Six questions for
Billy Bultheel

Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Billy Bultheel.

Artist Billy Bultheel
Lives in Berlin and Brussels

How do you describe your own art practice?

I write music and make performances. During the pandemic my work ventured out into installation, video, and online performances. Music is the source, but my practice moves into all disciplines involving a spatial and temporal dimension. I also write music for and with other artists, choreographers and directors. Some form of collaboration is always present in the projects I commit to.

Which question or theme is central in your work?

I am interested in music that engages in a process of world-weaving. How can sound manifest, direct a space, and engage a body? How can it shape a narrative? I like to think of my scores as maps and my performances as parallel universes that can be visited. I want to engage my listeners physically. Give them a space to enter and navigate and ‘discover’ music along their own trajectory.

What was your first experience with art?

My parents are artists and art was always around the house. I don’t really remember the first time I became aware of ‘institutional art’ as such. But as a kid I was obsessed with music. I would start crying when I saw people play instruments, lol, I have many memories of being emotionally touched by music as a young kid, maybe I was a bit of an emo toddler.

What is your greatest source of inspiration?

Choir music, especially from the renaissance period, was a revelation when I first heard it and I still go back to it every time I feel empty or uninspired. Josquin des Prez, Johannes Ockeghem, Machaut, Hildegard, Ciconia, etc. The way these people think about music is almost alchemical, experimental and process-based. I like how it walks the line between improvisation, play and algorithm, and how it engages the body, space and the ritual. Complexity and simplicity. I’m not religious though. I also really like Ligeti, Xenakis and Salvatore Sciarrino.

What do you need in order to create your work?

Silence is a good start for music, or people are a good start for music. Or Space… Thinking about how music can be embedded in a given space. Maybe an idea or an image is needed first, and then the music follows as the soundtrack for that idea or image to take place. It really depends.

What work or artist has most recently surprised you?

I was just in Brazil for an extended period of time, and seeing how music is ingrained in everyday culture there was one of the most heartbreaking experiences I’ve had in years. I have never seen music create such a strong sense of belonging for an entire population, regardless of sex, age, class or race. The political climate is obviously very problematic in Brazil at the moment, but music has a way of erasing people’s differences. Recent albums I really enjoyed are Oliver Coates and Debit’s latest releases. I also just recently delved into Kaija Saariaho’s music which has been really inspiring and Bonnie Gordon’s texts on music.

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