Sunday, December 28, 2008
This morning I received terrible news.
Arik Hayat committed suicide yesterday
Arik was a dear friend a extremely gifted musician and a humble human being.
Arik was the leader and one of the main composers of Sympozion he played keyboards and sang the lead vocals .
He was just here a few days ago to finalize his new solo album which he chillingly titled "Doing Life"
I am still completely speechless and trembling as I write this .
Here is the link to his album :
And this is what he wrote
Since this is my first post, I'll introduce myself.
My name is Arik Hayat. I was born in Holon, Israel in 1980, and pretty much stayed there since.
I am a musician. Music is what I do, it is what I live for and what I care most about. So just keep in mind that I'm serious. Sometimes it feels like I'm not.
Anyway, the important stuff:
I have just released my second album, titled 'Doing Life'.
Get it here for free right now.
It is a personal album, not an easy album in my opinion, but I believe that it is also an interesing and mature album, and maybe it will pluck a string or two in you.
In the recent years I have come to believe that music should be free. I have warmly accepted some of the important revolutions of our time and I am glad to be able to contribute on that level as well.
MUSIC SHOULD BE FREE.
Here are some good places to get lots of great free music:
I assume you probably know your stuff and have tons of sources that you found for excellent music. I would love to get to know them as well. I have all the time in the world for this. FEED ME!!!
Thanks for your patience,
have a good life.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Udi Koomran interview by Jeff Melton 2005
Introduction: Udi Koomran may be unknown to most progressive rock fans, but he has been a mover and shaker working behind the scenes as engineer and producer with various artists including Present (also doing live sound), 5UU's, Ahvak and acclaimed Israeli Klezmer act, Kruzenshern & Parahod. Exposé is indebted to the talented engineer and sound man for sharing interview time with us while expecting his new baby.
Expose: How did you develop an interest in music? Koomran: I began listening to music very early on. One day in 1974, l heard a track on a local radio show that really fascinated me. it was Gong's "A Sprinkling Of Clouds." It began with those floating synthesizer textures then into the glissando guitar passage with the tabla groove. Then the bass solo appeared and then the full band built up to a climax and it finally it dissolved at the end. I had never heard anything like this before and music has never affected me in such a way since. So this radio program was the beginning of my musical education. Then l got to know Syd Barrett, Robert Wyatt, Henry Cow, Magma, Faust, Zappa and an endless list of other bands. I was listening to lots of styles of music from rock, psychedelic, and progressive to free jazz, ethnic world music, and 20th century classical. I didn't have a good stereo system (and I still don't). For my 13tn birthday my dad got me a pair of Koss headphones and that opened the door to a new world. l started listening to stuff like Gong's You, Pink Floyd's Ummagumma or White Noise's An Electric Storm with headphones, as a young kid, and this probably sowed the seeds.
Expose: Have you had any formal training or schooling to do production work? Koomran: No, l studied engineering in London for a year. l managed to learn a lot from musicians l worked with like Avi Belleli, Roger Trigaux and Dave Kerman.
Expose: When did you decide production work was something that you wanted to do and you were good at doing it? Koomran: Well l think l was interested in production from the word go but it took me quite a while to find the musicians who trust my taste and skill to produce their music. As far as being good at it l am never quite sure but the fact that people l admire want to work with me helps.
Expose: What producers do you admire and why? Koomran: l like producers who develop their own language and signature (defying trends and fashions). They should be sensitive enough to know what the Project really needs and inject just the right amount of their own output into that recording. Being sensitive and flexible is crucial otherwise the resuit ends up sounding like a formula. Imagine how Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica would sound if Frank Zappa was not sensitive enough to fulfill Beefheart's totally unique vision. Probably my favorite producer is Bob Drake. Bob is one of a kind, a true original; so much talent in one man! Bob has done dozens of great records such as The Skull Mailbox, NORMA & Chris Cutler and 5UU's- Crisis in Clay. Trey Spruance is aiso an amazing musician and producer; Mr. Bungle's California is his masterpiece. His recent works with Secret Chiefs 3 are also extraordinary. He has the ability to mix very diverse styles of music in a unique way. Also l like Lutz Glandien (Domestic Stories, The 5th Elephant & Lost In Rooms), and Steve Tibbetts —YR, The Fall Of Us All, A Man About A Horse. And Godiey & Creme; listen to "I Pity Inanimate Objects" from Freeze Frame. This is a great example of using the studio creatively. The ultimate producer, pioneer and innovator was Frank Zappa with so many groundbreaking records. Those who think he dried up in his last years should get a copy of "Civilization Phase III" and listen carefully. Ah, to think what he would have been doing with today's technology.
Expose: You also engineer as well as produce: what kind of advantage does that give you in the studio? Koomran: Well life is easier for the producer/engineer. Having the technical knowledge gives a wider scope and range of possibilities. Some producers prefer to concentrate on production and use other engineers, but for me it's easy, as engineering and production complement each other. On some of the projects I worked on (like Ahvak or 5UU's) the lines between production arrangement and engineering gets blurred. The sound arrangements and dynamics are created sometimes simultaneously. Productions like these turn the studio into a creative instrument. The traditional sound of the band is sometimes not enough so we search for new sounds and textures. This involves quite a lot of computer sound design. Software is where the innovation is happening these days (Lutz Glandien: The 5th Elephant & Secret Chiefs 3: Book Of Horizons are good examples). Producing and engineering music like this requires the sound to be dynamic. It can not stay idle; it has to flow and change with the music and serve different atmospheres and energies otherwise the result seems static and shallow.
Expose: How long does it take for you to grasp what a band is looking for before you can determine what is needed to bring out that missing element? Can you provide a recent example? Koomran: Well it depends on the project and the situation in which I was introduced to the band. There are some instances where I get to hear a band playing the material live and that gives me a good opportunity to get familiar with the music and find out what is needed in order to turn this into an interesting album. Sometimes I have to figure it out along the recording process. For example I recently finished producing a young local progressive band called Sympozion. I did not have a chance to see them play live but I came to a rehearsal and there I realized what was missing and what is needed from the production. I felt like the arrangements they did were good and their playing was great but the group sound was not there yet. They needed help with finding the right sounds that will compliment the parts they were playing to help reach a more defined sound.
