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An artistic research project by Zouheir Atbane and Gilles Aubry

In 2010, the Paul Bowles collection of Moroccan traditional music recordings has been repatriated from the Library of Congress in Washington to Tangier in Morocco. In 1959, the US writer spent 4 months recording various genres of folk music all over Morocco.  This music collection consitutes the starting point for Atbane & Aubry of a re-examination  of the notion of “cultural preservation via audio documentation” from a contemporary perspective. During a collaborative field trip through Morocco in 2013-14, the two artists will initiate listening sessions with local musicians and cultural actors in order to discuss and evaluate the recordings from a local perspective.  These exchanges will then lead to new sound recordings which will serve for the realization of a series of artworks and perofrmances by the two artists.

As a comparison, Aubry & Atbane will pay attention to contemporary examples of cultural preservation initiatives in Morocco. Besides the traditional Moussems (festivals), many music festivals have been initiated in Morocco since the 1980‘s, the most famous ones being the festivals of Essaouira, Fez and Marrakech. In 2002, the Moroccan government has released an official “Anthology of Moroccan music” and specific cultural practices have been placed under the protection of the UNESCO immaterial heritage safeguarding program. During their research, the two artists will observe how such initiatives have contributed to both the safeguarding and the transformation of specific cultural practices. They will also be attentive to cases where ‘tradition’ become at times an ‘instrument’ for the legitimation of various political discourses or economic development plans.

The research will also include a reflection on the very idea of using audio reproduction technology for ethnographic ends, a practice which originates in the invention of the phonograph at the end of the 19th century. While this practice often only manages to capture its subject superficially, fixating it into an object that will be easily analysed later, Atbane & Aubry will experiment with other recording practices that should allow to overcome these limitations. As a result, the microphone shall become a performative instrument that can be played, danced or choreographied in order to produce recordings which should ideally be able to reflect their own subjectivity.