Foldable Sounds; Daniela Maria Geraci, Lucy Rose Cunningham and Isabelle Pead, met whilst studying Fine Art at the University of Leeds. Individually, their different practices span various uses of sounds and words. From exploring performance and participation, to interrogating cultural identities and reframing modes of storytelling, spanning multiple geographies and histories. As a collective, they explore those approaches to sound and listening as tools for collectivism, activism, meditation, archiving knowledge, and attention giving. Through their projects and research, the collective works with various sound-workers to gain insight into their practices, while also urging critical conversations around the lack of diversity and accessibility in the field. As artists, the trio curate and perform mostly throughout the UK and Germany. As Foldable Sounds Collective, they were selected as SHAPE Platform artists, 2021, have exhibited in STIFF International Festival in Rijeka, Croatia, Musikprotokoll Festival, Austria, featured on Musicmap Barcelona, NTS, Netil Radio, Balamii and Soho Radio, and are residents of NARR radio (Leeds) and Resonance Extra (London). Most recently, their collective’s work was featured in the February 2022 edition of The Wire Magazine as part of a curated mix.
JrF: when & why did you become interested in located sound (inc. field recording), and how do you use located sound (inc. field recordings) in your own artistic output?
FS: We all came at sound from very different angles – Daniela’s focus being specifically in sound as an archival tool, as a potential to record and replicate her Sicilian heritage in order for it to be safeguarded against its demise. The Sicilian dialect she speaks with her family has been deemed in danger of extinction by UNESCO, and she was interested in using the act of attention giving through recording it to try to keep it from dying – recording everyday conversations via everyday activities that are site-specifically ‘Sicilian’.
Lucy’s approach comes from a more chorally and classically ‘musical’ standpoint through orchestrating and improvising performances based on loose scores that are totally non-classical methods of notation. This becomes site specific every time her work is performed, because of the resonance of the space in which she performs, and because of who she invites to musically respond to the notations she creates.
Isabelle’s interest in sound is an amalgamation of Daniela’s and Lucy’s approach, using performance and recordings to research specific spaces and environments, and the socio-political implications of those spaces, such as the contested site of the kitchen for women throughout history, and the house of her grandparents through the lens of mourning and complex familial relations.
All three of us developed these interests in tandem with our respective practises at university together at Leeds, and continue to thread these lines of interest throughout our work both individually and as a collective. Foldable Sounds Collective was a particular look at the potential for sound to transport anyone to timeless, borderless spaces through its sharing, layering and distorting, while physical world movement came to a halt back in April 2020. Video calls became our only access into forbidden environments – i.e any space other than our own – and we began to notice the glitchy clicks and whirrs of our, and others’ inhabited spaces perhaps more than usual. Over time they became somewhat overbearing and claustrophobic, and giving them attention through their purposeful recording and sharing, along with receiving sounds from other people’s spaces became a sort of claw back of control of that glitchy existence and sonically project ourselves elsewhere by closing eyes and opening ears.
Sharing sounds with strangers across the globe in an exquisite-corpse-like fashion via email-chain felt like a bit of a comforting rejection of social media performativity, and a rewarding way to blindly collaborate towards a common goal.
JrF: Do you regard ‘natural’ sounds as a musical element (bearing in mind that the conventional definition of ‘music’ is rapidly becoming obsolete) or as sound ? Is this definition important to you ? Does it matter ? (nb. the term ‘natural’ is used in this instance to describe any sound from any object, animal or human that is observed or documented rather than generated with apparent compositional intent)
FS: Our approach has never distinguished or separated ‘natural’ sounds from those of conventional music. With the Foldable Sounds Project, we approached all sound as equal, allowing participants to respond freely. We very much encouraged the participation in the project to be without regulation; no needed experience, no expensive tech, or any of the over intellectualised jargon that often comes with a lot of experimental art and music, which is often also exclusive and historically masculine. Similarly, our radio shows weave between sound and music, purposefully without any distinction, often overlaid by interviews with sound workers from across the industry. From artists to curators, performers to classically trained musicians and everything in between.
Philosophically speaking, Wabi-sabi is a wonderful way to frame how we approach our working methodologies – finding beauty where you least expect it. Found sounds hold value when you give them value through the act of paying attention to the sound and recording it to sample in a track or share it raw. The difference between field recording and sound is only really made by those who try to intellectualise music as opposed to sound. Rhythmic phrasing can be recognised by anyone whether they’re musically trained or not. And by recording mundane sounds and looping them on themselves, already the sound becomes musical. Being open to the fact that anything that can be recorded can be of value and inspiration. Tuning into all things sonic in day to day life requires readiness to experience something musical or sonic.
JrF: how has the act of working with located sound (inc. field recording) altered the way you listen to your everyday surroundings and how has it affected the way you listen to other music and sound (if at all)?
FS: With our beginnings rooted in a time when we only had the contents of our homes, and minimal resources, to use to create sound, we’re very drawn to creating through found objects and materials. We encourage participants and each other to make use of what we have to hand, breathing life into the everyday, the objects that we see as mundane but are in fact percussive, vocal, sonorous. The home as an instrument to play in and play with.
We share a continuing interest in mobility of the body and ideas, which located sounds can express in very intimate, immediate ways. Throughout the past couple of years, there were mixed states of stagnation and pause, heightened by anxiety and fear, but also feelings of collectivity and taking greater stock of what we actually had under our noses.
Our recent listening habits echo that, really. As a collective we’ve definitely found ourselves drawn to more ambient music or soundscapes (in and amongst all the hyperpop, trippy acid and footwork-y breakbeats) that hover and persist, drawn out and perhaps repetitive or sparse. But, also sometimes with moments of cacophonic outbursts and delightful yelps or song or pure brutalist drone noises. Periods of slow time have increased patience, and spending that time listening to very little, or seeking almost inaudible sounds has encouraged us, more generally, to allow for wandering thought, and perhaps within our respective practises, allowing the piece or poem or performance, the space it needs to breathe.
Collating albums with such a variety of sounds, spaces, people and ideas has paved the way to our two radio residencies on NARR radio and Resonance extra, and then being selected to become part of SHAPE Platform’s 2021 brilliant roster of artists. With that, a collective album curated by SHAPE has just been released by The Wire Magazine and is available to listen to on Bandcamp, or as a physical copy with the Feb edition of the magazine. We’re so happy to be part of such an incredibly far-reaching project. Having access to such a crazy spectrum of artists and their individual approaches to sound in all its forms has set, and will continue to set an example for sound’s possibilities, far beyond just passive listening.