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Sculptor of sounds

THE room is dark. The audience is blindfolded. They sit or lie on the floor. They wait for the show, a feast for the ears, a new kind of perception.

Forget senses of sight, smell, taste, touch - just listen deeply. The word "audience" comes from the Latin word "to hear" and they are a perfect audience.

They "hear" the purest sounds of nature - birds singing, squawking, twittering; frogs croaking and splashing; cicadas making a thunderous hum. Water falls and flows; rain pours down and sprinkles leaves in an Amazon rain forest.

It conjures vivid mental images.

"It's a movie for the ears," said Luca Forcucci, a sonic artist, composer and performer who is a Swiss citizen originally from Italy. Forcucci calls himself a "sound sculptor" and in late August he presented a 40-minute show at BM Space in Shanghai.

He presented "De Rerum Natura" ("Of Natural Things"), an electro-acoustic composition based on field recordings from the Amazon rain forest in Brazil. The feeling is powerful, mysterious and pure.

Forcucci said there's a dynamic link between composing, listening, "deep listening" and perception by the audience.

In December 2008, Forcucci spent two weeks in the forest, living in a log cabin and venturing deep into the forest with recorders and microphones. He left some recorders in place for hours so animals would not be disturbed and the sound would be authentic.

"It was an expedition," he said. He slept at 1am and work at 4am, sleeping only three hours a day. There was no telephone, no mobile, no Internet. Only his recorder and hydrophone, a microphone to be used in the water.

When he heard howler monkeys for the first time, he felt like a UFO was approaching. Howlers are the world's loudest land animal and their territorial calls can be heard as far as 3 miles away.

For long recordings, he left his recorder and quickly walked away. He would check again in two hours.

"Nature feels us and we have to leave, so the recordings are not the same as if you stay," he said. "In particular locations it was impossible to leave, so we remained at least 500 meters away from the recording location and were extremely quiet. We avoided moving and listened carefully.

"Close your eyes and listen carefully. It's a return to nature, a sharp contrast to the forest of skyscrapers in the city of Shanghai," he said.

Forcucci spent months processing his recordings to create a performance.

His world is all about listening and he considers sound sculpture a proper art form, though generally unrecognized. "For an instrumentalist, practice is very important, and my practice is listening," he said.

In Shanghai he spent two weeks and recorded a "soundscape" that he performed in the August show. He recorded everything - the hum of machinery, sounds of traffic noise, subways, people shouting and talking, the sounds of water, of animals, of birds.

"You should practice your ears," he said.

Forcucci, invited to Shanghai by the Swatch Art Peace Hotel, will stay in town until October to collect sounds and experience different culture. On Friday he will give a lecture for students at Fudan University's Institute of Visual Arts.

He once recorded soundscapes in Paris, Manaus in Brazil, the Swiss Alps and lakes, Venice and California.

Forcucci defines composition based on sound and diffused by loudspeakers as acousmatic music, which he turns into "sculpture." His work explores the properties of architectural and natural spaces.

He has presented his works worldwide, received numerous prizes and been awarded various artist residencies.

Forcucci has studied musicology, deep listening and perception, sound and its relationship to spaces. He holds a master's degree in sonic arts from Queens University, Belfast. He collaborated in 2009 with the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Brain Mind Institute of EPFL (cole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne) in Switzerland.

Forcucci's lecture

Date: Friday, 7pm-9pm

Venue: Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, Fudan University, 2200 Wenxiang Rd, Songjiang District


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