Maria Balabas

La madeleine sonore, 9’59”, 2013
WINNER HELICOTREMA 2013 OPEN CALL

maria-radio

‘La madeleine sonore’, the piece you will present during Helicotrema, can be described as a mix between a soundscape, a poem, a hypnosis session and an essay about sound itself. Can you talk about it, and about its process of creation?
This piece was done for a project of the French Institute in Bucharest (Le cri de paysage) and the title comes from the poet Svetlana Carstean. It was a collaborative process and I worked together with Nicolas Triboi (who’s a French landscape-artist) and with my brother, Mihai Balabas (who’s also a musician). Nicolas did some recordings – in the village where he lives, in places like Rosia Montana, in different aural parts of Bucharest. I was inspired by Nicolas’s understanding of the sound-recordings, by the specific naturalist and poetic atmosphere he transmitted me while I first listened to his sounds. I kept in the piece his voice saying “a village without animals, but with hammers” – it was describing something you couldn’t actually hear, but had a very precise emotional and social meaning. To the mix I added some of my own recordings done during soundwalks or just like that – for example, a carol for the New Year played with a megaphone in my neighborhood. I felt the need to have also the idea of music inside the piece and I asked Mihai to play his guitar in his own specific way – very ambiental, deep listening, psychedelic, like the voice of the unconscious. I spent a couple of weeks listening to all sounds, cutting, mixing, making a sense out of them, a personal sound-language. The final structure and the text came very natural, without any plan. It was performed live and only afterwards I recorded my voice at home, not knowing exactly what for, but just searching for a form of memory.

The text is in second person. Who are you talking to?
I have no reasonable idea why I did this… To give a sort of an explanation – maybe I am addressing to the ones that step inside this aural world and need a guiding voice. A storyteller. I tried to describe one of the possibilities to experience the symbolic meaning of this form of perception.

Where were the external sounds recorded?
The recordings where done in a small village in Romania (Lunca Gartii), in other localities like Campulung Muscel and Rosia Montana, in Bucharest (streets, parks, trams combined with an old folk song about the rain, train station, sax player in the street, carols, people talking). It’s not a coherent map, but one that plays with significant sound-phrases, trying to guide the attention of the audience to the small gestures of the aural world in which we live.

In the text, at some point you mention a “hearing hygiene ritual”. Can you say something about it?
Maybe it’s because we don’t hear ourselves so clear… Confronted with the invasion of TV, radio, cultural traditions, commercial language etc, the personal voice (even self-tonality) remains most of the time hidden under the “common voice and gestures” of the society. What’s worse is that we are not even conscious of this permanent mask we wear. That’s why I thought of a ritual – one can put aside many of the habits that become dirt, consumption, commodities assigned to the pure sense of hearing and, with this “cleaner” perception, to pay attention more to the self and to the sounds provoked or heard. If you want, it’s the way I work with my own perception.

Could you say something about you? How would you define your work?

I am preoccupied with some states of the soul that cannot be otherwise expressed but through sound. I’m trying to find the balance between my own personality, the world I was born in, the social situation that surrounds me. I am still searching. My work deepen as time goes by and I have the feeling that the elements that will define my life experience, will become clear and clear on the way.

When did you start working with sound, and who were your references?
I started to be preoccupied by the field recordings and sound-collages while I was in Germany, for a scholarship, in 2006-7. So, since then, I developed my activity in many directions – as a live performer in the improvised music group Avant’n’Gard, as a sound-artist and soundwalk organizer. I am also a journalist, working for the National Cultural Radio and, as much as I can, I “infect” my journalistic work with the experience from the artistic world. I had so few influences at the beginning and maybe this is why I fell in love with the sound-world: I was overwhelmed with an immense freedom, no rules behind me, a totally free, intuitive even naïve perception. I remember a good friend of mine introduced me to Otomo Yoshihide, Luc Ferrari, People like us, Heiner Goebbels. I had studies of contemporary music, but only living in a society that was deeply preoccupied with those subjects I understood it’s meaning and it’s reality. Now, I am a member of the Ars Acustica group affiliated EBU, I take part actively in the building of the Romanian experimental sound scene etc.

What are you working on, at the moment?
I read about myths, mythology, fairy tales and hopefully I’ll make something out of my experience and those lectures. In the while, I perform with Avant’n’Gard and we prepare a new release, after the Untempered carols we did last year, a live improvised interpretation of an absurd text by Urmuz, together with two French artists. And, if you’ll be in Bucharest, let me introduce the city to you through a soundwalk.