Expose: Please tell us about the work you have done with Dave Kerman and 5UU's. Koomran: The album I worked on Abandonship was written and composed by Dave (in Yordei Hasira, a little fiat right next to the old harbor) in about two weeks. His method of working was to make a four track demo tape and use that as a guideline for the actual recording. All the melodies, structure, and tempos were already there on that tape. We would copy the metronome track from his demo into the computer and start recording the basic tracks and then add more elements to reach the feeling we were looking for. By the time we finished Abandonship, Dave realized the full potential of working in a non-linear system and the huge advantages over tape he used in the past. Tape based recording is a linear medium; you need to rewind or fast-forward a tape to hear a particular spot in a recording. To arrange or repeat material in a linear system you need to record it onto a computer hard dise. Recording then becomes a non-linear medium that has huge advantages. You can easily rearrange or repeat parts of a recording and this arrangement is non-destructive. Our next step an EP titled "Tel Aviv Constructions Events 1-3" was to try and start doing things differently and use the computer to work in new ways. Creating music in this working environment enables you to change the form and structure of the music as you record. We were no longer bound to the initial "chart" or tempo, just to the basic idea and feel we were searching for. Another thing we wanted to do is to try and use other musicians output in fresh new ways. Bob Drake sent us bass parts and a bunch of electrified drum tracks he recorded with Chris Cutler. Janet Feder sent us some unique guitar sounds and chords, as did Scot Brazieal & Avi Belleli. There was also the Dror Feiler session with that monstrous contra bass sax that can also be heard on another live recording I did of Ned Rothenberg playing a Japanese flute. No instructions or any guidelines were given to the players. It was our task to take these ideas and harness them into our initial idea or basic feel of the piece. It was a very challenging task I can tell you. Some moments can be extremely satisfying like the interaction between Scot's piano and Chris's drums in "Bulldozer" or Dror's solo with Bob's bass on "Resolve." But this method of work is not easy, sometimes you go a very long way down a path you later realize it leads nowhere. I guess these are the hazards of experimenting and working with no formulas. There is the chance that something you work on eventually will end up in the bin, but I don't see this as failure at all. It is an integral part the creative process. There is a long piece (about 12:00) that we slaved over for months on end and Dave eventually decided to abandon as it wasn't coherent. Sonically it's one of the most interesting pieces of music I have worked on but l guess musically it wasn't focused enough. Oh well...
Expose: How did you become involved in the Ahvak project? Koomran: In 1998 l found a message from Yehuda Kotton in the Present guest book saying something like, "Come to Israel it's nice and sunny here!" So when Present came to work with me here l wrote him and said,
"Hey! Guess what? They are here." Yehuda told me later that he thought it was an April Fool's Day joke. So we became friends. He introduced me to Udi Susser and Udi played me some of his early home recordings. When Dave came to stay in Israël l introduced him to Yehuda and he helped design the 5UU's website. l was invited to a rehearsal of "Verdun" and immediately l thought they needed to try a different drummer to suit the music. Sometime after that Yehuda invited Dave to join them. Then when they started planning to make a record it was natural that l would work with them.
Expose: What do you think are the outstanding tracks and why? Koomran: My favorite tracks are "Vivisection" and "Ha Mefahakim." "Vivisection" is probably my favorite because it's the most original and has some sound elements from this part of the world. On "Ha Mefahakim," I really like the mélodies. The arrangement seems to have all the elements that make up the Ahvak sound. The moods are shifting from kids on a merry-go-round, moving to somber, dark passages from below.
Expose: You are credited with using computer on the CD: Please describe how you used your computer expertise and on what pieces. Koomran: The computer work on Ahvak was different from other works I have done. I had the ability to augment the live instruments with sounds we sampled and designed. So if I felt that the guitar sounded good but still needs some extra "spice," I would use samples we made to play the guitar part in a different range or timbre. This was one useful method. Sometimes Dave would use the computer to alter the original structure of the music to achieve a better flow. This music is very strictly composed and structured. So we felt the need to add another dimension to the music that would contrast. We created a large bank of computer generated noises and sounds. Then we added these elements to destabilize things; this helped achieve a good balance of order and chaos. A lot of the signal processing on Ahvak was done with software. I am working closely with an Israeli company called Waves and so these software plug-ins have an important role in the mixes.
Expose: What was the most difficult track to work on in your opinion and why? Koomran: "Dust"was a very hard piece to mix. There is something about mixing these kinds of pieces that is difficult (like mixing for Present). Obviously there is a symphonic element so we wanted it to sound a bit different. There is quite a lot of sound design involved in this piece which helped. There is one passage that lasts for maybe ten seconds (where the "drums" enter) that took us probably three days of work to solve. I am happy with the final resuit.
Expose: Tell us how you happened to work with Kruzenshtern & Parohod. How did you meet Igor Krutogolov and the band? Koomran: Boris Martzinovsky told me about them and gave me the first CD they made. I had a chance to see them play live at a local club and I liked them and was impressed by Igor's stage persona. They come from a hard core/punk/noise background and although they seem to appeal to people who listen to prog, they don't really listen to that stuff. They are an Israeli band with three members who are originally from Russia. That is normal in Israel, as we are a real melting pot of cultures and ethnic origins.
Expose:How complete were their arrangements when you became involved with them? Koomran: The arrangements were finished before I stepped into the picture.
Expose: How did you and Igor establish a working relationship to bring the pieces to a working format? Koomran: Well I mixed two songs and gave him a CD to listen to and see if he liked the resuit. Igor was quite surprised with the result and told me there are now nuances he hears in the mix that he almost forgot he played. So then I went along and mixed the entire album and Igor joined me just before the mastering for some few final finishing touches. It was fun to work with him. We share the same ideas.
Expose: At times the band also ventures in musical terrain similar to that of Lars Hollmer (Samla Mammas Manna). Are there any influences that come from Lars? Koomran: As I said these guys are not really into the avant/prog school. They love Leonid Soybelman (NeZhdali/Kletka Red) and Naked City is a favorite too.
