Maialen Lujanbio and Xabier Erkizia
Radio Magazine – El rechinar (a)pagado.
Performance and conversation. June 22nd 2016, 19h.
Azkuna Zentroa, Arriquíbar Plaza, 4, Bilbao.
“… but once upon a time a town of advanced views voted a fine of five dollars for any man who should bring this musical abomination within its limits. Thereupon a freeborn Basque rose with the dawn, selected his best carved oaken yoke, draped the red-stained sheepskin a trifle more carefully than usual above the patient eyes of his great smooth oxen, and took his way, ‘squeakity-squeak, squeakity-squeak,’ straight to the door of the Ayuntamiento, city hall, where he paid his twenty-five pesetas, and then devoted the rest of the day to driving all about the streets, squeaking out his money’s worth.”
Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929). Spanish Highways and Byways: Across the Basque Provinces (McMillan co., New York, 1900).
It is a long time since anyone has mentioned the squeak of ox-drawn carts to describe the sonic reality of Bilbao. Perhaps there are still people who miss it, although the majority probably never experienced it. In any case, nobody can say for certain (although we take it for granted) that Bilbao one century ago was any quieter than it is today. On occasion, memory, although in written form, gives us clues which suggest that our perceptions of the sounds of the places we inhabit might be based more on the prejudices or clichés adopted by pre-elaborated discourses than on the experience acquired as inhabitants or users. What has probably changed, and in a radical way, is the speed at which that sonic setting evolves and develops. At present, sounds in general, and concretely those that are reproduced massively in big cities, change their forms and take on new meanings at great speed. Sounds, far from being foreign or collateral to urbanistic and social changes in big cities, are a living reflection of the transformations that are generated there, on occasion even anticipating such changes. This compendium formed of an infinite quantity of layers of sound makes the city into a gigantic and multifocal resonant device that, through acoustic stimuli and signals, conditions the behaviour of its inhabitants and gives shape to curious identitarian relations amongst them.
This radiophonic piece is the result of collective research work carried out while collaborating with the PROTOTIPOAK festival, held at the Azkuna centre in Bilbao. For this collaboration the text cited above was taken as both the starting point and as a musical score to propose a reflection on the sonic reality, acoustic design and identitarian processes that are generated in the public space through sound.
Maialen Lujanbio is a bertsolari (verse improviser) and writer. Her work over the last 20 years in the world of oral improvisation is a referent in modern bertsolarismo (verse improvisation). Far from restricting herself to reproducing oral traditions, her inquisitive, diverse and kaleidoscopic approach to word and voice has expanded these traditions, taking them into unfamiliar and experimental terrain. She has participated in numerous projects in collaboration with other artists from different disciplines, from cinema to literature or music. Although her main activity continues to be oral improvisation, she combines this with writing and radio projects.
Xabier Erkizia is musician, producer, journalist and sound artist who works from the Basque Country. The main characteristic of his work is research and curiosity about any form of communication or creation that involves listening or sound. He co-directs the ERTZ festival of other musics in Bera (Navarre). He has curated exhibitions and projects and was coordinator of the sound department of the Arteleku contemporary art centre. He regularly collaborates in the mass media with radiophonic works and opinion pieces on music, sound and the culture of listening. He is a member of the AUDIOLAB association.