to gain space

Space map




by Myriam Van Imschoot

SUMMARY: What Nature Says is a radiophonic performance piece that revisits older radio practice of foley artists who trigger ‘referentiality’ with handmade means. However, in What Nature Says the aim is not to merely evoke portrayal of sound, but to provoke a sensorial affect and to juggle listening protocols that question the distinctions between human-made, machine and animal. The performers come from different fields of vocal practice and deliver the same scored composition twice, with the audience divided over two spaces that are acoustically connected through a sound-system and speakers. They will look for the limits of their own bodily resources to create the soundings, embracing the performative appeal that such sound production entails. The analogue set-up of mikes, cables, speakers etc is used as a musical instrument too, exposing the materiality of electricity, magnetism, etc. This all feeds into the soundscape. The dramaturgy behind the composition of the piece is to work with sounds that relate to (nearly) extinct places and species. A special role is reserved for the cry of alarm as there’s a sense of imminent disaster in this ecological Hörspiel.


Radiophonic doubling of space and listening protocols

What Nature Says invites an audience to have two different listening experiences of a scored composition that is repeated twice in a row. It aims to include a minimum of 20 to maximum 200 people, depending on the capacity of locations available in the hosting venues, be they theaters, concert halls or galleries.

The piece consists of two parts, each of approximately 30 to 40 minutes maximum. There’s an intermission break. In both parts the 5 vocalists and the sound artist/engineer Fabrice Moinet perform the same score/composition. The audience is divided into two groups and attends once the performance in the space with the performers, and once in another room, which is connected through a sound system, cables and speakers with the performance room. The audience has - depending on the ‘group’ they are in -, either the acousmatic experience first or will see ànd hear the performance before they switch to the other room.

The doubling tactics in What Nature Says across two parts, two rooms, and two modes of perceptive framing proposes a synesthesia, yet in a bent way: through repetition, splicing of sensorial stimuli and reuniting them, not one being fuller or more ‘authentic’ then the other, it will foreground the mediality of sound and the affects, determinations and imaginaries this may evoke anew.


What Nature Says harks back at Allen Weiss’s critical work on audio-mimesis. Contrary to modernist claims, music in the lineage of avant-gardes while becoming increasingly disembodied and abstracted, have also kept a link to imitation and referentiality, putting it on unstable grounds. What Nature Says will play with the evocative potential/function of sounds, from simple mimickry (non-biotic sounds, animal cries, etc) to more abstracted soundscapes, yet questioning the way evocations’ create uncanny, hybrid and sometime absurd configurations of experience, sense and nonsense.

What Nature Says wants to revisit a tradition of radio art, Hörspiel, and update practices of foley artists who also are invested in ‘evoking’, yet, without the array of objects usually employed, and strictly focusing on the potential of the sounding body, its envelope of skin, surface, mouth, jaws, throat, percussive limbs, fingers, etc. A central set of microphones allows the group to compose in a choreography of proximity and distance to a reference location in the room. In addition we will work with some other transducers to capture the inner sound of the performer’s body, feeding another layer and quality of sound of the soundscape.

Blurred distinction between animal, human-made and machine

The ultimate aim is to create an array of sounds that blur the distinctions between human, machine and animal. What Nature Says ultimately questions what after all resides in our imaginaries of the ‘natural’. While we don’t employ technological sound effects, computer processed sounds or signal bending, we have an interest in imitating such landmarks in a physical vocal way (echo, reverb, distortion, morphing, etc.) as if reembodying, tuning and untuning those technical sounds with the warmth of bodies (Brandon Labelle). In addition, we also want to sound the technological set-up, as simple and analogue as it may be, to expose electricity, magnetism, etc, as a materiality of its own sort in our set-up. Every device that is used (microphone, cable, speakers) is also a musical instrument.

