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Music speaks an audiovisual language - Paulo C. Chagas (EUA)


In this presentation I will first focus on the relationship between music and language in order to approach the concepts of audiovisual music and composition. The presentation is illustrated with excerpts of my own audiovisual works since 1995 to 2021.

Music and language are analog systems of communication that elaborate forms in the medium of sound. Sound is the primary layer of both language and music as communication systems of the society. But sound is just the surface from which music dives us into meaningful depths. Through sound music discloses deep roots of beings and provides with a view from within that it is achieved through sound. Music is language because it speaks; it activates a movement from the immanent to the manifest, through which meaning emerges.

In this presentation we will focus on music as audiovisual language, specially in the context of electroacoustic music composition. We observe a growing interest in audiovisual composition with increasingly electroacoustic works being coupled with visuals including film, video, visual projection, 3D images and virtual reality. New forms of audiovisual music emerge both from the convergence of different perceptions – sound, image, body, environment – as well from the diversity of forms. As sound relates to image it raises the consciousness of the interconnection between hearing and listening and intensifies the immersive sensorial experience.

As a society inhabited with myriad trivial objects and gadgets of audiovisual technology taking a hold on our existence, we have become saturated by the torrent of audiovisual impressions. Faced with this flood of information that can lead to a state of entropy, it is important to develop a critical reflection on audiovisual communication. We need a comprehensive account of the relation between sound and image beyond the conventional form of cinema in order to understand its full creative potential. It is necessary to deconstruct the hegemonic discourses and point out the broad spectrum of possibilities and diversity of forms within audiovisual composition. Music speaks through a visual language, or music speaks an audiovisual language.

Paulo C. Chagas is a professor of composition at the University of California, Riverside. He created more than 180 works for orchestra, chamber music, electroacoustic, audiovisual and multimedia. His works resulted from numerous orders and have been acclaimed in the United States, Europe, Russia, Asia and Brazil. Chagas develops extensive research in semiotics, philosophy, electroacoustics, multimedia, and technology. His book Unsayable Music (Leuven University Press, 2014) presents theoretical, critical and analytical reflections on key themes of contemporary music. He recently edited the book Sounds from Within: Phenomenology and Practice (Springer, 2021) and published the book Zwischen Klängen und Apparaten: zur Theorie und Praxis der elektronischen Musik [Between sounds and apparatuses: theory and practice of electronic music] (Rediroma, 2021) Chagas has received several international awards, including recently the prestigious Fulbright research grant for an audiovisual composition project in Russia.

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