Hans Theys is a twentieth-century philosopher and art historian. He has written and designed dozens of books on the works of contemporary artists and published hundreds of essays, interviews and reviews in books, catalogues and magazines. All his publications are based on actual collaborations and conversations with artists.

This platform was developed by Evi Bert (M HKA / Centrum Kunstarchieven Vlaanderen) in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp (Research group Archivolt), M HKA, Antwerp and Koen Van der Auwera. We also thank Idris Sevenans (HOR) and Marc Ruyters (Hart Magazine).

Anna Godzina

Anna Godzina - 2021 - On sculpting music [EN, interview]
Interview , 2 p.





Hans Theys



Sculpting music and musical landscaping

A musical adventure by Anna Godzina


Many many years ago, when stubling through a collective art studio, I came across an exquisite sculpture: well-made, elegant, between finished and unfinished, producing sounds when set into motion. When I asked who had made the sculpture, Anna Godzina (b. 1990) timidly presented herself. Later she told me that she had lived in several countries and studied moviemaking before arriving in Belgium. I also learned she was a music lover. She introduced me to many bands and singers old and new.

     She surprised me with the variety of shapes her sculptures could adopt, mostly springing from found objects such as wheels, electromotors, pipes, tubes or musical instruments. Her sculptures are autonomous, but have the capacity to activate a space, to bring it to life, to infuse it with poetry.

A couple of months ago, I asked the artist if she would describe a special place in her home country Moldova for me. This is what she replied: ‘On Belinski Street in Chișinău, where I lived as an adolescent, there is a big crossroads on the hill. It has many traffic lights. At night, when there’s no traffic, the lights still change from green to amber and red, making tiny clicking sounds. Nothing moves, apart from the changing colours, but you feel as if something is about to happen.’

     The first piece on this record, Landscape Set to Music (A1), is created by an electromotor that makes a cable tie hit the strings of a dismantled guitar as it turns. The sound is registered by the pickup of the original guitar and amplified by a guitar amplifier. Rainscape (A4) is created by revolving tubes containing minuscule pebbles. With the assistance of Cornelia Zambila, these sounds were turned into scores by the musician and composer Yannick Heeren. These primary scores were submitted to other musicians who started rehearsing and recomposing them, together with Godzina. In the following lines she tells me how this went.

Godzina: “Scores could be written for specific instruments, selected for their similarity to the sounds produced by the sculptures. The mid and high frequency ranges of the electromotors used in the sculptures were seen as melodic pitches. The low frequency range and speed became the tonal centre of the compositions. The amount of energy, the movement, the intensity and the irregularities produced by the machine became rhythmical patterns. Once this was done, the first rehearsal got under way. It was Cornelia Zambila playing Rainscape (B5) on viola. Listening to the sounds of the viola, it became clear to me that my own perception of the sounds produced by the sculptures did not correspond to the musicians’ perception and could not be imposed on them. Today this thought might sound simple and obvious, but it felt like an epiphany at the time.

The closer to the machine Cornelia intended to be, the less free her way of playing became. Consequently, she never achieved the element I most cherish in my work with the machines: the unpredictable, the mistake. So, I stopped asking the musicians to play like a machine and became curious to learn how musicians make sense out of what they hear. I asked them to approach the scores in a holistic manner and went through an initiation myself, looking for meaning in their interpretations.

Finally, we created five pieces that went through many changes during the rehearsals. Module one became module six, the pizzicato transformed into a glissando and the drone was accepted by everyone as the transition element representing the engine growl. Yannick worked non-stop adjusting the scores to obtain a final version for the recording.

During the recording in the sound studio, the sound engineer, Gorik De Smet, pointed out Cornelia’s heavy breathing while she was playing. Removing all her sighs, he said, would take a lot of editing. I immediately decided not to edit out the breathing, but to keep it. Similarly, we can hear Ricardo Lievano Flores whispering and counting in the drum piece. Finally, I had found some unpredictable mistakes that I could keep!”

What continues to surprise me is how people can generate beautiful and moving works of art if they are willing to let go. As long as we are in control, we seem to be stupid, predictable and boring. As soon as we are relieved of the bondage of self, we flourish. We understand why some people believe in a divine steering, for when things take over, bliss is ours.


Montagne de Miel, 2 July 2021