Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
I don't know the process before it's already in motion, so I don't know if I should call it mine! Let's take Cuspo, my first album as Síria, as an example. After a long period of personal trouble, that which happens in the context of intimate relationships (damn, we are so basic at this level) and that can affect us to the limit of not doing a thing due to insecurity, sadness and confusion, I found myself writing texts, transforming them as possible lyrics that could be songs reflecting my interpretation of things. Once I was feeling better, the melodies came naturally although I have no conscious idea of notes, scales, etc.
One very hot summer, when it was impossible to be outside, I went to the rehearsal room every day for a couple of weeks and I recorded the vocals. I have then edited the recordings and tried to combine them with fragments of vinyl records and other recordings. And that was it. I asked the permission to use the music I had selected, I have shared it with the label and they have put it out. Cuspo means spit, this record couldn't have a different name! The brutal feelings of sadness and despair were refined to sarcasm and other more ambiguous expressions of emotions. What once was rage, became something else.
Síria was born out of the super power we have of transforming shit into magic and writing songs is a way to expand the palette of ideas, feelings and emotions, some of which I prefer not to express outside the music / artistic context.
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?
Having started, as I said, without really knowing what to do or how, helped me to understand that creativity does not have to be that flash of genius that seems to erupt in certain people that we call artists. I don't consider myself one. So, instead of reserving a special space for creation, I integrate the practice of creativity in most of the things I do. And more and more.
Because by simplifying my relationship with the instruments that allow me to materialize ideas, I am able to amplify the time applied in the practice that exercises creativity. The voice always walks with me, the instruments I use are portable enough and the laptop too. If I don't have access to one thing or I feel like training another instead, I spontaneously adapt myself to what exists and to my will. I feel that my state is one of attention and this, combined with constant practice, supports a sense of continuity.
Practice prepares us, attention allows us to be ready. Nothing is really a distraction. Then, of course, it takes a space and time to realize the ideas that are hovering and taking shape in my head. So I just make time for it and that's it. It comes to my mind now that my mindset is pretty much the same in everything I do, maybe due to the nature of things combined with my own. I mean, I don’t feel the need to switch gears. As I pointed out earlier in relation to exhausting jobs, there are variables that could hinder this state in which I live. Some are more controllable than others. Living in a certain isolation is important to me and what I do, for example. Because silence and contemplation is a big part of who I am.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
The studio and the performance contexts feed each other and are just as important to me. It is with the same emphasis that I dedicate myself to each of the areas. During a rehearsal session in the studio, I might be testing quite freely while I am simultaneously thinking about how I could integrate certain moments in a piece and how to present what I am doing. And a performance is always a state that feeds me with ideas for returning to the studio. I really like the solitary work at home or in the studio and to put in relationship with other people what I have been building and feel that this is a way of bringing us together. It's moving. It is something I was fortunate enough to explore, discover and continue to nurture.
In terms of composition and improvisation, these two perspectives also combine and feed back each other both in the studio and in the performance context. I don’t know if it will always be like this, but I go to the stage with a great margin to change, improvise, adapt to what exists and what I am feeling, how I am interpreting the moment. There are elements that arise from improvisation that later become compositional. And the elements of composition are always exposed to an improvisational interpretation. I know that I take a big risk by not presenting something closed that will almost certainly work. But I like to put myself in that place so that I can also be an audience of myself and to train the most important thing: being ready!
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 work in a very intuitive way. Of course, there are knowledge or programming levels that, even though they were not acquired through conscious learning, can stimulate and influence us. Just to explain that I don't have a proposal, a vision, a perspective on how things have to be, how the music I make has to be. I let it appear before me. Within the spontaneity that marks “my” processes, some aspects and others already appear, in a certain way, in relation. Only later, when working on them, the balance is refined.
Certain production ideas happen while I try things, when I have my hands on the dough. For example, I may be experimenting with editing fragments of recordings and the tools I use and the experiments I am doing are revealing the way to go. If necessary, I go back, to re-record in order to meet these ideas that eventually emerged. And almost always, with these ideas in mind, I look for the finishing details.
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? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
This question made me think that the way we experience the world has a lot to do with the senses we have more refined, either almost naturally, or because we pay more attention to them. I recognize a particular car by the noise of the engine, but I may not remember the color or brand of the car of my friend who has been picking me up for years. I can enter into a deep relationship with someone thanks to the tone of his / her voice and come to despise someone whose voice disavows me. There is nothing that anguishes me more than the arrogant or sarcastic tone in a voice.
Since I moved from Lisbon and came to a small town, I realized my relief for not being so exposed to a certain snob tone of voice and to the excessive use of absolute superlatives. I know if I slept a restful sleep through the way my hearing works when I wake up. Maybe I see the world through the way I hear it.
The instruments I play are a way of showing devotion to the musicians and teachers who teach and inspire me. It is my way of saying that I cherish them. Well, I know that I am not answering the question directly, because it is one of those questions that sows seeds for further reflection.
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 don't think of myself as an artist and what I do as art. Sometimes, even for this interview, the terms may have been used to simplify the communication process. Anyway, if what I do is the result of a desire, an urge to create, it may be because there is something I want to express. Even when the message is not direct, even when it is unknown to me, my work becomes a vehicle for something and so do I. I think my engagement (social, political, etc.) is expressed not so much in terms of content, but in how I do things, how I take creative work as an arena to test and develop my thoughts, my visions, my values.
My structure of beliefs is what interests me most and that means that being exposed, acclaimed, successful is not what I am looking for. What makes me resonate is the resonance that can be felt by other people when in contact with me and / or what I do. Sometimes saying no to a project can be an act of resistance, finding my way in a manly world, of course it is also resisting, etc.
It is in my work as a curator that I deliberately put into practice, as much as I can, the guidelines that serve my purpose of making a change in the context of experimental music. Starting with gender representation and wondering how to deal with other pressing issues.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
I'm reflecting on this as I write, so I'm not sure what will come out. We will see. The concept of music, like the concept of medicine, for example, has evolved over time, at the same time as we have. Medicine has changed a lot, but the purpose or how we imagine it is something that remains, say, more or less intact. Because our perspective changes to accommodate other experiences of the same thing. We grow together. I can relate to the statement if I sit down and talk about it in a determined context, but if I change a variable, like geography, for example, the statement can shake. We still find a certain objective in music, we associate it with a set of attributes, we work hard to domesticate things by categorizing them, interpreting them, etc. etc.
But things also have a life of their own. I don't have a musical vision, I have a musical feeling. It is less of an intellectual perspective and more of an intuitive one. I'm not sure I answered the question …