Name: Corin Ileto
Occupation: Producer, composer, performer
Current release: CORIN's "Enantiodromia" is out now on UIQ.
Recommendation: New Dark Age by James Bridle; 2046 by Wong Kar Wai
If you enjoyed this interview with Corin Ileto aka CORIN, stay up to date on her work on Soundcloud, Facebook and Instagram.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I grew up performing classical piano, studying it up until tertiary level. I don’t perform classical piano as much anymore, but my earliest explorations into electronic music was listening to Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s collaborative album ‘Insen’ (2005). I was drawn to the way in which the piano recordings were sampled, glitched and manipulated, so that the live instrumental recordings took on a new, (dis)embodied formation.
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?
Yes, it’s been quite a learning curve. I feel like my identity as a musician keeps shifting, just as my interests do. Although I studied classical piano, I taught myself the basics of electronic music and production, sometimes involving some level of copy or emulation.
With the album I’m currently working on, there are elements which I’m unsure of whether I can compare it to anything I personally have heard before. I guess that is always a good sign, that perhaps you might be making something truly unique or original.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
In the beginning, my identity as a classical pianist really influenced my earlier productions. Many of my earlier releases had a lot of cascading, ornate melodies and a focus on building chord progressions. Since I’ve become more involved as contributing the sound, or credited as a ‘technician’ for dance and experimental theatre productions, I’ve really come to self-identify as a producer or designer, rather than just a performer.
Culturally, I’ve become more interested in my matrilineal heritage and connections to the Philippines, in particular my mother’s birthplace and the landscape connected to it. I’ve already begun to hear how it is influencing my creative output. Over the next year, I hope to produce an entire album which explores this connection.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I felt that my idea of how I wanted to sound did not necessarily match up to the quality of the final productions. I was quite comfortable with performing live, but wasn’t as well versed in mixing or the actual production side of things. The more I’ve become involved as a producer for commissioned works, my level of confidence in this area has vastly improved.
The challenge I now face seems to actually be the reverse - trying to figure out how I will perform my latest productions in a live context.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
Initially, my compositions were mostly recordings of live improvisations using a Nord Stage 2 keyboard. This keyboard was central to the way in which I recorded and performed music, combined with a mix of Virtual Studio Technology (VST). I always liked using synth plug-ins because of their accessibility and convenience, especially since I started using Ableton.
Since teaching a lot of Ableton Live workshops (especially for members of POC, women, and non-binary communities), I’ve come to realize how important it is for electronic music production to be accessible. We need to move the conversation away from an elitist dialogue of “…what type of equipment do you have?” While I love using old hardware equipment from time to time, it’s often heavy and expensive, it is evident that this technology is neither easily accessible or readily available, especially for lower-income, marginalized communities.
I think some of the best creativity comes from having limitations, in fact. In this respect, I don’t think technology should always be the main motivator behind your artistic output, or that we should become too reliant on technology to ‘do the work for you’. The ideas behind the work should be at the forefront, with technology as simply a vessel or tool to assist in modes of expression.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Nowadays, my productions are more sample-based with a focus on granular synthesis technology, sound design and spatiality. This focus away from performing using the keyboard and my bodily relationship to an instrument, to now a focus on spatiality and the idea of bodies of sound moving within space has profoundly changed the way I think about music.
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 through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
My main creative collaborations have been with experimental performance artists Justin Shoulder and Angela Goh. I have several approaches depending on the context as some require more ‘real-time’ collaboration than others.
Most recently, I’ve been doing a lot more improvised sessions with Justin, who’s an experimental performance artist based in Eora/Sydney, experimenting with puppetry, costumes and anthropomorphic bodily forms. For his new work Aeon†, we’ve been experimenting with live performance improvisation - triggering samples that coordinate with his puppetry and the development of creating a ‘voice’ for his creatures, using live FX through Ableton. These experiments are really helping to breathe new life into the work.
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 try to keep to a fixed schedule, which is sometimes difficult as a freelancer. Some days are busier than others, especially whilst working on commissioned projects. During a normal work day, I try to incorporate reading and listening to new music within my schedule.
I also started running a lot during the lockdown last year, which I’ve found therapeutic for both my mental health and physical wellbeing, and also a good opportunity to listen to new mixes.
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?
My breakthrough performance certainly was the live AV performance I created for my 2019 release Manifest (Bedouin Records). Along with the release, I toured a live AV show with motion graphic representations of Manifest created by a long-time collaborator of mine, Tristan Jalleh. The album was inspired by the synthetic sounds and theoretical notions found in modern iterations of the club, re-framed to fit within a hyper-real zone that encompasses late-romantic opera and orchestral music.
Tristan reiterated these themes through motion graphics inspired by the fantastical cinematography of Tarsem Singh, and the utopian futures seen in the adventure game Mirror’s Edge. This immersive ”walk-through" placed the audiences within multiple virtual worlds where brutalist baroque-like mechanized architecture and glassy hyper-tech neo-modern cityscapes are interconnected by pulsating industrial tunnels. The landscape becomes a body with patterns refracting from geometric superstructures.
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?
I don’t think there’s any ideal state of mind for being creative. You could argue that your mind needs to be at peace to be creative, however, creative activities could also be thought of as a strategies to calm a turbulent mind, negative states or unsettling thoughts. Different states of mind will produce varied styles of music.
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?
As I mentioned before, music has a huge potential as a strategy for healing negative states. During lockdown last year, I made a vast amount of songs which I’m not sure will ever be released. Yet personally, it was an important strategy to keep churning out new material, as a way of cleansing my mind and spirit.
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?
In a positive way, it’s becoming ever more urgent to be more self-reflective or self-aware of one’s creative output and what signifiers or identifiers we choose to use. Also, the importance and relevance of integrating our own personal histories or narratives, whilst also respecting the origins of particular styles and their connection to particular local communities. I think it’s still possible to have a level of exchange as long as its a cross-cultural dialogue and not a selfish pursuit.
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 think smell is a highly underrated sensorial mode, especially when paired with music. I just completed a commission for ambient prepared piano performance in Naarm/Melbourne with Diimpa, an indigenous classical musician. Prior to the performance, a traditional Wurundjeri smoking ceremony took place outside the venue. Burnt eucalyptus leaves from the ceremony were then brought inside the venue and woven between the strings of the piano. A lot of audience members commented on how the combination of the smell from the leaves really helped to amplify the performance itself.
I also just came across Dolby Atmos, which let’s you isolate particular voices or instruments to particular space in the room, irregardless of whether you turn your head or move in the space …“wherever you hear it, you're in the center.”
I used to think this kind of spatial awareness with music was something that could only be experienced in a very specific institutional context (installation, theatre, etc …). It’s interesting to see this kind of isolated sound/voice become more accessible on a commercial level, perhaps reflecting a growing importance.
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?
I think it’s becoming more apparent how important it is to connect with communities, and in particular with artists and creatives that align with one’s own socio-political belief system. Whether tangibly supporting them directly, or offering a platform that helps to elevate them in some sense.
I’ve collaborated a lot with Club Ate - a collective headed by Justin Shoulder and Bhenji Ra, inspired by their shared Filipino heritage, immersion in Sydney’s underground nightlife and the queer communities they are both a part of. I’m looking forward to creating more work with them.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I think that oftentimes, music is connected to our experience of where we hear it, or at what point in our life we first heard a particular song. This experiential aspect of music can be important for how we remember particular life experiences, or people connected to us; those still with us and those that have passed as well.