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Nine Questions for Carola Cintrón Moscoso, or Why “Silence Doesn't Exist”

Carola Cintrón Moscoso

Carola Cintrón Moscoso

Carola Cintrón Moscoso is an artist of sound. Yes, those sounds that often pass unnoticed. They are not the sounds that we sit down to listen to. They are the ones that inundate our lives, our spaces, but that we generally don't hear. Carola lives and works with these sounds, our relationships with them, their relationships with us. And this is how, with her and within her, sound awakens, and awakens us.

Although Carola assures me that she is only interested in generating sound and not creating a narrative, nor metaphors, in these sounds I find the city, objects, memory, knots, time, change, and loss. And loss also has its sound, or its non-sound: one that Carola knows very well. In this interview, another one conducted over email, messages that opened new conversations, twists and surprises – which are still possible in this long and beautiful friendship – Carola Cintrón Moscoso talks to us about sound.

Global Voices (GV): Why sound? 
Carola Cintrón Moscoso (CCM): Because silence doesn't exist. 

GV: Why capture the sounds of the city?
CCM: Because that is the space that I live in. My work with the city started through a job that was commissioned for the second edition of the magazine ENTORNO (“surroundings”), from the Association of Architects and Landscape Architects. That work was how I became interested in re-thinking the soundscape of the city beyond the usual conception of city=noise. For that project, I worked with contact microphones (pickups), making multiple audio recordings, between the MAPR (Puerto Rico Art Museum) and the Plaza del mercado in Santurce. I was interested in establishing a link or a sound dialogue between these two spaces that are very different in terms of context, use and purpose; but that in geographical terms share only a few blocks of distance.
 
I worked with contact microphones because I wanted to explore the city through its materials, trying to capture in the “purest” way the sound qualities of the Museum and the Plaza from the perspective of their construction, architecture and the materials that are common to both spaces (bronze, concrete, metal). I wasn't interested in documenting the commonly-heard sounds, voices, footsteps, horns, traffic… but rather the vibrations that all this produces in the architecture.
 

In everyday life, we often don't let ourselves walk, contemplate, and much less listen. This work allowed me to discover a fascinating layer of sound, a space for contemplation… another way of experiencing the city.

GV: How can an object emit sound? 
CCM: Each one in a different way, no two are alike. Sound cannot occur in a vacuum, the propagation of sound occurs through a medium in which a wave expands and contracts. Each space, each object, absorbs and vibrates in a different way according to its size, shape and material. That is, each object or space = a new sound, every day and every instant different from the last.
 
GV: What are your favorite sounds? 
CCM: Ha ha ha! I don't have an immediate response for that question, but definitely any sound that is not high-pitched. High-pitched sounds (except birds!) cause discomfort and pain in my right ear, so in general I prefer and usually work among the lower frequencies; the ones with long waves, the ones that vibrate more in the body, the ones that you hear filling up space without being clearly identifiable.
 

If I had to choose, then, the laughter of my two children, although it sounds completely cliché, is one of my favorite sounds/actions. Each one is very different from the other, different rhythms and frequencies; that's the only specific sound I can mention, the rest is exploration and a response to what I hear, randomly, through transformation and each work. When I work with sound I depart from the sound itself, I listen to it, I edit it, I transform it for each project, but the search for and use of low frequencies is repeated throughout my work, maybe because of the physical discomfort that high frequencies or very high-pitched sounds cause me, and because of their characteristics and the way they fill the installation space in a more homogeneous way, with a more uniform structure.

 
 
GV: Many of your pieces are interactive, why invite us to participate?
CCM: Because it's more fun. I really enjoy developing my pieces, the element of chance, what I control and what arises beyond control. The process of discovering the possibilities of sound, its variety and its transformation for me is fascinating, I can immerse myself for hours listening to and transforming sound; using it in interactive pieces allows me to keep exploring that transformation beyond the first edition.
 

The interaction in my pieces happens in various ways, some pieces use programmed randomizing systems to keep generating changes in the sounds, others change according to the presence/action of the person participating in the piece, and in more recent works the exploration moves towards the creation of sound through the use of resistance, electronics and sound particles.

In the end, my search is for the possibility of changing or working with sound as a physical material (Marinetti, Pierre Schaeffer); which is fragmented, united, transformed, moved from one place to another, directed, filtered, etc. although it seems so intangible. Currently, I’m not interested in creating a narrative with my sounds, nor metaphors nor psychological spaces, just sound and its possibilities of generation and transformation, as John Cage said: “I have no need for [sounds] to be anything more than what they are. I don’t want them to be psychological. I don’t want a sound to pretend that it’s a bucket or that it’s the president or that it’s in love with another sound. I just want it to be a sound.” Interview in the documentary “Listen” (1992)

In that sense, the participation in my work is an invitation to share that experience, maybe in the process, another person might also become fascinated or transformed.

 
GV: Knots and memory are constants in your audio, visual and manual work. Talk to me about knots, about memory.
CCM: Sometimes, not always, we are more ready to remember.
 

Memory is fragmented, it’s neither constant nor linear, maybe knots are the obvious consequence of sticking fragments together, constructed and reconstructed, one on top of the other. They could be callouses, fibromas, adhesions… but to me the image of the knot is more beautiful, a knot can always be undone!

 
GV: Tell me about your relationship with loss, and of your art with loss.

CCM: It’s part of life. I imagine that it’s all related (the city, participation, relating to others), in my case getting close to loss is part of the ritual: sometimes collective, sometimes individual.

“Un minuto de silencio”, (“One minute of silence”), explored sharing loss, trying to make it less heavy maybe? Looking for common cultural elements, to see myself in the other, in others. The act invites individual action through a collective act.
 

“Regress” explores loss in a very intimate and personal way, a process of extreme introspection, returning, reconnecting, letting go…

Working with loss is part of working with ritual, celebration, memory, and transformation. Loss has different meanings and relating to it is manifested in different ways depending on what has been lost, how much time has passed and the desire to remember.

 

GV: Who is your minute of silence for?  

CCM: In 2004 my grandmother died, and in 2006 my mother died. Between these two deaths, thinking on the one hand about the way memories, events and stories are retained, and on the other hand about the way loss and death are talked about, facing what I knew would come without knowing exactly when, I developed “Un minuto de silencio.”

Facing the impossibility at that moment of talking about the loss, of accepting it or understanding it, I thought of silence, of the tribute, the ritual of thinking and remembering… simply being. The silence became large and collective, in the need for company.

As always happens when there is participation, and this is the wonderful thing, in the process of making it, of asking for others to participate, the piece was transformed and to my surprise, one of the women who participated even thanked me for giving her the space to have this minute of silence and this tribute to the person that she selected.

My minute of silence started with my loss, in the process it was transformed into the loss of others, into a ritual, something collective.

 

GV: So there is only silence in loss? 

CCM: The silence of the one who is absent, the rest carries on.

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