Interview mit Tomomi Adachi und Violaine Lochu

Was ist Soundpoetry und wie funktioniert die Stimme als ein Instrument? Am Samstagabend werden Violaine Lochu und Tomomi Adachi für “Genesis of a Language”, eine soundpoetische Performance mit Stimmexploration, Gestik und der Erschaffung einer Metasprache, zusammenkommen. Während sie noch an Sprache, Stimme und Kostüm arbeiten, hat sich Dillwyn Thier (DT) schon mal mit ihnen für ein Interview getroffen. Im Gespräch erzählen sie von ihren individuellen Arbeitsweisen, Soundpoetry und Ihrer Konzeption von Sprache.

DT: Dear Tomomi and Violaine, both of your work has been defined as sound poetry. Could you tell me what that is, sound poetry?

TA: Sound poetry is a poetry focused on sound rather than meaning. It has a tradition within which I am working, originating within the Dadaist movement. The Dadaist artists intentionally abandoned the word as a meaning giving entity. Instead, they tried to invent a new form of the word, highlighting the sounding of the letters. Examples of such poetry are Hugo Ball and Kurt Schwitters in Germany. If you look at their poetry, you might find some meaning in them. But this is not the essence of these poems. Their essence is sound. It is the same idea as music. In that sense, it is an intermediate between music and poetry. 

DT: I would like to come back to the notion of meaning in sound poetry. If you break away from words and sentences as agents and meaning giving entities, what kind of meaning do you then generate in your poetry?

TA: There are many approaches to identify meaning. How do you listen to recordings of sound poetry, although you don’t understand them? At some point during the process of listening, you figure that what you hear is language and that it should convey some form of meaning. How do people already think that the sequence of a voice sound is language and how do they find meaning in these sounds? With this question I approach my own work. It is very different from writing a text with a specific Intention behind it and a communicative message that the audience has to decode. Sound poetry is more like music. Because, although people think that music doesn’t have meanings like the text does, they still find something in it. This is a very interesting similarity between sound and language.

VL: When we are talking, only thirty percent of the Message is communication. The rest of language is there to create a relationship with the other one. I think this is the most important meaning being conveyed through language, it is emotional meaning.

DT: So, Tomomi your work is in its meaning generation oriented toward the recipient?

TA: Yes. I am expecting something of a more (re)active perception from the audience.

DT: The aim of the project you are working on during your time here at Lettrétage is to develop a metalanguage, through a performance. Could you tell me what this metalanguage is?

TA: What we want to explore with this performance is the process of arriving at a language about language – a Metalanguage. We plan to implement our knowledge on how the concept of language is working, and adapt to it, without using existing languages. We want to invent language. Since we are two people, and communication is a core aspect of a language, we will aim to find a way to communicate with our voices and thereby find this new language. We don’t have any clear blueprint of the performance yet, but we have one week and each day we will find something new and develop it along the way.

DT: Why did you choose to work together?

VL: I heard Tomomi during a sound poetry festival at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. I really liked his work and after we talked a bit, I felt like I want to work with that guy. That’s why I came to Berlin.

TA: Yes, it was at the sound poetry festival. During the festival there were seven or eight participants. I knew all of them except her. That made me curious. I think she is so amazing and special. I like to work with the people that surprise me in that way.

DT: Violaine, on your homepage you explain that you work by immersing yourself in a specific environment and its sound context and then take the sound material out of this context into a performance. Could you explain that method to me?

VL: It is quite easy. For example, on Saturday I will present another performance, “Babel Babel”. I composed it by recording the babbling of the babies at a nursery for an entire year, which I then worked into the performance. This is what I mean by immersing myself in the context: recording and observing the behavior of the babies. In another performance of mine called “Memory Palace” I did something similar with adults. I recorded two hundred people telling me something they knew by heart, like a recipe, a song, a poem. During the process I took all of these memories in, ultimately coming to play the two hundred voices. I also did the same procedure with animals and nature. I spent two months in Lapland composing “HYBIRD” by using the sound of the birds from the place I was at.

