In December of 2012, the Italian sound artist Enrico Coniglio published noWHere – ideale manifesto per sound artists, an old-fashioned manifesto articulating a set of core values about how we as artists should approach “live electronics.” Below you’ll find my translation of this manifesto into English.
The Manifesto will be presented at this page free of comment. The next installment of Sound Propositions (read here) will feature a discussion with Lemures, comprised of Enrico Coniglio & Giovanni Lami, a duo which came together in part as a manifestation of this manifesto. We discuss their creative process and the concept behind the manifesto, and I reflect upon the history and implications of “live” music.
noWHere – a manifesto for sound artists
noWHere is a manifesto of principles designed for sound artists working in electronic, electroacoustic, and ambient music.
noWHere has the expressed goal of recovering the original meaning of the term live electronics as a practice of manipulating sounds -not only electroacoustic sources- in real time.
noWHere has no strictly utilitarian purpose, but considers, however, the possible therapeutic effect resulting from a free association (in the Freudian sense) of sounds.
noWHere proposes a guide useful for live performance to the sound artists who decide to join in this manifesto. The need to write and adhere to this manifesto is given by the need to achieve
a practical discipline on the one hand, an ethical reference other.
The term live electronics, as well as on the definition of electronic music, has created far too
much ambiguity. Many sound artists hide behind a set of technological devices by staging a “prefab show,” with the consequence of increasing the gap with the audience / listener.
What noWHere considers live electronics is instead a practice of composition, production / reproduction, manipulation and diffusion of sound in real time, such as different steps that coexist in the same time continuum.
I pledge to share the following list of rules and principles confirmed in this manifesto:
• a performance is based on a compositional act and the composition itself should be based on total and free improvisation;
• it is possible, however, to establish rules of improvisation based on a default “canvas”;
• the act of composition cannot be a human act, conscious and individual, but the result
of a generative and automated process;
• sound can be produced with traditional instruments, audio equipment or be the result
of synthesis of analogue and/or digital;
• the sound artist may in all cases make use of samples- it is left to the judgment of the performers to make smart use of pre-recorded material- but in any case all the samples used during the live set should be “raw” (previously untreated);
• manipulation of sound must always be done in real-time;
• the sound artist must act according to one’s ability to listen to one’s emotions and express
them, though a minimal approach to performance is still a conceptual horizon to keep in
• the sound is diffused through the performance space to best interact, on a psychoacoustic level, with the audience / listener;
• the sound is diffused so one does not simply overpower the ambiance of the existing
space, but merges them in preserving the natural reverberation and sounds peculiar to it.
Very interesting, thanks for translating! I for one would like to know more about what this manifesto opposes (the term “prefab show” is mentioned but not expanded upon), and also what kind of emancipation it promises for artists and also for listeners (because the revolution is for everyone, right? ;).
I’m also intrigued by this curious sliding, in the proposed rules, between a downplaying of the artist persona (“the act of composition cannot be a human act”, “preserving the natural reverberation”, etc.) and the reassertion of subjective agency (“the sound artist must act according to one’s ability to listen to one’s emotions and express them”). Any further thoughts on this?
Very interesting, thanks for translating! I would like to know more about what this manifesto opposes (the “prefab show” is mentioned but not elaborated upon), and also what kind of emancipation it promises for artists and also for listeners (because the revolution is for everyone, right? ;)).
I’m also intrigued by the see-sawing in the rules between a downplaying of the artist persona (“the act of composition cannot be a human act”, “preserving the natural reverberation”, etc.) and the reassertion of human subjective agency (“the sound artist must act according to one’s ability to listen to one’s emotions and express them”). Any further thoughts on this?
You raise an interesting point, Nathan. Enrico (and Giovanni) talk a bit about this in the interview which will hopefully be published this Wednesday or Thursday. For me, the aspect that requires the most elaboration, and possibly the most problematic aspect, has to do with the dichotomy between “raw” samples and the “prefab” show. The idea seems to be an emphasis on transparency, so that the listeners are more aware of the kinds of decisions being executed by the artist(s), while the artists are responding, in real-time, to the physical space and the audience, in the here and now, so to speak. In my introductory essay, I go on at some length about the problem, IMO, of positing untreated recordings as being somehow more natural or “raw,” since all sorts of decisions have already been made simply in making a recording. (A critique often made of Murray Schaeffer’s World Soundscape group.) I hope that we can foster an active discussion following the publication of that interview, but wanted to finally get this published and circulating ahead of time.
Ok great, I await the interview. I did not interpret the rule about only using “raw” samples to mean that untreated recordings should be treated as inherently more authentic. Rather, their use as ‘raw ingredients’ underscores the ‘real-time’ nature of the ideal compositional act, with nothing pre-prepared, so to speak. In this sense it seems more about an authentic moment or process of creation than an authentic source, if that makes sense? Though certainly both positions could be open to similar immanent critique.
The interview is now up, perhaps we can continue this discussion there. I think you are right in terms of Enrico’s intention: emphasizing the transformation in the moment, allowing for spontaneity for the artist and transparency for the audience. But I still worry that the idea of the sample being “raw” brings with it all this baggage about “authenticity,” which perpetuates a conceptualization of sound recording as representational, and which understands media in terms I take issue with. (A long explanation would be required, but for instance see Dworkin’s No Medium.)
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