Giovanni Lami / fraufraulein

fraufraulein - heavy objects, light patterns on a dark red wooden floor.

Giovanni Lami’s “Hysteresis” project is produced entirely in situ in various outdoor locations using microphones and reel-to-reel tape: at the same time as some reels are recording the sounds from the microphones, others are being played back and manipulated on the fly by physically reshaping the running tape or by placing objects on it. The recordings themselves become material to be worked with, and are subject to sudden stops and starts, rewinds and fast forwards, speeding up and slowing down, etc., all done in a subtle and tasteful way. At the same time, the sounds emanating from the manipulations — the various spinnings, buzzings, shufflings, poppings, scrunchings, hissings, and burstings — do not give the impression of becoming part of the sound worlds of the field recordings, but instead sit at one remove from them.

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This contrasts with the approach fraufraulein take in their piece ‘when we evaporate’. Here, the sounds of an outdoor environment, with the murmur of voices, rumbling of traffic, and clatter and bang of what could be fireworks or construction noise, is augmented by French horn and bass guitar. It seems clear from the quiet restraint, low pitch, and sparse note density of the two instruments that their intention is to merge with the sounding environment, to become, to a large degree, part of the scenery. The exception to this, perhaps, comes at the end when faint regular tapping on the bass strings produces a chugging rhythm. Because of the work done earlier to integrate the instruments with the rest of the sounds, this rhythm changes the perception of the entire auditory field.

(‘when we evaporate’ is paired on the album “heavy objects” with the piece ‘one of us always tells the truth’ for objects and electronics. Ceramic chinks and wooden taps contrast with metallic dings and ringing chimes of various pitches. The nice thing here, aside from the interesting timbres, is the movement between relative intensity and calm, a structure dictated by the pace at which performers Billy Gomberg and Anne Guthrie switch between different sounds.)

Lami and fraufraulein approach the problem of how to respond musically to environmental sounds in very different ways, but the results are equally intriguing. The differences are pointed to by the titles they use: ‘Hysteresis’, a word denoting a system that incorporates some lag, delay, or history dependence, refers to process; ‘when we evaporate’ names the intention to actually evaporate into the environment, including a time and a voice to place the emphasis on affect. Translating into the language of the visual arts, you could call Lami’s technique a sort of live, instantaneous cut-up or collage, while fraufraulein mobilise the desire, often expressed in the annals of art history, to step through the canvas and into the painting.

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Giovanni Lami


Marginal Frequency

Tutore Burlato

Czaszka Records

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