Loup Uberto: Documenting sound
Music of indecisive journeys, silent writing, white pictures, noise and songs. Loup Uberto founded the Bégayer trio with Alexis Vinéïs and Lucas Ravinale, explores the traditional melodies of northern Italy, records intriguing sound documents – Cuban “raw” music, Eastern European travel diaries, Kurdish songs from Syria – initiates gestures for French “chanson” with Le Saule record label, questions the gaze and its fiction, the rough edges of language, documents exile and wanderings through sound testimonies, writings and photographs.
In 2016, you released a recording that includes field recordings from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Romania. Can you talk about this project?
First, thank you, those recordings are rather old and not intuitively accessible. That you’ve been digging so deep, makes me feel really privileged!
It’s actually less of a project than a journey. At that moment I was wandering around Europe with my great friend, Anna. My aim was Wroclaw (Poland), in order to visit Grotowski’s Teatr Laboratorium archives, whose research fascinated me. Afterwards, we thought about travelling to Turkey, taking some time to encounter every country we would cross and, if possible, trying to make some recordings.
Here they are :
We never got further than Greece as we had been trying to offer our rather ridiculous help in the numerous refugees camps that were there at the time. In Kalochori, I met the Zeno family, Amar, Rody and Ronav, three great musicians from Afrine ( the capital city of the Kurdish region of Syria) and we were able to record some of their songs. Back then, in 2016, they were stuck, and one year later they were able to reach Sweden where they are now decently established and sharing their great music:
Would you say that you are interested in documenting sound and various practices, in the art of documentation as such? Would you say this comes from your background?
Over the last fifty years, the archive field has become more and more interesting. As you know, the very idea of objectivity and the big ambivalences it contains has been totally reimagined, the whole practice of documenting is now described as an art on its own. The document reminds us that whatever we do, we will always be mere objects like any others, rather empty silly things when taken alone, and any of our claims of subjectivity will always stay desperately empty. Thus, an archive doesn’t have to be seen as having been collected by someone in particular (or at least it isn’t the most important fact); it isn’t destined for someone either, it goes further, as the document always outruns its subject and its director, overtaking the hand that gathered it. Being overstepped by their subject could be the first premise for any document gatherer. It is always a sort of infraction, the archive escapes from the hand and yet, like a happy accident, it occasionally tells a lot about the hand itself.
I can’t really say it’s a background, but my biggest emotions in music have always been triggered by some rough archives and living moments far from the concert venues; this naturally became a central interest.
You’ve also created some custom-made objects/instruments. Could you talk about them? You also work with various sound sources, not apparently musical, including gsm, FM frequencies, etc. How do you work with these sources and how do you incorporate them in your work?
I will mix these two questions as from my perspective, home-made instruments are truly connected to radios and gsms, which is to say they are equivalent. All of them taken together could be seen as a repertoire of sensitive objects affected by their surroundings, receiving some inputs, treating them and responding to them like stimuli. Functional bodies just like mine! For years, I’ve been trying to get interpreter-instruments that could play on their own, with or without my intervening, or at least some sound objects that would take over control from me, with whom I could play on the same level, maybe trying to avoid the well-ordered expertise we usually see as a purpose for musical practice. Stumbling like an idiot might as well have a good purpose. I would be more content if I could get an intuitive and generous sense of improvisation, which involves being surprised by the matter I use, matter which actually reminds the audience and me that all of us are parts of it. To put it another way, I don’t think I want to play an instrument, I would prefer an instrument to play with. In order to get that, handcrafting is probably a good start. My wind and string instruments promise a lot of unexpected behaviours, like any sound object set apart from its original function, radios, gsm…
You mentioned you would be wandering in Italy this week (thus the interview was prepared in advance). What are your plans? Is this work-related? Do you always keep your eyes and ears open for potential sources of inspiration and references, or do you purposefully look out for stuff once you have a project?
Yep, I’m driving through Italy during November, playing a few concerts (Milan, Bologna, Rome), but mostly trying to encounter the territory a bit more, as it is the one from which I draw most of my repertoire, and the one my father and grandparents were born in.
I don’t have any stated protocol and I don’t feel very comfortable with the term ‘project’; most of the time an idea or a shape emerges from an inspiring context and enthusiasm does the rest.
It is probably what everybody usually does. Of course, maybe on some occasions, adding a prior intention to the arbitrariness of our taste can be of use, but moving on sight generally appears to be a lot more fertile in my case. Some specific topics maintain themselves though every little piece of work, but this wasn’t really intended.
Can you describe a transgressive moment you had that involved music?
I could describe a few, so could the totality of SHAPE musicians, I’m sure! But the fact that we are forced to do such “eat-what-you-found” stuff almost daily, having unauthorised concerts, finding support funds, making home-made records, booking tours by ourselves (which isn’t my case anymore thanks to Murailles Music)… makes them so usual that they can’t really be brandished as stunning revelations…
Interview by Lucia Udvardyova