A handful of grass as a tiny island surrounded by its own small scale ocean makes me think of that line of John Donne’s – ‘No man is an island’. However, his line must be translated into modern language. No man – no woman also – no between, no citizen – no person – no human being – no non-human being, too – no whatever identified being, but also: no plants and no animals. No islands and no ocean. Can anything be identified by itself, as separated entity? Rather, they all are in-between.
The ocean or puddle full of water right here before my feet is embedded within a bigger scene, which again is embedded in a city, a landscape, and so forth. The fluid surface mirrors the weather, the people passing by, the cars, the clouds; it is touched and transformed by raindrops and by the wind. I notice traces on the ground: cyclists passed through here. Their wheels left traces like drawings. The lines tell stories, they talk of people in transit who had travelled across here before me.With these background layers of the past, I become transformed: I begin to listen. Before, I had been looking. Listening happens when background noises come into play, as my perception penetrates through the surface into yet another level, deeper down. A treasury of hidden noises. Still, I perceive – my consciousness lingering on what I see, hear, smell, touch. My senses growing towards the outside world. Not imagination, yet.
I decided for the term noise. Every being emits their own individual noise towards a community of coexisting beings. Every being adds their own noisy part to a polyphony of ephemeral voices. Their traces remain, background noises summoning those who come later.
Pia Palme is a composer, theorist, and performer born in Vienna, where she lives. For her, listening perception is a political activity. She directs her ears inside her environment and into herself, charting the background noises of society as well as the noise of her own mind. From this material she composes her works, often using texts, installations, electronics, and video to position vocality and instrumentality within a scenic arrangement. In some of her works, she also acts as a performer.
In 2017 Pia Palme finished her PhD research in composition for her thesis The noise of mind: A feminist practice in composition at the University of Huddersfield, UK under Liza Lim. Currently Palme explores the format of the performance-lecture, which allows her to integrate her activities as a theorist, interdisciplinary artist, composer, and performer. Recent lecture-performances brought her to Harvard University, Goldsmiths University London, and the University of Applied Arts Vienna.
As a performer with her contrabass recorder (built by the Swiss manufacturer Kueng) she has premiered and performs works by Èliane Radigue, Joanna Wozny, Jorge-Sanchez Chiong, Hannes Kerschbaumer, and Katharina Klement.
Interdisciplinary collaborative projects are an important feature of her work. Pia Palme works as a curator and producer; she teaches recorder, and gives workshops on improvisation and experimental art.