Soundwalk Collective [Stephan Crasneanscki, Simone Merli], photo by Nan Goldin

SOUNDWALK COLLECTIVE is an experimental sound collective founded by Stephan Crasneanscki in New York City (2000 – present), and joined by Simone Merli in 2008. The Collective currently operates in a continuously rotating constellation of sound artists and musicians.

Their approach to composition combines anthropology, ethnography, non-linear narrative, psycho- geography, the observation of nature, and explorations in recording and synthesis. The source material of their works is always linked to specific locations, natural or artificial, and requires long periods of investigative travel and field work.

Distinguished collaborators include American singer, songwriter and poet Patti 

Smith, Ethiopian Jazz musician Mulatu Astatke, American photographer Nan Goldin and French- Swiss film director Jean-Luc Godard. The Collective have also written original scores for contemporary dance choreographer Sasha Waltz.

Along the years, they performed live, among other spaces and festivals, at Opéra de Lyon, CTM Festival, KW Institute of Contemporary Art, Barbican Centre, Berghain, Centre Georges Pompidou, Florence Gould Hall, Mobile Art by Zaha Hadid in Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York; MUDAM, MuCEM, Museo Madre, National Museum of Singapore, New Museum, Palazzo Reale in Milan, La Triennale, Radialsystem V, documenta14 in Athens and Kassel, Funkhaus in Berlin, Manifesta12 in Palermo.

They had solo exhibitions at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York, the District Six Museum in Cape Town, »Capo d’Arte«, Gagliano del Capo (Lecce, Italy), the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, the Beit Museum in Beirut, and in New York’s Times Square, where in April 2016 they mounted »JUNGLE-IZED«, a large participative audio-visual installation.

»Killer Road«, their homage to musician and singer Nico, authored with Patti Smith and Jesse Paris Smith, was performed live in 2014 in Berlin, London, and New York, anticipating the release of the eponymous record.

In 2015 they performed the opening night of the CTM Festival in Berlin hosting American iconic photographer Nan Goldin on-stage for the first time, in a revisitation of David Wojnarowicz’s thought- provoking writings ‘Close To the Knives: A Memoir Of Disintegration’.

The same year they published »What We Leave Behind«, a radio artwork featuring unreleased fragments from the tape archives of Jean-Luc Godard, and won the Silver Prize at the International Radio Awards, in a co-production with Deutschlandradio. 

In 2016, for »Before Music There Is Blood«, their mini-album featuring a rework by Max Loderbauer, they have collaborated with some of the world’s most prestigious music conservatories—including Shanghai’s Conservatory of Music (China), The N. A. Rimsky- Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory (Russia), and the Conservatorio di Musica S. Pietro A Majella in Napoli (Italy). The trio recorded conservatoire students practicing and rehearsing, capturing the sounds out of context and reworking them into a suite of four productions. “Soundwalk Collective’s devil is forever in the detail, making what was evidently hours of painstaking work seem quite natural and otherworldly”. Boomkat

In June 2017 they composed the music for Sasha Waltz’s »Kreatur«, which saw its world premiere at Radialsystem V in Berlin. The composition uses recordings from inside various factories and iconic re- appropriated buildings; landmarks of 20th century architecture embodying power, control and mass production.

Later the same year they published »Transmissions«, a numbered edition box of 4x 12′ ′LP, featured as part of documenta14 in Athens and Kassel.

Their latest radio artwork »Illuminations« released in February 2018 by Deutschlandfunk Kultur and Radio France, features Patti Smith, Abel Ferrara, Gudrun Gut, Hanns Zischler, Charlotte Rampling, Melvil Paupaud, Mulatu Astatke, and won the Gold Prize at the NY International Radio Awards in 2018.

»What We Leave Behind: Jean-Luc Godard Archives« has recently been released via The Vinyl Factory record label, followed by a Remixes EP featuring reworks by Jan Jelinek, Petre Inspirescu, Ricardo Villalobos. “These sonic fragments of magic dust, unearthed from Godard’s archive, now glisten on the musical surface of the new album, in a condensed elliptical form. Soundwalk Collective have immersed themselves in the sonic environment of Godard’s

filmmaking process, and What We Leave Behind is filled with sounds and voices circulating rhythmically, merging with vast swathes of musical tints and acoustic energy.” BFI

»Ulysses Syndrome«, a sonic installation composed of radio interceptions recorded by the Collective from a vessel drifting along all coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, has recently shown as part of the Official program of the Manifesta12 art biennale in Palermo, Sicily.