I also did it with literature, composing the performance Roncevaux Remains with “Chanson de Roland”. As the first text in the French language, it is like a monument for French literature. For my work I therefore treated it like a ruin.

This way, I find phenomena that inspire me in architecture, archeology, literature and biology, and put them into language. Most important for my creative process is to spend time with the contexts, immerse myself in them to learn and feel the material and go entirely into it until I forget myself and become the material and something happens along the way. This is my way to create.

DT: Will you or are you already immersing yourself in a specific context for this performance? Maybe Tomomi?

VL: I think the concept of metalanguage is already everywhere in my work. I have already digested it. To work with Tomomi, I consider as a meeting rather than an immersion. I don’t know what will happen in the days to come, but today we found several similarities between the two of us. And there is also confusion. Because when you sing with another person like we do, you lose your own voice, since you are no longer able to distinguish who is singing. I am very interested in that phenomenon, in that fact. On the other hand, it is also an immersion, because we are doing a residency and we need to spend a lot of hours together to find our way.

DT: Tomomi, in previous interviews, you described your work as Dadaistic. You already hinted at its importance in the development of sound poetry. Could you tell me what it means to you and your work?

TA: Dadaism marked a historic break away from a national poetic tradition and was the first truly international art movement. There was a Dadaist group called Mavo in Japan, which originated in Berlin and then moved to Tokyo, developing its own style and form. Both the international character and the specific Japanese form of Mavo are the roots of my own sound poetry. It allows me to be free of the boundaries of a specific cultural or poetic tradition, be myself and develop my own style wherever I am. In this sense Dadaism opens a door for me, to be able to work all over the world. But even if I feel that I do share something aesthetically and conceptually with Dadaism, it is not so essential for my own work. Dadaism is the root, but what I am doing is not Dadaism at all.

DT: You have been living in Tokyo and Berlin, now you only live in Berlin. Did living at these two places affect your relationship to language and the conceptual approach of your work?

TA: What influenced me was the fundamental difference between the way you relate and communicate within these two societies. It is pretty hard to go through two languages and two different social systems, but also a source of creativity, as it allows me to have an outside look on what is happening here and there. I can objectify society, so to speak, by looking at it from the outside. But I am not exactly sure how this affects my artistic practice. Maybe my double position allows me to transcend a national language realm, which is also true for the type of artistic practice I am doing. After all, I work more in Germany and my working language is English. As my second language, it probably has a big effect on me. Especially since Japanese is not a language very well known outside of Japan. If I was a Japanese poet, it would probably restrict me from working internationally. But as my work has no specific meaning bound to a cultural context, I can work everywhere.

DT: You also work as a composer. In your compositions and as a musician you experiment with different instruments and different materials. Is there a difference for you working with the voice only and with other media or other compositional means in sound poetry?

TA: In my artistic practice, you cannot divide media in such categories as visual and sound. For example, if you go to a concert, you see and hear the musicians simultaneously. The same goes for literature: You can read it and hear it, while it is read to you, giving it a visual as well as an oral aspect. This also relates back to the notion of meaning. If you are reading a book in a different language, the letters won’t make any sense to you. But you can still understand something from these letters, looking at them like a picture, a painting or a drawing. In that sense any medium has many different media in it. What I do in my artistic practice is to play with them and emphasize them differently. For the sound poet, music and literature are not a binary opposition. They are diverse patterns, producing a multiplicity of different meanings when received by the audience. In my approach I emphasize this multiplicity.

DT: My final question for both of you. In the text for the performance it said, that there will be graphical aspects in the performance and also gestures. Will there be other instruments in the performance and do you have any idea which ones and what role they will play?

VL: We will use costumes, the body and the voice. In this sense it will be visual. We will also work with Gender. We look like each other. If you see us now, we don’t look similar, but we will look similar. We will work with that. I am a girl, but I can really look like a boy, when I use my voice and it is the same for Tomomi. Because we are able to use our voice in the way that it does not matter whether it is an animal, male or female. It can be anything, it can be animal it can be machine, or I don’t know what. I think it will be something transcending these concepts.