untraining the ear

performance / meditation
SAVVY Contemporary, 2020

Text by Kamila Metwaly:

SAVVY’s Listening Session: UNTRAINING THE EAR is hosting an encounter with the space traveller ILYICH, who in sonic ritual, travels through sound to explore the many possibilities of listening. With ILYICH it is inevitable to think of space, time, sound, body nexus, and how sound will inform our futures and pasts.

“The seed of all conflicts is in separation of me and mine

The seed of all suffering is in expectations and resistances

Put these two seeds together and they will root a tree

So high as the sky…

…In the shadow of this place, countless lives pass…

…In the shadow of this place, countless lives pass…

Branching off, in fear and greed, and great attachment

In desire, haterade, anger and jealousy

The tree of separation, bears fruits of liberation

Don’t go to the root. Go beyond the seed.

Don’t go to the root. Go beyond the seed.




–– ILYICH. Seeds Roots Fruits

In imagining future sounds, ILYICH expands our possibility of listening to all sounds around us, starting with those that we carry, transmit and embody within us. It is rather a proposal at humbling the position of our ears closer to those sounds that might be often unnoticed, maybe even misunderstood. If listening to all sounds could suggest a reorganization of which sounds make sense, then this session is a proposal on listening to silence, and to those sounds that are slowly existing from our present memory. ILYICH is invested with silence, and how it has been associated with the non-existence, in silence there is a possibility of listening as Salome Voegelin writes in Noise and Silence: “Towards a philosophy of sound art”, there is a possibility through which “silence is about listening, listening to small sounds, tiny sounds, quiet and loud sounds out of any context, musical, visual or otherwise. Silent sounds can be loud, as much as noisy sounds can be quiet, but they do not deafen my body to anything but themselves, and instead include me in their production.”

This session is also a different from the ones we listened to before – a unique encounter for UNTRAINING THE EAR, one that can neither take place in the physical space of SAVVY Contemporary nor one which takes place in the ether alone. In this encounter, ILYICH has visited SAVVY Contemporary in person to perform two of his pieces titled “Seeds Roots Fruits” and “Meditation on Sound and Thoughts” to a space in absence of a physical audience. Captured on film by Bona Bell, this performance is also an attempt to resituate where listening happens, and on what stages it unfolds, shifting the notion of a physical stage to other possibilities. Disregarding the boundaries between sound art and music ILYICH invites you to board a space vessel exploring a beginningless inner-space: a unified field from which all concrete planetary processes and presences occur. This unique situation is also a spectacle of the senses, that which asks to reconsider the relationships we find ourselves having between the sonic and the visual. One might ask, which comes first? Is it the sound or is it the image? And how can we read an image by listening to it before reading it through seeing?

During the performance ILYICH is activating a sound crystal, an interactive sonic sculpture developed to encourage spontaneous emergence of sonic and performative rituals and music concerts, collectively exploring the de-colonial potential of listening. The sculpture synthesises pragmatic concerns of a sound system while exploring the basic geometrical forms and auditory hallucinations like Doppler Effect. The work is a semi-autonomous, futuristic vessel suggesting sound and listening as an aesthetic, technological, and collaborative project for outer and inner-space explorations. The vehicle open-ended enquiry projecting itself from the future as an infrastructural connection between transmission and reception.

“… listen to how sounds arrive from all directions: from the front, or back, from above and below, from the left and right… from the inside and from the outside… some of the sounds are near and some are far… listen whether you can sense the moments of their arrival, their amplitude, their pitch and timbre: how long they stay and how they slowly fade away… arrive, decay, sustain, release…it takes everything to make a sound…” – ILYICH

ILYICH is a space traveller of an ambiguous origin. Musician and storyteller ILYICH occasionally re-appears at the core of music performances, sonic rituals and project activations. Mysteriously entangled with this world, yet clearly not from here, ILYICH’s stories are identity slippages and anecdotes of struggle told from the multiple first-person narratives. Oscillating between recognisable electronic music and abstract sonic improvisations ILYICH can be often found at the core of an intimate listening session, a sound ritual, gallery or museum gathering, or on a larger club and festival stages around the world. Currently in residency on Earth ILYICH is known for his surprise appearances at the Lot Radio and I.S.C.P. in New York, House of the World Cultures and Festsaal Kreuzberg, Berlin or Bergen Kunsthall, Norway among others.

With the Listening Sessions, SAVVY Contemporary, Deutschlandfunk Kultur and CTM Festival suggest an alternative way to listen to music and sound. In order to contextualise how we listen to the world today we also need to replay the past of abounding sonic references. We (the audience, the performers, the space, the radio, the moderators and the technicians) will rhetorically navigate through archives of maverick composers in the attempt to reindex their contributions, to create other possible genealogies and narratives. By involving sound practitioners coming from diverse genres to perform, and scholars to discuss works of the composers, we listen back to the influence and ingeniosity of musicians and sound artists who defy the linearity of 20th century avant-garde music history. We would like to shed light on and unbox works of pioneers such as Halim El-Dabh, Eliane Radigue, Jose Maceda to mention a few. We will also commission new works to echo and reflect (with a contemporary take) rare archival body of works that have been marginalised by history of avant-garde music and sound art.

Vdeographer: Bona Bell
Curator & Editor: Kamila Metwaly
Curatorial Team: Jasmina Al-Qaisi, Mahnoor Z Lodhi, Ola Zielinska
Communication: Anna Jäger
Graphic Design: Juan Pablo Garcia Sossa
Space Helmet: Anastasia Pilepchuk
Space Suit: Anna Simakova
Co-Conception of the Sound Crystal and Structural Design: Byron Kalomamas
Proofreading: Eva Willson
Sound Engineer: Jared Meier-Klodt
Project Management: Maria Korovkina
Installation Set Up: Rey Domurat
Light: Sonja Georgic

Supported is produced by Musikfonds e.V.