Name: Mabe Fratti
Occupation: Composer, cellist, sound artist
Current Release: Mabe Fratti's Será que ahora podremos entendernos will be published on Unheard of Hope on June 25th.
Recommendations: I’ve been listening to Jeanette a lot lately (ballads in spanish) and the book “¡Que viva la música!” (Liveforever! In English) by Andres Caicedo. I recently saw it in a friend’s table and remembered how great that book is.
If you enjoyed this interview with Mabe Fratti and would like to find out more about her work, visit her on Facebook, Soundcloud, 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?
When I was a teenager I just started by composing and playing around with friends eventually getting a very small interface. Playing was a communal and also an inspiring experience itself, so just to keep doing it was something I felt very passionate about.
I can tell that I just enjoyed many adventures involving being part of what was going musically in Guatemala City, and eventually coming here to Mexico, perpetuated and emphasized that feeling.
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 thetransition towards your own voice?
I think I haven’t found that yet, for me, even though sometimes I just about things I’ve done in the past and ask myself “why did I do THAT?” - however, I think now that I’ve grown older I think that it has all happened on sharpening and exploring my attention, and when it comes to music I believe that my sense of listening has also sharpened, and by noticing small details in the things that I observe, since the way of making a mix, to something more visual of how things are arranged in a room, I’ve tried to internalize that into my music.
I believe I’m ever changing, trying to find some sort of “ultimate” way to express emotion, even the idea of a utopian “masterpiece” comes to mind, something that I’ll never achieve but will always try to find. Anyways, I think through analogy and metaphor could be one of my methods I use to create so far for now.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I feel my sense of identity is there, present as is all the time and also absorbing new ways of identifying itself ... However, geographically speaking, my experiences that generated somehow my identity, of course by being in Guatemala, many things had to be imagined and speculative when it comes to creating (there are few spaces for creative experimentation and structurally the city appears to be designed more to be inside than to be outside) and definitely you can see this in my music I believe.
Here in Mexico I’ve learned so much and my identity has definitely been summed by this other culture which I cherish a lot. I’m always open for change and learning, and being present in a space that I want to absorb knowledge and details a lot, has definitely influenced me creatively.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Technical things (I really want to become very good at mixing), also I took the ideological decision to always use Spanish in my lyrics and this was a challenge but I quite enjoy how I’ve grown on this. I think I always create a new creative challenge, right now I want to be very dynamic in my music to create many changes and to jump from one space to the next. I have many new things in mind! - very excited I’ll start to record these new ideas very soon and see how it goes.
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?
I started with an M-Audio fast track and a Blue i-encore microphone that I still use - Now I’m interested in very good microphones and (preferably vintage) synthesizers and pedals.
Synthesizers will always have a special space in my heart. My choices come from various sources: either by lending it to a friend or using it in a studio and eing amazed by them finding stuff in a second-hand online market called MercadoLibre or Facebook Market. I’m always looking for stuff there, just hanging around, sometimes I find jewels like my Buescher saxophone or my Fuzz Master (Acetone).
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
The first thing I got that made me feel this was Live, to have this on my own computer and being able to do any silliness. No longer after that, synths. I think lately, getting a saxophone has made me feel this. Lately, getting some really hi-fi microphones has got me thinking on how I’ll try to make really “acoustic” music. Not many effects. This will change the way I make music for sure.
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?
Conversation is one of the things I enjoy most, and I’ve had in that space the opportunity for all of that: jamming, file sharing (listening or seeing someone else’s work), ideas, laughter and occurrences. I feel extremely blessed when I am part of a happening of these gatherings of people that are willing to share, fearlessly, what they want. Specially when it comes to things that are ongoing conversations, that are about dilemmas we face as humans, or music itself.
Also besides all of this “informal” sharing, I of course love to play with other people and record with or for other people and share that content afterwards.
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 often repeat this: yoga at the start of the day, some learning of something (for instance I was learning German for some months), then I start by doing all the “office” work that implies using the computer. Then I divide the rest of my day for other work, all related to music most of the time, being that rehearsals, recording, composition, or anything else. Often I also take the chance to see people and listen to music with them or talk and walk. (As I said, I enjoy talking, and I haven’t said this but I love walking).
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 think Mondmaschine is quite important, maybe a stepping stone.
Mondmaschine is a band that was created in some sort of sound camp made by Goethe Institut here in Mexico back in 2015 which reunited various musicians from Central America, Mexico and Germany. We were Claudia Fernández, Julian Bonequi, Santiago Rodriguez, Gudrun Gut, Joachim Irmler, Gerbruder Teichmann, Khan, Rolando Bustamante and Ingmar Herrera. It was my first time here in Mexico City, and I had the amazing experience of learning, sharing, playing and listening to many possibilities of music. It was extremely influential to my following steps in my life: I decided to come live here after that experience, I was extremely interested in the improvisation scene here, I just went to as many events I could.
The sound camp was definitely a spark to my curiosity and my drive to continue my process as a musician, when back then I was working in a cafe, and I believe I was kind of stuck in many senses.
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?
Firstly, I believe good acoustics and the environment are very efficient to me. I love playing in rooms that have good resonance, for instance my friend Adriana Lara’s house, her floor is wooden and the cello sounded so great. Or here, in my house there’s a slight reverb in the room that is quite good to play with. So if I can play acoustically just like this, it’s perfect for me to enter in a working mode.
Also, I definitely need solitude to be as silly as I can be and to be sure I’m not annoying anyone.
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 something that pierces time effortlessly such as music, but at the same time generates memory and emotion, I feel that when participating in it either as a player or listener there’s a chance of traveling with and over time, and for me that itself is one of the most amazing and healing feelings.
So, thinking about this, I think the more one looks to generate these links with music and sounds, to understand and recognize one's own feelings, the special connection with the experience that connects you to the never ending flux of time that nourishes the soul: from the sound of the environment, to the voice in a conversation, to the song that we don’t know that is playing in the background, etc.
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?
I think conscious appropriation is a delicate thing. If you’re an activist, I think it is valid to be explicit about it ... but if you are not, of course there is always an implicit political discourse, but for me the best in these cases is just to be as honest as possible with the creation, because if not, all of this appropriation becomes more like marketing or things like that. I might be wrong.
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?
Movement of the body, laughter, suspense, a deep breath or sigh of excitement ... These are the ways my body responds. And if I disagree I just have this weird expression on my face and if it’s too much of this I just feel the need to move away.
Even if we're all composed of microsystems, of course I believe all is connected in our body and all is part of the experience, sound is not something that just affects the ears and brains, it travels in all spaces and it can bounce off the wall and that specific frequency just reaches your gut independently.
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 believe honesty is one of the purposes, and if there’s something I want to also push is my own limits on how to make “pop” music and to share them, so other people start broadening their own limits.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
That we are all in the flux of time.