Category Archives: Recents

Sneeze Music: The Story of Mauricio Pucci


Biography Project/Sneeze Symphonies
Commissioned by Deutschlandradio Kultur/Ars Acustica Group. Core text for the biography of the Italian “Sneeze Music” composer Mauricio Pucci who was born a woman but pursued his career as a man in the 1920s. Planned as a 7″ vinyl in December 2019.

Excerpt:
Mauricia “Farfalla” Pucci was born as the forth child of Anna and Paulo Pucci in the Tuscan village Riotorto in 1899. Her father, next to his daily occupation as a cutler was also a renowned village trumpeter. Yet, in favour of the progress of her three older brothers, Mauricia was denied access to formal education, even though her musical talent and her deep interest in composition stood out against the rural petit-bourgeois background. Aged 18, she decided to run away to Naples where she boarded a ship destined to New York. Tall and lean, with somewhat too straight features to be called pretty, unwilling to come to terms with her preordained role as a woman, young Miss Pucci decided to call herself henceforth “Mauricio” and so stepped 1918 onto the shores of the New Word as a free man and aspiring artist.

Pucci’s fate is one of the few known examples in music history that – quite literally – incorporate and transform transgender issues with utmost sensitivity in music. A coincident brought him into contact with the New York composer scene which at the time was much influenced by the new impressionist style purported by composers like Ravel, Debussy and Varese. Soon he made the acquaintance of Charles T. Griffes… and fell madly in love with him. Griffes, then 35, took instantly to this young, dark-eyed and strangely shy stranger. He was just at the turn to become one of the most acclaimed modern composers of his time and exerted a considerable influence on Mauricio, returning the tender feelings but most carefully hiding the fact that he was indeed gay. Such one of the most wondrous and secret romances in the composer world started… a love that was destined to last little more than a year. Griffes, feverishly working on a set of new compositions that he declared to become his ulterior work and the first modern piece that would “be more physical than any other hence written score”, died on April 8, 1920 of a combination of pneumonia, exhaustion and influenza. Charles’ death left Mauricio in a state of shock from which he would never recover but which – at last – holds the clue and initial inspiration for some of the most unusual compositions ever created in the fore field of Modern Music.

Pucci left New York only two months later to return to Naples where he introduced himself convincingly as a distant cousin of the Riotorto Pucci clan. Hardly any records of his activities remained with the family. It was said that beside his composing activities he earned a living as a teacher of the English language. No one suspected that behind the appearance of this erudite, softly spoken and extremely sensitive man lay the physical realities of a woman. In 1921, Mauricio conceived of a set of partly impressionist partly corporeally inspired compositions connected to the most terrifying event of his life: His lover’s influenza and ensuing death. The very pains, the fever, the sneezing, the snorts and moans, the heavy last breaths witnessed at Charles’ sick bed had left their ineradicable musical imprint upon his imagination and paved the way for his quest into NEW PANDEMIC MUSIC.

In 1922 he founded his “Orchestra di Starnuti” (Sneeze Orchestra) which put him onto the forefront of modern composers though, sadly, his innovative concept earned him at the time rather laughter and contempt than respect or admiration of his contemporaries. Between 1922 and 1926 he created at least 60 “Sneeze Fantasies”, for arrangements with handkerchief, nose, voice, trombone, trumpet, theremin and clarinet. While the instrumental parts had a score the “physical” acoustic elements, e.g. sneezes, were only notated as superimposed instructions. For the realization of his compositions, let alone any kind of recording, Maurizio had to rely on voluntary aid of sympathetic friends and supportive relatives who would partake despite their weakened health.
The combination of unpredictable live elements with a score that drew just as much on emphatic re-enactment as it challenged the virtuosity of the instrumentalists made it almost impossible to set up a “proper concert”. Pucci used wax cylinders to prerecord certain sounds in order to be able to play them back when needed. He experimented with the different properties of space too and was an assiduous visitor of churches and caves. The more he indulged into the musicality of “nasal explosions” and the creation of a PANDEMIC NEW MUSIC the more eccentric he became. Mauricio not only started to stage (and record) spiritualist séances to communicate with his lost love; he even became so obsessed as to distribute infected tissues to his environment in order to ensure sufficient flu infections.
…[musical analysis of the symphony]

“Fazoletto per un’ eternità“ is not only a rare and early synthesis of impressionist and atonal composition. In terms of gender politics and history it is one of the earliest examples of “physical generalities” taking their stance within the field of music. But thirdly and foremost it is a recording that incorporates the very vulnerability and timeliness of our existence.
Research, restauration and digitalisation of sound material: Sisukas Poronainen. Department of musical anthropology, Tami University of Finland. Research partner: UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive, USA. © Poronainen. January 2017.

