Name: Astrid Sonne
Occupation: Composer, viola player
Current release: Astrid Sonne's outside of your lifetime is out now via Escho.
Recommendations: One record I've been listening to A LOT this year is Natsu No Zenbu by Ippei Matsui & Aki Tsuyuko. So incredibly beautiful and sensitive, direct and spacious. Touches me deeply everytime I listen to it.
I also watched Cyprien Gaillard's piece “Desniansky Raion” a couple of weeks ago and was very drawn to it. Both pictures and music on point, really captivating.
If you enjoyed this interview with Astrid Sonne and would like to find out more about her work, visit her on Instagram, Facebook, bandcamp, and Soundcloud.
When did you start composing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started composing in the beginning of my 20s.
Early influences include listening to postmodernism and minimalism, the Copenhagen noise scene at that time, singing in a classical choir and playing in a jazz band. Searching for a place of belonging musically. When I was around 18, a person I was very much in love with showed me “Music for Airplanes” by Brian Eno. I had never experienced music with that kind of pace and it opened a new world to me.
In my teenage years I was very into experimental music, it couldn't get weird enough. Then, experiencing Brian Eno’s music, I felt a strong connection.There was something about it that seemed so open and accessible. I never felt like being a classical composer was accessible to me, but electronic music offered another way of composing far away from schools and dogmas and I was very drawn to that.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Actually what drew me to making music myself, and especially electronic music, was a feeling of not having to create the same way that other people did. Of course I’m inspired by other people's music, but it felt really liberating to make music in this way and it felt like there was no specific school that I had to live up to.
Also I think my “own voice” is ever-changing, so I guess this phase of learning is ongoing.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
The two are inseparable for me, since my creativity is influenced by my experiences and these are formed by my identity. But since I see both things from the inside, voicing how they influence each other is difficult for me to do.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
This is a challenge I think everyone faces in the beginning, but I wasn’t technically skilled enough to execute my ideas. And I worked at a really slow pace, I still do.
Of course I’ve gotten more technically skilled over time, but in a way that also influenced my creative process in a limiting way. I became more aware of the choices I was making, which left out less space for different ideas, because I was able to control more.
But then again, that’s perhaps also because of a higher ambition level that comes with knowing more.
Time is a variable only seldomly discussed within the context of contemporary composition. Can you tell me a bit about your perspective on time in relation to a composition and what role it plays in your work?
To me, working with time and changes over time is an intuitive thing that depends very much on the material you’re working with, especially when you’re not working with a fixed form like a pop song or a fugue. Sometimes it’s material that wants to move forward very quickly and sometimes it wants to stretch out and evolve in a different matter, so consciousness about when you want things to happen and where the right balance is for you feels important.
Working with time and pace is one of the things I enjoy most about making music, also when I perform live, because to me it’s a very personal thing.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
I don't think you can seperate the sound aspect from the composition aspect, to me they are inseparable and influence each other in various ways.
Rather than working with sound and timbre in order for them to meet production ideas, I try to bring out different musical parameters from the material I’m already working with. I like to look at the sound as a small sculpture I can examine from different angles and put together the bits and parts I like the most.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives?
Collaborations to me depend very much on a personal connection in order to create a safe and open space where you can be creative. I really like when you’re able to put your own ego aside and create something equally together.
For me personally, the circumstances are very important. I like when there is a structure and an alignment of expectations so that you can have open communication and the space to make mistakes.
Collaborations help me get to different places aesthetically, it’s very inspiring and can open up new possibilities both within that collaboration and also in my own space.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I don’t have a fixed schedule, but I like to have some structure in my everyday life. So I try to divide different tasks into different rooms - making music in the studio, writing emails in a cafe, relaxing when I’m at home. It fucks up all the time, but I try to maintain some order in this way.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I performed at Mayhem [venue in Copenhagen] in 2017 a few months after a friend of mine had passed away. I was in a very emotional state at the time and it was one of my first solo concerts so I was so nervous. Playing the concert was overwhelming to me. It was one of the first times I experienced transferring energy in a room in that way and I will never forget that feeling.
It felt like a very random Wednesday night and I didn’t think a lot of people would be there, but the venue was quite full actually and it ended up linking me with my label Escho, who I have been working with since.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
When I'm able to just let go and have fun. When I'm not overthinking every choice I make but just do it. Music is only something because of the value you add to it.
I have a tendency of being too much in my head, overthinking etc. That's really toxic for the creative mind. Now I focus a lot on having fun, not setting up too high expectations. I have this mantra that I can always do a new song/sketch/piece tomorrow. That has helped me a lot actually.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Music has the power of evoking a lot of different feelings. Healing and hurting feel like two places on an emotional spectrum and music has access to both sides equally.
It feels like the power and potential of this medium is that it’s beyond words. Music has the ability to change the mood or setting in a drastic way, and it relates so much to the memories you have. It gives a certain value to the moment you’re in while it also transcends time and space. It expands your perception.
Also, as simple as it seems, music can offer a sense of belonging, and this human connection I believe is truly healing.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
This question is very important and something I think a lot about in my own work and when I perceive other people's work.
When I grew up, I was told this story of music being available to everyone, for everyone by everyone blablabla. The older I got, and with a necessary growing mainstream or majority awareness around these issues, it became more and more clear to me that this was just a way of upholding a status quo of power distribution in regards to appropriation amongst many things. There is a history of using cultural signs without mentioning the culture or history it originates from, and I’m really glad the narrative is changing although we have a very long way to go.
To me it comes down to the question of power relations within the exchange and if this is balanced or not. But I learn everyday both from listening, reading and having discussions with friends.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I really like this question, thank you for that! Naturally my sense of hearing is sharpened and sounds around me affect me alot. Right now I'm investigating the connection between my sense of smell and actively trying to include it in my process and work. I also think a lot about my senses when I work on lyrics and texts.
I think all overlaps are interesting. We live in an image focused world so I think it's always interesting to put a spot on the other senses for a change.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
The way I approach my practice as an artist is tightly connected to transferring energies and to create some sort of emotional relatedness with the listener. I want to create rooms in my music for people to be in. A sonic world building or a strong sonic integrity.
How these moods, rooms and energies affect the listener is difficult for me to say. I don't think there's a fixed way of perceiving my music and that's what I enjoy the most about doing music and art in general. To make open compositions leading to different perceptions. I want the listener to decide for themselves how they perceive my music.
I believe that listening, imagination and empathy are some of the most valuable abilities we have as human beings.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
To me, music can express another dimension. It is communication beyond words. Something that you cannot point out or analyze. To me, music is a value within. It’s abstract, it’s untouchable, it’s spiritual, mystical. And I think in that sense it can express things about life and death that we don't fully grasp, but in an abstract way.