Francesco Spaggiari – Entrevista

Sub_Bar é uma série de eventos de vários dias que têm lugar na Alemanha (Berlim, Leipzig, Colônia) e Portugal (Lisboa) que reúne a comunidade das pessoas surdas, com dificuldades de audição e ouvintes a experimentarem a música da mesma forma. Através da utilização de frequências sonoras baixas, um sistema de subwoofer quadrafônico e elementos tácteis, cria-se uma experiência imersiva que ativa todo o corpo. Conversamos com Francesco Spaggiari, fundador e director da eufonia. Mantemos a lingua inglesa, em que a entrevista nos foi dada.

How did eufonia come about, and what is its mission?
Eufonia Festival was born in Berlin in 2019, when Natasha Siemaszko asked me to create an exhibition about sound and science. I proposed a festival instead, gathering several fields and proposing various communicational / entertaining forms (workshops, concerts, sound installations, experiments, panel talks…). Together with her and Pierre Leveque, we created our main event in November 2019, three days where we explored sound from several points of view, for several audiences. At the beginning of the pandemic, Natasha and Pierre left, and together with a new team, our festival became a platform for interdisciplinary project, brought together by the narrative of sound. Our mission is to showcase the complexity of the human experience, alone, in societies, physical, psychological and in relation with our context, using curiosity as the main leverage, and art as a catalyst for change / transformation. The majority of our projects (Eufonia Festival, Experience Silence, Sound Circuits & most recently, Sub_Bar) are designed as “instruments”, inspiring the best out of our audience, as a luthier would do with musicians.

In what main areas do you operate?
Eufonia is active in event production, education and (soon) management of our Sub_Bar artists (from deaf to hearing). As event producer we create the above mentioned projects, as educator we provide workshops of different kind (recently, these are workshops for music production using subfrequencies)

What’s the origin and what is the Sub_Bar project?
It was a series of events that inspired Sub_Bar. The most relevant being meeting Mirko Miceli, an artist and choreographer working with blind people. He told me once that in order to create an inclusive event, we must put two audiences in the same space, give them the same stimuli, and make sure they perceive the same value. I realized that the challenge to use only sound material in the low frequencies (that is, material that is perceived equally by both audiences) didn’t mean I was gonna have a smaller fraction of material to work with: it meant I could finally speak to another sense, the haptic sense, which so far didn’t receive attention from compositional practices. Subfrequencies are used in music since circa 60 years, if we don’t consider the low vibrations of the organ… but they are used superficially, or better said, functionally: they keep up the rhythm, and they provide limited tonal material that is usally repeated over and over. And still, the presence, absence, and return of bass frequencies in music unlock the “wow” moments. If clubbing is not for everybody, sub_bar is also, definetly not for everybody. I think we have a certain relation with our haptic sense, I usually say that, thinking from a primitive prospective: “whenever we feel stimuli from out haptic sense, it means is too late to escape”. Not everybody is comfortable in being “touched”, and the decision to let yourself go to an haptic experience created with care by an artist, I believe this can trigger important changes in people’s mental health. I think that with Sub_Bar, inclusion shouldn’t be advertised as the reason to go. Inclusion was just the inspiration, and ta-da!, deaf artists delivered sublime artworks just because we asked them to. And those artworks are the reason to go.

Tell us about the international component of the project
Sub_Bar started in Berlin in December 2021, and will soon reach Lisbon, Porto, Leipzig and Cologne; at the same time we are already working on expanding the project in other countries. The common feedback from artists is “It was always under our nose”, so I’m confident the format is here to stay. Differently than other cultural events, Sub_Bar really relies on each local communities where we create our event. My dream is that local sub_bar can be organised and managed by deaf and hard of hearing communities, which find in this artform, a mean of expression, remuneration, a sense of community and a playground to excel.

What will happen in the events that will take place?
Different uses of subfrequenices. As a topic to discuss (we invite artists and scientists to talk about the haptic sense, music, art, and much more), as a skill to learn (we organize now small workshops / showcases, and will soon prepare proper music courses), as a concert to attend (both in Germany and Portugal we are inviting local artists to create unique performances using subfrequencies, avoiding sound, but using any other stimuli they want: movement, light, visuals..), as music to feel (we commissioned works to hearing and DHH artists, each music piece is between 5 and 10 minutes and uses only frequencies from 30hz to 150hz) and finally artworks and installations to touch and/or play (we have other works and devices that interact through your sense of touch in different ways). That’s the reason why I call it a “playground”, which in portuguese gets translated with a word I’m still not very happy with:)…a playground is space (and a time) for experimentation and total freedom. So starting from “subfrequencies”, in the same approach that Eufonia festival has with “sound”, Sub_Bar starts to explore our haptic sense. A regular use of local sign language whenever there are spoken words is a “must” at any of our events.

What artists will take part in it?
We have several artists who composed our Sub_Works (compositions for subfrequencies). It’s hard to pick any of them, but it’s fair to mention that between those, we have Myles de Bastion (deaf artist, musician and innovator), Stefanie Egedy (artist and researcher working only with subfrequencies since 8 years), Dj Troi Lee (founder of Deaf Rave, and one of the faces of UK’s deaf culture) and Byetone (a worldwide reference in electronic music). Moreover, at our event @ UTERO (Lisbon) we will host 3 live show from local well known names: Carincur & Pedro Fonseca, Cigarra and Atelier Francesco. We also have an haptic work by masya,, (the name is written properly), which you can only experience with your fingers.

What can we expect from the investigation and education of the project?
I don’t have any solid expectation about the artistic future of Sub_Bar: I think the interaction between various audiences, and the creative processes of so many people around the world in the next years will overcome any scenario I can imagine personally. I hope Sub_Bar will inspire people from various walks of life, and will become a meeting point between audiences that wouldn’t have met otherwise – did I say already that diversity brings value;)? We, as eufonia, will keep on exploring not only subfrequencies and music, but also social interaction as well, fine tuning our instrument until we remain just a name behind a well designed, innovative, beautiful cultural format.
Regarding education, I have big expectation for the DHH community. Having a musical landscape which is completely inclusive, will replicate, in the short and long term, many of the advantages that music education had for hearing people, both on the neurological side (a new non-verbal language to learn) and psychological side (a framework to excel and express your personality).

In what ways can we keep fomenting inclusion in the Arts?
There are several factors who contribute to enhancing inclusion in the art scene, and I care two mention two points first: give leadership to any audience you want to include, and provide financial support to make it happen. Without these, inclusion remains an idea. But I believe the most important one, unsurprisingly, is the understanding of diversity’s value – which is a little more complex than supporting it. Understanding diversity’s value means finding solid reasons why different prospective on life might be helpful to you, to me, to everybody; considering that today more than ever, people tend to stick together by finding common enemies, understanding diversity means admitting we are not the best, and also the groups we feel part of, aren’t. That’s an uncomfortable feeling to go through, but at the end, you’ll feel curious to know more, to discover. I think when artists take this path and switch their focus to social issues (like inclusion), ideas like this will flourish. Once when I was a kid I saw a big sign saying “beauty will save the world”: I understood it later on, beauty can change behaviour. I don’t feel I have the profile to talk about inclusion, but I am sure that creatives and artists with good intentions and enough resources can change the world, and can definitely find solutions for inclusion. Once again, the common feedback is “it was always under our nose”.

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