Symbioses – The Radio as an Imaginative Body

Catalogue Contribution
40 pages, illustrated, bilingual. Besides being one of the authors I also acted as an editor, translator and part-time graphic designer for this most recent Datscha Radio documentation. Co-authors: Kate Donovan, Niki Matita, Verena Kuni, Suki Shanti Osman, Rafik Will. Layout: Susann Richter

“Merde – C’est une belle chose” – the radiophonic opening of our second radio day began with a quote from Alfred Jarry and a contemplation of this special mass by the artist Kerry Morrison. Her text “Body Garden Experiment” describes intercontinental transportation of seeds, the body as a catalyst for multiplication and dispersal: “Clearly, my body waste was not entirely waste material. It had fecundity.”

Datscha Radio17’s “New Symbioses”, in their combination of food, biology, radio(making), ecology and experiment, continued to take on new forms throughout the day. In contemplating the day’s essence, the thought surfaces as to whether or not a radio day can be envisaged as a body. On this elongated, partly winding, partly translucent body which spreads via radio waves across the garden and into the world, there are openings and enates, there are dish-like hollows where tomatoes are stacked next to fishes, and there are tentacles equipped with LEDs emitting the most diverse signals. This body is not human and it is not garden. It is not a breed – not by nature – and it is not a system. Four examples of our symbiotic broadcasting body must suffice to highlight the day’s events.

Raymond Brouwers from Urban Street Forest reaches the Datscha just in time for Carte Verte. It should be clear to us, says Raymond, that our (Western) lifestyle devours landscapes elsewhere, it robs them of water, energy and resources. In the unification of vertical city greening and reforestation, for every urban tree planted, so is another one in areas threatened by desertification. His “One Tour Tree Forest” tour will take him throughout Europe this winter, where he will scout out new buildings for greenification.

The home of symbiosis is the interstice. There it thrives, there it makes its connections: between the buildings of the city, between the continents, between the material and the immaterial, between human and machine. In its semi-opaque depths, hidden in the vibrant folds of its existence, question and answer, wonder, fallacy and fact become one. What could knowledge and learning mean in the future?

After a moment of hesitation, and an effort to imitate a moth, our radio body takes on the shape of orchid blossoms. The broadcast “Hidden elements: reciprocal knowledges” by Shanti Suki Osman and Kate Donovan evolves into circular vortexes of talk – interrupted every so often by a “wow” – about the communication of nonhuman garden dwellers. There are species of orchids that mimic the body of female wasps in order to attract the appropriate pollination partner. Others, in turn, are able to create a sound that resembles the frequency of potential prey insects…

A couple of hours later: A long, thin black cable winds out of a knife’s handle, disappears into the inscrutable tangle on the table and ends up at a keyboard and an assortment of switches. Kasia Justka’s “Singing kitchen” performance merges cutlery and gadgetry, music and electronics into continually new improvised soundscapes.

New Symbioses: Do they require our faculties of imagination? Do they need their own invention? Or could it suffice to translate what already exists into ever-new oscillations? Is not radio itself a symbiotic source of communication and a ‘world receiver’? By the end of the day the channels of the Datscha Radio body open up for breakfast at the other end of the world. We broadcast yet we don’t: Sophea Lerner’s “Saturday Night Breakfast” from Sydney is streamed onto our server whilst we sit down in the nightly garden to finish off the remains of the tomato salad and listen. New seeds for mind and body!

The Megaphone Guerilla


Series of poetic street performances. In cooperation with the maraa collective/BangaloREsidency Goethe Institut. 7th October 2018. Participating artists: Ekta Mittal, Angarika Guha, Nithila M.K., Daniel Tao, Ashwini Charkre, Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy, Tasmeen Lohani. Publication: 22 pages, multilingual, illustrated. Layout and photography: Gabi Schaffner.

I am a stranger in Bangalore. There are many shades to the concept of a stranger; the visitor, the intruder, the guest, the immigrant, the ex-pat, the traveller, and more.
Strangeness is a fruit with many tastes, shapes and colours. From bitter to sweet. From carcass to cake. From black or brown to white or yellow… or orange for that instance.

