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Art & 380 Volt

Conceived by Nikola Tesla, the alternating current that reaches our homes is distributed with a voltage of 220-240 volts and with a frequency of 60 hertz. These data, which for many people represent little or nothing, establish very important limits for our music production.

Electrical and electronic devices are equipped with different “electrical voices”, but it should also be noted that whoever is dealing with a specific voltage – let’s say, as in our case, with that of the mains electricity – will always remain confined within a precise range of frequencies, and therefore of sounds.

The desire to bypass that limit pushed us to investigate the charm of the sound of the 380 volt industrial current: equipped with frequencies capable of going from 30 to 300 hertz, the industrial current generates electromagnetic fields with a very high wavelength and feeds machines that we could hardly hear in everyday home life.

In the summer of 2019, after exploring with our small electromagnetic induction devices the sounds of electric pylons, street lamps, traffic lights, alarm systems and so on, we decided to contact a factory that we felt to be incredibly close to our poetics, a place that could understand and welcome our experiments.

Bonotto: Factory and Art Foundation

Embraced by the hills of Vicenza, the Bonotto factory is not just any industry but reflects the world and ideals of its main creator: Mr. Luigi Bonotto. Passionate connoisseur of art, Bonotto discovered the concept of object and art object in his youth with Duchamp’s work, approached the musical poetics of Cage and then felt in love with Fluxus and the Concrete, Visual, Sound and performative Poetry. This is why the little town of Molvena became the favorite place of visit for many artist friends (among others: Philip Corner, Dick Higgins, Mieko Shiomi, George Brecht, Gianni Emilio Simonetti, Walter Marchetti…), people who have contributed through their works and actions to form the imposing art collection kept within the walls of the factory. Workers, craftsmen and scholars live every day immersed in contemporary art.

The history of the family-run company “Bonotto” begins in Marostica in 1912 with the handmade production of hats and straw items; the transformation of the company is due to Luigi Bonotto who in 1972 founded the full cycle textile industry in Molvena dedicated to the creation of high fashion fabrics.

Mr. Bonotto is a wonderful creature. He is an elegant, humble and clever man of few but perfect words. In Milan, in the late fifties, he had the opportunity to play chess against Marcel Duchamp and to meet John Cage. He is a close friend of Yoko Ono and of the many Fluxus artists who felt at home in Molvena.

Throughout the years, Mr. Bonotto has collected an extraordinary art collection which today is exhibited at Bonotto textile factory. So, if you will be lucky enough to visit the factory, you will walk among the roar of the textile looms and you’ll see behind the workers rare artworks by Dick Higgins and Joseph Beyus, scores by Giuseppe Chiari or huge works by Yoko Ono. Videos, installations, neon art works, sculptures, canvases, tapestries are scattered everywhere, in the classic fusion of art-and-life typical of Fluxus. The secrets of the collection then spill over into the Foundation archive: a treasure of original scores – what a thrill to touch John Cage’s Cartridge Music! – letters and postcards, magazines, sketches and rare publications available to researchers, artists and scholars.

Luigi Bonotto, Johann Merrich, eeviac e Patrizio Peterlini. Una copia originale di Cartridge Music di John Cage

Our adventure in a secret world of sound

Thanks to Luigi Bonotto and Patrizio Peterlini, we were able to spend three intense and wonderful days between the treasures of the Foundation and the bombastic voices of the machinery in charge of textile art. Led by Enrica, who patiently led us through the halls of the Factory, we listened to the secret sound of looms, dryers, spools, power units …

As fascinating as it may be, we did not dwell on the sound perceivable by our ears: our poetics and the very essence of our music asks us to look further and push us towards the inaudible.

Through the techniques of electromagnetic induction we have thus been able to discover the “silent sound” of electrical circuits and electromagnetic fields, a fantasy of trills and harmonic variations that can only be heard through particular devices: to the naked ear of the common listener, nothing what we recorded would have been evident.

It is not therefore a normal field recording of audible acoustic phenomena, but the transduction of the real sounds of the electric current and its transformations.

The electromagnetic fields we captured come also from the numerous installations and works of art set up inside the factory spaces: from the hisses of the monitors of Robot: the Baseball Player (1989) by Nam June Paik to the chirping of the surveillance camera of his Voyeur Mail Box; from the familiar neon sound of the Homage to Jacopo da Ponte by William Xerra (2018) to the pizzicato of Mechanical Surmandal (1978) – Joe Jones’ automated Indian harp – passing through the screens that transmit the performance created by Philip Corner at the Wool Mill in 1995 and Magnificent, the hologram created by Alain Arias-Misson in 2016.

Calcite, Onyx, Hawaii, Tabacco

After three days of work we recorded enough material to compose the third movement of our first album, Il Mare di Dirac / the Dirac Sea;calcite, onyx, hawaii and tobacco are four names of yarns that the textile factory was employing at the time of our visit.

The piece of music lasts 9 minutes, is structured in different Moments and has got only two sounds that the naked human ears can perceive: the roar of the looms placed at the opening and the notes of Jones’ harp, which stands out in the background at the mid-composition.

While organizing the sounds and mixing the over 50 fragments that make up our work, we decided not to proceed with excessive sound manipulations and not to use additional sound effects, except for a slight reverberation effect imposed to give homogeneity to the fusion of the different materials. The panning, delay or flanger impressions that can be heard in our composition are a natural part of the electromagnetic sound captured.

Calcite, Onyx, Hawaii and Tobacco is completed with the visual work of eeviac, responsible for the video with graphic, abstract and digital manipulations conceived to seek a visual way of representing by analogy the transposition of sound from the acoustic to the electromagnetic field. Purely aesthetic emphasis, since light is in itself the ocular manifestation of a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

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