Sound art and music by Martina Lussi: It happens very casually

Lucerne born Martina Lussi studied art and through listening she got into producing sound art and music herself. She explores nature and everyday life with microphones and an audio recorder and taking her impressions back to the studio, she condenses her listening experiences into installations, performances and studio albums, as well as field recordings and soundwalks.

Friedemann Dupelius
At the beginning of our Zoom conversation, Martina Lussi admits that she feels a bit disorganised. She is currently working a lot in an art library, so she is lacking time to listen and engage with sounds, which is a very important aspect to her. “Listening is something that happens very slow. You can’t just quickly listen to something – you have to start from the beginning and absorb it, otherwise you lose the context. Who really has time to listen these days?”

Martina Lussi © Calypso Mahieu

To get in the right mood for our conversation, she has turned her routine route around Lake Lucerne into a soundwalk this morning – in other words, a walk during which you actively listen to your surroundings. She reads out her listening log to me like a shopping list: “Trolleys, conversations, a jogger running past, my jacket, a dog breathing, ship masts, a person imitating a duck…” We both realise that we can imagine the individual sounds, but that such a description lacks one thing: the spatiality and simultaneity of the scenery. “My music thrives on the fact that many different sounds combine and flow into one another. It’s like a stream in which sounds are suddenly very close, only to dissolve into something else again.”

Frogs or wood?
At the end of 2019, Martina Lussi spent a residency in the Brazilian rainforest, where she was able to immerse herself in an unknown soundscape. “Some of the sounds were unsettling because I didn’t recognise them, especially at night. There was a frog for example, that sounded like wood – someone had to explain that to me first.” Her composition Serrinha Do Alambari Soundwalk is based on an audio walk in the village of the same name.

Listening as a shared experience: Martina Lussi and her soundwalking group in the Brazilian rainforest © Karina Duarte

Footsteps of a group of people crunch on uneven ground and set the rhythm, over which one can hear various birds chirping. Gradually, a synthesiser rises like wafts of mist from the soundscape of the rainforest and merges into gentle tropical rain, until at some point the frogs chatter. Martina Lussi is not interested in reproducing the environment as it apparently sounds in reality – she adds artificial sounds and thus creates new sound spaces, such as dreamlike memories. She sometimes does not bother to cut out the wind that blows into the audio recorder. Some field recording purists would consider this a bad recording, but not Martina Lussi.

The composition Serrinha Do Alambari Soundwalk was released on vinyl in 2020 on the label Ōtium, along with a piece by Loïse Bulot.

Coat or birds?
On the contrary: she repeatedly incorporates unwanted background noises into her compositions. In her piece The Listener, these even become the sole material. It consists exclusively of sounds produced by coats. They became the focus of Martina Lussi’s attention while making recordings in nature as part of a research project on bird sounds: “You imagine it to be so idyllic, but early in the morning it’s often so cold that I’m freezing and have to keep moving. As I’m wrapped up in a thick jacket, it just resonates.” She realised that these sounds often sounded like the voices or even the beating of birds’ wings. She took four jackets, improvised with each one for ten minutes and used them to create a four-channel installation and composition.

The piece The Listener is part of the compilation Synthetic Bird Music and was released on tape in 2023 on the label mappa.

The 4-channel sound installation “The Listener” was launched in 2022 at the art space sic! Elephanthouse in Lucerne © Andri Stadler

Martina Lussi does not consciously sharpen her ears with listening exercises before she goes into the field: “It happens very casually. When I go into the forest, I smell the oils from the trees, I can’t see far, I automatically enter an attentive state that I don’t have to prepare myself for.” As vividly as she talks about the Brazilian rainforest years later, it becomes clear that listening goes beyond the moment. It creates memories that last for a long time and that you can draw on even in more turbulent times.
Friedemann Dupelius

Portrait Martina Lussi © Johanna Saxen

Martina LussiMartina Lussi on BandcampSerrinha Do Alambari (Vinyl)Research project „Birdscapes“Artspace sic! Elephanthouse in LuzernCompilation: „Synthetic Bird Music“

Upcoming events:
18.05.2024 – Concert in Tbilisi (Georgia), Left Bank
24.05.2024 – Moa Espa, Geneva (Soundwalk)
18.06., 19:30 Uhr – Dampfzentrale Bern (WP Proximity with Ensemble Proton, + open rehearsal on 17.06.)
23.06., 17 Uhr – Postremise Chur

neo-profile: Martina Lussi

Composing with mobile technology: Lara Stanic – media artist


Electronic composition, performance, sound art: Zurich-based composer, performer, media artist and flautist Lara Stanic is hard to categorise. In her concert performances, she combines media, instruments, objects and musicians’ bodies and refers to specific locations and contexts. In this interview, she gives an insight into the creation of her latest works for the Zurich Baroque Orchestra.