Expose:How did the band and you come to do the John Zorn cover song? Koomran: I have no idea, but as I said they like Naked City so that must have something to do with them choosing this song.
Expose:Which pieces are you happiest with as to how they turned out in finished form and why? Koomran: I love "Shtetl" in a nutshell as it has all the elements that make the Kruzenshtern sound: energy, playfulness, humor and punch. "Colbasa" is a good one too.
Expose:Were there any abandoned pieces? If so, why? Koomran: Yes there is one piece that did not make the final CD. It has a nice drum solo at the end but over all it wasn't strong enough.
Expose:How does the production work for this album differ from other works you've been involved with? Koomran: Most of the stuff I produced is usually complex and highly arranged that is recorded in layers of overdubs. This music was recorded live. The line up is smaller and I had to make sure it sounds alive and bouncy. So the usual techniques of processing and sound design were not necessary.
Expose:Thee sound is very good on the disc. To what do you attribute this? Koomran: I think the fact that the sound is dynamic helped the result a lot. This music turns and changes quite a lot and so the sound needs to follow these changes. If you listen to a piece like "Shtetl," you can hear that the ambience of the drums changes a lot and on the clarinet changes it too. Plus the curve on the bass is never static. This complements the music a lot and makes the mix sound alive and fresh.
Expose: What kind of budget were you working with? Was this any kind of constraint on the finished project? Koomran: Well I am glad you asked that because this is something that I am not sure most people who listen to this music are aware of. These projects are done on a very small budget. On the other hand this kind of production calls for a lot of attention to détails and this usually is very time-consuming. Let's just say that in order not to compromise the resuit I often need to compromise my living standard.
Expose: Are you planning to work with the group in the future? Koomran: I think they plan to work with Billy Anderson (Mr. Bungle's engineer) on the next CD and that could be interesting for me too cause I'll probably come to watch and learn.
Expose: Tell us about the sessions with Roger Trigaux for Presents High Infidelity and the sessions in Israel? Koomran: When Roger was here for the Tractor's Revenge Othello sessions he decided to come and work in Tel Aviv with me on his next two CDs. He and his son Reginald arrived here a few days before the whole band for some pre-production work. Then we recorded most of the material for No. 6 and High Infidelity nonstop 16 hours a day for 2 weeks at the Noise studio. Then we moved onto my place for the mix.
Expose: What was their impression of the working environment and town where they stayed? Koomran: Well they loved Tel Aviv. When they were away from the studio they enjoyed the weather and spent most of the time at the beach and cafes getting to know thé girls. You should have seen Regi's tan; he was red as a lobster . They loved the humus and Jahnun (Yéménite food).
Expose: Tell us about working at the Noise studio: How big is it? Koomran: Noise (now out of business) was our favorite studio. That's where Tractor's Revenge used to record. It's quite small with very modest gear but the vibe was great and Roger loved it. It was the only studio in Tel Aviv that felt like home.
Expose: What was the hardest piece to record from a purely technical point of view? Koomran: (Sometimes as you know some instruments don't sound right after you record them). Producing Present was a challenge. It's not easy to capture the energies and the complex nature of the arrangements with emotion. It's a hard job but the experience of working with Roger is always rewarding. Roger wanted to use an electric piano for the recordings. I coudn't get the Yamaha CP 80 (used on Trikaidekaphobie and Art Zoyd's Phase IV), but I brought another one that didn't sound right we were quite disappointed with the result. I had an idea to use Noise's old upright acoustic piano and this turned out to be quite a surprise. Usually it's very difficult to blend an acoustic piano with distorted guitars and over driven bass. With an unusual microphone technique, I was able to get a bright and present sound that made the piano cut trough the mix. Today this piano lives in my living room!
Expose: Did the band ever do a full run through of the tracks before recording, or was it piecemeal one member at a time? Koomran: Prior to coming here they did 4 weeks of rehearsals at Roger's house. Roger prefers recording one instrument at a time. That's how he always recorded his music. Even "La Faux" (on Universe Zero's Heresie) was done like this.
Expose: Are there any abandoned songs as a result of the recording sessions? Koomran: No, but some of Roger's vocals and Reginald's solos surfaced on Abandonship.
Expose: What was it like for you to work with Roger and comprehend what direction this disc might go? Koomran: Right from the first session we did on Othello we both realized we understood each other well and both of us shared the same passion for this music. The direction of the project was clear from the beginning and we didn't even discuss it; we both knew how we wanted it to sound. Roger demands total commitment but has special ways to show you how much he appreciates the hard work.
Expose: What in your opinion is the best piece on the disc and why? Koomran: "Souls For Sale"is the best as it has all the elements that characterize Present's sound. I still can't believe I was able to mix all these into the tracks (46 go with the modest computer I was using at the time).
Expose: What tracks gave you and the band the most problems to complete? Koomran: Recording the solos is always a big issue. The bass solo on "Limping Little GirI" and Regi's solo on "Souls For Sale" were not easy. I remember Roger counting back from 13 in order to get Keith into the mood he was looking for.
Expose: Were there any pieces which were easier to work on? Koomran: Nothing is easy about Present. Dave used to joke that by the time you finish a tour or record with Present you end up looking like the prisoner bonded in chains from the Triskadekaphobie cover.
Expose: How did you arrive at the decision to include brass arrangements? Koomran: After No' 6 we were invited for a festival in France and they suggested the idea of expanding the line up. They were generous enough to give us a house and a great rehearsal hall with a good PA System for a week prior to the Festival. The show was a success and Roger decided to continue with this line-up.
Expose: Who wrote out the charts for the band? Were they recorded last for the album? Koomran: Roger wrote most but Pierre Chevalier also contributed for the arrangements on a piece titled "Strychnine for Christmas". Roger always prefers to record the drums last (a habit from the UZ days).
Expose: Were there any parties or celebrations for the completion of the CD? Koomran: Yes, we did a big Christmas gig organized by the label, Carbon 7, in Brussels. Towards thé end of Promenade au Fond d'un Canal, l was sweating over the mix and l raised my head and saw a Belgian police officer shouting at my face in French. Without hesitation, I yelled back at him in Hebrew while Guy Segers tried to calm things down. A moment later the PA's power was cut but the band continued playing regardless until the end. The stage sound was so loud they didn't even realize the PA was dead. I guess that says something about how loud Present like their monitor mix.
