Jewel of the Ear
Radio station: Dkultur
Venue/s of the event: Berghain
Links: Robert Millis
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Jewel of the Ear:
“Jewel of the Ear” is a new collaborative sound and research project by Gilles Aubry and Robert Millis. Its title derives from the English translation of Manikarnika, the Hindi name of the most important funeral temple in the city of Varanasi in India. Located next to the holly Ganga river, this temple is the main site of Hindu religious body cremations, following a precise symbolic ritual based on cosmic renewal and endless cycles of time.
By combining cremation recordings by Aubry together with early Indian 78 rpm music recordings from Millis’ collection, the authors will create a new sound work which will explore the possible existing links between ideas about cultural preservation, audio recording, colonialism and funeral practices.
As a product of the 19th century Western Christian society, the technology of audio-recording is strongly rooted in ideas about the material fixation of sound for the purpose of preservation after death. On the contrary, Hindu religion posits the necessity of the material destruction of the body in order to achieve the perpetuation of the cosmic cycle of life, where cremation becomes a synonymous for creation. Beside actual recordings of body cremations, early Indian 78 rpm records provide another opportunity to reflect on death and preservation. Audio-recording technology was introduced in India at the beginning of the 20th century (1902) by the British occupiers in order to establish new markets for the growing record industry, which was dominated by competing European and American companies. Much of the early music recorded in India is religious and concerns various spiritual functions including funerary practices.
Aubry & Millis will approach such topics by creating an performance with sounds from their respective archives, mixing fires, voices and atmospheres from Manikarnika together with selected Indian musics emerging from the abstract surface noise of the 78 rpm records. The spatial articulation of audible differences between various recording media (digital, tape and phonograph) will serve as a composition principle, simultaneously allowing for a renewed cultural interpretation of the various dimensions of recording practices.
Robert Millis is a founding member of Climax Golden Twins, a solo artist and a frequent contributor to the Sublime Frequencies label. He has scored long and short films, created sound installations, produced and designed audio projects, and released many LPs and CDs. His work floats between sound art, music concrete, improv, field recording, song and collage. During 2012 and 2013 he was a Senior Fulbright Research Scholar in India studying Indian music, sound art and the early recording industry. His work often centers on collections of sound or of traditional music, especially from the Gramophone 78rpm era of early recording, either specifically using samples of these sounds or garnering inspiration from research.
Gilles Aubry is a Swiss sound artist living in Berlin since 2002. His artistic practice is based on an auditory approach of the real informed by researches on cultural, material and historical aspects of sound production and reception. Combining ethnography, critical discourse and sound experiments, Aubry creates installations, audio essays and films without pictures. His sonic images (phonographies) of more or less identified situations stand as an attempt to challenge problematic aspects of visual representations. Recently public presentations include the 5th Marrakech Biennale of Contemporary Arts and the International Documentary Festival (FID) 2014 in Marseille.