Name: Rebecca Foon
Occupation: Cellist, Composer
Current Release: A Common Truth on Constellation Records
Musical Recommendations: Jerusalem in my Heart, Elfin Saddle
If you enjoyed this interview with Rebecca Foon, you can find more information on her website.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started writing in earnest at university. It took me leaving home, to a different city across the country, to feel free to break the classical mould I was shaped by and give myself permission to explore new paths on the cello.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
When I first moved to Montreal from Vancouver, I started working with contemporary dance, and this gave me a white canvas to start exploring a new world of music. This opened me up to new ways of seeing music and composing. Also, joining Silver Mt. Zion, Set Fire to Flames and forming Esmerine introduced me to incredible musicians that pushed my own boundaries and opened me up to new forms of creative expression.
What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?
One challenge I have right now with my solo work is creating pieces in the studio with multiple loops and layers, and then needing to learn how to recreate them in a live setting that is compelling and full, while keeping a sense of intimacy.
What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
I usually start with lyrics. I try to escape to nature for a week and write. Then I will build some main melodies and chords, and play around with singing over top of them to see what comes out.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
They are somewhat interconnected. A lot of my compositions come from improvising. Improvising is kind of like accessing a stream of consciousness and it can have a lot of emotional depth. There is a lot of power and beauty that can emerge from improvising. Tapping into this can be a powerful way to create compositions.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
The relationship between sound and space and what compositions can emerge from the space you are in while composing is very interesting. This is why I like composing in unique natural environments and unique architectural spaces.
Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?
Music is a visceral universal experience. It breaks down boundaries, and connects people from around the world. This is a powerful and necessary tool in today’s world. Lyrics are a way to make ideas more transparent, but music is something that gets into your skin, that you can feel and connect with.
In how much, do you feel, are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences – and in how much, vice versa, is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?
This comes back to my earlier point; that music unites all of us. Cultural differences can shape technique, music theory or style and can offer different tools for musical expression. But at the end of the day music is music.
The relationship between music and other forms of art – painting, video art and cinema most importantly - has become increasingly important. How do you see this relationship yourself and in how far, do you feel, does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?
I love composing for theatre, film or dance because it allows me to connect with a different part of myself, break out of my patterns, and connect with different forms of art. It helps open the box, and find new ways of creating and connecting.
There seem to be two fundamental tendencies in music today: On the one hand, a move towards complete virtualisation, where tracks and albums are merely released as digital files. And, on the other, an even closer union between music, artwork, packaging and physical presentation. Where do you stand between these poles?
It depends on what my intention is for the project. If it is a labour of love with the sole purpose of creating art for those to enjoy, I love putting effort into beautiful packaging. However, if I am trying to create something that has a political message and I want it to reach a wide audience and it has a limited budget, choosing a digital release can be a very powerful tool.
The role of an artist is always subject to change. What's your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
Artists today should be focused on making a more positive and sustainable world. Music is a powerful tool to help transform and cultivate change. And the time is now. We are in a critical moment in history, wrestling with the survival of our planet, and it takes all of us to get us out of this mess.
Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What's your view on the value of music today? In what way does the abundance of music change our perception of it?
I guess this comes back to my earlier point; artists have an obligation to create work with love and a commitment to a brighter path, as we are in a critical moment in history. If everyone operated with this intention at least, I think everything would feel much more meaningful.
How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?
In an ideal world, all institutions would support non-mainstream music. For example mainstream radio stations would have a mandate to support independent music, as would festivals, etc. However, there are many tools right now (e.g. bandcamp) that help to promote independent music.
Usually, it is considered that it is the job of the artist to win over an audience. But listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
I guess it partly is an educational experience. Some experimental music is very challenging to listen to. But being open to it allows one to explore new ideas and helps open the mind. By simply immersing oneself into comfortable musical realms, one is not exercising the human brain. It is almost like staying stuck in a two-dimensional reality. So there is much to be said for challenging oneself for continual exploration.
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
Ideally, I would love to not have to worry about PR. But if you find the right person that understands your music and what it is about and shares your values, PR can be beneficial. Ideally, you want music journalism to understand your message, as music journalism definitely shapes perception. This is a tricky thing to do.