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, including the artists performing your work?
Teamwork has become not only instrumental but also fundamental for me during my last five-year production. None of my work could have been done without the help of the L-ISA research engineers, Timothy Redmond (the conductor) and Sandrine Monin (the choreographer), Tjulanet the visual artist and all the people collaborating with me. We constantly inspire one another and I create bespoke works based on their abilities. With acoustic music I talk with the performers a lot, even when working with an orchestra. I tailor the parts to some necessities, without getting bogged down with compromises - it is difficult but possible. I have to thank my editor in Berlin for this.
How is writing the music and having it performed live connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Every performance turns into a lesson. You always learn, discover and confirm your beliefs about how the music should have sounded. Every performance is an opportunity for growth for me, the composer, and for the performer alike. As I said before, I always try to achieve my ideal vision, but I never succeed. Every performance is a step forward, the impossible act of achieving perfection. In full-immersive music theatre we are just at the beginning. Constant adjustments must happen at every stage of the process, including live performance.
Improvising for me is just a part of the initial phase where I try to find new sounds, rhythms or melodies. I never include actual improvisations in the final work because I like to have the illusion of controlling every aspect of the performance.
Time is a variable only seldomly discussed within the context of contemporary composition. Can you tell me a bit about your perspective on time in relation to a composition and what role it plays in your work?
Time is at the centre of my work. I had the privilege of working on time and its connection with space and perception firstly in Venice at the Conservatoire, then at Experimental studios Friburg and with Ircam/I-spat and finally at L-ACOUSTICS research facility L-ISA. Fully immersive surround sound is a perceptive universe constantly unfolding its wondrous aspects to us. Every sound changes and defines time in nature, but having the capability of shaping its movement is a dream that the renaissance master envisioned but could only approach in vocal music. Time is undoubtedly the main musical parameter of the 21th century.
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?
Composition is sound! The relationship is interdependent: it is osmotic. The matter influences the structure, the structure helps the form to become stable, and the form drives you in choosing the right development for the matter you have chosen. This is a very important aspect of music making, writing and sculpting; too often it is and has been forgotten when teaching music composition. I was raised in the awareness that music is a living and breathing organism, and structural analysis could help me unfold its mysteries and secrets. I think music is a living matter and we dance, cry, smile and dream under its spell. My PhD thesis was all about this aspect, and now I am finally writing a book on mind, matter, music and consciousness with a neuroscientist and a Buddhist monk.
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?
Many cultures have placed sound at the origin of the universe: the Ohm (Aum), the Logos, the Big Bang. Sound and aural perception have for millennia allowed us to survive in the dark, to explore realities behind the rational and to interact with other species and the environment in a natural way. Mothers sing lullabies and lovers serenade, people mourned their ancestors at the song of ceremonial chanting and gods of different cultures have been praised with hymns, people have killed one another to the sound of drums, trumpets and shouts. To communicate long distances and to feel that the world is not flat and constantly changing we used sound, and we are still trying to reach other planetary species with sound. All the senses - touch, sight, even smell - are influenced by the presence of sound. The sense of hearing is often misunderstood, now more than ever, because it requires concentration and internal attention and we live in a culture full of aggressive mechanical noise. My work with the Royal National Institute of Blind People will become a statement, I am going there to learn, and not to teach: they will be helping me.
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 am a great supporter of the Art Council’s motto: ‘Great art for everybody’. I think everybody not only has the right, but also deserves to be exposed to the very best of our artistic and musical world. This does not mean making accessible the music performed in theatres, dance and concerts to the ones that can afford it, but also to start preserving our music environment that has been destroyed and violated by invasive technology. The birth of some movements signal that there is a great need of sound cleansing. It is our duty to offer the very best of us to all the people that are left outside the garden where the few can strive: and they are billions.
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?
Music can and should allow us to reconnect to what we have left behind, thinking science could explain everything: scientists say it cannot. Music is not science, music is emotion, music is creativity running wild, music is physical poetry. Music is what can tie us back to forgotten rituals, mysteries, ceremonies, initiatory practices; we must remember they all happened in the presence of sound. We have forgotten all of this, we believe it is better to look at a small screen alone, instead of dancing around the fire, and as deep-ecology constantly tells us, we must reconnect otherwise we will die inside first and outside after. Music can be the ideal media, because it is not like art: you cannot own it, it belongs to everybody. When it is produced it travels in the air forever and supports the universe.