Name: Pernille Zidore Nygaard / Panxing
Occupation: Songwriter, producer
Current release: Panxing's Slowmusic LP is out now via Anyines.
I just watched the documentary ‘Delphine et Carole, insoumuses’ (2019) about french activist Carole Roussopoulos and actress Delphine Seyrig, which I can definitely recommend.
The book of beautiful little gouaches from 1753 by Danish artist Johanna Fosie (1726-1764), that I first discovered while I was working in the Royal Collection of Graphic Art in Copenhagen. I used one of the images for the cover of my new LP. The whole book can be accessed digitally here.
If this Panxing interview piqued your interest, visit her on Soundcloud or Bandcamp for more music.
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’ve only been writing and producing music for a few years and released my first album when I was around 30. A friend of a friend asked if I wanted to release something with him after hearing a tiny concert I played for some friends, as he was starting up a small label. At that point I hadn’t really taken the time to go into music, but I thought it would be fun to see what could come out of it, so I said yes.
I needed some kind of creative output that could send me to that free and careless zen-place and as soon as I started working with what turned out to be my first album, I felt like I had discovered that place for myself. Working with images for many years and being educated in art history, I found it much easier to work with sound, where there were no boundaries or rules (that I was conscious of). I also didn’t really listen much to music, especially not new music, so I had no clue what context I was in, if any, and that was liberating for the process.
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?
I think I skipped those phases musically, because I got into it kinda late, but I definitely learned through other things, and I hope I never stop learning. Although, I don’t think it’s so much about being an artist, more about being a human and learning along the way what’s important and what’s not.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I work and exist within a wide variety of areas which was a bit confusing when I was younger, but I really see it as a creative strength now. Boxes and boundaries can be helpful for many of course but I find it to be very limiting for creative thought, both in theory and in practice.
My sense of identity is not so specific which seems to be a good thing for my creativity now. I feel like the pressure is off a bit when I make music, and I don’t have to be an academic or a mother, a woman or a pro, but I can kinda swim/slip around in on all of those things.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I might have been slightly challenged or disinterested with the technical aspects of producing computermusic. So with my first album Anti Gone, I would just work with the EQs graphically, so they looked good or try push the limits of a sound or an effect, where it would disintegrate like making a flute sound like a bass drum or use a melody sample and just destroy it so it sounded like a beat.
There is an amazing sense of freedom in not having any specific goals, expectations or ambitions and that’s where I want to be with Panxing, as much as possible. Of course I have some kind of idea what I want it to be, but I try to keep it pretty light.
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?
Most of my first album was made in Garageband and I haven’t moved far from using that basic kind of software. Instrument wise, I find the piano to be a very accessible and friendly instrument. I’ve used vocals a lot more on Slowmusic, and that has been really inspiring to go into; performing words and texts with my voice.
Most of the music was initially instrumental but I think I got a bit carried away one day and ended up putting vocals on everything. It was kinda new and exciting to improvise with my voice and words as I have done a lot playing live - to set the vibe or tone of a track in the same way as the piano or flutes or other elements. It has been quite intuitive and coincidental which sounds/effects or instruments I ended up using, which is what motivates me - that it feels fresh.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
More a method than a technology - but I really cherish improvisation and a very direct approach to music. I rarely rehearse a set more than once before playing a concert. I trust my first instincts in regards to making music and mostly use first take vocals. My biggest problem is the risk of getting to know the software/technology or possibilities too well, but I am sure that has its advantages too :-)
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?
I share thoughts and laughs with my friends but I don’t spend much time talking specifically about music. I have a brilliant and beautiful partner that I collaborate with in most areas of life, and we talk about art of course, but I find that it overlaps with other things. We did an album together last year where a lot of the material came from our lives during the past years; some of the lyrics came from my daughters' (very poetic) ramblings and we included recordings of our kids running around and playing in different situations and settings. It was a way of working with the trouble, interruptions and chaos.
I liked that approach of using/collaborating with what was around us already, even though kids aren’t the obvious or easy choice if you want a serious music or art production to happen! It takes time!
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?
We get up early; clean, feed, dress the kids, ship them off to school and kindergarten and then go to work for 6-7 hours; pick kids up, make dinner, clean up, put them to bed and pass out!
Right now I work from my living room, but before lockdown, I would go to the National Gallery 3 days a week where I work with the collection of works on paper. Now I work from home digitizing art works in the collection. The other weekdays I make music or write some press releases for different people or go to my friend Maria’s house and have coffee and talk about life and art and plan stuff.
Now and then I meet up with the others from Anyines and talk about new releases. It’s all a big mess! Soon I will have a more fixed schedule cause I am starting my Phd, but the past couple of years everything has been very mixed up - I’ve enjoyed the versatility though.
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?
In my (very short) music career it would have to be taking the 6 months off of work to make my first album in 2017, releasing it into the world and playing concerts the following years. I haven’t been very keen on playing live and I haven’t done it much, but in its best versions it turned out to be a kind of trippy place to be, where sometimes I feel dizzy and lightheaded afterwards. A bit of a trance maybe. I feel like those experiences have shaken things up for me in a good way.
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?
For me, sometimes the vibe is there and sometimes it's really not. I respect that and I never force it. If I don’t feel like making music, I just don’t because that would ruin the fun.
In that way it’s definitely a privilege that I have other things going on. Although, that means my process of actually producing a whole album is quite long and while making my latest album there were months where I didn’t work on it at all and almost let go of the idea of it becoming anything.
To get into the state of being creative more easily I would have to have more concentrated time, but as things are now I really enjoy just acting on it when it hits me and I have a bit of time.
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?
When I gave birth minimal/abstract music really helped me through the contractions and it was an amazing thing to meditate on, healing I guess. The sense of linear time evaporated and everything was just waves.
I think music can do a lot because it’s hard to escape from, it takes over, whether you like what you hear or not. As an art form and expression it can be very collective and powerful when it becomes physical, not just on packed dance floors, but when it pierces you, subtly, aggressively or caressing. I think the connections and collectivity music enforces is very needed today to help people let go a bit.
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 it’s important to be respectful and listen to all kinds of voices and experiences - luckily that’s hard to get around these days. Being mindful and aware of what signs and images you put out, their meaning and where they come from. That might seem obvious for many, but sadly it’s far from it, if we look at it in a historic perspective. The time of careless consumption is over in all ways. I hope that we are witnessing a paradigm shift from the extreme eurocentrism that has dominated so many things. Unlearn!
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 everything is interconnected both within and beyond the human body and the senses give us the possibility to access these worlds, consciously and unconsciously. The Western approach I grew up with is so harmful precisely because these things generally aren’t a part of our way of thinking so there is a lot to learn.
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?
To me, one thing dissolves into the other and I don’t see a clear line between my everyday life, politics, art etc. Not that art in general has to encompass all those things, but in regards to my own expression it does.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I’m not sure I agree with the premise of that question, but I guess sometimes music can express things better and sometimes words or poetry can.