september 20, 2010.
Throughout its history the city of Maastricht has been characterized by
a strong and influential polarity, determined by the town's two major Roman
Catholic churches (whose origins go back to the first centuries of the Christian
calendar), their lordships and the corresponding religious communities.
One of these poles is the Basilica
of Our Lady (the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwebasiliek in Dutch, colloquially
known as the Star of the Sea), dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption.
It can be seen as representing the female and throughout much of
the ages politically was directly linked to the religious powers (the bishop).
The other pole is the Basilica
of Saint Servatius, which is dedicated to the 4th century martyr Servatius.
It is the male pole, politically linked to the worldly powers (the
Quite unintentionally, the two statues flanking the old Maastricht town hall provide a striking image of a very similar polarity, with Minckeleers holding fire on the one side (the high, the rulers, the male) and the Mooswief placed within water on the other (the low, the people, the female).
Strolling across the vast and empty space of the Maastricht market early january this year at the fall of evening I was struck by this image, and by how the two statues for more than 55 years had been silently standing there, facing each other. What if I could make them change places? Would Minckeleers be able to know how it feels to be a Mooswief? Could a Mooswief then, if only for a moment, become a Minckeleers?
This is what inspired my contribution to Stichting Intro In Situ's Auditieve Atlas project: 'Het Leven is een Gekleurde Draad' (Life is a Color Wire). The piece is about communication, which cannot be without the ability to put oneself in the place of the other.
Here is what I wanted it to look like (you can click the image to see a bigger one):
The installation was realized as part of the Parcours, a weekend of festivities to mark the opening of a new cultural season in Maastricht. The uTube below shows how Intro In Situ's technical staff, on saturday september 11th, provided Minckeleers and Mooswief with a private 90 meters long tin can telephone connection, concocted by Paul Caron from a large tin can, a somewhat smaller one ( * ), a few small pieces of copper tube, iron wire and red yarn. Because of the waving gas flames, on Minckeleers' side we set the tin over the head's right ear and connected the yarn to an initial short stretch of iron wire to keep it out of reach of the statue's eternal fire.
The audio part of the installation consists in two complementary stereo soundscapes that are meant to be projected simultaneously: Mo (as in Mo_oswief) around the Minckeleers statue, and Mi (as in Mi_nckeleers) around the Mooswief statue. Each has a duration of 33'19" and each has three distinct layers: an 'ambient-abstract' (A) layer, a 'local politics' (P) layer and a 'field recordings' (F) layer.
* I used the abstract A-layers to provide the large scale temporal structure (the envelope) for both Mi and Mo.
Mi-A is extracted from a short recording of the rustling sound of Minckeleers' flames, while Mo-A is based on a short water sounds recording made near the Mooswief statue.
* The P-layers were made from a recording of a public meeting of the Maastricht town council (available on the internet). The recording was cut-up in separate words (sometimes phrases), that then were re-arranged, and split into a male and a female part. Mo-P is the female part of the town council cut up, and Mi-P is the male part.
* Mo-F is built from field recordings made at several occasions this summer on the Maastricht market place around the Mooswief's statue, while Mi-F uses field recordings made around Minckeleers' statue.
For the projection of the sound piece Paul Caron came up with just the type outdoor (stadium) horn speakers that I had wished for. Two were set flanking Minckeleers, connected to an amplifier and CD player that loop-played back the Mo piece; and two were flanking the Mooswief statue, playing back the Mi piece
Thus for the duration of the installation, the evening of saturday september 11th until shortly before midnight, the sounds of the Mooswief were projected over the Maastricht market place from Minckeleers' side while the sound of Minckeleers came form the side of the Mooswief.
The result was even better than expected. The two pairs of stadium speakers created something like a corridor through which the sounds of the two poles (duly mid-range colored, as if coming straight from the horn of an old wire telephone) traveled across the marketplace. One passed through that corridor by following the red yarn from the one side of the market to the other. Somewhere in the middle, at what actually turned out to be a pretty well defined spot in front of the town hall, one then could (if one wished so) for a while enjoy the full & well-balanced double stereo soundscape.
Though it was not at all intended as such, 'Life is a Color Wire' over the night from Saturday 11th on Sunday 12th also became an illustration of the fact that, even though it is possible to establish some form of communication between even the most irreconcilable of opposites, the resulting link will often prove to be extremely fragile.
When we returned to the Markt on sunday morning the yarn had been broken. More so, the Mooswief's part of the tin can telephone had disappeared, and so had the color wire. With the exception of a small bit that was left dangling on Minckeleers' end of the line. To be honest: though not intended, it was not completely unexpected. On a summery saturday night like the 11th, after midnight until early sunday morning the Maastricht Markt turns into a sweltering meeting place for bachelor parties, merry making students of many different persuasions and divers factions of youngsters that, powered by adolescent hormone boosts, alcohol and/or other stuffs, randomly speed their scooters and mopeds across the square.
The long red yarn and the tin attached to the Mooswief's side, not too much out of reach, seem a pretty obvious target for some youngsters' late night show-off. It's just a guess, as of course none of us did actually see it happen. But if they did I do hope they will cherish their trophy.
It rained cats and dogs for much of that sunday.
We will do it again.
[ Added september 30th: To listen to a stereo-reduced mix, as well as to an abstract ambient version (stereo-reduced mix of only the A-layers) of the sound piece, you may visit the Life is a Color Wire page on the Intro In Situ website. ]
notes __ ::
(*) The large tin came with an awful lot of green olives, a small part of which we managed to eat, but the bulk of which the fine people at Intro In Situ will continue to consume over the next few months. The smaller one contained cocktail sausages, all of which we ate with some bread and mustard, while preparing the installation in Intro's workshop in the Capucijnengang. [ ^ ]
tags: Maastricht, Mooswief, Minckeleers
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