To-gather: Listening at the edge
The «To-gather» International Collaboration grant supports the development and testing of new long-term frameworks and methodologies for working internationally premised on more equitable and sustainable dialogues between cultures.
“Listening at the edge” is a two-year (2022-2023) project conceptualised and led by South African pianist, improviser and sound artist Jill Richards and Swiss drummer, composer and sound artist Christophe Fellay. They will be joined by various constellations of artist collaborators in South Africa and Switzerland with sonic and listening practices (sound here understood as a transversal paradigm between disciplines) with the aim to build a strong network of long-term connections in both contexts.
The interdisciplinary project is both generative and reflective, concerned with listening as a primary form of connection. “Listening at the edge” aims to explore the big questions of the creative process within the two very different contexts of South Africa and Switzerland and their respective cultural and artistic histories. What constitutes creativity, how do the various disciplines/contexts match, overlap and differ? What does it mean to make? To create and to co-create? Since play will be an essential part of the creative and collaborative process, Jill and Christophe will also ask the question of what it means to play (in both senses of the word).
The project will begin with a series of working sessions with local artists in South Africa and Switzerland focusing on creating raw material from listening practices, found sounds, music recordings, spoken recordings, improvisation, composition fragments, and collaborative work. This will be followed by online and in-person participatory workshops using this archive, focusing on listening, observing and responding across the network. Curation and response will be an iterative process, through several rounds of co-creation. The role of audiences and how they comprise part of the performance and the creative process will also form part of this exchange. The project will extend online and to a wider audience with a website archiving texts, ideas, audio and video recordings emerging from the process.
The first working session took place in August 2022 at the Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg. Christophe and Jill were joined by Micca Manganye, Johan Thom and Thulisile Binda, who will comprise the South African group for the duration of the project. This core group of collaborators spent time improvising, experimenting and having discussions. They were then joined for sessional play sessions by Teresa Phuti Mojela, Phuti Chokwe, Soyiso Ndaba, Buhle Mazibuko and Kaldi Makutike from the SO Academy based at the Centre. The constellation of artists came from various disciplines – dance, theatre, movement, music and visual art. “We invited them because Christophe and I both wanted to explore the creative spaces between the different arts, and to learn from each other,” Jill explains. “We chose to have a democratic and playful approach to the working process, which was very happy and also very productive.” The 8-day working session concluded with a public showing at the Centre of material emerging from the process and inviting feedback and discussion from the audience.
The second working session took place in October 2022 at La Ferme d’Asile in Sion, Switzerland. Here, Christophe and Jill were joined by longstanding connections Donna Kukama and Euridice Kala, both artists of African origin living and working in Europe. Swiss artist Valérie Fèlix joining the group for one session. “We shared some of the material that was generated in Joburg, and it proved to be very interesting and useful in that the context was different,” Jill explains. The working session at La Ferme was extremely creative and productive, generating much material for future sessions and the project website.
Jill Richards is a South African pianist specialising in late 20th and 21st century music. Versatile and dynamic, her interests range from Bach to free improvisation. Her career includes collaborations with numerous composers from around the world. She has a longstanding working relationship with Kevin Volans who has written many solo works as well as piano duos for her. These she has performed with the composer as partner. Jill has worked with Francisco Lopez, Jörg Schäffer, François Sarhan, Rudiger Meyer, Clare Loveday, and many others. She has also toured with live music performances to William Kentridge’s films. She works as a soloist and chamber musician and also collaborates with visual artists, dancers and actors. Jill travels regularly to Europe to work as a live improviser in concerts and festivals. She also has an ongoing partnership with filmmaker Jurgen Meekel, with whom she creates soundtracks for live art events. Jill has performed and been broadcast in the UK, Europe, North America and Australasia. She has released five CDs, including “Cicada” of Volans. She has also collaborated with sound artist João Orecchia, visual artist Marcus Neustetter, composer-drummer Christophe Fellay, and artist Dorothee Kreuztfeldt, amongst others. Jill Richards is a Steinway Artist.
Christophe Fellay is a sound artist, musician, composer, performer and improviser living in Switzerland. He has shown interdisciplinary works, sound installations, live performances worldwide and composed sonic works and music for ensembles, solo instruments, radiophonic arts, theatre, movies, video, choreography and performative arts. His work has been shown internationally in London, Edinburgh, Paris, Montreux, Copenhagen, Zürich, Geneva, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Buenos Aires, Santa Fé, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Windhoek. His artistic interests include indisciplinarity, active listening, acoustics, sound architecture and ecology. He is particularly interested in the interaction between gesture, movement and sound. Christophe has achieved a PhD at the Brunel University in London and is professor, researcher and head of sound department at EDHEA (Ecole de Design et Haute Ecole d’Art) Valais – Wallis, Switzerland.
[Images from the Centre for the Less Good Idea by Zivanai Matangi]