Name: Dmytro Fedorenko
Occupation: Sound artist
Current release: Dmytro Fedorenko's debut album by his new project VARIÁT is out via his label Prostir. Together with Zavoloka, Fedorenko also has a duo called Cluster Lizard. On october 13th 2021, they will release a soundtrack album for the book „Star Corsair” (1971) by Ukrainian science fiction writer, philosopher, and dissident Oles’ Berdnyk. It is available for pre-order from the Cluster Lizard bandcamp store.
[Read our Zavoloka interview]
[Read our Cluster Lizard interview]
If you enjoyed this interview with Dmytro Fedorenko and would like to stay up to date on his output and activities, visit his official homepage. You can also find him on Facebook, and Instagram.
Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for sound? What were early experiences which sparked it and what keeps sound interesting for you?
When I was 7 my family moved to a new outskirt-district in Kyiv. There were just a few finished houses, in the middle of a giant, never ending construction site. At that time, to make a foundation for a big new house, they would use huge hydraulic piling hammers, which would press very long concrete structures deep into the ground by hammering them. When I would come home from school, I could watch these machines working for hours, day after day.
Initially, I was stunned by the loudness of these sounds, but I was also surprised, as it was the first time I realized that sound actually moves quite slowly, because my window started to shake only some time after I saw the impact. There were always a few of them working at the same time, 3 - 4 at least, and they each stood at a different distance from my window, each working at different speeds; every day I could hear different floating rhythms, and by watching and listening I would try to guess, which hammer I would hear first, and how much the visual tempo differed from what I heard.
Sometimes I think that this might have been the first sound event that grabbed my attention and what triggered my future interests and attitudes.
What's your take on how your upbringing and cultural surrounding have influenced your sonic preferences?
It's a complicated question, and I don't know the answer.
The cultural influence is obvious, but then, what influenced the culture I grew up in? Did the same thing that influenced the culture I grew up in, influence me as well?
Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage when it comes to your way of working with sound?
In terms of attitude, especially when it comes to an endless experiment and a search for the new, I may be considered part of such a tradition.
Right at the start of my first steps in music, one of my friends, who was much older than me, and was already a professional musician told me this: "Good musicians create music which they can't hear anywhere from anyone." I still agree with this.
At the same time, I am aware of some deep connections and influences that have shaped me, originating from traditional Ukrainian music, art, and history. And I can't explain it rationally. It's outside of my choice and control.
Some years ago, I was surprised when listeners from other countries would tell me that my music sounds 100% Ukrainian to them.
I didn't understand how or why, because back then I was convinced that abstract electronic music is somehow cleaner, relatively free from these kinds of associations. Later I realized that it's a bit more complex, and my experiments can co-exist with tradition, and be a continuous part of it. Today, when in my new track I hear that some of my synthesizer sounds resemble the sound of a trembita, I know why.
I can be free in my own path, and at the same time recognize myself as a Ukrainian musician.
What types of sound do you personally prefer to work with? Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?
For most of my life, I've worked almost exclusively with synthetic sounds. They are a source of unlimited creative possibility for me. When I went back to playing guitar a few years ago, I guess I still treated the guitar like a synthesizer, just with different "oscillators", and still heavily processed through electronics.
And I am in absolute divine love with distortion, saturation, fuzz … all those new harmonics, swinging overmodulations, unexpected micro-events inside of a distorted sound – I am never bored of this process.
Sounds I was avoiding for quite a long time, were any sort of field recordings. Subjectively, I think it was because I felt that using field recordings is a form of sampling, in that the process involves recording sounds which I myself did not directly produce. And still to this day, if I take out a recorder, it would only be to record sounds that I have produced myself.
Where do you find the sounds you're working with? How do you collect and organise them?
I can describe one of my methods.
After sketching the concept for a new piece of work, I usually pick up an instrument that I would like to use, and start improvising. It might take several days of meditation, during which time I record absolutely everything, without analysis or judgement. When I feel that I've captured enough ideas, I stop, take a few days break, and then start listening, cutting, removing the sounds I dislike, and saving the sounds I find interesting. During this edit and evaluation phase, when I start to hear that sounds are beginning to align according to character, length, intensity, and so on, I sense where this library of sound leads me, and ask whether these sounds are consistent with my initial vision or if I will put them aside to use another time. The same process is initiated with the next instrument I use, and only finished until I am convinced that I have the sounds that I need.
