ISEA2011 WORKSHOP: Emotional Snapshots

Emotional Snapshots

Workshop Leader: Emilian Gatsov

‘Marly shook her head. How could anyone have arranged these bits, this garbage, in such a way that it caught at the heart, snagged in the soul like a fishhook?’
– William Gibson, Count Zero

This is an exploratory workshop on the topic of ‘sound photographs’, snippets, fragments, bits and loops of sound.  It will trace the connection between recorded sound and time, memory and emotions. The first syllable of a song, an unfinished phrase from a dialog or the breath someone takes before staring to speak, wind and birds entering and then suddenly leaving just out of nowhere – sounds belonging to a world which always seems placed elsewhere.

‘Emotional Snapshots’ is open to participants coming from different disciplines: musicians interested in inventing their own language but to no lesser degree to visual artists, photographers, field recordists, object makers, thinkers interested in perception and generally any curious person able to perform operations as simple as cut and paste. A multidisciplinary group is the best scenario.

Nowadays loops are something quite common: there are for example tons of drum loop banks produced for the postmodern groovster to tweak and mix, perfectly matched in pitch and tempo. On the other side, loops are handy in gallery installations because of random access, yet usually long and smooth enough not to be recognized as loops or fragments. This workshop will focus on the fragmentary nature of a loop like a memory container, an emotional snapshot,
It’s about catching a piece of sound long and complex enough to have its own story told, short enough to still be a fragment, a bit of memory that remains from another world. It’s about packing an emotion in a time span of just a few seconds. Or creating an emotion through fake memories: samples.

Looping such fragment ‘kills’ the idea of musical development on a large scale and the sense of time passing in general, turning sound into a static image, emphasizing connections between elements in an almost visual way. Some loops get easily boring, while others can be played forever; one of the main theoretical topics of the workshop is how the mechanical nature of looping and sampling in general gets a soul.

I’ve always found this extremely touching. A dramatic structure always requires some tension between different realities as well as a certain lack of completeness, an abrupt cut of the energy curve before it ends naturally, the illusion that something’s gone, the power of finishing the unfinished through imagination.

So this workshop is about sampling of voices, sampling of movie scenes along with the atmosphere, words and foley sounds, sampling a breath, sampling one’s own work. It is not about creating realistic samples of a violin or piano and it’s not about turntablism and similar collage techniques, neither is it about recycling in the postmodernist sense.

Here are the main areas of explorations:

Extracting a fragment from pre-existing sound material; working within a frame. Observing what’s caught in the frame and what’s left outside the frame (photographic approach).

Constructing a micro-composition from a limited set of sound objects, playing with limitation and completeness.

Utilizing imperfection for the sake of dramatism and emotional appeal.

Utilizing non-musical elements (speech, field recordings, foley sounds), looking for cinematic narrative.

Compressing the message in a short time-span. Playing with cliche and archetype.

Working with personal material.

Collective process of combining snapshots within different contexts.
Bios of the Presenter
Emilian Gatsov was born in Bulgaria in 1975. He studied philosophy, multimedia and communications in Sofia. Since 9 years his main output is composing music soundtracks for theatre and dance performances in Bulgaria and on international level, from Shakespeare to abstract dance form, short films, radioplays and commercials. He’s been 4 times nominee for major Bulgarian theatre music awards, Ikar and Askeer, having worked with acclaimed new generation theatre directors like Galin Stoev, Marius Kurkinski, Desislava Shpatova, but at the same time making music and playing live in contemporary dance work with members of NOMAD Dance academy, Brain Store Project, ballet Arabesque, OIsNotAcCompany.  His main interest is in dramatic structures and structures in general. As a computer musician he’s interested in the tension between mechanical and human, artificial and natural, concept and pure emotion, instinct and reason. Along with physical artist Ivo Dimchev he performed series of improvised concerts throughout Europe mostly in the context of dance festivals. Again making improvised music not just music but always a soundtrack to a situation, narrative in the performative way, smearing boundaries between concert and a stage performance. He’s been regular participant in the Sofia Ambient Festival editions where live electronic music is improvised on top of silent movies to create alternative soundtracks. His website is

Posted by:  Ebru Surek