Lara Stanic in ‘waves’, Festival Rümlingen 2020 © Kathrin Schulthess


Gabrielle Weber
I meet Lara Stanic for a cup of coffee at her kitchen table on a snowy Saturday morning at the beginning of January. We talk about her latest composition ‘Du matin au soir’: it was written in summer 2023 for the Zurich Baroque Orchestra and consists of eight sound interventions that were performed between individual symphony movements by Haydn. The concerts took place at different times of day in various Zurich locations: the botanical garden, an outdoor swimming pool and in St Peter’s Church.

Lara Stanic generally uses electronic media for her pieces and often also integrates context-related objects. The selection of specific media is a process, says Stanic. “I let myself be inspired by the context, the performers, the instruments and the way they can be played. This generates sounds in my head and I conceive ways of playing.”

In Sonnenstand, the sound intervention to Haydn’s symphony Der Mittag, the musicians ‘play’ with round portable mirrors that produce sound using smartphones. The idea came from a childhood memory. “As a child, I used portable mirrors to catch the sunlight at noon and create shadows and light reflections on a nearby wall,” says Stanic.

Sonnenstand by Lara Stanic, from du matin au soir, composed for the Zurich Baroque Orchestra, premiered in Zurich in 2023. Botanical Garden and St. Peter’s Church, Zurich, Videos © Andreas Pfister and Philip Bartels.


In Sonnenstand, the musicians also capture sunlight with mirrors, but this time turning it into music. Mobile phones are attached to the back of the mirrors. Built-in motion sensors, microphones and loudspeakers capture the movements of the mirrors and convert them into sounds. Stanic explains that this creates a hybrid form of two the media, mirror and smartphone.

Sonnenstand thus also reflects a basic theme characterising Stanic’s artistic work: In electronic music, she is often bothered by the clumsiness of large, almost threatening loudspeakers and mixing consoles. By using mobile devices, she searches for lightness and mobility. Stanic also often appears as performer of her own works. She first tests what she develops on herself. “I always was and still am my best guinea pig,” she says.

Stanic first studied the flute, then music and media art in Zurich and Bern. She continues to play and teach the flute and sees it as her musical home. “My training as a performer and teacher provided me with a foundation and knowledge of compositional thinking. I am equally interested in creating sounds on acoustic as well as electronic instruments.” Her first access to music was through radio and television during her childhood in former Yugoslavia. Even back then, she was fascinated by the amount of emotions sound waves could trigger. The connection between music and electronics was therefore obvious, she adds with a laugh: “Of course, I didn’t realise it being about sound waves at the time.”


Lara Stanic Performance ‘Spielfeld Feedback’ 2003 © EDITION DUMPF – Florian Japp


Humour and playful lightness also characterise her works with everyday objects. In Kafi, another sound intervention, this time for Haydn’s symphony Der Morgen, an oversized Bialletti espresso machine becomes an instrument. Two concert masters brew coffee on stage and ‘play’ with the sounds of the bubbling. “When I get up in the morning, I make my coffee in a Bialetti machine. It sounds very nice and I always associate the smell of coffee with that sound. I remember the sounds and smells from my childhood. And then an orchestra always has to drink coffee during rehearsal breaks. So there’s a very practical side to it as well…”
Kafi, another sound intervention by Lara Stanic from Du matin au soir, composed for the Hayn Symphony Der Morgen, Zurich Baroque Orchestra, premiered in Zurich in 2023, at St. Peter’s Church, Video © Andreas Pfister, Renate Steinmann.