Hello.
I am nobody.
And who are you?
I am nobody too.


The first “strange” things I noticed in Bangalore were the fleshy orange flowers of the tulip trees that covered the pavement almost everywhere. The second was the omnipresent earpiercing sound of car horns in the roads, and the third thing that struck me as very unfamiliar were the piles of waste sitting patiently, trodden on, kicked over, picked at and awaiting further processing in any corner of any corner.
After that: the great number of very peaceful dogs and cows.
Hello.
Hello?
Mooh!

In Germany we know that the cow is considered sacred in India… yet it is the mix of sacredness and indifference that gives these apparitions their strangely surprising presence. Being a traveller, identity is no great issue to contemplate. Being a traveller one knows about distance and difference.
It is what our eyes, minds and souls feed on and it is totally relative.
If one would go crazy for example, in a foreign country: you’d notice? Stripped naked in a foreign country, who would know who you are? Otherwise: without knowing about “the other” there is no “me”. They are interchangeable. Then again, identity can be a burden. As much as it gives you something you belong to, at times you don’t want to belong. The number of things that seem “strange” diminishes until – eventually – all of them have faded into familiarity.

Who is “I”?
“I live here” is a concept I would apply to anyplace where I can be at ease with myself ,…. where my fingers rest comfortably on a keyboard and nobody threatens to take me away. Where I am safe for the night. Yet here in Bangalore, there are things I dearly miss. Most of it being the perfume of first autumn days in Middle Europe, a mixture of hoar frosted… rotting… leaves and sweet apples.

Hello?
Hello.
Hello? Mam!

Identity cannot be regarded as something that is fully “whole”. It has flaws, Missing bits, embedded particles that reflect the sun like fools gold. it changes and grows, it might even shrink. there are hollows, some of them even containing soil and seed pods. Identity is sometimes rained on, especially in the monsoon season. In death it is accomplished… but probably not before. And this pair of eyes behind the looking glass: Maybe we should take the mirrors down.

Maybe we should take the mirrors down.

Radio Revolten Documentation


64 blog posts in 30 days
Commissioned by Radio Revolten, radio art festival in Halle, 2016. Curated by Knut Aufermann, Anna Friz and Sarah Washington.

NEW: Radio Revolten. 30 Days of Radio Art.
Knut Aufermann, Helen Hahmann, Sarah Washington, Ralf Wendt (Editors) Marcus-Andreas Mohr (Photographer)

2019. 358 pages. Spector Books
978-3-95905-189-7 (ISBN)

5th Nov. 23:00 Magnetic Layer #3
Going into the archive files is like going underground. You disappear into some rabbit hole of your presence and come to a wonderland of unreal imagery and puzzling sounds. And you come across piles of unused material: The „Red-Zone-Talk with Sally McIntyre recalling ghostly recording situations, an interview with Sebastian who was responsible for the omnipresent beautiful light design, a café-chat with Maya Urstadt, more portrait pics, stills, snippets of tram announcements, more talks… Order is an illusion. Documentation is an absurdist’s game.>

7th Nov. 10:13 Magnetic Layer #2,5: The Bee Hive
I imagine all artists have now returned to some sort of every-day-normality. Some things can’t be captured on film or tape or digital recorders. When people talk about an event like a festival that has passed the talk often turns to „the energy“ of that event, stuff that’s unfathomable but was there. Smiles, encounters, new friendships, prospective projects.
Thinking of Radio Revolten, the thought or image of a wild beehive comes to my mind instead, with the wave-world as a honey comb that provides sweetness and nourishment for present and future. Eventually with the performance of each artist signifying the „waggle dance“ of a bee, the unending, „figure eight“ of infinity showing the way to the multileveled pastures of reality?

