Arseny Avraamov’s Symphony of Sirens (1919–1923) is a sonic legend, a gigantic public event that was impossible to record or to transmit. Text scores and some articles by its creator—an eccentric author, composer, researcher, and inventor—are all that remains. Symphony of Sirens is a beautified translation, the original title, Symphony of Factory Horns, refers to the steam powered timekeepers of the modern industrial age. Fascinated by the noises of the future, Avraamov employed all of the “modern” sounds available to him—military boats, artillery, guns, locomotives, and hydroplanes—which transformed entire cities into enormous musical instruments or gigantic orchestras conducted by Avraamov from telegraph poles. The symphony was conceived to celebrate the 1917 October Revolution, passionately producing as much “modern” sound as possible. Today, we choose to listen. Almost one hundred years later, O+A reflect upon Avraamov’s sounds of the future, transformed into the present, by listening to our machine-dominated soundscapes and tuning them. Interested in the history of noise and silence as part of their practice, the artists research the sonic sites of Thessaloniki and its noise and soundscapes. Their Symphony of Resonances consists of three parts.
Prelude, Tuning the Ruins
Friday July 14, 2017, 16:00-22:00, Palace of Galerius, Thessaloniki
Taking place in Navarino Square, where Roman ruins are tightly surrounded by densely packed 1960s and 1970s apartment blocks, O+A use this built environment as their “resonating chamber,” activating the ruins of the Palace of Galerius with the sounds of today’s Thessaloniki, reduced to harmonic proportions through their “tuning tube.” We listen to harmonically tuned “modern” noises—sound waves from traffic, jets, motorcycles, the entire swarm of activity produced by large cities today.
Sound – Thomas Koch
Requiem for the Extraction Economy
Friday July 14, 2017, 21:00, Rotunda, Thessaloniki
Performance for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and bass soloists, and the eight-channel Orchestra of Cities
The Rotunda is one of a few buildings that remained intact after Thessaloniki was destroyed by fire in 1917. Having been used as a mausoleum, a church, and a mosque, it is ideally suited for the resonance of the human voice—chanting or in song. The scale of four perfectly matched unamplified human voices within this space will be in a dramatic struggle with the recorded resonances of the city.
Singers – Sarah Chalfy – soprano, Hai-Ting Chinn – mezzo-soprano, Christopher Sokolowski – tenor, Mark Sans Uhleman – bass. Sound – Mark Fuller
Orchestra of Cities – Sam Auinger, Conductor – Bruce Odland
Coda, State Museum of Contemporary Art
July 15–September 17, 2017
Coda will be played at the State Museum of Contemporary Art, which holds the Costakis Collection of works from the Russian avant-garde, one of the most remarkable examples of the migration of modernism. Assembled by George Costakis at a time when avant-garde was outlawed in Russia, the collection includes rare archival material on musical experiments of the avant-garde artists. O+A’s Coda will resonate in museum’s space until September 17th, the closing date of documenta 14 in Kassel.
About O+A (Bruce Odland / Sam Auinger)
O+A have been listening to and recording the sounds of modernity in cities around the world for thirty years. They believe that we will not understand ourselves until we understand our noise. In the 1990s they began using “tuning tubes” to transform city noise into harmony, and find musical information in the sounds of daily life. They soon realized that they were listening to the music of the human hive, the rhythms of rush hours, the pulse of the economy.
Co-organisers: documenta 14, City of Thessaloniki, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Artecitya by Helexpo, ArtBOX.
Supporters: Ministry of Culture and Sports, Kultur Land – Oberosterreich, Bundeskanzleramt Osterreich, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
More photos and info here