Kafi is all about transformation, the sound and aroma of coffee being transformed into music. In addition, there is an electronic extension of classical instruments, as the violin bows of the concert masters are equipped with motion sensors. They use them to touch the coffee machine like magic wands, which are then swung through the air. This amplifies the sound of the bubbling, spreads throughout the room and mixes with the beginning of the symphony. In her own words: “The violin bows become magic wands, which in turn transform the aroma of the coffee into music”.

The process behind it is very simple though. First there is the idea, then a sound, in this case the bubbling of the coffee and then she looks for solutions as to how this can be connected to the sound of the instruments. The performative actions of the concert masters form a bridge for the audience between the sounding everyday object and the instruments. Based on this simple principle, Stanic transforms everyday objects into music and leaves a lasting impression on my morning coffee.
Gabrielle Weber

Lara Stanic, Du matin au soir, Video collage of the eight sound interventions for the Zurich Baroque Orchestra on Haydn symphonies, world creation Zurich 2023, Video © Andreas Pfister, Renate Steinmann, Philipp Bartels.

Lara Stanic is co-founder and member of the trio Funkloch featuring also PR and SH, which invites six composers each year to an experimental studio concert broadcasted live on air, or the GingerEnsemble, a Bern-based composer-performer collective. She composes for soloists, ensembles and orchestras, as well as for her own performances, which she regularly performs at international festivals and has been a lecturer in Performing New Technologies at Bern University of the Arts since 2011.

FunkLoch celebrated its sixth anniversary on Saturday, 20.1.24, 17h at Kunstraum Walcheturm with works by Annette Schmucki, Daniel Weissberg, Svetlana Maraš, Dorothea Rust and Joke Lanz.

Features SRF Kultur:
MusikMagazin, 10.2.2024: Cafégespräch with Lara Stanic by Gabrielle Weber, editorial Benjamin Herzog.
Zämestah, 21.12.2020: TV-Portrait Lara Stanic
Musik unserer Zeit, 21.09.2013: Spiel mit urzeitlicher Elektronik: Das Ginger Ensemble, editorial Lislot Frey

Lara StanicFunkloch OnAir, Kunstraum Walcheturm, Sebastian Hofmann, petra ronner, Annette SchmuckiDaniel WeissbergSvetlana Maraš, Joke Lanz, Neue Musik Rümlingen.

Empathic speculation: Magda Drozd

Zurich-based sound artist and musician Magda Drozd engages with sounds and beings of her environment, thereby working in a way that is as cognitive and reflective as speculative and fantastic. Her third album “Viscera” was released in early 2023 and meanwhile, she’s composing music for theatre and radio plays and also appearing as solo performer in experimental sound contexts between scenes.

Friedemann Dupelius

What music would an aloe vera listen to? What would the rubber tree in the living room like to dance to? Would the playlist of the cactus on the windowsill be peppered with Piek Time hits? We can only speculate about that. Zurich-based Magda Drozd has written an entire album about it: “Songs for Plants” was released at the end of 2019 on the Lucerne-based label “Präsens Editionen” and fits just perfectly into the era in which everyone seems to have turned into a home gardener.

For the sound installation “Intra-Action / Traces” (2017) Magda Drozd rendered the sounds of 200 self grown cacti audible.

The starting point was an art project that consisted of growing 200 cacti. Two years later, a sound installation called “Intra-Action / Traces” had grown out of it. At the Zurich University of Arts (ZHdK), Magda Drozd attended the “treelab” initiated by Marcus Maeder, where she found the technical tools to make the sounds of a wide variety of plants audible. A fine needle picks up the movements of liquids in the capillaries (quasi the veins) of the plants, with several amplifiers and software then transposing the interior of the plant into human hearing range. The thirstier a plant is, the more air bubbles move in its capillaries, generating click-like sounds.

Sounds between capillaries and playing

Magda Drozd was not only interested in the bioacoustics of cacti, but also in her own position as a human being relating to these so different creatures. In doing so, she was well aware that the very step of transposing is an artificial trick. “I don’t represent the plants and I’m not trying to represent their sound as accurately as possible. It is ultimately a game I play with the material.”

Magda Drozd · Weaving into shores The sound installation „Weaving into shores“ combines recordings from Lake Zurich vom Zürichsee with drones from synthesizers and the violin. How do we listen to the lake? What does it mean to us?

