by Stefano Isidoro Bianchi, 1998 (Italy)
This is the original set of questions and answers in English, later translated into Italian.
How much your ideas take from Eno and how much from the aleatory theory of John Cage?
I find many points of contact in what you say and what Dean Roberts /White Winged Moth (do you know him? he’s an ‘electroacoustic’ musician, heir of neozealander impro rock band Thela) said to me one month ago in an interview. And also in the way Richard Youngs uses every day materials to play in his records, or, again, the Alan lamb CDs. We know that ‘concrete music’ isn’t born yesterday, but to me it seems like these musicians (you and the others I said) share something never before shared by ‘concrete’ musicians: you are not from academy, often you come from ‘rock’ experiences, and, most of all, you are relating to the ‘pop’ scene: your labels and distributors, the way you’re proposing yourself to the musical world, the ‘teachers’ you’re relating to (I remember you once said something really interesting about My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth), etc. What would you say about? Is there something new going on for the ‘pop’ and ‘avantgarde’ scenes to make them collide...?
I don’t know what you mean with relativistic, could you explain better?
Yes, this time is interesting! There was a long way for, say, electronic music, through Kraftwerk and all the house stuff and techno that allowed for increasingly “experimental” and abstract music, which now could be looking back not into its early references like disco, funky, early rap or whatever, but further back, into Stockausen or Xenakis. When you reach out far from the realm you started doing stuff in, the references you can use can change a lot, that’s very interesting. The same with me, looking at Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine took me to get into Alvin Lucier, which of course seems to have nothing to do but it’s quite logical to me. Let me say that, of course, i don’t think there’s any sort of revivalism in what we’re discussing here, we always move forward.
Like a ‘prodrom’ to this, I think a big influence in making this kinda contact has been Jim O’Rourke, who lead avantgarde into pop music like no one before. Will we ever listen to something like his new Eureka from you...?
Oh no, it’s too hard for me to write a song, i think it’s too difficult to do a worthwhile one. Cage said with immense wisdom “we get more done by not doing what someone else is doing”, and i truly believe that.
What about your project “Bridge Music”, of which I read of somewhere?
Still in standby, waiting for me to start work on it...
When I said ‘relativistic’ I was meaning something near to the Eno expression ‘As ignorable as interesting’. ‘Relativistic’ meaning with no direct tie to any proper school of thought, with no proper knowledge to bring on, free of floating into every musical kind like a mirror reflecting every time another aspect but no one in particular, sometime like an ambient sound, sometime like the fruit of a really strong ‘récherche’... Most of all, free to be not recognized inside a language already known: it’s no more academy and not even pop. It’s an important passage, I think, to the final contamination of languages; every one can find in it what he wants to.
Interesting thought... But it seems to me that this “relativism”, then, is an observer’s one - you, for instance, as an observer and commentator, can see it. But if you focus on each element, each artist, each band, each fragment of that “floating” view, you might realize that there’s a focus on something, a tie to something or many things, but a stabilized one, not floating. You see what i mean? It seems your idea is a global one, one of multiplicity, but it’s hard for me to relate to that view directly. It’s like your asking if the way my house looks like has any resemblance to the sattelite view of the city i live in.
That’s the reason why I mentioned the Flaming Lips and their Zaireeka album, where they, as I wrote, divided their songs into 4 different CDs every one of them containing a part of the mixage (the first only drums and basses, the second the lyrics, the third some basses and some reverb and so on), saying that the album was to be listened to in a complete way only playing all the four CDs at the same time with 4 different CD players, something clearly impossible to realize because every little frame of difference should create a different ‘point of view’, and so a different song... I think it’s not so far away from what you’re saying about your music... What about?
I have been formerly more interested in writing music that is an unpredictable process, one that re-generates itself and is different every time you play it. Since i stopped writing music on paper and focused on sound, i concentrate on the media containing the music. I don’t like to ask for too much from the listeners (i wouldn’t ask them to set up 4 cd players, but of course it’s a delightful idea...), the average people that plays the records of people like me have busy lives and many things to think about other that music. So i might become more useful if i make the access to the music itself as easy as possible.
(at this point i was asked to elaborate on the concepts below) - Ed.
My music actually has no meaning, no message of any kind is underlying what i do. “Communication” is something that never interested me in music as a one-way statement. I am interested in constructing a vibration that is as rich as possible in the offer of a variety of meanings and uses, approaches and listening experiences, but in an uncoded, open state. I value the subjectivity of the listening act, so it’s a must for me to keep it open, not charged with “myself”. Each listener should be free to use it in her/ his own way, i try to allow each person to project his/ her own self into the music. My interest in the ambient form is mainly the possibility to explore different levels of attention while listening. It can be used as background music or you could be listening in a concentrated way. The key principle we got from Brian Eno: “As ignorable as interesting”.
Concept of music
To me, music is an activity of the brain, an aesthetic experience towards sound. To have such musical experience, it’s irrelevant whether the sounds we listen to were originally intended to be music or not. We can listen to a record or go to a concert, but we can also listen musically to an airplane passing by. Neither of these experiences is more valid than the other in musical terms, the only difference is that the airplane was not intending to make music, it was just passing by.
We always have a sonic background to our lives and i always try that my pieces can work as a background, so that people can freely shift between musical and non-musical listening - that is, that this music can be heard the same way as the drone of the streets or the hum in the woods. I like to blur the experience, to be able to listen to ambient sounds as music and to music as ambient sounds.
“Sound Mind Sound Body”, “Wave Field” and “Aeriola Frequency” could all be described as Ambient, but the kind of ambient that i’m looking for is one that sets a mood of tranquility while having embedded in itself elements that disturb it. The challenge is to blend these antagonic elements not as different sounds that clash against each other, but as an organic single entity, one sound. I’ve achieved that best in “Wave Field”. It can be blissful or aggressive, but it’s one.
It’s like a soundtrack for a restless mind at rest. There are lots of things going on, lots of information, but there’s a sense of immobility at the same time. A stream of water has incredibly complex patterns of turbulence, but if we sit next to it we have the feeling that not much is happening. I try to use this as a model to music.
For me, composing may be just establishing a technological context with a certain aesthetic approach. Certain pieces of equipment connected and set in certain ways which are used to perform something with a sense of identity. This can be a composition and i tend to work tihs way for live performance. In “Chasing Sonic Booms” there are examples of this, the solo pieces “X-1” and “Super Sabre”, and so is “Aeriola Frequency”. Most recent work by No Noise Reduction (including “On Air”) was done this way as well.
Real-time composition and improvisation work in a frame of mind that has a lot of dealing with indeterminacy, acceptance of unforeseen events and openness to many variables, and i deal with them everyday. In the studio i start from a similar situation - setting up a technical device and “habitate” it. I usually record a single take but, from then on, there’s an infinite unfolding of possibilities subject to decision-making. Where in live performance things just happen the way they do, in the studio every second, every frame is carefully and thoroughly shaped by a myriad of options.
Normally, my studio working process would be recording a track, then process it with a view to add new dimensions to it, or adding other somehow complementary sounds. The result is usually a thick mass of sound, from which i have to get a sense of form and then, with great care, select and remove about 90% of what was recorded, until only what is essential remains. This is how i did “Wave Field” and it’s the process i use for the small pieces that someday will become “Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance”. It’s a painstaking, laborious process. The music may often sound blurry and dreamy, but it’s actually full of edits done with atomic precision. “Wave Field” took about a year to complete and each of these small tracks, which are about three minutes long, take about three months each. But it’s well worthwhile in the end...