Expose: Tell us about some of your current endeavors: Where did you meet the members of Sympozion? Koomran: I heard about them from Dave and Yehuda who saw them play live. Then they contacted me and wanted to know if I was interested in working with them. I think Meidad Zaharia told them to try me out.
Expose: How did you get set up to work with them on this recording? Koomran: Well they recorded the drums in another studio. My idea was that if we tried to record and mix one song that had all the features of the album, we could see if we liked the result and then make up our minds if we wanted to continue. So we did that and liked the results and continued doing the entire album. All the guitars and bass tracks were overdubbed at my place. Most of the keyboard performances were done by Arik Hayat at home, and then transferred to me by e-mail. I continued working on the keyboard sounds on my own. We also did some acoustic piano tracks and I mixed most of the stuff on my own.
Expose: How were these sessions different for you than some of your others you've done? Koomran: Sympozion is a young band with not a lot of studio experience so naturally I handled the production responsibilities, mostly on my own this time.
Expose: The arrangements are well thought out. How tough was it for you to do these recordings? Koomran: Yes they arrange their compositions very well so I didn't need to deal too much with changing structures or working on the dynamics. The main task I had was to find the right sounds that will compliment the parts they played and create some sort of characterized group sound. I knew they needed a lighter touch and not so much studio processing like Ahvak or 5UU's, but still there were some of those techniques used for achieving color and contrast.
Expose: They are a kind of semi-classical rock group: how would you classify their work? Koomran: Compared with other stuff I usually work on, they are more in the traditional progressive sound. I wanted to work with them because I believe they are truly searching and trying to stretch out. I am sure their future works will show more and more of this.
Expose: Can you comment on jazz and Canterbury-like influences? Koomran: I hear a light jazzy influence hère and there. Boris the drummer and Ori, one of the guitar players, are also playing with other jazz outfits. But Elaad and Arik (the composers) are not really into jazz. As far as I know they are more into contemporary stuff like Reich, Messeian.
Expose: Who is the main writer? Koomran: Elaad Abraham is one of the guitar players and Arik Hayat plays the piano/keyboard/vocals.
Expose: How are the arrangements worked out? Koomran: They rehearsed and played this material live over a year before the recording.
Expose: How prepared was the band to do recording? Had they done it before (assuming this was their first recording session)? Koomran: I think for most of them it was their first major production. The fact they played this live for many months helped the recording to go smoothly, and we no major problems.
Expose: Can you give an example of how many tracks for, say, "Grapefruit"? Koomran: We recorded the piano for that in my house and felt it needed a bigger sound so we went to the Rimon School and recorded their grand piano for this and for the last piece, "Grapefruit Variations". Arik Hayat is a very good pianist and so it went very easily in 2 or 3 takes.
Expose: When will this CD be released and on what label? Koomran: We are currently looking for a label that will help bring this music to the right audience. Any ideas?
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Since meeting Daevid Allen in 1999 I had the wish of bringing Brainville 3 to Israel.
Brainville is a trio consisting of 3 legendary key figures in the music scene of the late 60's early 70's . Daevid Allen leader and founder of Soft Machine and Gong, Hugh Hopper, The fuzz bass behind Soft Machine and Chris Cutler the drummer most famous for his role in Henry Cow,Art Bears and the founder of Recommended Records.
Coming together for loose and spontaneous dialogs with old and new music. Flexing musical muscles, taking chances and enjoying themselves in the process. It took a while but with the drive, enthusiasm and energy of Victor Levin of Auris Media Brainville played their first show in the holy land in October 2006.
A bit of background: Daevid & Hugh met and collaborated in the early 60's Hugh played with The Daevid's first Trio in 1963 along with Robert Wyatt. They combined free-jazz and beat poetry. In 1967 Daevid formed The legendary Soft Machine which Hugh joined in 1968. Daevid's tape loop work was a major influence on Hugh's debut album 1984 .As for Chris Cutler although he was a full member of Henry Cow through the 70's he also used to fill in when Gong was missing a drummer.He also played on Daevid's solo album N'exist Pas! in 1979. Hopper & Cutler collaborated on Lindsay Cooper's Oh Moscow album.
The show at The Zappa Club in Tel Aviv was well received and lived up to the huge expectations Besides of having fun while doing their live sound I was also able to record the show.
One year later comes this live cd on Chris Cutler's Rer Records and one of the songs from the Tel Aviv performance is included .
So here is also the video capturing the preformance of I Bin Stoned Before the old Daevid song from the classic Gong Electrique Camambert album dedicated to the wonderful late Pip Pyle who played on the album.
This was shot by music enthusiast Kfir Ripshtos
Friday, June 27, 2008
It would not be a exaggeration to say we are living in a revolutionary age.
The huge advances in computer technology has radically changed our ways of lives .
Most of the music these days are made one way or another using computer technologies.
Yet only a few artists have fully exploited the huge potential these new tools have and used it make music that is both challenging radical and ground breaking..
If I was to choose one musician that has done exactly that and more it must be Lutz Glandien.
I have been following his on going musical journey (on ReR Records) for years .
His works have been a constant source of deep listening experiences and inspiration .
So Naturally I was thrilled when Dave Kerman suggested I would interview Lutz about his new cd "Lost In Rooms" .
Here are a few short audio clips from Lost In Rooms:
All the Roads
2 Of My Sisters
As They Sunk
In A Better Room
Here are a few short audio clips from The 5th Elephant:
Close Song Without Save
Punch On the Fly
Nudge Event Position
Lutz makes music that is powerful and enigmatic yet can be at the same time delicate and fragile .
His abilities to carefully balance these different moods feelings and atmospheres is what makes his music so appealing to me.
His last 2 cds -The 5th Elephant (2001) and the new Lost In Rooms (2003) are prime examples on just how far computer technology can take the music if its in the hands of a master composer that can harness it to serve his muse .
Can you give us a short biography and mention what drew you to music initially and what influenced you in the beginning of your musical journey Also tell us about your formal musical training.
