Sacred Technologies: the ritualization of instrumental music performance with electronics
This doctoral project explores the intersections between ritual, technology, and my artistic practice in the field of experimental music theatre performance with electronics. It is practice-based research consisting of a written part and four new performances, each focusing on a specific electronic object. These performances fuel an autoethnographical method that analyzes and criticizes my life events related to my relationship with technological objects and my experiences of the sacred. During the creation process, I explore the excarnation of electric guitars, the worship of amplifiers, the baptism of loudspeakers, and the burial of computers. Each technical object is staged and deconstructed, and its cultural and historical signification is extrapolated. By playing with the religious/spiritual connotations and symbols emerging from that process, the performances aim to "crack open the mundane casing" (Davis 1998) of electronic music technologies and activate their latent archetypal meanings.
In the thesis, three main theoretical concepts, along with a techno-animist framework, are developed and used to analyze the performances: Symbolic Sound-Producing Gesture (SSPG), Ritualization, and the Sacred-Profane Dichotomy.
I first coined the term Symbolic Sound-Producing Gestures (SSPG) to encapsulate the connotations of the musician’s movement and their symbolic meanings, in the Jungian sense. This term serves as the foundation of my artistic practice, which traces its roots back to the experimental music theater of the 1960s (Cage, Kagel, Schnebel). SSPG gives me a point of view from which I can develop new ways of interacting with electronic music technologies.
Second, the Sacred-Profane Dichotomy points to the process whereby objects become sacred. Nothing appears more profane than the phone in my pocket. What processes, ritualistic gestures, and mythical narratives could imbue this phone with sacredness in a techno-animist context? What obstacles hinder our ability to perceive technology as animate, possessing personhood? Part of the answer lies in the complexities of modern manufacturing, the global network, and the exploitative dynamics surrounding the creation of electronics.
Finally, Ritualization is a creation method where each performance is developing structures (temporal form, spaces) and material (symbolic gestures, music) in relation to established rituals. Ritual becomes an ideal, as these actions are executed earnestly, driven by a genuine desire to understand and penetrate the mythological layers and unconscious processes that these sonic images can elicit. However, this ambitious project of creating new rituals is inevitably encountering failures along the way, and my project unveils, from a maker's and performer's perspectives, the inherent friction between capitalist society and the need to connect through rituals.
Started in 2018, this project is part of the Arts Study Programme at the MuTri Doctoral School, Uniarts Helsinki, Sibelius Academy, Music Technology Department and is funded by SSHRC-CRSH.
1st performance: Le Refuge des Cordes (Summer 2020)
Photograph by Maija Tammi
More information about this project can be found on thein an exposition on the research catalogue platform.