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Associated Press
Marco Buccelli records Xenia Rubinos as she sings into a drain in Lafayette. The two artists from New York are creating a sound sculpture of recordings made in the area.

Musicians capture Lafayette in sound

– What does Lafayette sound like?

To the ears of musicians Xenia Rubinos and Marco Buccelli, it’s a mosaic of hidden rhythms and choruses found along roads, in coffee shop chatter or along the railroad tracks.

The pair from Brooklyn, N.Y., were here this week to collect recordings that are the cornerstone of compositions and improvisations, from songs to abstract variations, for a performance conducted Thursday.

“When you visit a town, you may notice things others don’t,” Rubinos said. “When you are in the same place every day, it is much more difficult to imagine things and bump into the surreal. This place, in particular, for me, downtown Lafayette, just really was an open palette. It was really easy to see life in a new way.”

Rubinos and Buccelli’s unique vision is captured by small digital audio recorders. They gather eruptions of sound – such as spontaneous conversations they wander into or the din of cicadas – and turn the mundane, such as a sewer grate, into a conduit for interaction.

“It is about collecting the sounds,” Buccelli said. “It is more about observing and recording. We went to the zoo in Columbian Park and captured people explaining what the animals do.”

The pair were here as part of a debut artist-in-residency program sponsored by the Black Sparrow Pub that was to culminate Thursday as they and local musicians played Lafayette soundscapes and compositions inspired by these recordings.

Rubinos and Buccelli submerged themselves in the atmosphere of Lafayette either by walking aimlessly or having others drive them out to far corners. Tuesday they cataloged their recordings, and others submitted by local artists, to begin a sorting process that would lead to songwriting.

“Our approach is to improvise, and hopefully songs will happen from that,” Rubinos said about the deadline-driven process.

Working in the sound art realm is not new to the pair, who have created music together for eight years.

“The idea is to use our abilities as free music, free improvised players to use the sounds and the emotion from Lafayette and try to put all of that into composed music,” Buccelli said.

Sources for engaging sounds are found everywhere, they say, such as the resonance of the John T. Myers Pedestrian Bridge railing and trucks idling downtown.

This week, the two spotted a few hulking steel containers near – unbeknownst to them – Oscar Winski’s metal salvage operation on North Ninth Street.

With a generator to power laptop computers and equipment, they set up to record drumming on the containers. Buccelli drew out glittery, rapid overtones with wooden sticks and mallets, tapping on two containers.

Then the police arrived.

“They thought we were welding off pieces of steel to sell,” Rubinos said. “But when we explained what we were doing, it was OK, and we left.”

Lafayette resident Zachary Baiel added to what he called a “potpourri of sounds” for the performance.

Baiel dug into recordings of Lafayette City Council meetings and made new audio snapshots at People’s Brewery, at railroad tracks and even by rubbing wood against downtown sculptures for textures.

“These are found sounds that also exist in other places. But these are our sounds, our brewery, a train that passed on our tracks – these are our statues that we ground wood against.”

Buccelli believes the experience may be foreign to Lafayette natives.

“This is the way I see Lafayette. I live in New York, I’ve been living there for many years and (was) raised and born in Italy,” Buccelli said.

“I don’t think it is going to sound like someone who has lived their life in Lafayette. That is the way I hear it.”

All recordings they make will become part of a sound library on the Foam City website for anyone to download.