I was born in a small town called Oebisfelde, in the German Democratic Republic. When I was nine years old my parents encouraged me to take piano lessons - everyone in our family played an instrument. A few years later, rock music pulled me into its orbit - which put an end to the piano lessons. Those rock bands fascinated me, especially the guitar sounds - and the songs generally, of course. Posters of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd covered the walls of my room, and this music robbed me of all sleep. From that moment, I decided to learn to play the guitar - without a teacher of course! Then I founded a band and became a rock musician myself. Playing and singing on stage and in front of an audience was exciting and wonderful. After finishing school I would have liked have studied electroacoustics, but unfortunately that didn't work out. In the meantime I studied economics in Dresden - because I desperately wanted to live there. I quickly connected to the music scene in Dresden, and eventually got a job in a music theatre group. I stopped studying economics and applied instead to the Hanns-Eisler-Music-College to study composition. After three attempts I was accepted. After five years - having passed my exams - I left the theatre group and moved to Berlin where for the next three years I studied for with Georg Katzer- in his master class for composition at the Academy of Arts. Since 1987 I've been working free-lance as a composer in various areas.
Explain how a classically trained composer with an academic background like yours is collaborating with musicians coming from an avant/rock and tell us how these two so different worlds meet can they actually influence one another?
Since the mid-eighties I had been composing nothing but contemporary classical music, but after some years I lost interest in this. I was particularly annoyed by the artificial arrogance of this music scene, which had a paralysing effect on my creativity. The sound of a rock band and electronic instruments inspired me much more than a string quartet. I listened to music by Chris Cutler, Fred Frith and Heiner Goebbels, which appealed to me a lot, though I never had any intention of composing that kind of music myself. However, this radical and provocative music had a huge influence on me. In this period I also turned towards electroacoustic music and composed several pieces for solo instruments and electroacoustic sounds. That was a kind of transitional period in which I didn't want to work without live elements. Some of those pieces can be heard on the CD "Scenes from No Marriage". Those songs were all still strongly influenced by my work on contemporary classical music. I also made various attempts to include musicians‚ improvisations into my compositions, but often I couldn't identify with the results; it didn't feel like "my work" anymore. One of the successful examples for the integration of improvisations is the CD "Domestic Stories". That's a cycle of songs based on lyrics by Chris Cutler for the singer Dagmar Krause. I composed these songs in great detail and fixed the form very precisely. Nevertheless I left a lot of space for supplementary improvisations. Chris Cutler, Fred Frith and Alfred Harth then added wonderful parts, which corresponded very well with the electroacoustic sounds I had prepared.
Your web site bio states that at one point you built musical instruments for your compositions. Can you tell us a little about that.
Actually this already started when I was playing in a rock band. I built an electric guitar - which certainly did not sound any better than the ones you can buy in a shop, and was quite difficult to play, but still, I had built it myself and no one had a similar one. Creating something unique and never heard before is still very important to me. That's also the reason why I don't often use synthesizers and sound modules. The reference on the web site is to the piece "Ruhestörung" (disturbance of the peace), about a quarrel I had with my landlord about my music - which annoyed him. For this I developed and built my own percussion instruments out of noisy household objects: tins, bottles, steel pipes, metal buckets and so on. Currently I'm still working in two areas. On the one hand I'm calculating, developing and building acoustical modules for my studio and on the other I'm engaged in sound art, developing and building sound art objects and sound installations with architect Malte Lüders. Many artistic elements are contained in one of those objects - they are at once instruments, resonating bodies and sculptures. I concern myself mainly with the musical part, while Malte takes care of the sculptural part and the design. And, once in a while, I have to build a loudspeaker, since that is a kind of obsession.
Tell us little about your studio and how is it set up.
The digital heart of my studio is an Apple Computer G4 with Protools hardware, 1000 Gb
hard-disc capacity and various sound programs. I mix with a 24-chanel Tascam analog mixer, having the possibility to listen in stereo or 5.1, depending on what I work on. A Surround Monitor Controller allows me to configure a flexible set-up. I use an S1000 and a K2000 from time to time, as well as some analogue effect machines and filters. Oh yes, I also have a 32-Band real-time analyser next to a 21 inch screen, which serves me very well when mastering and mixing.
What else? Numerous frequency absorbers which create a well balanced sound and high-end studio monitors (Geithain RL902) - I've never heard any better ones.
What is the main program/system you are working with.
I work exclusively with the TDM version of Logic Audio 6 and Prootools Mix hardware. Furthermore there are three interfaces which are routed to the analogue mixing board. When I produce a score I use the Overture program, by Opcode - which unfortunately went bankrupt. It's a shame, since this score program was really good to work with and now won't be developed further. Even the MIDI options were quite acceptable. Still, I can cope with the loss since I don't usually write scores these days.
As a sound engineer I can state that your are very well balanced clear precise and have a very wide dynamic range. How did you achieve your engineering skills ?
I did that by trial and error. The music I make is not something I invent in order for it to be performed by someone else and later be turned into a studio mix by a sound engineer; it's already being developed at the mixing console. It's composed by listening in front of loudspeakers. So the conventionally divided processes of composing, performing and producing, or rather preserving, music are fused together. I invent the music and the sounds by generating, mixing and preserving them on a hard disc. This is a single work process, which I have learned to do over many years so as to be able to realise my ideas about music and sound. I learned to write scores in the same way. But that doesn't mean, of course, that I'd be able to produce a mix for an orchestra or a rock band. I'm not an all-round sound engineer. I gathered my engineering experience mainly by mixing my own music and realising my own sonic inventions. Furthermore, the field of electroacoustics has been a hobby of mine since childhood. Thus numerous affinities are combined. By the way, I think my music does not have a wide dynamic range because in general I don't continuously like to adjust the volume of music. I only like a wide range of dynamic when pieces are being performed in big halls. The same applies to home cinema since the dynamic range which could be reached is actually unbearable at home. That's the reason why I radically compress all my material before working with it.
I think it's better to compress and equalise/finalise any material/samples
before arranging and mixing, because the more powerful single sounds are,
the better the final mix will be. That's my experience at least. If you
listen to a final mix and discover a weak sounding sample you really have
no possibility to change it any more. That's why I prepare - namely
compress - all my audio material very thoroughly before I use it. It's
similar to cooking: `The better the quality of the ingredients, the better
the meal will taste´.
