to bring other things to my attention. My art as well, starts with the sound, this is the first ingredient to the work. So yes, it was the fusion of all the ingredients, but it was the sound that first brought the isolation to my work.
Question 10 :
Si d’une part ISÜ incite le public à reconsidérer les notions d’isolement, mais aussi de connectivité, en termes de perception, d’expérience de temps et d’espace que nous faisons sur Internet ; et si d ‘autre part Obstacle incite l’internaute à reconsidérer les notions de liens aléatoires, de frontières, de passage aussi, vos animations non interactives qui donnent à voir et à entendre, mais aussi et surtout à penser, ne participent-elles pas plus d’une esthétique de la réflexion que d’une esthétique de la contemplation ?
A-I think for most users, the thinking vs contemplative esthetic will be weighted differently, perhaps from one viewing to another. I think your questions will inspire me to further broaden my thinking esthetic and hence, the next time I view the projects, the weight will fall more on the thinking aspect.