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Chelsea Leventhal, sound artist

Chelsea Leventhal
Photo: Douglas Henderson

Interview with Chelsea Leventhal, 33 years old, sound artist

You have lived in the USA, in Paris, in Germany; you travel a lot- does a change of location help you be creative?

That’s actually crucial for me, for two reasons. On the one hand, as a composer, it is always important to visit various institutions in order to get an overview of different approaches, techniques and technological possibilities. On the other hand, my works are often more location-specific and therefore much more inspired by new environments and situations than by a studio practice.

You are a composer for electro-acoustic music-can you describe visually what lies beneath? Perhaps with an example?

Most of the time, I record sounds and develop multichannel fixed-media compositions. These are then presented in a public space as installations. A recent example is a sound installation of new chamber music for the Wittener Tage, which deals with sounds of fire and flame. For example, I have used recordings of a fireplace, sparklers or a casserole for the composition. In addition, for a section, I recorded and edited certain playing techniques of a double bass, trumpet and flute in order to recreate the sound of a slow burning fire. This 6 channel composition was played by custom-made speakers equipped with infrared light and placed outside in a circle.

What inspires you in unknown or new places?

Every place, every community, has a very distinctive sound. This can be something like the ringing of church bells, but also very unique sounds, which are necessary for different types of communication or are part of the rhythm of everyday life. The sound researcher R. Murray Schafer calls these “keynote sounds,” which are heard daily by all people who live in an “acoustic arena”. Also, these sounds are different in every society and in every city.

In July you are a guest of the “Interfaces Residency” in Nicosia. What did you set as an artistic goal for this period?

I am currently very interested in the connection between sound installations in public spaces, and specifically the work with “field recordings”, and the psycho-geographic approach developed by Guy Debord.  It is about the influence of the architectural or geographical environment on the perception and behaviour of people. This research approach has been used by several writers and visual artists. I want to reinforce this connection in my work, and I think Nicosia is a fascinating place to undertake such a compositional reflection.

Have you been to Cyprus before?

I have never been to Cyprus and so far I have only researched it and talked to a few people. It is very important to me that I keep an open mind and really take the time to discover the city of Nicosia. I will certainly have my recording device with me.

Within only four weeks, how can you capture the sound of a city and turn it into a work of art?

From my experience, you need to get a full picture of the city as quickly as possible, but then focus on a smaller but essential aspect, and in particular a location, in the city.

Where and when can we hear the result?

All works that will be created during the residency will be played at different locations on 26 July, 2018.

Interfaces Residency for Electronic Music Artists

The project is organized by the Interfaces Network and the European University Cyprus. There are a total of 10 composers/musicians/sound artists participating in the residency in July 2018, creating new works in Nicosia.