Air Tonalities

noise performance
Amsterdam (2022)

Air Tonalities

In the upcoming year we are developing Air Tonalities, a noise performance by unemployed air hostesses Heather and Rosetta. In this piece, they combine the sounds of handmade atonal instruments with electronics and the suppressed thoughts of the service worker. Air tonalities is composed in consultation with Argentinian experimental-musician Leandro Barzabal.

Air tonalities explores air as an artistic medium to create form and compositions with the way the vibration of air is vital in our capacity to speak and in the functioning of instruments. In the performances we combine three different types of sounds: anti-industrial musical instruments, feminist electronics and the service workers’ voice.

anti-industrial instruments

We’re producing a series of handcrafted air based instruments made from clay, like flutes, ocarinas and horns. These ceramic air-vessels don’t produce the same sounds as standardized instruments, since the sound chamber is intuitively sculpted from clay and randomly perforated with tone holes. They don’t carry the mechanics of a perfect tone ladder, and therefore the sounds of these instruments are a little off and intimate. They are in resistance to the standardized industrial-grade finish that has become a norm for the objects we surround ourselves with.These flutes are non-performers; opposing industrial criteria of functioning and not-functioning.

feminist electronics

We bring these intimate sounds of hand-built instruments together with sounds of electronic instruments, samplers, reverbs, pitch shifters, and an original theremin. Here we lean on a feminist history of computers and electronics as being vital for woman to enter the music industry in the first half of the 20th century. Women like Delia Derbyshire, Eliane Radigue and BeBe Barron speak of a time when women were only allowed to be part of music as being vocalists in an otherwise completely male dominated industry. The rise of electronics allowed women to compose entire sound pieces without needing access to an orchestra or sound studio. Early electronic producers tried to exist outside the mainstream industry and called their pieces not music but radiophonics, tone compositions or sound tonalities.

“I didn’t want other people to say this is not music so we called it sound tonalities.”

service worker voice

Service work is based on voice and appearance. In our performances we have made a persistent effort to deconstruct this appearance in ever changing uniforms and obstructive behavior. The voice of the service worker has an interesting quality: it is used to speak words of service and none of its own. Individual desires or thoughts are suppressed to be serviceable, they are swallowed back in to be digested in muscular hypertension. These characteristics remind us of the historical construct of femininity; as inherently serviceable, suppressing her authentic thoughts and ideas, and who is expected to enjoy caregiving and nurturing by default. 

The feminine mode of survival is built on mechanisms of internalization, suppression and dissociation. This ideology of a ‘female’ has become the blueprint for the service worker and the service worker has become the blueprint for the service robot, to eventually find a vehicle without desires of its own.

We are interested in the screeching sounds of the untrained voice, expressing repressed thoughts. Exploring the vocal tract that has become a channel for self-corrections, a pipe of tensed muscles, a sieve of things to say and not to say.