»To vomit is sort of equivalent to scream«

Bruno Hiss –  The expansion of the battlezone of the voice
& the fight for a vocal-visceral gestus

By Martyn Schmidt

Photography: Leandro Dário

Bruno Hiss (*1978 in São Paulo, Brazil) is a multidisciplinary artist working in the fields of Sound-Art, Body-Art, Performance, Improvisation and Oriental Philosophies and Practices. He’s master in Japanese Culture (University of São Paulo) and member of the artistic collective and netlabel Al Revès. His many performances include appearances at FILE/Hipersônica – Electronic Language International Festival (São Paulo, Brazil), 30th São Paulo Art Biennale and at 2nd Annual International Conference on Deep Listening, Deep Listening Institute, Troy, New York.

»Cages« so far is the most adventurous release by Vocal Arts & Poetry Label Atemwerft. Bruno Hiss – born in Brazil, grandson of Japanese immigrants –takes the genre Extended Voice to an extension of its battlezone: the painful borderland of the compound of voice and the whole human body’s muscular apparatus.

The records‘ innocent and simple artwork is pure deception: Brutish, visceral and primeval, »Cages« is all about the voice born out of a tight choreography of bodily positions, movements and exertions – eerie in its tension and endeavour. Bruno Hiss performs a stunning but disconcerting improvisation of provoking awareness, distinct pain and delicate sensuality.

By thus an intimate record, it drifts straightaway to the epicentre of publicy sanctioned vocal phenomena. »Cages« is all about the physical and emotional tensions of the artist and of the listener – and the acoustic medium is Bruno Hiss‘ voice.

Secretly, »Cages« is a new mapping of Gilles Deleuze’s »Gestus«, hinting to the primal background flicker of Shinto and Kotodama, being a acoustic/vocal discharge of what Wilhelm Reich called Körperpanzer (»body-armour«).

The download album »Cages« is not a physical release. But it is extremely physical in itself. Intimate and intimidating, »Cages« will take you closely to the utmost borders of voice and body and your own reactions to it.

»I want to be felt as closely as if I was actually whispering into your ear.«

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A lot of your vocal sounds are tabooed sounds. They are very physical and visceral, very intimate, ferish and brutish. They remind of publicly sanctioned vocal phenomena concerning defecation, digestion, sexually arousement and similar »uncivilized« utterances. Some listeners will find your vocals disturbing or offending.

[Laughs] The vomit basically, right? Vomit is sort of equivalent to scream. Munch painted »The Scream« in the 19th century, I think the current version of it would be »The Vomit«. It tends to be intense, and that’s I am interested in. People have different reactions to it (not only disgust, but also laughter and even get involuntarily compelled to vomit too).

I had in mind a theme from some works by Kiki Smith that names twelve bodily fluids (blood, tears, oil, milk, sweat, mucus, pus, urine, diarrhea, saliva, vomit and semen).

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What guides you while performing? Are you listening to the sounds or are you paying attention to physical tensions?

Both, I guess. But it is not something that is easy to talk about, I mean, it is not quite definable. I try to empty my mind.

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Photography: Leandro Dário

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To a certain degree, I think that you convert your whole body in one big throat. The muscles, tendons of the whole body build up an extended throat. You’re whole body is the source of your vocal utterings.

[Laughs] That is the intention in »Cages«. Maybe now it is done, I can practice a softer side. [laughs].

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So your vocal utterings are predominantly reactions to your body’s physical tensions. You don’t start with voice, trying to control and modulate its sound, but your starting point and leading medium is the body.

Yes, that is certainly true regarding »Cages«. The point of start is the body. And thanks for putting it in such a nice way! But, because of my various interests, I address every concept in its own right. Every idea or project has specific demands in order to be full realised. I do not have a modus operandi of work. It changes. A lot.

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„Cages“-Artwork II by Mariana Sales.

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How much are you interested in vocal aspects, and to what degree are you interested in bodily aspects?

I can not separate them, really. They are both driving forces in my sound-work. Also, space is something I am at the beginning of (field-recordings and sound-walks).

 

 

 

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What kind of is that connection between voice and body?

Voice is a mirror to the soul. Body is a temporary confinement of the spirit. I am not sure I believe in soul or spirit though [laughs]. Take the body of any musical instrument, for example, it has a singular sound. Different guitar bodies produce different guitar sounds. I guess the same is true for human voice and body.

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Photography: Leandro Dário

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Is there any artistic composition, some dramaturgy or some calculated arc of suspense in your performings? To what degree are you »improvising«?

Sometimes there are plans, and sometimes they are forgotten. I am not playing notes and bars so there is always a lot of improvisation in the performances. Gilles Deleuze wrote a small essay on Samuel Beckett which I love (because in a way it describes a great deal of my poetics too):

» […] the abandonment of all privileging of vertival stature; the agglutination of bodies as a means of keeping upright; the substitution of a »gestus« as a logic of postures and positions for all story or narrative; the quest for minimalism; the appropriation by dance of walking and its accidents; the acquisition of gestural dissonances.« [1]

Deleuze also writes about the »gestus« when discussing Francis Bacon. It is a great book.

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Photography: Mauricio Shirakawa

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How long does a live performance usually take? How do you feel after it? Has your emotional state changed? Can you descripe your body sensations while and after a peformance?

The length of the performances varies greatly. It can take 10 minutes or one hour, depending on various conditions. The shortest recent set I played with Alexandre Marino was due to time constraints (the event had to be finished by midnight and there were a lot of acts in the bill), it lasted 10 to 15 minutes. When we get the chance to play one hour, it feels more wholesome, obviously.

I usually get light-headed afterwards, but this is something I get even from a young age singing for parents and teachers at end of the year kind of event. I can not quite describe what goes on during the performance, but I have noticed that I tend to sweat more, even when it is cold. And I think it is because of a more concentrated state. I might be wrong though.

 

Bruno Hiss – video footage: performing & recording »Cages«:
By Maurício Shirakawa. Edited by Rodrigo Dário.

 

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If one listens to your EP »Cages«, one finds only the acoustic result of your bodily actions. So: the sound – what turns your interest on sound?
To what are you paying attention while performing or while listening to your recordings afterwards?

Durations and timbre, maybe. Hard question. For »Cages« I had very clear and specific ideas about body positions and movements. When I am actually performing ideally I am not thinking. Aware of the moment and concentrated, but not thinking.

»Cages« Artwork I by Mariana Sales

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At any case, by your sounds you manage to produce closeness, especially human closeness. This works quicker than using words and language. Is this something that you are aiming at: some close communication? Some special way of emotional response? When so, why?

I think Lou Reed said he wanted the listener to feel that he is playing in the same room and to you, or something like that. Even though I can not quite remember the quote, it made a big impression on me. As I like to retell it, I want to be felt as closely as if I was actually whispering into your ear. So that is one thing. Not using words has lead me to employ body and voice in a way that might be closer to raw emotions, because it is not filtered by language. Voice is in fact so open to so many possibilities.


[1] – Gilles Deleuze (translated by Anthony Uhlmann): The Exhausted. In: SubStance, Vol. 24, No. 3, Issue 78 (1995), pp. 3 – 28, page 13ff.


Excerpt of an extensive atemwerft-interview. The conversation between Bruno Hiss and Martyn Schmidt took place in March 2016.    © atemwerft  2016 / aw 007

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Artwork by Mariana Sales

 

 

Listen to »Cages« (available as free HiRes-Download): www.atemwerft.de.

Digital download EP – free download / pay what you want. Artwork: Mariana Sales. Release date: October 1st, 2016.

 

 

 

 

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