Central in the dramaturgy of the composition is to look for inspiration in the sounds of field recordings of places and species that go extinct. (cf. Peter Cusack’s work on sounds from dangerous places). A place is reserved for bird calls, which in their own way have started to imitate the mesh-up of nature and urban soundscape, like when copying cell phone ringtones, car alarms, chain saws, etc. The cry is amongst other functions a codified communication system for territorial defense and survival. Juxtaposing them with techniques of human crying, like for example the Arabic ululation zaghareet, brings into tune a range of vibratory expressions, urgency calls, and sonic stirrings that cut through the bone and challenge both the physical production as well as its reception.

Cast and production

The cast is composed of a variety of performers and artists engaged in voice and sound. What Nature Says is initiated and directed by Myriam Van Imschoot. After acoustic projects in rural and urban public space and sound installations with dubplates, she continues her interest in vocal gesture, this time, in the space generated in the perimeter of the microphone(s). The 5 performers represent vocal practices such as bruitism (Anne-Laure Pigache), choral conducting (Jean-Baptiste Veyre-Logerias), underground music (Mat Pogo), bird mimickry (Caroline Daish) and experimental symphonic rock music (Jakob Ampe). Fabrice Moinet, sound engineer and sound artist, known for his installations at QO2 and work with Deep Blue (Christoph De Boeck, Heine Avdal, etc) joins the team for the sound design and technical set-up.

In terms of production network, the piece is produced and supported by the Flemish Government, Kaaitheater, Pact Zollverein, Kunstencentrum Buda, Arts Lab Pianofabriek, by way of financial support and residences. The management office Hiros is responsible for the executive production. The CTM Radio lab context would be the viable and necessary element missing in this production framework as it offers much needed supplementary support, a network and context for presentation that will enlarge its interface with an audience and community of sound aficionado’s. The piece can be ready by 27th of January for the festival of CTM. The next upcoming performances are scheduled for Kaaitheater (12 February) and Kunstencentrum Buda (26 February).


Concept and direction: Myriam Van Imschoot
 Sound installation: Fabrice Moinet and Myriam Van Imschoot
 Performance and co-creation: Jean-Baptiste Veyret-Logerias, Anne Laure Pigache, Caroline Daish, Jakob Ampe, Mat Pogo
 Light: Kaaitheater with the assistance of the hosting venue Production: Hiros Co-production: Kunstencentrum Buda, Kaaitheater, Pianofabriek
 In collaboration with: Campo, Pact Zollverein
 and with the support of the Flemish Government

Curriculum vitae

Myriam Van Imschoot is a Brussels-based performance and sound artist, mostly working with oral documents and vocal practices, embracing the media of performance, installation and video. Her work has been supported and/or presented by Sculpture International Rotterdam, Nodar Binaural Sound Center, Rumpsti-Pumsti (Musik), MUU Galeria, Playground Stuk, Kaaitheater, Vooruit, Kunstencentrum Buda, Museo Reina Sofia, De Player, Operdagen Rotterdam, Techno Park Studios in Melbourne amongst other places. After working with archival sonic documents, field recordings and interviews in performances and sound installations (Black Box 2009, Pick-up Voices 2007, Living Archive 2011, etc), she has come to use the vocal and gesturing body as a vehicle for performances that engage public space (Vozes de Magiaio in a mountain area in Nprth-Portugal, Singelstemmen in urban space in Rotterdam) or theatrical space, with variable degrees of distance and proximity to send out, call out, cry, shout, transmit. The yodel-glitch performances (Hola Hu 2013 and Kucku 2014) with Doreen Kutzke have been touring sound art galeries and concert venues as an example of a rigorous deconstruction of vocal readymades and cultural practice while targeting alternative modes of listening. As a vocalist she recently worked with composer Alessandro Bosetti (Maxigolf 2014 in Monophonic Festival), Anne-Laure Pigache and the Australian sound poetry collective ARF ARF. Her experience as director for the big stage encompasses The Search Project XL (Kaaitheater 2013), next to more intimate works (Kroniek for Katja Dreyer 2013, Living Archive 2011). She created in collaboration with Constant vzw a new software and platform that allows for multimodal publications integrating amongst other media sounds (Oralsite.be). In Brussels she has been crucial in curating contexts for research and exchange amongst artists coming from different fields with a common interest in the performative dimensions of vocal production ànd reception, like the Voicelabs, Soirée Paroles, etc. The last Lab, conducted with a.o. Fabrice Moinet and Cathy Van Eck, ‘Of MIkes and Speakers’, addresses the compositional role of these devices as musical instruments. This experience as well as the encounters over the last years has led her to conceptualize What Nature Says (upcoming) as a new step in her work.

