Composer-performer spanning live electronics, free improvisation, noise, electroacoustics, and Arabic musics.

studio[at]sethayyaz.com

the bird ghost at the zaouia

the bird ghost at the zaouia is a composed machine for listening that reconfigures an Islamic sonic-social. It is a mutating sonic body intended for loudspeaker diffusion that can be encountered as installation or in a discrete listening environment. It is a network of fragments whose temporal sequencing undergoes variation. The germinal strands of the fragments were initially identical. Each sound underwent evolution and transformation through a series of algorithmic processing networks, with selections and survival of material into the next stage made listening. At times, recurrences have a familial resemblance, but often they diverge markedly, such that to the ear they become different entities. Much as memory can be fallible and fictitious, so too is the way I have approached the material, seeking to tease out any essence, to undermine the “authority” of the recording in order to arrive at a subjective re-experiencing of the sounding presences. Like memories, these fragments are traces of past residues, filtered, and reassembled. Each time the work is listened to it is different, perceptually framed by what comes before and what follows. The work deconstructs and reconfigures recordings made at various Zaouia (Sufi shrines), mosques and religious spaces in Morocco, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon while attending a series of Lilat, Dhikr, or Zar ceremonies between 2002 and 2011. At the request of the respective religious leaders, no “musical” material played during the various ceremonies has been used. I found birds, resonant tails, breathes, overheard conversations, adhan and extraneous sounds floating in, sounds that where left behind and not framed as part of “music”. These requests carried normative pressures, which in the Islamic context have roots in longstanding debates within Shariah, regarding the place and permissibility of sound and music. These debates have parallels with more contemporary exchanges between schools of sonic practitioners (designated as acousmatic versus soundscape composition), regarding norms, ethics and listening modes appropriate to the use of recorded audio – along the sound object versus the soundscape axis. Reflecting upon these dual contexts, I became interested in an ethico-aesthetic exploration of the lines of demarcation between music and non-music beginning with the aural residuum of the recorded and religiously freighted spaces.
First presented (2006) at Music and Evolutionary Thought Conference, Durham University, UK June 2007 in an early form exploring the use of evolutionary algorithms.

The piece has subsequently mutated into the 2010 version debuted on 17th June 2010 @ World Forum for Acoustic Ecology Conference: Ideologies and Ethics in the Uses and Abuses of Sound, Koli, Finland.

My paper on this piece, and issues of sonic orientalism in Sound Art has been published in Organised Sound: Sound, Listening and Place, Volume 16, Number 3, (2011).

Although the earlier forms had fixed realisations, I now realise that as a composer the temptation is to take control, and to impose an aesthetic order; however, this is in tension with my ears, and the sense that any number of combinations of the fragments and their transformations yield engaging listening. Rather than a fixed and linear unfolding, the nature of the material suggests that time collapses into a composite accretion of experience in space. For that reason I am working on a supercollider playback engine that reconfigures the sound each time it is played, and working towards an installation in London later this year.

PODCASTS:

Here are two podcasts by Thomas Burkhalter of Norient that cover the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology conference n Koli, Finland (for any German speakers out there), and feature excerpts of an interview with me and some sound excerpts from BGZ.

http://norient.com/podcasts/soundscape2010/

http://norient.com/podcasts/krachundstille/

 

REVIEWS / PUBLICATIONS:

‘Four Figures (low resolution) and a Technique of Extraction: the birdghost at the zaouia’
by
Lisa Skuret in NOWISWERE Contemporary Art Magazine, Issue 10, 2012.
 

 
A paper on the piece, bird ghost at the zaouia, and issues of sonic orientalism in sound art is published in the journal, Organised Sound: Sound, Listening and Place, Volume 16, Number 3 (2011).

 

PERFOMANCES:

31 October – 5 November 2011 as part of Nour Festival
the bird ghost at the zaouia
Multi-channel sound installation
Leighton House, London
More info

June 2010
World Forum for Acoustic Ecology Conference: Ideologies and Ethics in the Uses and Abuses of Sound, Koli, Finland.
June 2007
Music and Evolutionary Thought Conference, Durham University, UK, in an early form exploring the use of evolutionary algorithms.

Version (2010): modular electroacoustic, multi-channel (7.1) mix, as installation or live diffusion, duration up to 60 minutes.

Version (2006): fixed electroacoustic, stereo mix, duration 21:12 minutes.

 

EXCERPTS (low resolution):

14 sunset adhan al qanbakiya 34

114 birdz merzouga 17

4 sultan hussain salat nocturnal ambience 8

73 birdz4Aaouzazat 64

 

(Image commission for the bird ghost at the zaouia by Thomas Qualmann)

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