How do you make sure the reference of your mixing room is "true" and translates well in the "real" world?
The "real" audio world is so multifarious and the situations in which music is heard so different, that I'm neither able nor willing to create a compromised mix for every hearing situation. That's simply impossible. There are many reasons. I don't believe in the ultimate test on a car radio,
or on Auratones and the like. Music which achieves all of its effect by melody and harmony can certainly retain all its fascination, even when played on lousy speakers. In my opinion one can enjoy the 9th by Beethoven even on a cheap kitchen radio, since it's great music. That reminds me of the times when, at the age of 14, I used to listen to the charts on a tiny, terrible sounding transistor radio. I got goose-pimples anyway. So I guess there are more important things than the choice of loudspeakers. So much for the pros; on this topic the cons, however, are rather more complicated since I exclusively produce non-live music which can only be heard through
speakers. So I compose for speakers. Even though they are not an instrument, they still render my music - and the better they are, the more the listener will be able to perceive, and thus feel. I produce with reference studio monitors, which sound very neutral and have a flawless phase response. I work with the entire range of audible frequencies. Hence I quite commonly use tones at around 30 Hz. Someone whose speakers can't reproduce those tones will certainly miss some parts of my music, but I hope there's still enough left for middle-quality speaker owner. I also don't believe that the quality of music exclusively depends on either the rendering quality, nor on a choice between 16 or 24 bits. The final mix should nonetheless be balanced and powerful. That's the reason I made large scale and very precise acoustic adjustments to my studio. After extensive measurements, I designed and built frequency absorbers that guarantee a well balanced frequency field. All this helps the listener get a technically first-class product. What's then done with it, how it's perceived, lies beyond my influence.
So...you also deal with acoustic design can you tell us how you achieved this knowledge and how you applied this to design to your studio?
That is a long story. Gathering the knowledge for my work with acoustic design has occupied me over the last few years. I learned by doing - step by step. For many years I was unsatisfied with my studio sound, and that's why I initiated these efforts. I read several books about general studio acoustic phenomena - for instance, about the physical laws of standing waves, and discovered that my room had enormous standing waves - additions and cancellations
However, the next step was, to gather basic knowledge about the function of
different types of sound-absorbers. Then I did hundreds of measurements to
work out the best positions for them. Next was to design and built various
absorbers to deal with the critical frequency areas. After installing one,
I would repeat the whole procedure of measuring to find out what effect
that particular absorber really had. So, after 2 or 3 years of this, I have
altered the acoustic of the room to its current, more or less acceptable,
state. But it's not finished yet.
I didn't use any professional tools for my measurements but rather created
the signals I needed myself;
Which computer program's menus did you use for the titles of The 5th Elephant.
I'm very pleased that you ask that, since you're the first to do so. I used the menus of Logic Audio. I thought, if I produce with a computer, why not refer directly to the actual composition software, especially since I find the menus of Logic very musical, not to say poetic. "Close Song without Save"- I think that's such a significant and affectionate title, or "Punch on the Fly", which somehow describes the way I work. I really think there's a strong connection between my music and the Logic menus. Maybe even a kind of affection for this particular programme, or at least an appreciation of its programmers. I guess Mr. Lengeling (the chief programmer of EMAGIC) doesn't even know that. Maybe he'd be happy about it. I've never thought of sending a CD to EMAGIC. But it's a secret reference to my favourite software.
Obviously the technological tools and techniques you worked with on Domestic Stories(1993) are very different from what was used on Lost in Rooms. Can you tell us what kind of technology were you using then and how it evolved to your current working environment?
During the process of composing "Domestic Stories". I made a complete sonic simulation, apart from Dagmar's voice and the electronic parts. Everything else was simulated using MIDI and samplers. This was recorded on an analogue 16-track Tascam. The MIDI tracks were then replaced by live musicians and the improvisations were synchronised. Sometimes I even used
the improvisations by themselves. It's always a problem to replace something in a demo version, because the rough mix already presents a compact idea. The guitar in track 3 for instance had the exact sound I wanted it to have even though it wasn't played live. Live instruments aren't always the better choice - it depends on what you want. And then -
you know how it works - we mixed and mastered.
Ten years lie between "Domestic Stories and "Virtualectric Stories", and a lot changed in this time. Nowadays I nearly always produce on my own. That means I do recordings, composition, mixing and mastering in my own studio. If I need material I can't generate myself, I get it from where I can find it. For "Lost in Rooms" I used sound fragments from the dancers' voices, and of their dance movements. All the other sounds are complex combinations of material I've stored in my archive over the years. Actually I don't always need new material, since I could work with the sounds I've already archived for quite a long time. It makes me nervous to have too much material. It's the same with always updating my computer with the newest software and plug-ins. There are periods when I don't go into a music store for two years. "The less material, the better" - this efficient work with material derives from my study with Georg Katzer. Give me a tape with ten minutes of any material and say: "create a piece out of that". That's the most exciting thing for me. That provides clear conditions and productive boundaries.
Can you explain how the evolvment of technology effected the creative process (ie,compostion/mixing-matching/deconstucting ect.)? Is this what you mean by the terms virtual and recycled music?
I am afraid there's no official or international meaning, or definition, for the terms virtual and recycled music. I just use these terms to paraphrase a certain musical procedure. An example of virtual music is a clarinet quartet I created from the improvisations of one clarinettist. I extracted all the sounds I found interesting out of 20 minutes of material, then composed a quartet using only this material and no electronic manipulation. This means we hear a quartet - also visually imagining one playing - but in reality it's a computer reproducing samples of one musician. I would call that a virtual or acoustical delusion. Recycled music, on the other hand, refers to recycling. In my last answer I said I like to use material from my archive, material that was quite possibly used before. I think remixes are also connected with recycling. Sometimes I listen to movies, without actually watching them, and follow only the sounds. Once in a while I extract something in order to put it into another context. I find that nowadays too much is being thrown away too often - sounds too. But I guess that's normal in times of sound inflation. It's hard for me to throw things away in general, especially sounds, because they can be used to accomplish many purposes. If, for instance, I don't want to listen to a CD anymore because it annoys me, I can just as well put it under a table leg to prevent it from wobbling.