Fabrice Moinet is sound designer, sound engineer and software programmer. Born in France, Moinet studied mathematics and science while always being involved in music and working with musicians. During his studies he started focusing on acoustics and received the training to be a sound engineer. For several years, he was a forum member of the IRCAM, he taught at the National Audiovisual Institute in Paris and was invited to the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). He did the sound for numerous jazz and improvisation concerts with among others Bernard Lubat, Ursus Minor and Garlo, and continues to find specific set-ups and sound qualities for installations, concerts and performances. Recordings include the Belmondo Quintet (Plana Prod.), ‘Improvista’, a film by Pascal Convert, and the Q-O2 project ‘Radu Malfatti Quintet’, a concert recording with musicians (Radu Malfatti, Christian Kesten, Julia Eckhardt and others) who research a relation between improvisation and composition. Fabrice is passionate about finding peculiar soft- and hardware setups and electronic solutions for contemporary art productions: he collaborated with the French hip hop choreograph Frank II Louise, with contemporary composer Benedict Mason, developed soft- and hardware for the Moulin Rouge and programmed the software for Christina’s installation ‘Turning Dreams and Shifting Harbors’ shown in Los Angeles in 2003.

Jean-Baptiste Veyret-Logerias has been directing choirs for several years now. He started dancing in 2000 while studying language sciences. In 2005, he joins the first edition of the ‘Essais’ program at the CNDC / Emmanuelle Huynh in Angers, where he is invited to define his own research areas as an author. After finishing at the CNDC in 2006, he started working on his own material. His performance inspiratoire/aspiratoire was centered on breathing and used air blowers. His research on movement led him to write several pieces: the breathing choir, Singing with Nicaoax. He has also been part of several collective projects like Tout Court (invited by the Stadttheater de Freiburg (DE)), and Five People (invited by Dirk Pauwels at Campo in Gent (BE). Jean-Baptiste has also participated as an actor in pieces such as Daddy, I’ve seen this piece… by Robyn Orlin and Digging up by the Superamas collective. He has also worked with artists such as Laure Bonicel (FR), Roser Montlló Guberna and Brigitte Seth (ES / FR), Daniel Larrieu (FR), António Pedro Lopes (PT), Tim Darbyshire (AU), Gui Garrido (PT). His collaborations also extend to moving-images, working with movie directors Alain Escalle and Jonathan Desoindre (FR) as well as visual artists Lizzie Scott (NY, USA) and Frédéric Moser and Philippe Schwinger (CH).

Anne-Laure Pigache (1976, France) is self-educated and developed a heterogeneous artistic oeuvre through multiple collaborations. The collective dimension is very present in her work. Today she is active as vocalist, improviser and author of sonorous poetry pieces. She has worked with voice as body and musical material since 15 years. She trains improvised musique, sings in different groups that use improvised music. She composes vocal pieces while integrating graphical elements and improvisation games. Her work can be situated on the boundary between sound and sense. Since 2012 she has been working on a typology of speech and its choral and musical potential.

Jakob Ampe (born 1980, Belgium) studied jazz singing and logopaedics. He’s singer of the rock band The Germans. In 2008 their debute album received very favourable reviews in Belgium. In 2009, The Germans were invited to create a performance for De Nachten in Antwerp, which they developed together with dancers Pieter Ampe and Eun Kyun Lee. In 2011, Jakob Ampe participated in the performance Chicago Songbook by composer Thomas Smetryns. In 2013 he created Jake & Pete’s Big Reconciliation Attempt for the Disputes from the Past together with his brother (choreographer and dancer) Pieter Ampe under the mentorship of Alain Platel, within the framework of a project initiated by the international theatre festival SPIELART München.

