Name: Sign Libra / Agata Melnikova
Occupation: Producer, Sound Artist
Current Release: Sea to Sea on RVNG Intl.
Recommendations: “Children’s Atlas of the World” by Reader’s Digest and “Magic Eye” by Magic Eye Inc.
If you enjoyed this interview with Sign Libra and would like to find out more, visit her facebook account or soundcloud profile for music and current information. She also has an Instagram account.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Professionally studying classical music for many years and having knowledge in composing instrumental pieces, I got especially interested in electronic music production because of my curiosity in writing it and my love for the ethereal sounds of a synthesiser since childhood.
For most artists, originality is first 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? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I think, the root of original artistic expression lies in every person’s child-like spirit and imagination. An important process of learning, as well research of inspiring things in life – help to shape your own vision and approach to creativeness.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
The main goal was just to understand how music software works and how to compose something listenable in it. Actually, I still do not know a lot about every button – I just use some basic parameters and concentrate more on composing music material.
In this regard, the task always stays the same – to make each work somehow artistically different from other and keep myself enthusiastic about this process.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
I am working on a dream to have a studio. For now, I am producing music in my bedroom and my set-up is quite simple and remains the same as a few years ago – mostly because of my current live performance model, which comprises of two MIDI keyboards plugged into my laptop. With such a set-up my workspace looks organised for my mind as well.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
A computer is great at helping to put human ideas in life in a more effective and quite unreal way, while humans, as nothing else – have their own knowledge and imagination to produce music without any technologies, as they did for many centuries by using different forms of musical expression.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Sound libraries with their funky preset names very often tune me into particular vibe for a work. I feel privileged to express myself through somebody's invented sounds – it makes me feel, like I am a magic multi-instrumentalist or a member of imaginary band!
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?
In my opinion, a collaboration is harmonious communication. It is also the ability to adapt in a team work, keeping your own artistic voice at the same time. While my collaborative work in music field is still in a process, my important experience with different artistic sphere representatives uncovered my other artistic expressions and have drawn a path to my further creative work.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? 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?
As I am still producing music in the same place where I live, it is quite hard to have a fixed schedule for every day. I just have some way points for a week or a month, leaving my creative process be amorphous in between. This way, my work will be done qualitatively and reasonably in time.
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?
All of my work goes through the same process, which consists of my interest in a particular theme, its informative research, my own exploration and imaginary vision of this theme. This process includes also my interest in particular elements of different music genres or styles. The knowledge in music theory and technical aspects help to complete the work.
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?
I think, “being creative” is a process of finding your own artistic way to get yourself educated, and how this process will keep you enthusiastic for a further work. From time to time this enthusiasm needs to be fuelled by the actions, enriching the work of a mind and also by the actions, distracting from your creative process. In both cases it will be a very healthy “pause” in a continuous work, and it definitely will help to bring you back to action with a good concentration and new forces!
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?
An improvisation already exists when I am working on a material, because I follow my mood at that moment. A compositional aspect helps to shape a musical thought and to put some idea in it. These two aspects are inseparable from the beginning of my work, so I keep them both balanced also during live performance by using a backing track material and playing / singing live extras.
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?
Sounds and timbres most of the times are starting points in my music writing. For example, when I find an interesting sound in VST for my ears, it immediately encourages me to create an improvisational motive, melody or a rhythmical pattern, which unintentionally begin to form a carcass of a work.
From there the intuitive process of adding other musical elements with a particular colouring continues, which, in my opinion, would harmonise and at the same time – make an experimental combination between themselves.
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?
To create something airy like music, at first I need to explore and then engage my developed senses. The use of imagination is also quite important here. Such sensory combination works as a metabolism in my musical practise.
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?
In my understanding, art is nature in its broad sense, where an artist plays a peculiar role of a “translator” by reflecting a fragile human essence and life in general in their creative approach and vision of things.
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 at its core is already an essential communication tool and a universal language, where the basic music theory is like a foundation for a house. The question is – how artistically extraordinary do you want to build that house, at the same time keeping it functionally comfortable and harmonious inside for a living? I guess, the answer depends on every individual’s understanding of their comfort zone and reasonable limits of artistic ambitions.