Sometimes I engage in these sessions without any concrete concept, to try to document the unexpected. And sometimes I come back to edit the sessions after one year or even longer.
After the album is finished, the entirety of the sound library is stored in the archive, no matter how many sounds were left unused. It is a very rare occurence - almost never - that I would use old sounds for a new project or album. By doing this I prevent the possibility of repeating myself.
Some artists use sounds as a means for emotional self-expression, others take a more conceptual approach or want to present intriguing sound matter. How would you characterise your own goals and motivations in this regard?
For me, it’s both. In order to best fulfill the concept of an album, sounds should hopefully carry a raw emotional profundity. The strongest pieces of work are those that have a sense of intelligence and emotion in balance. Striking this balance is the most intriguing part of a project for me.
When this balance is reached – without creative compromise diluting any part of the process - the work is complete.
From the point of view of your creative process, how do you work with sounds?
Always do something different. If yesterday I had a recording session, for today's session I will always change something, at least one element, tool, or combination. A strange balance between confidence in knowing my process and an intent to never repeat myself keeps the process fresh and new sounds always appear.
Which tools have been most important and useful for you when it comes to working with and editing sounds?
For editing pre-recorded sounds I only use any basic, plain sound editor. Very fast cutting, pasting, converting, and levelling. And these basic functions must be absolutely intuitive and fluent.
And usually, the lighter the version of the software the better these basic functions are attuned. Like scissors – this kind of tool must be simple and perfectly sharp.
The possibilities of modern production tools have allowed artists to realise ever more refined or extreme sounds. Is there a sound you would personally like to create but haven't been able to yet?
I’ve never thought about it from this point of view. Whenever I am in the mood to create new sounds I always create them.
Many artists have related that certain sounds trigger compositional ideas in them or are even a compositional element in their own right. Provided this is the case for you – what, exactly, is about certain sounds that triggers such ideas in you?
Of course, sounds trigger ideas. Sounds carry ideas in compositions like blood cells. The wildest, weirdest, and the most surprisingly extreme sounds are the ones that end up dictating the direction of a track.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
Everything is connected, every musical element affects all other elements. Music is 100% a holistic medium.
Humans are often characterised as "visual beings". In your opinion, what role does our sense of hearing play in our understanding of the world? How do sounds affect you, compared to other senses like sight or smell?
I guess humans for the most part are considered "visual" beings because the visual medium is one that has more direct narrative attributes than sound; and therefore visual information is closer to text, which, in my opinion, is the least abstract of these creative mediums.
In my book, sound is the most abstract medium out of the three I’ve mentioned, as there is a wider range of interpretation associated with sound. As a medium sound requires a higher level of responsibility from the audience.
The greater the abstraction, the more options there are to consider, and the more freedom the medium generates. Therefore there is more responsibility and less automation involved, and responsibility can be complicated.
Most human beings are uncomfortable or even scared when they are confronted with a greater sense of abstraction, with unknown territories, as they are forced to make more choices and decisions with fewer external guidelines.
In art or life in general, the more direct a narrative is, the more calming effect it has on the audience, because the situation is known, understand, readable.
The idea of acoustic ecology has drawn a lot of attention to the question of how much we are affected by the sound surrounding us. What's your take on this and on acoustic ecology as a movement in general?
I am not aware of the details and goals of this movement.
When I feel annoyed by a noise in the city, I usually remind myself that I can move out to a quiet village someday.
We can listen to a pop song or open our window and simply take in the noises of the environment. Without going into the semantics of 'music vs field recordings', in which way are these experiences different and / or connected, do you feel?
They are connected, and the experience depends on whether I am "listening" in this particular moment or "hearing". According to that distinction, I can always choose the experience I have with the sounds I encounter.
From the concept of Nada Brahma to "In the Beginning was the Word", many spiritual traditions have regarded sound as the basis of the world. Regardless of whether you're taking a scientific or spiritual angle, what is your own take on the idea of a harmony of the spheres and sound as the foundational element of existence?
I believe that harmony is found in the balance of all parts and elements. Even though sound is ultimately the key element for me in my self-development and my artistic path, I know it's only one part of the whole picture.
Last year, when bringing my record label Kvitnu to an end, I released a conceptual work called SILENCE together with Zavoloka. The release itself, as well as the text accompanying it, may work as a good additional answer to your question.