With the cactus instruments ready, Magda Drozd now entered the game. She watered the plants, listened to their reaction and also included earth and ceramics sounds, when those materials were touched. “First of all, a sound carpet emerges, I then work a lot with frequency shifts, changing different recordings so that you only hear one frequency, putting effects on top of it and so slowly music emerges from material that is only supposedly the plant.” This also feeds on rhythms or melodies that can be discerned from the capillary sounds, and which Drozd spins on with synthesizers or her main instrument – the violin. This is also why the resulting album is called “Songs for Plants” and not “Songs by Plants”.

„Painkiller“ from the album „Songs for Plants“

Magda Drozd was born in Poland in 1987, she grew up in Munich and moved to Zurich in 2011 to study theatre dramaturgy and later visual arts at the Zurich University of Arts. From theatre and performance, she found her way to sound art and experimental music, with these different art forms and their formats interpenetrating and intermingling in her works. From 2019 to 2021, she was a “Research Fellow” at ZhdK, working on sound and listening as means to produce knowledge. During this time, she also worked on her second album “18 Floors”. The title refers to the Lochergut high-rise in Zurich, where the artist lived at the time. She listened to the building and its 18 floors in all niches and corners (accessible to her) and made many field recordings. This led to questions such as: What does urban living together in a confined space mean? To what extent can a residential building be understood as a living organism? What knowledge can be generated from listening closely to a place?

„Dreamy Monster“ from the album „18 Floors“

Listening between knowledge & speculation

“Knowledge conveyed through sound is a different kind of knowledge than what we usually accept. It is fragile, fluid and ephemeral. This soon led me to speculation. After all, I didn’t record the conversations in this house, but its hard materials.” So “18 Floors” is at once the documentation of a meticulous, insight-driven listening process – and the speculation, set to music, of all the stories, beings and secret workings that a concrete building holds. “I wasn’t interested in assigning each sound to a particular corner or floor in the building. I mixed a lot of things. For me, it’s this speculation: something new emerges that stimulates our imagination, which could also be a house and could sound like this. It’s also about becoming empathetic through listening, about getting an emotional access to a possible knowledge through the music as well.” Initially, “18 Floors” was supposed to take the form of a conceptual performance. Magda Drozd owes the fact that it became a music album to the sound artist and researcher Salomé Voegelin, with whom she was in close contact.

In 2022, Magda Drozd and Salomé Voegelin examined Conrad Gessner’s Zurich herb garden from the 16th century and our current ambiguous relationship with medicinal plants in a performance.

With her work, Magda Drozd moves in different disciplines and formats: sound installation, theatre performance, radio plays, composition, research. “I move between scenes and feel comfortable there. It can be demanding sometimes, but the longer I’m active, the more people know what I do.”

People who have known her for a long time – namely her German friends – say that Magda now speaks with a Swiss inflection. She doesn’t want to let that stand – and even in conversation with her, the author’s ear, trained on Southern German, recognises nothing of the sort. But maybe there is something to it: in between and over all the challenging, exploratory, floating and digging sound passages there are always melodies to be found – which is rare enough in experimental music oriented towards sound art. “I’m not afraid of a bit of kitschy or emotional moments. To me, it reflects life: there are rough edges and there are rounder moments when you can let yourself drift with a melody. When I use the violin, it’s always a fine balancing act not to become too pathetic. In general, I think melodies are becoming trendier again, even in experimental music.”

Magda Drozd: Clipped Wings from the album Viscera

You can hear those melodies most bluntly in Magda Drozd’s latest album “Viscera”. Here, too, the title opens up speculative spaces. Music for viscera? The sound of the body? Or perhaps this time: “Songs for Humans”? Speculation can go on and on.

Friedemann Dupelius

Magda Drozd
Songs for Plants (Präsens Editionen, 2019)
18 Floors (Präsens Editionen, 2021)
Viscera (Präsens Editionen, 2023)

Magda Drozd

The alchemy between analog, digital and the body

Charlotte Hug talks about four new CD releases.

Charlotte Hug: Portrait ©Alberto Venzago

Gabrielle Weber
Charlotte Hug, composer-performer, viola player, voice- and media artist, navigates between composition and improvisation, intertwining music and visual art. Four new CDs reflect her diversified artistic personality. In this interview, she describes them as “harvest” of the recent years.