Caroline Daish completed her Bachelor of Education in Drama, English, Indonesian and Dance in 1989 (SACAE) and Arts Management in 1990 (University of South Australia). She is a performer interested in constructing the live moment together and narratives of perception. She does this mainly through voice and performance. Caroline has performed and devised with Davis Freeman and the American musical “Assassins” at ‘Extremis Festival. In 2008 she collaborated with Swedish/Belgium theatre company and was Artistic Consultant for Kate McIntosh’s production, “Loose Promise” and performer for “Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine” by Mette Edvardsen (2012). She is also member of the Brussels based Live Art Collective ‘DeBorders’. Although Caroline resides in Belgium, she remains long-term collaborator with Jason Sweeney of Australian ‘Unreasonable Films’, creating live or online performance and film projects.

Mat Pogo is a vocalist and graphic artist born in Rome, now resident in Berlin. He started his musical activities as a singer in several free form rock’n’roll bands. He was one of the founder members of the Burp Enterprise multimedia collective, responsible for some of the most critically acclaimed projects from Italian underground. Mat Pogo moved to more abstract material, and in 1995, together with percussionist/DJ Roberta WJM Andreucci and reed player Edoardo Ricci, he founded Jealousy Party. JP is one of the most advanced musical units in Italy mixing with personal touch soul, improv, avant rock, noise and error music. His solo set features his voice, a microphone and some electronic devices. He developed his own language as a vocalist using his experience as a rock singer, an improvisor and radio artist where music, sounds, anecdotic and narrative elements fuse constantly. Weird processed vocal eruptions, intense screams, occasional words, pitched mouth cavity noises and electronic textures melting together.

Technical rider

Provided by the organizer: - Analogue mixing table: Midas, with 10 inputs and 10 direct outputs - 8 dynamics / expander: BSS 902 - 8 audio channel amplification (8x 250W) - microphones: 4 x akg414, 2 x RE20, 4 x DPA 4060, 1 x MKH416, 2 x PZM CROWN

Provided by the company: speakers, developed and customized by Fabrice Moinet

Samples of exploration

The included samples here are work materials under progress. They show an interest in exploring certain textures, which will feed the building blocks for the final soundscape. The rehearsals of What Nature Says start on 22 September 2014 with a focus on musicalizing the material sound features of the technological set-up and expanding further a vocal array based on breathing patterns (inhale/exhale voicing), cries, sounds of the body and its vocal gestures. Also field recordings serve as a basis for revocalizations.

No 1. Propelling sounds of alarm and cry

The first sample is an experiment conducted by Myriam Van Imschoot and two guest performers on 23 August 2014 in the studio of Bethanien Gebau Berlin, to create sound phenomena of helicoptering, propelling, and whipping sound. The central technique used is ‘ululation’, as can be found in the zaghareet, the Arabic high shriek performed by women on weddings and festive celebrations. The voices of the three vocalists interlace on the verge of distortion.

No 2. Flares of beat and animal mimickry

The second sample is an exploration conducted by Myriam Van Imschoot on 13 May 2014 in a lab ‘Nature Calls’, which was meant as a research phase in preparation of What Nature Says. One hears beatbox sounds in combination with imitations of animal cries. In the future the interest for What Nature Says is not particulary the beatbox genre as such as an overriding musical and rhytmical container, but thin it out, hint at it, verge on it, displacing it without fully cohering with it.

No 3. Field recordings as ground

The idea is to use field recordings of natural habitats where species and ecologies are living under the threat of imminent extinction. The field recordings will be used as scores to duplicate, replicate, revocalize them and therefore bending them towards the acoustic sounding body. This sample (with permission of the author) is a field recording compostion by Stijn De Meulenare, made in Africa in the residence program SONIC MMABOLELA at Mmabolela Reserve, Limpopo, South Africa, under direction of Francisco Lopez (2013).