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Alberto Ruiz Soler

MA Information Experience Design, 2013–15

I’m a composer and make music for contemporary dance. I did a Master’s at the Royal College of Art to challenge myself and expand the possibilities for what I do.

While studying Sound Arts and Design at London College of Communication, I did some work with friends who were studying at London Contemporary Dance School. Graduating at the same time in 2009, we continued working together, and started to get commissions and residencies, and touring shows. On my BA, I experimented with installations and happenings in public spaces. It was very much influenced by John Cage, using chance, and combining decisions made by computer software and a human performer.

At a certain point, I decided that I want to teach. To gain a better grounding, I wanted to extend my knowledge and return to my research into listening and sound. I’m interested in how we listen, and how people utilise sound in different ways – for films, installations, choreography, and so on – and how we can develop a language, and tools, to work with sound, and engage with it critically. I was given the opportunity to explore some of these ideas in my MA dissertation.

I looked at lots of universities, but the RCA felt right. I applied to Visual Communication, but ended up doing a lot of Information Experience Design electives in the first year. I also did an Illustration elective, which taught me a lot, but wasn’t really where my work belonged. In the second year, I switched to IED, as I wanted to continue to develop my technical and software skills, and move towards installation work, making listening spaces.

In the second year, the key deadlines were the Work-in-progress Show and the final Show. For the WIP, I made a candy machine. I wanted to learn how to use Raspberry Pi and sensors, so I put a candy machine in a corner of the gallery, which played music like an ice-cream van. It was shiny and full of candy, so very attention grabbing. As you moved closer, it detected your presence and the music started to distort and break down to noise. If you got close enough, the machine automatically rewarded you with candy. 

We organised the WIP Show ourselves and learned a lot from the experience, especially about exhibiting so many information-rich and noisy works in one gallery. When it came to the final Show, I presented my work in its own room. I recreated the space where Felix Mendelssohn performed his Piano Trio Number 1 for the first time, 165 years ago. The idea is that the music was played once in that space – in his study in Leipzig, where he lived at the time – and the sound has been bouncing off the walls since then, like a sonic ghost. I recorded the three parts separately, for piano, violin and cello, and then made a device called Trio that plays differently distorted versions of the music. The device randomly selected the version to play, and the levels of each instrument, and then other sonic events would happen over the top of that.

I wrote the programme with some really good support from the technicians, and learned a lot from them. Then, I had to put that work in a space, which was a whole new challenge. Throughout the two years, I’d met so many different tutors so, alongside regular tutorials with my own tutor, I was able to have very specific conversations with different members of staff. For me, that was really valuable. Developing these skills and ability to work with new technology has been fascinating; in a way, it allows me to listen to my own music, as an audience member, because there’s an element of surprise. Even though I know all the ingredients, I don’t know what the final result will be.

Since graduating, I’ve returned to composing, while researching new projects, and touring with the shows I’m currently working on with Igor and Moreno, Lola Maury and Eva Recacha. I’m in London now for four days, and then I’m off for three weeks again. In the future, I want to continue my research into listening and sound, and to collaborate with visual artists on listening spaces. 

"Throughout the two years, I’d met so many different tutors so, alongside regular tutorials with my own tutor, I was able to have very specific conversations with different members of staff. For me, that was really valuable. "
Alberto Ruiz Soler
Alberto Ruiz Soler