Zsolt Sőrés: Everything that interests me has its essence in sound

1. The nature of your work is quite specific. You are exploring borderlines of different art forms from the position of a musician. Besides other significant musicians and sound artist, you have worked with film makers, choreographers, fine artists and you also write and translate books and write poetry. What does this experience give you back or how does this experience enhance your practice as a musician?

I am basically an experimental musician, a sound artist and a sound ecologist. Everything that interests me is based on sound. I am a „sound specific“ artist and a free improviser who believes that music is always „site specific“ since the beginning of human history. Different contexts of other art forms give me possibilities to experiment with my own sound: my sound works are not in the same function as the „applied“ ones, I never compose a traditional soundtrack or background music for a film or a theatre piece. I would like to join projects where I can find interesting, new contexts, maybe unknown possibilities I've had no chance to try before. Different art forms overflow into one another, nowadays all of them can use the other‘s toolbox without any problems – and from which new art forms can be born, e.g. sound art. I believe that the electroacoustic free improvisation is also a new art form, different then the other ways of music making. I love the diversity of the artistic environment, this inspire me to think even more in my own artistic and music language. I call this attitude to „meta art“, „meta sound art“ or „meta music“. I am very happy to live in our age, today there is an incredible expansion of sound-based arts: experimental films become sound art pieces where sound is at least equal with the visuality, site specific sound installations become the progressive part of public art etc.

2. Do you perceive any dichotomy in your work in the sense that you keep doing purely musical activities or you are dealing with endeavors where you're cooperating in different fields of art? 

No. I am looking for „inner poetry“ in different fields of art or in the different art forms. An intentionally silent film by Stan Brakhage (who called himself a „visual compser“) or look at John Cage’s work or the fluxus movement or the revolution of the „noise art“ („noise music“ is a significant part of it) etc. contains this kind of „poetry“. Finding inner poetic content is the connotation of meta art – to find the unity of life and art without alienation. 

3. What projects kept you busy in last few years and what projects do you keep active at this moment?

Fortunately I am involved in many projects. E. g. I am a member of Electro-Acoustic Ensemble Sonic Mountain (with Klaus Filip, Franz Hautzinger, Christian Kobi, Tomas Korber, Hans Koch, Thomas Peter and Taku Sugimoto), I am a member of Inconsolable Ghost (with Hilary Jeffery, Gideon Kiers, Takashi Makino and others), there's been a long time very active collaboration with the legendary krautrock band Faust, then Ahad & ChrS (duo with Christian Skjødt), collaboration with Swiss composer Marcel Zaes, trio with Richard Barrett and Milana Zarić, Don’t Eat Group (with the Hungarian experimental filmmaker, video/visual artist András Juhász), I Belong to the Band (with Adam Bohman, Oli Mayne and Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg), a trio with Christian Kobi and Richard Scott), I played with the Hyperion International Ensmble (artistic directors: Ana-Maria Avram, Iancu Dumitrescu) and I have projects with Hungarian musicians, artists in Budapest. I also lead a group called Dark Flow Ensemble septet formed few years ago with my students and other very young Hungarian improvisers, electro-acoustic sound artists etc.
I am currently working on my new solo project My First Art Brut Symphony (for viola, electronics, objects and voice) as well. 

4. Your residential project is called Soundwalk – Citywalk – Walkscape: Artistic Transformation of The City Space. Can you briefly describe the concept?

The residency project Soundwalk – Citywalk – Walkscape: Artistic Transformation of The City Space in Bratislava searches for a new evaluation of architectural spaces from the perspective of acoustics „physically” as well as „poetically”. The physical aspect of the soundwalk is a walk with a focus on listening to the environment. The audio tour creates hyperreal, immersive experiences that allow the listener to explore an often familiar world in new ways.

