Name: Fari Bradley
Occupation: Sound artist, composer
Current release: Fari Bradley is part of the cast of collaborators on Mazen Kerbaj's Sampler / Sampled, out via Morphine.
Recommendations: Maybe start by listening to arts-radio station Resonance104.4FM. Also if you want a different perspective, try Ibraaz online.
If these thoughts by Fari Bradley piqued your interest, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for sound? What were early experiences which sparked it?
I trained classically in music since a child. After university, I went to live 4 years in India studying classical vocals at a very immersive music academy, and going to live concert after concert all over the country.
When I returned to the UK from India, I had been away 5 years (the middle year I was in Dublin, earning money to go back to India). I had neither a winter coat nor a career, so I joined a long community journalism course. There I learned to digitally manipulate sound for broadcast, and working mainly with the voice, began to develop a practice. I was simultaneously using the radio as a platform to learn more about my Iranian background, which migration had totally cut me of from.
I would also say that as my first language was Persian, coming to the UK as a toddler I had to learn English on the street, so listening was a vital tool I needed to survive early on.
Which artists, approaches, albums or performances using sound in an unusual or remarkable way captured your imagination in the beginning?
There are field recordings of steam trains and sheep sounds in an album by Kate Bush that my mum had, I listened to and memorised: The Hounds of Love.
Bush also disregarded other musical norms, such as tempo when it suited her, I loved that freedom. Someone once gave me cassette of Sheila Chandra and while it fascinated and inspired me, I felt she went further into incoherence than suited me.
It's interesting to remember having an ear for these things, and instincts towards the boundaries of your own musical field, before being an adult.
Working predominantly with field recordings and sound can be an incisive step / transition. Aside from musical considerations, there can also be personal motivations for looking for alternatives. Was this the case for you, and if so, in which way?
I'm a realist, I need realism in my work so field recording has always made sense. Somehow, the obsessive, and almost violently exclusive, search for purity in musical composition and performance strikes me as nothing but a fear of who we are and where we came from. Perhaps it is a form of elitism.
How would you describe the shift of moving towards music which places the focus foremost on sound, both from your perspective as a listener and a creator?
I used to say about Resonance104.4FM, the radio station where I cut my teeth, that once you listened to it, you could not go back to ordinary radio.
There is a space in ourselves which makes for learning and unbounded possibilities, and ordinary radio falls short, it is too prescriptive. The same with music, for me.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and working with sound? Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage when it comes to your way of working with sound?
Yes oral tradition is how people in West Asia (the Middle East) used to learn, it is a Sufi tradition also. My mother was very good at telling me tales.
What are the sounds that you find yourself most drawn to? Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?
I'm currently researching a PhD in sound art, the idea of there being a field of sound to reject is central to that. Watch this space!
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, from instruments via software tools and recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you personally starting from your first studio/first instruments and equipment? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
There are too many digital tools making music fit together like clockwork, the sound is too sanitised and easy for me. Now I strive for just the right amount of imperfection.
From the point of view of your creative process, how do you work with sounds? Can you take me through your process on the basis of a project or album that's particularly dear to you?
I'm currently working on releasing a song cycle I created for a live performance.
The Secret Sex Lives of Molluscs is born from conversations with retired English fishermen around the coastal towns where I was attending gay pride marches at 6-8 months pregnant. I am drawing a picture as a backdrop with the compositions and the words, some adapted from poems by other authors, speak of compassion.
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?
The earth cracking open.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
I work as a sound-art duo called Bradley-Weaver. We have created many live performances around the United Arab Emirates, and also once in Beirut, looking at space as a context for the message. We also used the resonant frequencies of space to lead a feral choir for a series called Variations for Rooms and A Tone, and then Variations for a Space and its History, where an untrained choir of architects are led by the shifting tones of the spaces they perform in. It was amazing to work with them, they said that the process changed their approach to their work.
Another performance series, An UnMuted Serving, uses the floor and steel tupperware to speak of class, and changing traditions in the wake of modernisation (a kind of gentrification of culture if you like). These had to be performed by Chris Weaver and me on a carpet to make sense, and the percussion is entirely made up for steel eating utensils used by Indians and Pakistanis, and once the Emiratis themselves around the Gulf.
I guess the short answer is, the medium is the message!
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've presented on this topic at the International Symposium of Electronic Art in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 2014. The paper was called Audible Phenomena in the Everyday looking at urban architecture, noise pollution and our own capacity to listen. This became the basis of my current PhD.
I conducted a series of interviews with an anthropologist at Manchester University who tried to capture stream of consciousness in strangers as they crossed the city. This later became the subject of a solo show of my works in London at wednesday, called Hearing on Mute. What do we hear within ourselves when we are listening to no external sounds, and so on.
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?
Without doubt sound is at the root of everything. Atoms vibrate, right? I went to study in India 5 times and the final time I lived and work 4 years in India. I had many questions and found my answers there, studying classical Indian vocals and meditation.