On the 5th Elephant the method of work was by isolating a piece of sound from one context and using its rhythmic / harmonic content for inspiration on a new composition. Did Lost In Rooms need a new or different modus operandi?
No. All through the last few years I've followed the same work pattern, whether for radio, film or CD production. I'm always trying to extract as much as possible from as few as possible motifs - in the classical sense. The material from "Lost in Rooms" merely had a different origin from that in "The 5th Elephant". The thing that is important to me is that the sounds be fresh. If I haven't heard them before they inspire me. That's also the reason why I don't use synthesisers: they always have the same sound characteristics, no matter which pre-set I choose. I'd even claim that a synthesiser has a basic sound, just as a drum has.
If you need to think of a software program /or some other device that would help you do something you can not achieve with your current tools - What would it do?
Well, a dream of mine would be to have a direct interface from my brain to the computer. An interface that would make it possible to record spontaneous musical ideas or thoughts. More exactly: say I sing internally, and hear a voice, let us say a fusion of Björk and Caruso, then this voice would be recorded on the computer exactly as I imagine it; this would be the materialisation or digitalisation of musical visions. Unfortunately I will probably not experience this in my lifetime but I'm sure that this and much more will be possible one day. At least we can already dream about it.
Tell us about the field recordings that are making and how they are later used in the studio?
I seldom do field recordings. Nearly all the field recordings in "Lost in Rooms" originate in Shanghai. The Dance Company, Rubato‚ rehearsed there for a while and I asked them to bring back some field recordings for me. What I do with the things I get always depends on which project I'm working on. I can never say up front whether or not the material will inspire me.
On the sleeve of "Scenes from No Marriage (ReR 1994) you wrote: "Often I had an idea that was really spontaneous- sometimes only a mood or feeling- but it might take days or weeks to work it through by means of a score and already all spontaneity is lost. The gap between the speed of ideas and their written embodiment has always restricted me. I wanted to escape this dilemma but didn't know how" . Today Ten Years later do you find that the huge advances in computer technology helped this or just made it even worse...?
The situation has improved enormously. Ten years ago I mainly wrote scores and only got to hear them realised months, if not years, later. I always wished to be able to listen to what I write instantly. One has an internal impression of course, but it is totally different from hearing it with your ears. Nowadays it's possible to simulate a score with a sampler and have at least a sketch of the piece. This is extremely important in the process of finding compositional form, especially when working on large-scale pieces - for orchestras and so on.
How do you balance these 2 different energies of the creative process?The spontaneous vibe and stream of inspiration and new ideas with the well controlled and meticulous and painstaking process of scrutiny and analyses and decision making?
The most important thing is everyday to reassert my original idea, to remember it emotionally and rationally. Sometimes I have an idea which seems very clear, and the next day it's gone. All that's left is the feeling that it was something marvellous, that had fascinated me the day before. If I am able to keep this inspired mood, which is connected to an idea, going for a longer period, this is a good ground for the following exhausting production process.
It seems that each of your works has an idea behind it. How do you arrive to this idea is it pre meditate or it occurs to you after you started already working?
The idea comes in two parts: The first part marks the beginning of a production. The idea for "Lost in Rooms" for instance was: "I want to invent a virtual voice using voice samples from the dancers; a voice that sounds as if it is live but can't be reproduced live". The second part of the idea is the actual work. You have to come up with more ideas to fulfil the daily tasks you set yourself. I think that ideas only come through dealing intensively and painstakingly with certain material. And of course it's my aim to have someone listening to my music say :" What a great idea". If that does not happen then something went wrong. I want to say that real ideas emerge during the work process, not before. When I start a project I'm uncertain of its outcome. And of course one always learns while composing, and one changes as one grows older.
Can your music be performed live on stage in front of an audience? If so is it open to possible spontaneous improvisations can your music that is very structured and composed benefit from this free element ?
Yes, of course, you can perform anything on a stage because there's nobody saying: "You're not allowed to do that". I mean there are also music bureaucrats who give laptop concerts. Sometimes I'd like to go on stage and ask: "Can I open an account here?". Anyway, it's yes and no - one could but doesn't have to. "Lost in Rooms" is music for loudspeakers. A stage has something to do with performers, otherwise it makes no sense for me. Loudspeaker concerts fake communication but do not realize any, no matter how advanced and multi-channel the system may be. I think it is nonsense to let musicians improvise to a CD which is already a finished piece of work, just to have it performed on a stage. This kind of music lacks the possibility of interpretation unlike songs and other live melodic music. Beatles songs can be performed on a solo guitar or by an orchestra on a stage, that way it can be interpreted, but the same at doesn't work with my kind of music. It's a shame, but it doesn't work. "Domestic Stories" would have worked as a performance piece, but unfortunately there were no offers of concerts and so I wasn't able to experiment with playing my pieces live. Had there been concerts, maybe a lot of things would have gone differently.
The well known Israeli architect Y. Fogel told me the music of The 5th Elephant evokes visions of spaces forms and physical mass can you relate to this comparison?
I'm happy when I receive concrete feedback in form of a precise association. Yes, I do believe that this music has a lot to do with space forms and physical mass. Especially in the first two titles there are distinct sound quotations which could evoke this effect. These are very dense, spatial musical structures. And the effect was even intensified by the mastering tool I used. With T-REX, I spread the stereo width in all the pieces, which created a lot of virtual spatiality. On the other hand I've been working with an architect for some years and I'm sure that this collaboration has had an influence on the sound of my music.
Does the fact you live in Berlin that is famous for its architecture have any effect on your work?
The lively atmosphere of Berlin certainly had a huge influence on my work, and I can't imagine living in another city any more. But that actually has nothing to do with the architecture but rather with Berlin being a national and cultural melting pot. I'm very close to real conflicts and I experience "today" with all its ups and downs. I can't imagine living a secluded life in the country because I need the atmosphere of a large city. I think this can be sensed, or rather, the big city is reflected, in my music, especially in my last production "Lost in Rooms".