Their third original score for Sasha Waltz: »EΞΟΔΟΣ I Exodos«, premiered at Radialsystem V in Berlin in August 2018 and later the same year at the Ruhr Triennale in Bochum. The Collective used recordings from

various public environments and socially sensitive contexts as sources of sound to explore both our individual and collective positioning on the ‘inside’ versus the ‘outside’ of a system.

In 2019 the Collective premiered »Mirage« at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a site-specific multi-channel sound installation and performance based on the ‘whistling sands’, an acoustic phenomenon recorded over the years in the Rub’ al Khali desert of the Arabian Peninsula. In a musical reflection inspired by “Orientalism”, the composition portrayed ephemeral, volatile melodies, appearing and disappearing as in a sonic illusion; leaving behind a questionable memory of an imaginary identity.

For »Women’s March«, Nan Goldin’s exhibition at the Petit Trianon of Chateau Versailles in collaboration with Hala Wardé, Soundwalk Collective created a multichannel sound installation based on ‘Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen’ written in 1786, and interpreted by Isabelle Adjani, Elodie Bouchez, Laetitia Casta, Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nan Goldin, Isabelle Huppert, Isild Le Besco, Anna Mouglalis, Charlotte Rampling – the actresses evoke the voices of women who have taken a stance in life thanks to their work, their vision, their resilience; and who are still marching today making a stand for gender equality.

»The Peyote Dance«, a new album by Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith, released on 31st May via Bella Union, is a soundtrack of elements that invites us to explore a sacred space. The album takes as its starting point Antonin Artaud’s book “The Peyote Dance”, a work inspired by his revelatory experiences with the Rarámuri in 1936.

»The Time Of The Night«, an audio creation commissioned by the Fondation Carmignac for their permanent collection, featuring the voices of Charlotte Gainsbourg and Patti Smith, released in May 2019.

»Mummer Love«, a sonic cross-cultural experience, is the second album in the Perfect Vision triptych collaboration between Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith and features contributions from Phillip Glass, Mulatu Astatke, and the Sufi Group of Sheikh Ibrahim. For this body of work, Soundwalk Collective explored the intricacies of Arthur Rimbaud’s most obscure period in Harar, an epicenter of Sufism in Africa. Its practise focuses on the renunciation of worldly things, the purification of the soul and the mystical contemplation of God’s nature. Sufism is a mystical form of Islam, and its music is about reaching a communal ecstatic state, and once you find yourself there, you are granted access to the unknown. The album released on November 8th, 2019 via Bella Union.

In the Fall 2019, the Collective co-scored Nan Goldin’s new slideshow ‘Memory Lost’ alongside Mica Levi. The piece opened as part of Goldin’s exhibition ‘Sirens’ at Marian Goodman Gallery in London.

»We Are Not Alone« is the Collective’s most recent narrated audio experience. Commissioned by the Louvre Abu Dhabi for their permanent collection, features the voices of H.E. Hussain Al Jassmi, Willem Dafoe, Zhou Dongyu, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nina Kraviz, Wim Wenders, and with the special participation of Jean Nouvel.

»Peradam«, takes as its entry point René Daumal’s early 1940s novel Mount Analogue: a Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing, in which the French writer, critic and poet mapped a metaphysical journey to “the ultimate symbolic mountain” in search of meaning. In it, Daumal introduced the idea of the “peradam”, a rare, crystalline stone – harbouring profound truths – that is only visible to seekers on a true spiritual path. The album released on September 4th, 2020 via Bella Union.

»Lovotic« is a concept album and AV installation composed in collaboration with Charlotte Gainsbourg, Atom™, Lyra Pramuk, Willem Dafoe, and Paul B. Preciado. Inspired by a relatively new field of research that seeks to explore and develop the possibilities of sexual and emotional relationships – and even love – between humans and robots, ‘LOVOTIC’ interrogates the impulses, ideas, and needs underlying this phenomenon.

Soundwalk Collective has recently co-founded The Analogue Foundation, together with Grammy awarded producer Russell Elevado, and the innovative Japanese transducer company Audio-Technica.

Soundwalk Collective [Stephan Crasneanscki, Simone Merli], photo by Vanina Sorrenti

Simone Merli

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