 5. What is the background of this concept, what issues inspired this idea?

My project is also an hommage to the great Slovak experimental music composer and intermedia artist, one of the key figures of contemporary music and sound art in East-Europe, Milan Adamčiak (16th December 1946 – 16th January 2017) with whom I had the chance to work together a few times during the last fifteen years. In this regard my piece is a sound based intermedia piece consisting of conceptual art, field recordings and music concrète, electroacoustic music and sound installation art. Based on Adamčiak’s graphic score Chodecké kusy (Walker’s Pieces, 2001) and his two unpublished collages called Vandrovné roky (Wanderer Years, 1962) I create a virtual sound travelling through certain and significant public places in Bratislava. One of the main inspiration for Adamčiak was John Cage: when he was in Perugia in 1992, he was asked by John Cage to perform in his intermedia music composition Music Walk (1958). 
In this historical context – following the dates of Adamčiak’s (1962, 2001) and Cage’s (1958, 1992) pieces – I have been focusing on the „music & poetry” aspects of the soundwalk in time, and „the sound of the space” in space as well. The audible experience of space and sound exists simultaneously; each communicates its own message; each has its own language; each influences the other. Most people focus on how spatial acoustics changes sound, ignoring the reverse direction: sound makes the contents and geometry of a space audible. The acoustic properties of a space interact with sound sources in a dual way. On one hand, the „poetry of a soundwalk” is concealed how sound allows us to experience spatial acoustics directly. We hear the emptiness of an uninhabited house, the depth of a cave, the nearness of a low hanging ceiling, the refinement of an office with expensive carpets, and the density of a city with cavernous avenues. Spatial acoustics produces dozens of audible cues that can be detected, decoded and interpreted, and when listeners attend to those cues, they are engaging in „auditory spatial awareness.” Those audible cues can produce emotional responses, such as elevated intimacy. Cues can influence behaviour such as choosing a distance for aural privacy; cues can be perceived as recognizable sounds in themselves, such as echoes and reverberation; cues can be experienced as a manifestation of the spatial geometry, such as spatial volume or remote walls; cues can be experienced as an extension of sound sources, such as an organ in a church
What I would like to add in this almost 60 years long hidden, conceptual and emblematic process of the Cage–Adamčiak „poetic contribution” is find and working in a new urban environment (in space) and create the „utopian blues” of this decades long artistic travellings (in time). The soundwalk will be a reminiscence both of the past, present and a possible future not as just a sound- and music piece but a possibility of the new relationship between us and our personal, public and urban environment. During the realization process I has been working together with artists and composers from Bratislava. Later I also want to release a summary/final walkscape audio material about how new perspectives of an interactive art form – the soundwalk / citywalk – can effect/transform our social life „sense” in the light of our „ferial” experience in Bratislava into something else, something more „transcendental”.
Up until the mid twentieth century, a musical space was a single environment for both listeners and performers who shared a common social space. In my experience today, by splitting the creation of music from the listening experience, we now have multiple unrelated spaces and shifts in time. Music can be created in a recording studio, and spatiality is added with specialized signal processing equipment. Listening is distributed across a wide range of environments, from the home theatre to portable headphones. This split also decouples temporal and spatial spreading. The former is created in the recording studio, and the latter is controlled by the listener’s choice of reproduction technology.
The sonic arts nowadays are no longer dependent on a physical space to add the experience of spatiality. Like M. C. Escher’s painting of an imaginary space with interwoven staircases that simultaneously lead upward and downward, aural artists also have the freedom to construct contradictory spaces. Space, and hence musical spatiality, becomes playable, like any musical instrument. When a recording engineer adds spatial attributes to each instrument, he is functioning as an aural architect of virtual spaces.
My work will be presented on the NEXT 2017: 18th Advanced Music Festival Bratislava in November at A4 – priestor súčasnej kultúry. But before the festival.

6. Your residential project relates to the work of late Milan Adamčiak with whom you were blessed to work several times in last 15 years. What is your relationship to work of Milan Adamčiak in the context of your own artistic works?

I am very inspired by him and his art. I love the radicality, conceptualism, beauty, complexity of his work. His music is cathartic, intermedial, such a deep reflection of our times. He was the John Cage of East-Central Europe, I believe! Long time ago, during the early 1990’s I met most of my friends in Slovakia through his art and by him. What a loss is his death not so long ago and his tragic life. Unfortunately I did not see his exhibition at the Slovak National Gallery in the Summer, but I bought the absolutely fantastic luxury catalogue of the exhibition. The curator of this great exhibition, a conceptual artist and a long time friend of mine in Bratislava, Michal Murin helped me already to develop my project.

7. During your stay in Bratislava you perform a few concerts. All of them are as a part of the Utopian Blues cycle - one already took place, the other one will take place on October 28 and the third will take place on 19 November in A4. The second one will be special because of the electroacoustic improv band Ex You from Novi Sad, Serbia will join you on stage and the third one will be together with a Russian – Finnish experimental duo. Can you tell more about specifics of those performances? 

Yes, I will perform a series of special concerts with collaborators from Finland, Russia and Serbia on 4th and 28th October and 19th November, 2017 under the name Utopian Blues – Experimental Music Outlines at A4 with fragments of my work in progress residency project. I make recordings from the concerts and some parts will be incorporated to my soundwalk piece, too. The title is a reference of the American anarchist writer, Hakim Bey’s essay called Utopian Blues from 1995 and also a great Adamčiak piece what I like very much, Utopic Fonic Opus. The first concert was a presentation of new sequences of my solo work My First Art Brut Symphony. The gig with Ex You trio from Serbia (Milan Milojković, László Lenkes, Filip Đurović) is a collective noise-rock improvisation and the last one, the trio with Ilia Belorukov and Läuri Hyvarinen will be an abstract, electroacoustic music concert. There are three possible aspects of what “utopian blues” can mean, it is something that Hakim Bey wrote down 22 years ago: “Music, after all, addresses the emotions more immediately than other arts, filtered as they are through logos or image. (….) Music is the most border-permeating of all arts – perhaps not the ’universal language’, but only because it is in fact not a language at all, unless perhaps a ’language of the birds’. The ’universal’ appeal of music lies in its direct link to utopian emotion, or desire, and beyond that to the utopian imagination. By its interpenetration of time and pleasure, music expresses and evokes a ’perfect’ time (purged of boredom and fear) and ’perfect’ pleasure (purged of all regret). Music is bodiless, yet it is from the body and it is for the body – and this too makes it utopian in nature.” 

Zsolt Sőrés, Bratislava, 11th October, 2017

Zsolt Sőrés's residence in A4 is held with the support of the International Visegrad Fund.