Tell us how you met Chris Cutler and what made you want to work with him and choose ReR as a home for your music.
This contact was mediated by Dr. Kersten Glandien who undertook in the 1980s to make Western avantgard-rock better known in East Germany. She curated the annual concert series "Music & Politics in Berlin", for instance. Chris Cutler was often a guest there, bringing various bands, or participating in discussions. At one of those events Kersten Glandien introduced us. Working together only became possible in the early 90s when the Berlin Wall came down. I had a concrete project, a piece for electronics and drums, I asked him to do it, and he agreed. I think "Strange Drums"(1991) was our first collaboration. After that we produced various other pieces together, and since Chris runs a record label (ReR) we were able directly to release them.
Are there any other artists on ReR that you appreciate and/or would inspire you to collaborate with?
Collaboration with other artists always depends on the project that is to be realised. Without a specific context, I'm not able to give you any particular names. But I can think of an example of one specific event. Chris Cutler was asked to give a concert at the Frankfurt Jazz Festival for which he founded a new band and called it "p53". The band members were Chris himself (electrified drums), Marie Goyette and Zygmund Krauze (pianos), Otomo Yoshihide (guitar and turntables) and myself. Chris asked me if I'd play live electronics and samples - and because we had already worked with each other before, the communication went very well. Of course I don't exclusively have to work with artists from ReR! If there's an interesting basic idea which inspires me, I'm open to any kind of collaboration.
What are you working on these days and do you have future projects you are dreaming of?
Right now I'm working on a piece for the Italian Air Force Brass Band, supported by two singers, four percussionists and electronic sound. The premiere is in march at the Palladium Theatre in Rome. The piece is called E_U15.x and its content deals with the European Union and the national anthems of those countries (which I quote and work on). There are several other future projects, but I don't want to talk about them until it is certain if, how and when they can be realised. Let's wait and see.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
As I had written somewhere else in these pages late last year I had the pleasure of working with Setna on their debut album Cycle 1
Some really melodic and thoughtful compositions and arrangements and fine and restrained playing on this album
Here is a video that demonstrates how they look and sound
Setna will be playing at Les Tritonales Festival on the 18th of June
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
When I Don't Want You - Hugh Hopper
Most of the show was recorded with tons of UnForgiving Digital Distortion so I was only able to salvage this which is still enjoyable.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Some of you who know me are aware of the special place Daevid Allen and Gong have in my heart. I have been in love with them since I first heard Gong (the incredible "A Sprinkling Of Clouds") on a local radio show in January 1975.
Here is how I looked back in those days :-)
I never heard anything like this before and music has never affected and altered my mind like this ever again. Since then I have been following Daevid's journey through the ages and was lucky enough to be at the Gong 25 Birthday Party celebration in London in 1994 .
A few years later I had the chance to meet and work with Daevid on his first visit to Israel in 1999 doing the sound for his show at the Next Festival recording and mixing a track (entitled by Daevid- Israeligliss ) that ended up on his album Sacred Geometry.
In 2005 I initiated and presented a 3 part 6 hours radio program about The Life and Times of Daevid for local 106 FM and later conducted an interview with him for Expose Magazine. In 2006 Auris Media organized a show for Brainville 3 (Daevid Allen Hugh Hopper & Chris Cutler) doing the sound and recording the show (one of the songs was included in Brainville's new live album released on RerMegacorp) . More recently Auris Media produced a special Daevid Allen weekend in Tel Aviv's Barby club with 2 different bands Acidmothers Gong & University Of Errors. 2 different nights and 2 completely different sides and approaches of Daevid's music.
Acid Mothers Gong the most recent addition to the Gong bands family is a merging of yin and yang - east and west different generations different approaches this group consists Japan's Acid Mother's Temple leader Makoto Kawabata Tatsuya Yoshida the master drummer /composer of Ruins & Koenjihakkei Josh Polack and Daevid. Acid Mothers Gong play a improvised (real time composed) noisy abrasive piercing radical take on psychedelic space music .This show had the typical effect on the local audience ie: splitting them into two camps either loving them (as I do) or the other half that was expecting the nostalgic "classic" sound of Gong who could not digest this mayhem.
The 2nd night was University Of Errors playing an hard rocking brilliant take of Daevid's period with The Soft Machine."University of Errors revives, re-informs, and reinvents Soft Machine's psychedelic rock and pop of the era, kicking it into the 21st century and resulting a sound that is entirely new." And this show was one of the very best live performances I have had a chance to mix - what a great display of musicianship energy power and inspiration, For me the peak was Daevid and Josh's duel/showdown- sparks were flying !
Thank you Daevid and Co. for a tremendous week end you were all able to make us feel alive and happy!
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Toshi Makihara / Jim Meneses - Next Bug
This is one of those albums that took me by surprise at a time I thought nothing can surprise me anymore (you know that feeling ?). Its been a few years now that I started to re- enjoy and appreciate improvisations and this album is among those improvised music that made me realize I have been missing out on some essential music.
I met Jim Meneses at a Blast show in Holland in 2002 (Jim played with Blast on the album Wire Stitched Ears) At the end of a train ride back to Amsterdam he have me a cd and told me something like "this is my latest project its a improvisation I did with another percussionist"
I had no clue what was waiting for me when I put on my little Koss SportaPro headphones late that night. ....
I can't find another term to describe this cd other then Electro Acoustic (Yes I know this term has been overused and I probably like using this in another context then the usual known one.) The point I am trying to make by saying its Electro Acoustic is that this is a rare example of mixing electronic designed and controlled sounds with pure acoustic timbres that actually sound "physical" and the result fully lives up to the term.
Jim Menese has developed a system of controlling/ playing/generating sounds/events he designed with a Midi Mallet Interface
It seems that a lot of time and thought was put into designing these sounds/soundscapes some sound mechanic and technical some give the sense of of open spaces some abrasive some Jim has a huge palette of sounds he can draw from and react in real time depending on the mood and need of the interplay between him and Toshi's percussion.
So this work is special in 2 different planes one is the way acoustic and electronic are able to work and interact and the other is the quality of musicianship that Jim and Toshi demonstrate here.
This cd was released by French label Sonore a sound sample can be heard here