19th Nov. 15:05 Magnetic Layer #0,1 The Lost Stuff/Gardener’s View
Some talks got lost though. I saved them, I sent them via mail to myself… they seemingly disintegrated on the way. Others just went to sleep on my hard drives… Others never happened like the one with Miyuki Jokiranta about the Australian sound artist scene. I had visited her in the studio during her broadcast when the sounds she brought with her stimulated an unusual growth of green. She also broke the sad news that her ABC program Soundproof has been sentenced to end this year. A shame and a terrible loss to the sound art and radio world!
Sorting more files: Most of it is reconstruction. Almost nothing – reality excepted – is as fleeting as radio (art). It is there and then it is gone. Situations that enveloped the body in a physical surrounding with noise, talks, sensual contact, wine, smoke and fresh air have strangely faded and taken their place in memory. Three weeks after Revolten the diary reminds me of one of those little wooden boxes where you stash „Krimskrams“, odd earrings and bracelets, chocolate, chewing gum, a spare SD-card, coins and foreign currency, a postcard or two, emergency cigarettes, and, as it is the case with gardeners: Seeds and seedpods…

22nd Nov. 17:49 Magnetic Layer 5
So maybe that is the way… seeds and bees and chewing gum and endless radio art possibilities to sprout and blossom from them (Don’t ask me how comes it is spouting from a chewing gum). Good news for the German readers: Almost all texts (- except this one for the moment!- ) have been re-transferred into my native tongue. Thanks again to Emil for helping out and thanks already to Helen Thein who will take care of some final adjustments and translations. Here come the last pictures of the garden that I took the morning after… our „antenna plant“ in the circle covered in all golden leaves…
Cheers, your diarist.

Last diary entry, 5th November 2017. Complete diary on radiorevolten.net

Transformer: Frequency and Fragrance

Residency at the Bogong Center for Sound Culture. On invitation of Madelynne Cornish and Philip Samartzis. The title “Frequency and Fragrance” is owed to an article about the Japanese philosopher Zeami I read in 2014.

I can see the communion of fog and clouds on top of the opposite mountain range. In between: the trees, rising and falling like waves in slow motion. This space, veiled in moisture, brings Henry Darger’s extensive weather descriptions in his phantasmagorical volumes of the Vivian Girls to my mind. Their function is what? A distraction to the on-going drama of those yellow dressed and red shoed protagonists being hunted down by vile soldiers in blue uniforms? A scheme to infuse the passions of atmosphere into a tale of fight, victory and loss? To provide a heavenly space emptied of human action? If it wasn’t for the hydroelectric dam and the company tending it, if it wasn’t for the occasional tide of cabin owners visiting the village, this place would be just that: a tree-sphere devoid of human activity.

16000 kilometers separate me from Berlin where I come from, 17000 lie between Iceland and Bogong, forming the trajectory of the “Hidden Places” project I am working on. When I sit down to communicate with my loved ones, their morning is my evening, and my evening catches them drinking their first cup of coffee. Before I came here, I was obsessed with the thought of entering a world upside down, a sky with hitherto unknown constellations of stars. Can you hide in the unknown? Or isn’t it rather that in order to know what could be called hidden one must be acquainted with the ways of seeing. Nouns are deceiving, I find, they are mostly not “known”. And with the sky in clouds, I spend my time walking among the trees.
The other day I was trying to record bird song in one of the village streets. However, as soon I tried to get closer the birds changed location. So, what is this idea(l) of proximity and “clean” sounds about? Isn’t a recording as much about the distance and its space as it is about the desired subject? Doesn’t a veiled mountain tell you as much about the mountain as seen in clear sunshine? Maybe even more as there is something visible happening in between you and its body. In Bogong, one of the most prominent sounds is constant broadband stream of almost crystalline white noise mingling with the scent-filled air.
Every evening I copy my recordings and photos from my devices to the computer and further to the external drives. Hundreds of documentation pictures, extensive sound files with or without human voices: It feels like copying mirrors into other mirrors without seeing their reflection… nor myself. It takes more to access the substance of this than just listening to the files or looking at the images. And it might only be accessed from the distance, when I find out what constitutes the in-between… the texture of the veil.


When in the 14th century the Japanese playwright Zeami Motokiyo likened the flower to the notion of “substance” and its fragrance to the one of “instance” he was speaking of the Noh drama. Quite so, a field recordist performs her little dance in the depths of the forest. A choreography of gestures linked to combinations of unpredictable action and non-action. No one can see me as I kneel on the soft ground, balance on river stones, stretch to reach the highest branches. One may follow the fragrance to find the flower. One may create a “flower”, a place, a sound and has the fragrance to go with it. I like to think of this strange, hidden-from-the-world dance as similar to one the lyre birds do. They they are nature’s most gifted recordists, and certainly more graceful dancers than myself. I am going to meet them this evening, by the deserted upside-down tennis court at the end of Bogong Village.

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