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Sandeep Bhagwati

ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR SOUND?

This is a website of re-collections and re-feelings.

Over three years, musicians in three cities
Berlin, Montréal and Pune
Had lived through ecstasies of influence
Creating music not in their usual way
But by trying to think and feel like
visual artists, dancers, architects and poets.
What is music when it is not about sound?

The workshops and concerts were filmed and analyzed.
For this project, the artists and musicians re-visit their encounters.
They re-imagine some of the pieces anew
Expand others into the lives they live day to day,
Corona-ing their communal experience.
“We are food for each other.” (David Szanto)
And we, in the past, will become food for our own future.

During this exhibition,
the blog
ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR SOUND?
Tries, in words, videos, music and gestures,
To re-create past moments of musical understanding and alienation
which might allow you to experience
the exuberant, funny and thought-provoking
traces that all ephemeral art leaves in its wake.

ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR SOUND?
is dedicated to the memory of Govind Bhilare
pakhawaj player extraordinaire and founding member of Ensemble Sangeet Prayog,
who died of Covid-19 in Pune on August 1, 2020.
He had helped on the frontline battling this pandemic.
His warmth and his musical brilliance throughout this project will not be forgotten
and his musicianship will continue to inspire us.

Ecstasies of Influence / Are You Out of Your Sound?

The Thinking-Feeling of Food and Performance
David Szanto

What would an “un-concert” about ecologies, improvisation, yeast and death look like? How might food art become music, and how can darkness illuminate gastronomy? If I were to paint my palm with sourdough starter, and then clutch the hands of ten creative souls, what would be exchanged? What residues would remain? How might we be transformed?

None of these questions were in my mind in mid-2018, at the outset of the Ecstasies of Influence project. Many others were, however, largely relating to Sandeep Bhagwati’s idea about “translating” the processes of artistic creation and musical composition. I myself am very interested in process, both in art and in food. And I too ask questions about what it is I do: What is food art, anyway? How is it different and similar to other food practices? What does artistic research show us about food issues like hunger and identity and sustainability? Can what I do become meaningful to other creators and makers and performers?

As Ecstasies of Influence started to unfurl, I quickly realized I was in good company. From the very first collaboration discussion in my living room, when we ate some food I had made and talked about what we might do together, I felt a kind of resonance. This “studio visit” became an organic extension of what Sandeep had already expressed to me, and I to him. My “studio,” itself a rather organic thing, is an entangled ecology of all the spaces in which I work—kitchens, grocery stores, streets, galleries. Ecology, eh? A theme began to emerge.

Further into the process, when Ensemble Ekstasis met for the first time as a group, I shared more images and stories, and more things to eat. The attention and generosity reflected back at me was powerful. Notably, that day (September 19, 2018) was Yom Kippur, and I was fasting. Though I am not religious nor particularly observant, the Jewish “day of atonement” has always been important to me, an occasion to think-feel the centrality of food in our lives. The fact that I was recounting memories of my friend and inspiration, Gigi Frassanito, and of his death from stomach cancer, made my emptiness of stomach and lightness of head particularly apt. The group seemed to enjoy our yeast-covered handshakes, as well as the taste of the bread I had made with that same starter culture. 

I discovered right then that these people were all too willing to play and to improvise, to tinker and to taste—to just go with it and see what would happen. It was reassuring and gratifying. I felt that my meanderings through digital art and speculative design and even critical epistemology had now brought me to a human ecology of like-minded, like-hearted humans.

Throughout the fall, many moments reinforced this generosity of spirit. As we slipped toward winter, our “rehearsals” deepened my sense of connection and rightness. At the same time, however, not much clarity was emerging about what our project—and the eventual performance—was about. We had plans for staging and dramaturgy, there were texts written and gestures proposed, and then, right before the end, we had a lighting design, blocking and instruments in place. But beyond ecology and improvisation, what was the meaning? Was there a point to this piece? And did that even matter? After all, we all seemed pretty okay in the ongoing state of not-knowing. We seemed great, in fact.

At many moments during the performance, I felt overwhelmed, connected to sound and emotion, both my own and the others’. I felt Gigi’s presence, and a continuing sense of togetherness. When the lights came up, I lifted my final prop—a paper-wrapped loaf of bread made with Gigi’s sourdough starter—and flung it toward Sandeep. He caught it with grace, and our un-concert concluded.

It was then, or about then, that I realized what had happened. I understood what the meaning and point had been. In isolation, death is loss; in communion, loss is transformed into connection, succour and new creation. The truth of the performance had emerged—as so often it does—through its own unfolding. Perhaps this sounds like artistic babble, but to me, it was a profound discovery, a way to understand better what I—what we all—do.

We transform by doing. We make meaning out of action. We sense and react to those around us. We give and we receive. We make, we think, we feel. This is art. This is my food art. We are all food for each other.

 

sandeep bhagwati
the sound and the unsound
on the “ecstasies of influence” project

1

in this threesome of cities,
through two falls, one monsoon
in a green deccan valley, in a sandbox in prussia,
near a mohawk river embroidered with ice
the sound and the unsound
of our spindrift existence
slowly convolved and took shape

 

2

our wings lifted with – music

 

3

all the songbirds, the cattle, the raindrops,
all the phone calls, the algae, the mothers, the fathers,
all these memories, sore inside our bodies
slowly rose through the uncharted unsound below
gasping for air.

(montréal)

 

4

our mouth filled with – music

 

5

o my companions
how did you wander
all sphinx and larynx
through these rains through these drifts
arriving in sync
your eyes full of monsoons
your sounds fragrant with sighs.

(pune)

 

6

our eyes tore up – with music

 

7

who twisted our tongues
into intricate turns ?

who seared our songs
into thousands of burns ?

who challenged our skins
to stretch into ears ?

who made us grow fins
to encounter our fears ?

who crushed our bones
for more affable chants ?

who fashioned our tones
from the voices of ants ?

(berlin)

 

8

our palms crawled with – music

 

9

what went broke, what we keep
what we spoke in our sleep
haunts our songs when we reap
the returns of the weeks
when confusion was cheap
and bliss dear, and bliss dear…

(berlin)

 

10

our dreams ablaze – with music

 

11

there is nothing to sound
but the air that we eat
that we swallow and knead
into food for our ear

there is nothing to sound
but the being we meet
that we beat and caress
till it yields what we need

there is nothing to sound
but a tear.

(montréal)

 

12

our cheeks burned – with music

 

13

that daily conference of birds
on the soggy lawn outside
got it right:

never stop listening
even when noise prevails
never stop being subtle
even when mountains slide
never cease to make music
even when no one listens

they cast their voice
on our art long ago.
we still hardly know theirs.

(pune)

 

14

our hearts fluttered – with music

 

15

in this threesome of cities
we rambled through music’s abysses
only the air made some sense
it guided us through this entangled maquis
of instruments, bodies and unforeseen grief
of temperatures taken from within our minds
audiations coming alive in our hands.

our sounds and our unsounds
pooled in our blood
thickened, became part of our skin,
our recondite ears.

their skin made of tunes and detunings
their skin made of chords and delicious discords
                             of rhythms and reveries
                             of words as much as of silent complicity

a resonant vista, a rugged and uncertain land.
can our unsounded instincts traverse its terrain?
what from our sonic odyssey will they remember?

 

Zürich, Oct 21-28, 2020