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Sonorous Ceramic

Updated: Jun 1


Written by Andrea Vinkovic



Prelude

Offering a ceramic residency is a great way of meeting interesting people, expanding the network of professional contacts and exchanging ideas with other creative individuals. I enjoy facilitating creative projects and sharing stimulating conversations over a coffee or a meal.


Sometime in February I have received the following email:

Hello, I am a cello player and composer and wanted to know if your residency includes musicians. Regards,

Emily

As simple and as unexpected as that. 


Emily's proposal outlined a plan to record the sounds of ceramics which would then be included in to new music works for ceramics and cello with a live performance and workshop towards the end of the residency. There was also the option to create a ceramic instrument which we both researched, agreed to and collaborated on.



Fugue

During her 6 weeks residency, Emily’s plan is to create new work for cello and ceramics percussion with a live performance at the end of the residency. She is not planning to make anything in clay, but use ceramic objects to create and record sounds. For the first time ever, my attention is drawn to the sound of ceramics. As faint sounds of cello are seeping in through the window from the ceramic studio, I cannot but wonder about the connections between those two vastly different modes of expression: sound and shape, tangible and intangible, object and performance, and in the process I am acquiring deeper appreciation for the ways in which these forms of expression can intersect and enrich our cultural landscape.


Joseph Young, a Sound Artist (www.artofnoises.com) says: “Both Ceramics and Sound Art work on a process of alchemy, whereby the raw material, be it clay or noise, is transformed into an art object that can captivate our eyes or ears. When you start to explore the connections between these two very different materials, it opens up the possibility for a new way of seeing and hearing the world around us and the many synergies between the material and immaterial, the object and the sound object.”


Yes.

I am starting to pay more attention to the sounds around me and realise that I am constantly processing them on the subconscious level. They inform my being as much as visual and tactile stimuli, yet I pay so little attention to them. As I’m savouring my morning coffee from a handmade mug (it fits in my hand just right, it gently meets my lips and it transports me, for a brief moment, to Margaret River where I bought it from the pottery many years ago) It dawns on me that paying attention makes all the difference. 


One thing that both visual art and music have in common is the ability to elicit an emotional reaction. Visual artists and musicians produce works that not only elicit emotions, but also influence one's mood, evoke memories and trigger thought processes.


It goes much further than that. While we are (usually) aware of the impact of visual art and music, subtler modes like handmade mug and sounds around us often go under a radar of conscious appreciation. But they are there, waiting to be noticed.


As the residency is drawing to a close, Emily is spending time in the recording studio and ceramic studio manipulating the sounds of clinking on pots, playing ocarinas and porcelain chimes (I do like the term tubular bells). 


She invites me to listen to some recorded sounds and, totally unexpectedly, I am carried to the different worlds. Ocarina sounds like a whale song. While listening to “clinking pots” I can see the procession of Buddhist monks slowly walking up the hill, their orange robes and lanterns waving rhythmically, contrasting sharply with the green grass.  And there is a sound of a cow’s bell. All that in a few seconds. It is like she opened the doors I didn’t know existed and showed me the sound world.



Finale

Emily designed final live performance in 3 parts:

Part 1: graphic score

This is where we all participate in sound making, following the graphic score drawn by Emily. It creates an enthusiastic and slightly chaotic cacophony of sounds and pauses. (we really need a lot more practice)

Part 2: cello and ceramic 

After playing some pre-recorded ceramic sounds and pointing out the “instruments” that made them, Emily plays cello accompanied by pre-recorded ceramic sounds. The room is silent as we are transported to slightly eery soundscape, perhaps a scene from Lord of The Rings movie.

Part 3: cello duet 

To finish the evening, an improvisation play by Emily and Rachel. A delightful conversation in cello.


What an event! We are all filled with music and laughter, connected by a wonderful experience. 

The sound of a spoon stirring coffee in my mug brings it back every morning.



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