Notations are instructions for action. They determine what has to happen and when. They follow a code that one must know in order to decipher them. But they also (al- most) always have an iconographic dimension that has to be seen and realized intuitively rather than being read. Thus notation can be used not just for music, but for other, completely different processes, such as dance or fireworks.
Pyrotechnics have a scientific and an artistic dimension and, as a spectacle associated with war and festivals, also a social and political aspect. They have been a constant presence in Lea Letzel’s art. While on a scholarship in Japan she discovered the Hanabi-Fu notation system of chemist and pyrotechnician Takeo Shimizu. At first glance, such notation looks like a musical score, but of course it determines other things than just chronological sequence, such as the height of the rockets’ ascent, the magnitude of their explosions, and their color and shape. Letzel’s residency at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics was devoted to researching this notation system, its prerequisites and possibilities, and the fundamental questions it ignites.
What happens when scores inspired by musical notation but used for visual pro- cesses are translated back into music? How can musicians engage with them? How can visual signs, themselves indexing visual phenomena, be transposed into sonic form? What should a violinist do with something that calls for a flower of fire soaring into the sky and erupting in a thunderclap? Translating forms and constellations between different cognitive and sensory fields proves to be a movement in which embodied correspondences and cultural codes, intuition and interpretation are inextricable from each other.
Letzel’s installation, in which a number of large cymbals are suspended at different heights throughout the gallery space, resembles a reconstruction of a frozen firework display, with the sound of the cymbals remaining latent. In the two performances that Letzel developed on the basis of Shimizu’s scores with musicians Akiko Ahrendt (violin) and Florian Zwißler (analogue synthesizers), this potential is set in motion: The cymbals are hung from fuses, which ends up turning them back into musical instruments. Once the fuses are lit, a process is set in motion that runs by itself, ending only when the cymbals hit the floor. The musicians’ performance is thus augmented by a series of events that are spatial and sonic at the same time, creating a complex whole encompassing installation and concert, action and process, music and fireworks
Text by Christian Grüny.

INHABITING basis is the first collabo- ration between the Max Planck Institute and basis e.V.. This joint exhibition features the artists of the first edition of INHABIT —
Lea Letzel, Pedro Oliveira, and Alexander Til- legreen — and the works they created during their residencies. All three artists deal with sound, both conceptually and materially, and their works exhibit a wide range of interpre- tations and spatial translations. They also manifest different approaches to the scientificenvironment and aesthetic practices informed by this encounter, dialogue, and cooperation.

PERFORMANCES Hanabi-Fu during the exhibition INHABITING basis 06.–22.11.2020​​​​​​​
Lea Letzel with Akiko Ahrendt (violin) und Florian Zwißler (analogue synthesizer)
05.11.2020 6.30–7.30 p.m.
19.11.2020 6.30–7.30 p.m.

Performance during SPARK - Festival, Cologne
10.04.2021 5.30 p.m.

All mages by Kathrin Bonner for basis e.V.
All images by Sophia Hegewald

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