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Dancing Sonic Dramas

As a composer and sound artist Charo Calvo has created a variety of soundscapes for dance, theater, film and audiovisual installations. Frequently employing experimental means, she develops in each of her works a highly personal vocabulary of sounds and a dramatic scoring of the sound instruments.
Born in Madrid in 1960, the dancer and composer first studied physics. In the early 1980s she led a workshop for dance with Martha Graham. In the years that followed, Calvo dedicated herself to dance, and, beginning in 1987, developed a number of pieces as a founding member of the Belgian dance company Ultima Vez under the direction of Wim Vandekeybus, and toured with the company internationally. While working for the company, however, a series of music pieces for theater (Immer das Selbe gelogen, 1991; Exhaustion of Dreamt Love, 1996) and sound designs for dance films (In spite of wishing and wanting, 2001; Blush, 2005) were soon developed. Working at this interface is primarily about being involved in the stage production process, and thus about developing the interrelationships between choreography and soundscape that characterize these works.
In the early 1990s, Calvo began studying composition with Annette Vande Gorne in Mons, Belgium. The intense exploration of acousmatic music (Cette Blessure, 1995, Narciso, 1996) and the spatial translation of electroacoustic works are reflected in Calvo’s work to this day. In Qualia (1999), for instance, the composer traces through acousmatic means the subjective experiences of the mind. Calvo combines and interweaves the deeply personal, raw experiences of various artist colleagues in their respective mother tongues with sonic tonalities and movements. She creates acoustic densities, spatially dynamic, dramatic sound compositions, and seeks to give the “qualia”—the phenomenological sensations—a voice outside the self. Creating this self in a soundscape is also evident in the award-winning Phonobiography # 1 (2013). Through auditory means the artist reflects on her own biography and the time she left her home country for Brussels, Belgium more than twenty-five years ago. She creates an acousmatically raw soundscape of her Spanish life and experiences, which is repeatedly disrupted and galvanized by seemingly anticipatory, sonically crisp, electronically generated impulses.
In her electroacoustic works, Calvo explores the narrative and emotional directives of acousmatic music. Language always appears as a central element, which, embedded at times in contrapuntal sonic imagery or rhythms, takes on a documentary dance-like quality. Her works are transformed into multi-layered narratives out of seemingly well-known mental and acoustic experiences and entirely independent, electronically generated sound realms. She understands how to arrange precise sonic chords into various condensed atmospheres, linking them together in such a way that the sonic dramas give rise to exhilarating narratives.

Text: Fabian Czolbe
Translation: Erik Smith

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