Charlotte, in your performances you push the boundaries of your instruments – viola and voice – to their limit, adding a strong combination with visual aspects. Can you tell us more about the connection between these three elements?
Solo work is an important starting point for me, but I am always in a state of dialogue. The voice and the viola communicate with each other. They often disagree. To me, music is about being in communication with people.

“The viola and I are looking for new dialogues day by day.”

The connection to the visual aspect is something I achieve through the so-called “Son-Icons”, a combination between music and image (or Sounds and Icons). I capture the music I perceive  – whether heard or imagined – as well as random ambient sounds with my hands, like several pens dancing with each other on semitransparent paper. The results can be small picture boards, meter-long paper sheets, room installations, animated video scores. With Son-Icons I created a composing procedure.

“Eye and ear often decide in different directions.”

The Son icons are stimuli and inspiration for music and make the energy of its origination visible.

Portrait Charlotte Hug, Son-Icons ©Art-TV 2016, Michelle Ettlin 

Improvisation is an important foundation of your work. What does improvisation mean to you?
Improvisation is an artistic elixir of life, especially the magic of musical encounters with other artists such as Lucas Niggli (CD Fulguratio). Improvisation means creating in the moment. When I play with the London Stellari String Quartet, which I founded in 2000 (CD Vulcan), every performance leads to new creations. The London improvisation scene has influenced me heavily for almost twenty years. First as permanent member, now as guest and guest conductor, I regularly played with the London Improvisers Orchestra (CD 20th anniversary).

On the basis of this interaction-notation you developed, you elaborate intermedial compositions for orchestra and choir. How do these collaborations concretely look like?
I draw an individual Son-Icon for each musician. It can be turned and reversed, mirrored, read as “Krebs” or “Umkehrung”, on the same principles as J. S. Bach’s or the Second Viennese School’s compositions. I then hold individual coaching sessions and every musician develops his or her own musical material based on the Son-Icon.

“Interaction-Notation enables musical encounters at eye level, the use of various artistic resources, precise interplay without cultural barriers.”

The Interaction-Notation is a structuring method. An interface combines conventional western notation, Son-Icons, graphic notations, movement symbols, or plays live recordings. This creates the framework condition for musicians with different cultural or interdisciplinary backgrounds to interact with each other.

Charlotte Hug, Son-Icon ©Alberto Venzago

How do you work as a conductor in intermedial settings with larger ensembles?
I see myself as a giant ear. I create an ambiance and a state of trust and acceptance, so that courageous things can happen. If routine creeps in, I stimulate awareness through the unexpected.

The new Son-Icons CD features intermedial compositions. How can this connection between visuals and sound translate to a “sound-only” medium like the CD?
An intermedial performance on stage is a celebration, an immersive sensual experience one can dive into, a state of aggregation. But Son-Icons do also work in exhibitions as “visual music” without sound. They awaken inner music.

Charlotte Hug, Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble, Lucas Niggli ©MAMM 2018 

On the other hand, as recordings don’t carry any visual impulses, the music awakens the listener’s inner images. The advantage of a CD is that you can take it with you, listen to it on your own, play it again, immerse into it more than just once.

“Music and Son-Icons are self-sufficient – they act as different states of aggregation.”

Tell us about your upcoming projects, do you have a dream project?
In my solo work I am mainly researching with live electronics, particularly focusing on the alchemy and connections between analog, digital and the body.

On the other hand, there is this coming together of Son-Icons with scenic-intermedial elements as well as dynamic musical dramaturgy   have in mind – perhaps some kind of “commedia dell’ascolto intermediale interculturale”…Interview Gabrielle Weber

Fulguratio Duo Niggli-Hug, Label: Sluchaj
Son-Icon Musik von Hug für Chor und Orchester (Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, via nova Chor München), Label: Sluchaj
-CD Vulcan, Stellari String Quartet, Wachsmann, Hug, Mattos, Edwards Label: Emanem
-Doppel-CD Twenty years on London Improvisers Orchestra 

London Improvisers Orchestra, Via Nova Chor München

Broadcasts SRF:
Swisscorner, Musikmagazin, Annelis Berger zu CD Fulguratio, 27.4.19
Die grosse Nachtmusik, Passage, 9.12.11 

neo-profilesCharlotte Hug, Lucas Niggli, Lucerne Festival Academy, Lucerne Festival