Emmanuel Lorien Spinelli

Composer / Sound Designer / PhD Researcher

LANDS AND GENOTYPES: Sound-subjects, tessera processes, schizo-narratives, ecoutism, hurstoff material, acousmatic identities....

Lands and Genotypes Review on WTF Music


 Ongoing project since 2005...

The Lands and Genotypes project forms the core practice of my research. It is an attempt at linking different approaches to the composition and theory underlying acousmatic music. (For more see "Research"...)


Lands and Genoyopes, by Maruc Staniec (WTF Music):

"Each piece is centered around a person, or a subject (or group of subjects), and built from there.
Interviews of the subject are conducted and recorded to be used as material for the piece.
Field recordings are then made of places and objects that relate to the subject.
Spinelli helps shed some light on this process, "Each sound must have a relationship, in one way or another, to the people interviewed during the composition process, and all these sounds are part of their sonorous environments, their personal soundscape. Prior to the field recordings, I always ask my interviewees to map the different locations where they usually spend most of their time and, when appropriate, sounds they remember from those places. I usually record much more material in those locations to capture other sounds they might not be aware of and seemed less obvious in order to highlight other sound-marks that are part of the sound-subjects' surroundings in a more detailed fashion."

What follows is an interview I conducted with Mr. Spinelli that starts off explaining the editing process of "Lands and Genotypes" - after the subjects and the field recordings and objects have been recorded.
It quickly sets deeper into the mind of Emmanuel Lorien Spinelli and the subjects that make up his music.
It's a beautiful and thought-provoking story and one worth reading.

So, just relax with a cup of coffee and throw on some "Lands and Genotypes" (all tracks available for free streaming here -http://www.last.fm/music/Emmanuel+lorien+spinelli/Lands+and+Genotypes) in the background and enjoy the interview.

