VOICE as Instrument of Affection
Sound diaries have their seductive appeal. Unlike written memoirs, sketches, cartoons and photo journals they share a common feature with film documentaries – the temporal sound-image. Deprived of visual information (and of predominance of sight), sound-image attracts listeners' ears, penetrates their bodies, permeates through their minds, initiating the process of imagination and articulating lived as well as imagined experiences. No escape; intrusive meanings are always present. In contrast to moving images that reduce space and vision to the surface and depth of a screen, sound-images are capable of not only extending the listeners' universe but also making them aware of and signifying the impulses within their bodies. If combined with appropriate musical expression, as in the case of Bettina Wenzel's Mumbai Diary, the ambition to represent the unique artistic intention in correlation with genius loci and intimacy of a place where one finds oneself in a particular moment succeeds in producing interaction.
Wenzel's abstract voice finds proper structural support in the concrete soundscapes (of urban origin) she created from the field recordings during her artist residency in Mumbai; it bodily spaces the intervals and foldings that house voice as their natural constituent. Although we do not see her, we feel that she is singing with her entire body; it is the body which paints the vocal lines and pointillistic textures onto the surface of a sound time-crystal. The resulting form was neither composed nor improvised; it was created by affection. As we know (from Bergson and Deleuze), the affection is coupled with the body that offers the internal space for the act of affection.
Mumbai Diary is therefore not an itinerary, it does not provide listeners with any space-time coordinates or information from the life of its author. Rather it is a sound album, a collection of sound-images, thoroughly arranged by the memory as well as by the taste and style preferences of its compiler, composer and adapter in one person. She compiles out of the obsessive need to give a new meaning to the recorded fragments of her memory. She composes because she desires to manifest her relationships with the world and other people through a new meaning that is no longer dependent on the old codes and conventions of art communication and music making. And finally, she adapts the compiled and composed result to her instrument of affection – VOICE. It is the VOICE that brings into the memories of Mumbai, now embodied in the sound-images, the affection from outside – from the body of their originator. And the same VOICE generates later the affective response in the listeners, whose memories are not bound to the above mentioned genius loci. The VOICE becomes the guide through the unknown soundscape, thanks to the VOICE the soundscape becomes familiar to the listeners.
So, what can listeners hear (and feel) during the affective sound walk Bettina Wenzel invites them to? Unconventional, extended vocal performance used as a means to define herself against a foreign culture. Pleasure of the immediate need to vocalize. Barthesian grain of the voice in full effect. Expressive voice escapades against sound patterns alienated from their original environment. Improvised vocal comment to an appropriated religious song disturbed by traffic noise. Suggestive percussive textures woven from metallic sounds and breathing noises. Unidentifiable sound objects versus clear vocal intention. Unexpected juxtapositions of ambitious onomatopoeias and indeterminist formalisms. Potential stimuli to fictive narratives…
As the chronology and causal-consequent relations are no the focus of in this sound album, you can listen to its impressive sound-images-affections in random order. M.D. could stand for Mumbai Diary as well as for membra disjecta in this case.
Jozef Cseres, aesthetician of arts