Multimedia Artist & Composer Olivia Block on Nature’s Creative Superpower

Catalyst Berlin guest lecturer, multimedia artist and composer Olivia Block

What catalyses multimedia artist and composer Olivia Block's creativity? Read about her fascinating recent Guest Session at our school.

Cities are the place to be for creatives. Some of the biggest creative breakthroughs in history have been the result of diverse populations coming together. Just look at the next-level music production, filmmaking and acting happening within Catalyst’s thriving community of 59 nationalities! But, while the urban environment can be incredibly inspiring, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best place for personal creativity.

According to a whole host of studies, we could all benefit from spending more time in nature. Increased inspiration, a boost of creative memory, mental clarity, heightened brain function and improved mental health are as easy as taking a short walk in a natural environment – luckily for us, Berlin is full of parks! Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering alumna Anita Wenglorz experienced the phenomenon firsthand when she left her industrial techno comfort zone to create a botanical soundscape for her final-year project.

Catalyst Berlin guest lecturer, multimedia artist and composer Olivia Block

In much the same way, our latest guest lecturer, multimedia artist and composer Olivia Block, sees nature’s complex forms and time-perfected processes as a valuable practical resource in musical innovation. In her recent Guest Session, she gave us a look into her most recent recordings and sound installations, and led a discussion on listening practices, found sound materials, studio techniques and creative practice. When we asked Olivia to tell us the one thing that catalyses her creativity, she replied, “the natural world.”

“When I spend time in a natural landscape, I notice colours, shapes and sounds that I don’t often encounter in the city, which create strong, enduring impressions,” she said. “I often marvel at the way any given ecosystem is orchestrated. Sometimes I focus on one aspect – like water or wind – noticing the way that material moves through space and how it sounds. In my work, I often try and translate those impressions, combining them with other sounds. I also feel like I can think more slowly, clearly and thoroughly in those landscapes.”

Catalyst Berlin guest lecturer, multimedia artist and composer Olivia Block

The acclaimed Chicago-based artist’s current work reflects her interests in site specificity, ethnographic sound, architecture, and found/archival materials from the 1950s to the 1990s. Through experimental composition, installations, sound design and orchestra scores, she investigates themes related to memory, wind, recorded human voice, non-human animals, and time.

A testament to her wide-ranging influences, Olivia’s rich compositions include electronic textures, field recordings, amplified objects and orchestral instruments. She performs using oscillators, microphones, amplified objects, shortwave radio, and many other sound-making materials. Currently, she is working on installations which combine animal architecture, sound installation and landscape architecture.

Learn more about Olivia Block’s fascinating work on her website and head to her SoundCloud.