I am a composer, researcher and, eventually, vocal, objects and electronics performer. During the past ten years, I have lived in four countries, and this ‘nomadic’ experience has made me resignify my identity. Being immerse in different cultures, geographies, and languages has taught me that we are not fixed beings, predetermined by labels of gender, race or nationality. Identity is a very personal discovery and construction at the same time; it is a process of understanding of our bodies, needs, feelings, curiosity and desire for learning through a particular (and very complex) social, political and economic environment. We are in continuous transformation, we change our minds, sometimes we adapt, and sometimes we escape.
Moreover, I truly believe that in this process we can find each other and recognise common dreams or ideas to work on together. This is what Illuminate Women’s Music means to me. An unexpected and magnificent coincidence, an opportunity to know talented colleagues and their music, which I would probably not have listened to in other scenarios. It is also a space to contribute to building a society that actually represents and respects how diverse we are.
In some way, the responsibility of knowing and expressing myself has led me to develop very particular perspectives to approach (and appropriate) notions and concepts from which to compose my music. In fact, I have been obsessed with timbre for a long time, and I have felt committed to researching on it to try to define it and use it as a main compositional resource. Consequently, suelo seco (Spanish for dry soil) is based on the exploration of texture as one of the semantic dimensions of timbre, from which I develop the experience of dryness as an opportunity to study the timbral fragility. This piece, commissioned by Illuminate Women’s Music, pushed the boundaries of my own tendencies towards aesthetic delight. Having a skin condition of high sensitivity, dryness can even become painful; nonetheless, what I pursue in this timbral exploration is an attention to extremely subtle details of touch: the levels of roughness of the interacting surfaces, the noise of friction between materials. As a result, my compositional approach to texture responds to a more explicit tactile experience, an intimate relation of contact with the sound sources, which also includes working with everyday objects found at home.
In the exploration of different kinds of friction, I work on unconventional instrumental techniques, thus cello and piano are approached as resonant boxes for the strings, and mirrored sources of sound, that is, both instruments respond to each other as mutual extensions of their timbral conditions. Three specific textures of the dry soilinspired me to structure this composition: first, the perception of dryness in the surface, granular but almost homogeneous, it is soft, condensed but not static; second, the cracked soil, broken and separated, hostile and crumbly at the same time; finally dust, the remains, multiple particles that drift in the wind and fall down to the soil again forming fragile layers ready to scatter at any impulse. Therefore, performers are invited to approach their instruments as dry soil territories and move on them to discover new textural identities.
Each section presents a timbral experience composed from the action of friction with particular objects: a paper sheet, a toothbrush, a piece of polystyrene, bow hair. These elements are used to rub the strings at a determined speed, direction, and distance for the displacement with the intention of generating a specific quality of dryness (see figure 1). As a consequence, the transition through the three sections of the piece is developed from the physical interaction between the instruments and the properties and conditions of the objects that ‘touch’ them, the pressure imposed, the resistance experienced, the impact of the contact itself (see figure 2).
Furthermore, the experience of dry soil is explored in timbre from the perception of inharmonicity and noise as dynamic entities. This association allows the exploration of timbral consequences like the hisscreated by the gentle friction of two surfaces, or the roughnessgenerated by the resistance in the displacement when there is a high level of grip between them. However, in more spectral terms roughness is mostly attributed to the presence of the higher partials (especially after the 17th partial), which are closely spaced and interact by ‘beating’ against each other. Thus, overtones are generated by ‘touching’ the strings at specific points, especially when rubbing or bowing, contributing to the perception of different levels of this harmonic dissonance.
Generally, the textural experience of dryness in this piece requires attentive listening in order to discover the almost unperceivable, minimal expression of timbre produced by friction. Loudness is thus explored principally at its lowest levels, as a direct consequence of the materials selected and the kind of interaction developed for each technique. Consequently, amplification in this piece works as a microscope: rather than intensifying the sound, it is conceived as a magnifier of the inside of timbre, its movement, its structure, and its behaviour. It is a resource by which to appreciate the inner nature of dryness and its transformation through the physical interaction.
More about my work: https://micheleabondano.com/
Some of my pieces: https://soundcloud.com/michele-abondano
More about my obsession with timbre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5Z4MUQAxKM