Name: Martyna Poznańska
Occupation: Transdisciplinary Artist/Sound Designer
Current Event: Martyna Poznańska was one of the performers at the Klangbox series at Galerie Zora Auguste in Berlin. The performances, curated by Kaan Bulak [Read our Kaan Bulak interview], highlighted a wealth of approaches towards working with sound. Each Klangbox gig brought together musicians from the most diverse corner of the stylistic spectrum and placed them outside of their usual comfort zone, promising performances stimulating for the audience and the performers alike. If you missed the concerts, you can still engage with the music via the related compilation releases, published by the Feral Note imprint.
If you enjoyed this interview with Martyna Poznańska and would like to find out more about her and her work, visit her personal homepage. She is also on Instagram, Soundcloud and bandcamp.
Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for sound? What were early experiences which sparked it and what keeps sound interesting for you?
I became interested in sound and field recordings quite late – right at the beginning of my 20s. I didn’t have any official musical education and was searching for alternative ways of making music, which wouldn’t be bound to instruments and musical notation. I started to work with my voice but then I gradually realised the endless richness and variety present in the sounds of the environment and became really fascinated with field recordings as a musical tool.
After I moved to London, I became totally intrigued by noise and how we can learn to listen to it on an every day basis in order to make it less irritating/tiring to perceive.
Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage when it comes to your way of working with sound?
Somewhat. Although I don’t seek to actively communicate it in my work, I also can’t pretend not being a part of a particular context.
What types of sound do you personally prefer to work with? Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?
I work mainly with field recordings. Because these are sounds I found and recorded myself, they connect my life’s topographical journey with the soundworks I make.
The choice of sounds depends on what kind of piece I’m working on. These days I work a lot with the sound of insects, tiny sounds, the hardly noticeable ones or the ones ignored by society.
A few years ago, I was focusing on working with the sound of the city and urban noise. These days, I’m more interested in what kind of connections with the environment we’re able to create/renew when listening to the sounds of the environment. Are we able to change our perspective and leave the anthropocentric point of view? Are we able to remind ourselves where we came from, where our humans origins lie? And are we able to remind ourselves that we are also animals and not better than other species inhabiting this place – or even worse.
Where do you find the sounds you're working with? How do you collect and organise them?
Everywhere. I record them on what I have available at hand in a given moment, which is a portable recorder, a more serious one with separate mics or a phone.
Some artists use sounds as a means for emotional self-expression, others take a more conceptual approach or want to present intriguing sound matter. How would you characterise your own goals and motivations in this regard?
I’m somewhere in between. I’m interested in the endless variety of sonic textures that surround us. But as a sensitive being some resonate more firmly with my emotions, whereas some are more of aesthetical/conceptual interest.
As I mentioned before in a nswering the previous question, given my current interest in human and nonhuman entanglements, I am also searching for the kind of expressions which can transmit these endless, ever evolving connections. In a way it has an emotional quality for me because I feel it touches something very, very deeply rooted in my body.
From the point of view of your creative process, how do you work with sounds?
Certain sounds immediately catch my interest because of their pitch, texture or rhythm. When I hear them, they already emanate with this particular kind of quality I’m searching for at a particular time.
But I often start my work based on a specific concept, just like it was in case of the composition I made for the Feral Note label this year. I wanted to create a soundscape which would imitate a very busy crowded place like a football match, and for it to be made up of sounds of different voices which you can’t discern. Something that comes in waves, slightly scary, exciting, very human-like. But instead of processing the voices I took the tiny sounds of bees buzzing around flowers and amplified them to recreate the same mood.
My objectiv here was to show that there is not such a big difference between us and other species, in this case the bees. What sets us apart is our bigger size, which produces loudness, which the insects are deprived of and therefore often ignored or not cared about. Just imagine a fly of a human size, that approaches you, you wouldn’t just wave your hand to get rid of her as if she was nothing, you’d actually try to communicate, you’d treat her more equal to yourself.
Of course it’s more complex than that. But what I’m trying to make audible in this composition, is the division we have created between humans and non-humans as if our rights to inhabit this planet were greater than the other species, which came even earlier than us.
The possibilities of modern production tools have allowed artists to realise ever more refined or extreme sounds. Is there a sound you would personally like to create but haven't been able to yet?
I would like to recreate the sounds I’m hearing with my voice. To be able to hum like the wind, sing like the frogs and imitate high heel footsteps on a staircase. I guess there’s no technology for that.
Many artists have related that certain sounds trigger compositional ideas in them or are even a compositional element in their own right. Provided this is the case for you – what, exactly, is about certain sounds that triggers such ideas in you?
These days I work crossdisciplinary and am focusing on listening to the nonhuman beings. It also became my main inspiration to work with the voices of the environment in my compositions, juxtaposing them, bringing them together in a bid of showing that the language through which we humans communicate is not the only valid one. That every species has its own language even if it’s not as loud or present in human life.
Hence I like to bring those voices together, give them more volume and let them be heard from up close.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
There is definitely a relationship. But I think that this connection depends mainly on the means used to present the work. Hence if I know that the piece will be listened to on a multi channel system, then this relationship is much more clearly obvious and I'll work with single channels and ambisonics. Whereas if I know that the composition is intended for radio then of course I'll think about the single listener in their room, or wearing headphones. This changes my approach, too.
Humans are often characterised as "visual beings". In your opinion, what role does our sense of hearing play in our understanding of the world? How do sounds affect you, compared to other senses like sight or smell?
Hearing Is the oldest sense that we humans have. Meaning it’s the first one to be activated when we’re in our mother's womb. Therefore it’s very special. But later it becomes overwhelmed by other senses and starts working together with all of them. It’s no longer unique.
But I think to say that we’re visual beings is a generalisation. We’re actually synaesthetic beings. Our senses always work together and complement each other all the time.
From the concept of Nada Brahma to "In the Beginning was the Word", many spiritual traditions have regarded sound as the basis of the world. Regardless of whether you're taking a scientific or spiritual angle, what is your own take on the idea of a harmony of the spheres and sound as the foundational element of existence?
I believe that sound is really important for our bodily harmony and to stay in a resonant connection with the environment. I feel it myself very often and am working too with these kinds of sensitivities, which sound and listening opens up for us.
But this hasn’t been appreciated as much in our Western cultures because there was too little scientific proof to support it. Only now, thanks to more advanced technology and neuroscientific studies, the influence of sound on the human body, on the wax our organs work, but also the life functions of other species start to be taken more seriously.
And obviously the importance and healing qualities of sound have been known and used for centuries in the non-Western societies, just to mention the healing frequencies of the Tibetan bowls.
Hopefully, the appreciation of sound will not remain restricted to entertainment will keep growing and bring us closer to our real selves. In doing so, we might just discover the soul of a jaguar inhabiting our connective tissue.