TextsInterview with Udi Koomran (Soundengineer / Tel Aviv)
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
What is the main programme/system you are working with.
As a sound engineer I can state that sonically your are very well
balanced clear precise and have a very wide dynamic range. How did you
achieve your engineering skills ?
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
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.
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 realise 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.