Interview with Angélica Castelló

Angélica Castelló (c) Oliver Hangl
Angélica Castelló (c) Oliver Hangl

In September ANGÉLICA CASTELLÓ will perform at the MUSIKTHEATERTAGE WIEN as a composer exploring the theme of the body. Mixing tasks turns out to be a novelty for her. Just like the collaboration with the choreographer ANNA KNAPP and ten dancers. Sylvia Wendrock spoke with the artist about breath, sound, and missing cowboy boots on the occasion of the upcoming premiere of “DE*CIVILIZE ME!”

“[… ] a balance between the beauty and the ugliness of the body”

What are these physical civilization processes and the psychosocial mechanisms to which a body is exposed? What did you and Anna Knapp find out? 

Angélica Castelló: Anna Knapp’s theme is the body, mine the sound. I will abstract the work with the dancers in sound. For them as well as for me, it is about taking the body as it is, with its limitations and that which “prevents” it, so to speak incessantly, from questioning or even repulsing itself. Since April we have been working very intensively on it and develop this work like a ping-pong.

Which sounds will you use?

Angélica Castelló: The most concrete material is recordings of the voices of the dancers, but also of breath, of the air, of the bodies; these sounds are processed in the composition. But I will also be present on stage, with my body, with my flute, with my breath and my field recordings. This is how a mixture of composition and performance emerges.

De*civilize Me! (c) Anna Knapp, Musiktheatertage Wien
De*civilize Me! (c) Anna Knapp, Musiktheatertage Wien

Do you consider voice and breath sounds as parts of the body?  

Angélica Castelló: Yes, for me it is so, but in order to decivilize the body one would actually have to go much further, much more radically. But it’s not about creating a brutal, revolutionary piece. With my sound, I want to support these bodies that are searching for borders, not to conceal things, but to allow for the disturbing, the uncomfortable. With the sound, a balance between the beauty and the ugliness of the body is to be created.

Angélica Castelló: I think Anna’s approach is very much nourished by the poetry of the body. Therefore, it will not be an actionist work. It’s more about showing and thematising physical states.

“[…] you have to make a lot of compromises when you work with dancers and choreographers.”

Your music comes more from within; unconscious dreams and noise play a big role. If Anna Knapp wants to capture the poetry of the body, what appealed to you when she invited you to encounter her idea?

Angélica Castelló: I haven’t often worked in a performance or dance context before, because first of all I’m more of a loner, not such an insanely good team worker, and you have to make quite a few compromises when working with dancers and choreographers. But the videos of Anna Knapp’s work convinced me. They are not from this world either, they have something surrealistic about them. Moreover, I was attracted to the work with such concrete elements as dirt, earth, etc., I really like it. Nevertheless, for me this conscious decision to collaborate in this way is a first.

And secondly?

Angélica Castelló: Secondly, in my work I am rather intellectually engaged in the world of feelings and dreams. In this respect, this piece is also a small “taboo break” for me: standing on stage with ten dancers and playing the flute with my whole body and without my cowboy boots.

“society may be demanding, but we are still the biggest prison for ourselves, be it in body or mind.”

What is special for you when you work towards a performance?

Angélica Castelló: Partly I have to present what is necessary for certain movements. I would never have done that before! But also musically a new world of sound should emerge. It has always been very interesting for me to find a balance between high fidelity and ultra-rapid loudspeaker cassettes. I’m also very interested in the contrast between very abstract, spherical and very concrete everyday sounds or field recordings. Perhaps familiar noises burst within floating sound and creating a dream. The body is most restricted by the mind, especially by one’s own mind. Society may be demanding, but we are still the biggest prison for ourselves, be it in the body or in the mind.

What are your considerations when composing for or with your Paetzold sub bass recorder or rather how do your composing, instrumenting, improvising and thinking influence each other?

Angélica Castelló: There are at least four creative processes in my world at the moment: the improvisational process with my instruments on stage, then the electroacoustic, super lonely composition process in the studio, which I love very much because it’s an immersion from which you emerge more clearly. The third is the compositional work for chamber music or traditional instruments with and without electronics and the fourth is the scientific work on my master’s degree in media composition.

So are there clear separations between the individual processes of your work?

Angélica Castelló: I wouldn’t speak of separations, but of course working in the different spheres requires different approaches, practical, theoretical, methodical. But overall, the different fields nourish and influence each other. So this summer I am composing a piece for two pianos and two percussions plus tapes for a festival in Poland in October that will be rehearsed shortly before the performance. On the other hand, there is a kind of more open work for “DE*CIVILIZE ME!”, but in very clearly defined or given contours. Just as one continuously reaches out to each other while improvising, Anna Knapp and I do the same now in a certain way: an improvisation over half a year. In addition there are several appearances in Europe and Mexico, the giving of workshops and the mentioned research and writing work for my master’s degree.

Thank you very much for the interview!

Sylvia Wendrock [Translation: Elisabeth Kelvin, 2019]

September 20+21, 2019: “DE*CIVILIZE ME!” (UA), Musiktheatertage, WUK Vienna
September 28, 2019: “Bodies of Noise”, Festival Sacrum Profanum, Krakow, Poland

Angélica Castelló
Musiktheatertage Wien