onionpalac: Could you run through your approach in constructing your "Lands and Genotypes" pieces?
Emmanuel: Once I've got all the material, interviews and field recordings, I do two things. 
I draw a map from memory where actual locations get mixed up with imaginary or sensual concrete sounds. I often use the sort of inside/outside concept. Then I spend most of my time chopping up voices. The objects that belong to the inside, like a gas pipe, air conditioner, kitchen appliances etc. and the subjects' personal objects are mixed with the field recordings of specific locations that carry meaning for my subject, such as place of birth, hang outs etc...
As for the vocal edits, I usually create a bunch of folders organized by themes for example, "ducks" or "visit to Auschwitz" (used in "Anseriformes Twins"). Then I use some randomized playlist like winamp to create random patterns and see what kind of strange associations the different "bits of interview" can convey. This is my basic techniques for editing the voices. I am very influenced by Cut-up, William Burroughs, Antonin Artaud and the surrealists poets. 
onionpalac: Do you feel that listeners should understand the background of these pieces to fully appreciate them?
Emmanuel: Yes and no, indeed.
Yes because it helps make sense of what may seem abstract at first glance.
And no because I don't consider people stupid and if they don't to know the story behind it, they can create their own, which is very often even more relevant. 
Nevertheless it is an unresolved question.
onionpalac: If you don't supply the background then why go through the whole process that you do? You can make it all up instead, no? 
Emmanuel: It is an interesting question. 
It is a necessary condition. But the process has to be truthful to have an interest for me.
It is important to me because it is a process that informs myself about myself as well.
onionpalac: Are you a voyeur yourself?
Emmanuel: YES! I am an ECOUTEUR/voyeur!
onionpalac: Do you have a background in voyeurism? Are there other voyeur activities you have been involved with?
Emmanuel: No, not really. Actually to be a voyeur you have to enjoy watching and unfortunately I don't.
onionpalac: Haha - you enjoy listening . . .
Emmanuel: Yep, indeed!
onionpalac: Could you talk about transitions? How one event or scene blends into another.
Emmanuel: Well, it is a difficult territory because I am a workaholic. I can spend up to a year and half to mix the first version of a piece. The "Anseriformes Twins" piece took 3 years.
So yeah, transitions are essentials. I can spend days on a couple of cross fades with a bunch of sounds. To be honest, I can spend a whole day trickling the button of one of my children toys in preparation for an improv.
onionpalac: The reason I ask is because I listen for transitions in music very deeply - and in music such as yours I think it's a key ingredient but you pull it off really well.
Emmanuel: Thanks, I agree. I always pay close attention to this these sort of things in other people's music as well. When a transition sucks, you loose the magic.
onionpalac: Which brings me to ask you about influences.
Emmanuel: I have two kinds of influences: on one side composers like R. Murray Schafer, John Levack Drever, Annea Lockwood, of course Jean Luc Goddard and Tarkovsky for film, and sound poets like Kurt Schwitters, the Fluxus movement, etc...
And on the other side, of course Cage, Merzbow, John Zorn (huge...) and all the free improv freaks - the obscure and delightful!
onionpalac: Do you think of film theory while piecing your work together?
Emmanuel: Not at all. Except maybe Goddard and his schizo-narrative. 
The reason I say I don't think of film theory is that I don't think in terms of narrative, story, construction of meaning but in terms of "opening a wound" or maybe "a womb" where
meaning happens no matter what. I just try to highlight the paradoxical, playful, and dark moments that occur during one's self account. I think in musical terms even with the spoken words.
onionpalac: But it's all related to the subject - the person you're wrapping everything around.
Emmanuel: Yes, of course. And that's the magic thing about it. Because all these fragmented elements relate to the same subject (or group of subjects), I don't have to think about narrative.
onionpalac: And that in itself is the narrative, story and meaning.
Emmanuel: Yes, you're right. That is the narrative, in a way . . .
onionpalac: It's up to the listener.
Emmanuel: Yes, that's why I call it opening a wound because then the listener has to stitch the whole thing together on his or her own.
onionpalac: What made you come up with the whole Ecouteur and "Lands and Genotypes" idea?
Emmanuel: HA! The truth is I have been a stutterer all my life. When I was younger I used to start a sentence, get stuck, change my mind and say something else. When I started listening to people talking I realized I wasn't the only one and we all do it in a way. I just try to capture that in people. If you have this mental stutter that happens when you breathe, think and talk at the same time, then you're not that different from me. 
onionpalac: Because of this you took detailed notice in speech.
Emmanuel: Yes, I had to learn to listen and reproduce. 
onionpalac: Are you bilingual?
Emmanuel: Yes, French and English. 
I was brought up in France but my mum (who had been brought up in the UK) always spoke to me in English. But she died in 1983. That's partly why i moved to the UK, to know more about myself. Also, she was of Jewish decent, which i didn't know until about ten years ago. So i've spoken both languages all my life but English was kind of kept hidden inside. I often realize that I know certain words without understanding where I learned them from. They're just there inside.
onionpalac: I ask because when learning another language as an adult it can open up the subtleties of speech in one's mother tongue. I wonder if that had any impact on your thinking.
Emmanuel: Yes, indeed. A huge impact. And, in fact, the core of my research is based on the idea of trans-identity in foreigners living in London.
onionpalac: "Learn a new language and get a new soul."  ~Czech Proverb
Emmanuel: Of Course, and it is also having a double conscience. It is a treasure.
onionpalac: So, you would say that the root of your research is from being aware of your uncontrolled stutter and extending that onto how others do it - be it a lot less? 
Emmanuel: I guess it's maybe not the root of my research but it dictated a big part of my aesthetic and process. The root of my research is really about the perception of identities, trying to understand what's at play during the process of expressing oneself, and it is about practice. How to use all these elements in order to make music.
onionpalac: So, what is the root of your study in the perception of identities?
Emmanuel: It's a long story but in a nut shell: it all started with a fascination for the stupidity of what I read in the news in France and when I discovered elements of my past that stayed hidden in my family because it was considered shameful. I realized part of my family where spitting pork under the tables at the restaurant to look like everyone else. So, I guess I try to make sense of all this crap and the roots of my research come from the fundamental curiosity and this puzzling experience. So much is hidden in all of us.
onionpalac: How do you choose your subjects?
Emmanuel: The truth is I don't. They are all average Joes.
onionpalac: Don't they ever get freaked out in the process of you in a way stalking them?
Emmanuel: Yeah, sometimes . . .
onionpalac: Yeah - you're getting your nose all up in their business. Has anyone abruptly just called it off?
Emmanuel: Yes, that happens quite regularly but usually early in the process.
onionpalac: Do you have any preferences for your subjects?
Emmanuel: No, not really but I tend to get attracted to people with strong political backgrounds. It gives me something to start with. But it deviates quickly after that. 
onionpalac: What are the reactions of the subjects when they hear the final product - the music?
Emmanuel: They are often surprised by the things they said and don't always realize that the whole thing is edited. I guess the best is when they react to the sounds and recognize the places. Some of them get quite emotional, like the old lady who cried when she heard the harbor sounds or amused when the twins heard the sound of the washing machine and the lady from the shop swearing. Their mum was staring in the void when listening to the ducks and said, "You know, I know these ducks." I said, "Well, your sons said their first words at that location." She looked like she had a moment of revelation and she started laughing. She was great, very sweet.
onionpalac: Thats a great story - the after effect!
Emmanuel: Yep, these are often the best moments. 
onionpalac: So, you sit down with the subjects for their first listen?
Emmanuel: Yes, I normally bring my laptop, put a big pair of headphone on their ears and play a stereo reduction of the piece . It kind of isolates them so I don't get punched half way through!
onionpalac: How do you approach your subjects to do this? What do you say? I can't imagine . . .
Emmanuel: I don't say anything in particular. It depends on the person. Some are very sensitive and others don't give a rat's ass. Maybe they just think they'll be famous.
onionpalac: Britain's Got Talent!
Emmanuel: Can you imagine!
onionpalac: "Do you mind if I poke around your life and record everything about you?" kind of thing?
Emmanuel: Yeah man, "I'm that freak everyone is talking about! I'm featured in a fucked up experimental piece!"
onionpalac: Haha! Really, I think it's nuts how you get these people to agree!
Emmanuel: Nutters I tell you!
onionpalac: So, would you do it?
Emmanuel: Do what?
onionpalac: Would you be a subject for your own work?
Emmanuel: That's THE question!!
onionpalac: There it is!
Emmanuel: Well, yes i would. Obviously, I can't do it myself. 
And yes, I'm terrified to do it. 
onionpalac:  You would need a complete stranger to do it.
Emmanuel: You're right, but who? I need someone who understands the work. 
onionpalac:  Maybe one of our readers out there can volunteer to take on such as task. You can be sure that we'll be following it the whole way through. 
And on that note I believe we can wrap it up. 
Thanks Emmanuel, it's been a pleasure.
Emmanuel: Same here. Till next time!"

Marcus Staniec, WTF Music, 2010