Valletta makes noise, Ducks! make music
“A robot a robot a robot a robot…” Last weekend, Ducks! presented the first of a series of lectures and workshops on musical repetition. After listening to examples of the art, from the early tape experiments of Steve Reich, to more recent minimalist masterpieces like Björk’s ‘Vespertine’, we invited Blitz visitors to make some of their own. As a short loop of room feedback and off-mic talk played and played over the speakers, we asked our guests to listen and dream. What do you hear; rhythms, notes, words? One heard “a robot”, stepped up to the mic, and fed the words back into the loop; soon, we all heard what he’d heard, and something more. Another added a short, percussive vocal melody, like an impersonation of a xylophone, another heard the suggestion of a glam-rock beat, and played the snare pattern on the change and keys in his pocket. An hour later, a rich drone hung in the air, propelled forward by a gently rocking rhythm and dozens of small interlocking vocal parts, and we all listened, delighted, to the thing we’d conjured out of thin air.
This magic moment, when small sounds and noises become music, simply by repeating themselves, is the focus of our investigation at Blitz, in a four-week project incorporating talks, workshops, collaborations, field recordings and a special live concert in Valletta. We’re exploring the space between noise and music, a space we dived right into on our very first day at Blitz. No sooner had Nicole and Alex shown us where the kitchen was than we started poking microphones in wine glasses and under tables, recording the sound of fingers drumming on the bar, a water-cooler struck with cutlery, and a pencil run along a wrought-iron door. By the following afternoon, we had the beginnings of a song; a thing in itself which is also a cut-up sound picture of the space we’re living and working in, made from nothing but the recordings described above, and Lani’s voice echoing in Blitz’s gallery space.
Since that first day, we’ve fallen into a regular rhythm of collecting sounds and sounding-objects from Valletta’s streets by day, and recording and mixing by night. A walk down to Marsamxett harbour yielded the sounds of small waves slapping against concrete and an oil drum struck with an old stick. A trip to the flea market at Birgu with Nicole from Blitz netted us a whole orchestra of children’s instruments which have been duly incorporated into Ducks! recording studio. This way of working has already sharpened our hearing; having learned that almost any sound can become music, the world itself has become more musical. Noisy refrigerators start to sing, our trips up and down the circular stairs to the Blitz laundry are a beat, even the silence of Valletta’s Bibliotheca suggests a note, and the city’s relentless fireworks start to sound more like music than its marching bands ever could. This week, we went to see a dance performance at the newly opened postal museum. The pre-recorded accompaniment stopped for a few minutes, but music continued, thanks to the movements of the dancers’ bodies against their clothes and their feet on the floor, filling the room with a complex polyrhythm. Later, we invited the dancers – Eszter, Julia and Francesca, to collaborate with us at Blitz on some new music, creating beats and melodies by recording and looping the sounds of their movement in space; dance music made from the act of dancing itself. The results were caught on film by Alex from Blitz – a sneak preview of a brand new piece of music you can hear in its entirety at our concert at the Royal British Legion club on June 2nd.