Virtual Kabul – Or, the unexpected joys of collaboration

A couple of weeks ago I was in San Francisco and had the great pleasure of meeting Nick Sowers.

Nick defines himself as someone who “constructs space with sound” and we soon found ourselves talking about space (obviously), cities, walking and everything urban. We talked about how sounds and noises influence the perception of our surroundings and the role they play in terms of memory and orientation.

That’s when I told him that I have written for The Little Book of Kabul¬† a musical score for a construction site. This piece was originally conceived as a fully fledged sinfonietta (that the amazing composer Giovanni Dettori checked for musical and compositional accuracy). For reasons of space it became a much shorter piece, but it is a fundamental part of the book anyway.

I had visited the construction site of what would become Rahim Walizada‘s Design Cafe in Kabul several times. I took notes and spoke to people, but then after a while I was at loss for stimuli: didn’t know how to interact with the place anymore and was getting pretty bored. I then decided to sit in the corner, listen and write down all the sounds I could hear, their intensity and where they were coming from. I didn’t have anything specific in mind back then, but when I went through my notes months later while writing the book, I realised it was an incredible opportunity to experiment with writing and explore different ways of describing spatial relations.

I told all this to Nick, we understood we spoke the same language and he invited me to join him in his sound studio and asked me if if was OK with him trying to make my musical score play. I was completely thrilled.

His studio is a remarkable little place where he set up a sound device that allows you to experience the three-dimensionality of space through sound. We didn’t have much time, but we played around and we could both feel that there something there that was worth chasing.

As we parted ways, Nick told me that he wanted to spend more time with those sounds and make something out of it. The idea made me really happy: there was the chance for my words to morph, to take body in a different shape and substance. I don’t think I could have asked for anything better.

A few days later, Nick got back to me and sent me his reinterpretation of my music score.

(You can read his take on our encounter here)

When my sister Susanna Recchia, who is a dance artist, listened to Nick’s piece, she immediately said that she would love to try and use it for one of her performances. This is yet to happen, but I am really hoping that it would soon become a further chance of collaboration and one new embodiment of experimenting with words, sounds and space.