Sonic Theatres

© Giannina Urmeneta Ottiker

Sonic Theatres is a location-specific performance by and with Marisa Cabal, Georgia Vardarou and Stijn Demeulenaere. The project originated as a spontaneous proposal after a few sessions working together at STUK, Belgium. During those sessions, we were recording the sound of the body in movement with a variety of microphones, capturing the sounds of the bodies both from afar and very close by. Bit by bit, we became increasingly interested about the interaction possibilities between sound, dance and performance.

One afternoon, the studio was unavailable for recording, and we went out for a walk through the city, equipped with a binaural microphone setup *. It struck us that this could be an ideal way of combining both an aural and visual aspect to explore the city. Small sonic details come alive by the binaural listening. The movement of the body infuses the listening and vice versa. Sonic Theatres developed after listening to these recordings. Slowly, we began to imagine a project whereby we could explore these possibilities.

© Giannina Urmeneta Ottiker

Sonic Theatres wants to develop an auditive complicity between performer and spectator. We invite the audience to follow the trajectories of two performers: the performers wearing binaural microphones attached to their ears, the audience wearing headphones. With a refined sense of hearing, the audience experiences the city through the performers. The spectators are transposed into an alternative sensory landscape, listening with "new ears” to the streets, the architecture, the traffic, the people and the history of their surroundings. Because the sounds are coming from someone else’s ears, they are unfamiliar; they don’t exactly fit the picture. A new sonic interpretation is being weaved. Visual and auditive horizons collide, overlap, entangle and disentangle; structuring and being structured by the performers, listening and movement locked in the same intent.

Thus, an intimate environment opens up, very similar to the way in which sound in films allows us to empathize with the images. The performers guide the audience through scenes, where the cityscape becomes the scenography and the urban noises the soundtrack. The performers bring the audience along with their movements and presence, walking through their own intimate story. In this story, the surroundings are not what they look like and are not what they sound like. Unexpected corners turn into improvised stages. Locations, with its architectural and auditive qualities, eventually become visual and sonic theatres. Background sounds, movements and sensations become hyper real. While going from one scene to the next, a sonic complicity brings closer performer and spectator.

We want to progress from the abstract idea of the city to a more brutal concreteness. Therefore, Sonic Theatres adapts to every new location where it is being performed. The piece reshapes according to the surroundings of each performance. Every city, every place, every space has it’s own quality, it’s own voice. A voice that remains largely unnoticed and Sonic Theatres wants to tune in.

© Giannina Urmeneta Ottiker

excerpt from the performance at Les Brigittinnes, Brussels:

Sonic Theatres uses a binaural microphone setup to bring the sounds the dancers hear to the ears of the audience. To hear and enjoy this excerpt, it is therefore essential to listen to this performance WITH HEADPHONES. Without headphones, your audio-image will be severely distorted.


The makers would like to thank Charlotte Vandevyver, Esther Severi, Agnes Quackels, Elsemieke Scholte, Jeanne Boute, Tuur Marinus, Karen Joosten, Ruth Dupré, Giannina Urmeneta Ottiker, Muziek Lod and the technical crews at Buda and Les Brigittines.