I always wonder what “being safe” means. I’m thinking of the beautiful sequence in Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece Det Sjunde Inseglet (1956) where one of the protagonists has climbed up a tree and is happy because he has been able to escape pestilences, soldiers, any kind of evil, and just in that moment he realizes that Death is cutting the tree… or very often I’m thinking of those people who take drugs and feel safe just dwelling in the heart of danger. Even, I notice very often how mankind gets used to dangers and to threatening situations (people living in continuous state of war, in neverending fears of illness, etc.).
This makes me wonder how “being safe” is a relative concept very much connected with the knowledge and the understanding of rules, environment, cultural situation and expecially choices.
SHELTERS AND TRAPS is a sort of sound-action for female voice, banjo, 2 percussion players and live electronics, a see-saw oscillating between danger and safety, noisy monsters and quiet stillness; things which might appear horrible as soon as they become well known loose their negative power, as well as reassuring events might hide traps.
Premiere: Art’s Birthsday 2009, ZKM, Karlsruhe, January 16th 2009
Agata Zubel: voice
Frank Thomé: percussion (marimba, drums, objects)
Rie Watanabe: percussion (vibraphone, tympani, objects)
Stefano Giannotti: banjo, samplings
David Loscher: keyboards assistant
Produced by Stefano Giannotti for SWR2, Hörspiel Abteilung
Exercutive producer: Frank Halbig
In this first part Agata launches isolated shouts, very loud, like somebody who is really scared. At the same time Frank and Rie alternate the launching of heavy metal object on the floor to playing 3 different riffs on marimba, vibraphone tympani and drums. I play on sampler-keyboard some female voice shouts pitched down (which sound very similar to a wild beast in the wood). The scene changes rather suddenly into a sort of joke. The signal is when Frank launches a metal object near the feet of Agata and she starts shouting as if she has been hurt.
Performers start laughing, at the beginning discreetely, than louder, Agata too.
Then the scene changes into a sort of happy circus with sound-jokes, like a whistle, a toy trumpet, a balloon exploding, supported by the sampler-keyboard; everybody is laughing and having fun, then Agata and I sing together a little stupid song. Length: about 4 minutes
At the beginning of the second part Agata remains alone. She is happy and relaxed. She is reading a book, or having a cup of tea, or any other everyday relax time actions, when suddenly her face changes, she starts trembling; a sort of disease, like an epileptic attack increases until it becomes unbearable. She falls on the floor she whirls around here and there producing scary sounds… then step by step she calms herself down and goes back to a tranquil state as nothing has happened.
This action is performed three times:
no 1, as described above
no 2, with live-electronics (a shuffling delay effect with light distorsion environment)
no3, with live electronics and tympani, drums and banjo supporting the trembling effect with pattern 4.
At the end of the third epileptic attack she start singing a lullabye and falls asleep.
Length: about 4 minutes
The dream. Agata lies asleep on the floor. The keyboard-sampler performs a slow passage from an imaginary landscape emulating birds (obtained by treating police-sirens) to real police/ambulance sirens; then they change again in evanescent landscapes, half-way between fear and non-fear. At the end real birds fade in and Agata wakes up refreshed and tranquil.
Vibraphone, percussion and banjo might underline the action.
Length: about 4 minutes
Agata starts imitating birds sounds, in a sweet way, maybe even ironic (a bit like Disney’s Snow-white singing). A deep tone on keyboard-sampler (obtained by treating with filters a mix of national hymns) starts.
Percussion play Pattern 7 (drums and tympani). Banjo starts a long part of revisited funky rhythms, the deep tone increases and reveals the hidden national hymns which step by step overwhelm. Agata changes slowly the bird singing into a sort of solo with words and sounds here and there like if she is crazy. Live electronics supports her.
At the end drums and tympani stop and we hear war sounds, national hymns and Agata shouting again like at the beginning of the piece.
Length: about 8 minutes.