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a radio artist, producer and writer on acoustic arts, Etienne Noiseau
has been a part of the European radio art map for some years. He has
co-founded the platform silenceradio.org and the blog syntone.fr for
news and comments on radio art productions and events, as manager of
the experimental program on Radio Grenouille, he has lead the Marseille
based station into the Radia network, and has organized a couple of
radio art festivals. And: he has recorded a lot. For Kunstradio,
Noiseau takes a look back on his life with sound.
“For already ten years I have been working with sound. I remember many times being struck, aroused, exhausted or drowned by sound.
As long as field-recording sound has been the matter of my works, I have encountered problems with making sound being heard the way I want. As you know, sound can be perceived both emotionally (musicality) and intellectually (information about its cause).
As long as radio has been the medium of my works, I have encountered problems with the human voice. As you know, voice is that special instrument that speaks thoughts. On radio we're not used to hear voice without listening to the sense of words.
I'd like to make radio pieces in which sound and sense play together without confusion. This time I’m using voice (and text) as a framework but it might have disappeared at the end.
I wanted to compare my sonic memories to my audio archive. Originally, to record is to make something known a second time. In some Latin languages, the same root has given us 'to remember'. But is recording always remembering?
As a mental mix of recorded memories and reminded recordings, ‘Sound map of my mind’ is an ego-centered reflection on living within sound. And I’d like to stress to all solipsist radio listeners that this self-fiction is deeply intended to their own unique aural pleasures.”
In the following interview Noiseau expands on some issues raised with his “Sound map” and on his interest in radio:
The way you structure your work reminds a lot of written texts, with chapters and breaks and references to previous parts and you can relate one to another but also read them separately. Each starts afresh. So this shall be the first question: How did you structure your sound map, and in how far does it demand a time-based, linear listening? I.e. how does it meet the conditions of radio?
I didn't come to sound and radio art from music, that's for sure. I was trained as a sound engineer in a film school so maybe cinema was more influential on me. Like in many of my other works I like to use a sequential frame. Actually I’m convinced that radio has to do with narration, not necessarily with a narrative text spoken in words. Of course you can make other experiments with radio, but through history our radio culture is essentially narrative.
Today, although radio has experienced the podcast revolution that allows you to listen to whatever you want whenever you want (just in the same way you can browse a book!), I'm still attached to the old concept of live broadcasting that brings you unexpected and ephemeral things.
Although radio drama for example has got an old and long history, I've personally never been fond of this genre and I'm not the kind of person that will tell you that radio is such an important creative medium that it deserves you remain still, quiet and concentrated during the whole program. As a producer I try to think about those listeners who will get on and off the program at any moment. So i always try to leave 'entrance and exit doors' in my works, not to build it too tight, to leave loose moments for the listener to wander, to make his or her own story.
Since you claim not to understand german: why do you use this language? The words relate to the sounds, verbally, not only acoustically. Who are the lyrics by? And how reads them?
Sometimes I've worked on an 'international' level, through the Radia network for example, as a producer as well as a curator, and I’ve always been reticent about working in English. Most of the time it's a lazy solution. So, working for an Austrian broadcaster naturally led me to work in German, and it was a challenge for me since i don't understand this language. So I wrote the text in French, I had it translated to German by a German friend, and I recorded it with another friend.
After that, I had to build the piece with the voice track and all the sounds, and I couldn't imagine it would be so difficult! Most of the time I used voice as if it was any other sound, and from time to time I had to consult my text in order not to make mistakes in the meaning.
But at the end I think I’ve made a real progress in understanding German!
Since it is a personal account of your history of listening and recording and archiving sounds, which situations are included and why are they important to you? In the text there's a lot of looking back, regretting, remembering, being restricted as well as excited by the simple things in life – as if looking back upon a life. And: what's the future?
Sound map of my mind is the title of the piece and it mustn't be understood as if the piece was a map. You don't listen to a map. The title refers to the recent fashion of sound maps I am interested in. And also to the egoist tendency in the internet of telling and commenting every issue from our personal individual experience.
So, as I am a sound man, the piece is a reflection about collecting, storing and remembering acoustic moments. It is a personal account, but I’d prefer to say it is a self-fiction. You're not literally listening to my life and thoughts – another reason for me not to speak the text myself!
I realized that it's not the first time I’m looking back upon my life! Maybe I need from time to time to stop for a while, to take the time to analyze what I’ve done and what I’ve lived, before going any further. It's also a part of my work to regularly question the mediums I use – radio and sound — through works that can be described as self-reflective (mise en abyme).
About the future, precisely I consider „Sound map of my mind” as a stage before a work that will deal with the transmission of thoughts.
(questions by Anna Soucek via email, January 2011)