Producer Luisa Puterman (Brazil) discusses her Sonora project, relationship with architecture and “building your own reality”

Luisa Puterman is a Sao Paolo-based producer and sound artist. She has performed and created works for Redbull Music Academy, TED2017 and Moogfest 2017, and was selected as OneBeat 2016 Fellow. Luisa speaks with Found Sound Nation’s Kyla-Rose Smith on her relationship to architecture, thoughts on collaboration and recent Sonora project.

Kyla-Rose: Tell me about your sound travels project, and the process and methodology behind it?

Luisa: The name of the project is Sonora. In Portuguese the meaning is like, if sound was female. It started at a residency in a rural town — we were working with children in the suburbs. The children were wild and we had to come up with some ideas for activities and workshops. One morning my project partner, Bruno Garibaldi, and I were having breakfast and he said half joking that we should take them on a boat trip. And then all of a sudden we had this idea that we could create an immersive experience through sound. It was a huge success and the kids really enjoyed it. Two days later, we did the activity at the prison in the city and then we realized the strength and the potential of the project. People were moved by the experience and imaginative process. We started to realize that the project wasn’t just about sonic travel but a way to connect people with their inner imagination.

Why is important for people to have this experience?

There are a lot of reasons actually. I think the way that society is structured makes you believe that you have to be just one thing at a time. There is not a lot of room to create your own reality or change your reality. During this experience people access their inner worlds, which helps you to realize that your imagination, your mind and the knowledge that you carry within yourself are powerful tools in creating your life and enriching your everyday existence.

Luisa Puterman at Atlantic Center for the Arts (New Smyrna Beach, Florida), September 2016

Do you think this project has a social benefit other than inspiring the imagination?

I think it can be a social good. If the project and the method can transform a prisoners’ reality, bring back an Alzheimer patient’s memories or inspire educators and teachers to promote diverse kinds of educational processes — then I see it as a social good — definitely.

You’ve spoken about your interest in sound in relation to architecture. How does this relates to sound travels and your own artistic practice?

First of all, sound can shape space and air, so it relates itself to fundamental structures in architecture. In a compositional sense, where you layer one sound on top of another… you can think of it as construction. As a musician, producer, composer — you are building something, somewhere — why not build somewhere new? That is what sound travels is doing in collaboration with the participants. Sound provides the suggestion, and the listener constructs a new place, a new reality, or even a new animal. Sometimes when I research animal sounds to create a new kind of animal — like a strange lion. Sound it is not as clear as an image, so you have more room to imagine different things.

Is this a way that you have always thought about sound and does it shape what you create musically as well?

It is a bit of a new thing, but maybe it has been inside me for a long time but I have only just found a way to share it. As a producer, if you consider all sound as music, then you will probably have more interesting results. If every sound is a potential instrument, then anything can be a snare, or the creak of a door could be a violin, or wind coming through the window could be a flute.

Luisa with Found Sound Nation assembling the Ouroborium at Moogfest 2017

Sonora is a direct result of a collaboration with someone else. Why do you think collaboration is important for your own practice?

If you pick the right people to collaborate with you will expand your existence in their brain, and they will expand their existence in yours. It’s about feeling alive and getting bigger, intellectually occupying more space so that you can be more sensitive to what is going on.

Do you think that it is important for people to have cross-cultural experiences and is it possible through music?

Musical language is not attached to meaning, especially in contemporary music. You don’t have to be attached to a certain structure, a certain harmony or traditional rules. This opens up different forms of communication. When you have cultural differences or other kinds of barriers, you don’t need make sense in the same way you that you do with traditional language. Sometimes allows you to just be together with people and without striving for things to make sense, but rather exploring alternative ways of togetherness.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been working on a couple of contemporary dance projects — producing music for choreographers. It’s a nice experience to explore the relationship between the body and sound/music, and also to explore collaboration with other disciplines. Dancers and choreographers have infinite tiny little ears spread out their skin! I’m also teaching a three-month course, Sound Art: Out of Sound this August at the Tomie Ohtako Institute in Sao Paolo with artist André Damião.

Luisa performs a live set on Sao Paolo experimental collective Mamba Negra’s internet radio show