Name: Vanessa Rosetto
Occupation: Composer, improviser, painter
Current Release: self-care on unfathomless
Recommendations: EX HK. by Hans Krusi. The Mexican Tapes by Jacki Apple
If you enjoyed this interview with Vanessa Rossetto, visit her personal website for the most up to date information on her work.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started later than most - in my 30s. I had been a painter all my life prior to that. I think I saw working with sound as a way to take imagery off of the plane and into time. I did experiments in the past that I can see now as nascent attempts at this kind of work, but not much came of them - carrying a microcassette recorder and attempting to record as much of my inner monologue as possible, things like that. I wish I had those tapes now!
My earliest passion from childhood was sound effects records. I would play them over and over, which did not endear me to my family.
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?
When I initially started working on music I wasn’t necessarily aware of the wealth of other artists working in similar areas to me and I think that was probably a good thing because it forced me to start with my own perspective to a degree unfettered by a desire to emulate. I understood there were people making work that interested me, but I didn’t connect myself to what they were doing in my mind because to my way of thinking they were “musicians” and I was not. I was just trying to figure out how to make things at all.
Once I really got into creating music and saw how others had worked out challenges and ideas I was able to learn from what they had achieved and were achieving and now find those influences invaluable.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Initially I had no experience or training of any kind - didn’t know how to play any instruments or set up equipment or anything like that, so those logistical things were a challenge on their own! I just started recording and piecing things together. I still realistically don’t know how to do anything!
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’ve never had a studio per se - I work in my room with my laptop, a few instruments, ordinary objects and recordings that I have sourced by existing in the world and collecting them. That hasn’t changed and I don’t foresee it changing in the future.
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?
I don’t feel like I do anything technologically complex. I’m barely using anything to make my work that most people probably don’t already have anyway. I am infinitely more interested in humans and visibly human markmaking than anything about machines in and of themselves. I’m neither a technophobe nor a technophile.
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?
Most of my recording is happenstance and doesn’t take the form of intentional recording outings, so one of the best tools for me is my phone’s recording app. When I am moving through the world and hear something interesting, I no longer have to get out a Zoom and wait for it to start up so that I can record whatever it is that I’m hearing. By the time you do that, whatever it was you wanted to capture is probably over! So using a phone has allowed my recording to have the spontaneity that real life possesses.
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?
Most of the collaborations I have taken part in have involved file sharing with far-flung collaborators. Though I primarily do solo work, I have learned a great deal about both the creative process as well as the nuts and bolts of making music from everyone with whom I have collaborated. Working with Matthew Revert in particular has been a model for me as to how to be completely creatively uninhibited and fearless.
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?
I both do and do not wish I had time to work on music every day. Not being able to work on it whenever I want makes me value more the time I do have to work, and makes me work with intent and focus when I am able to. I do not feel driven to keep to a schedule of working on music, which means when I make things it is because I am genuinely moved to make that specific thing, not to keep up with some idea of how much work one needs to produce. I sleep a lot.
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?
Ideas usually come from things I overhear and am able to record. The piece Adult Contemporary from the No Rent tape of the same name is one of my favorites and had its genesis in being fortunate enough to hear (and managing to record) a woman talking about the effects of aging and went from there. Other than in collaborations, this is more often than not how pieces develop.
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?
My ideal state for being creative is just having the time to work uninterrupted. A lot of the assembling I do creates no “room sound” so I can work late at night when other people in my house are asleep.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally?
I don’t play live more than once or twice a year, if that, so they aren’t very connected at this time. That could always change, though.
How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Improvisation in my work occurs largely in the sourcing of sounds via field recording - I happen upon sound events by accident. Everything that happens to the sounds after that, though, is entirely compositionally deliberate.
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?
I care about the sound aspects to the extent to which that sound serves the structure and intent of the piece. Sound qua sound doesn’t interest me that much. Sounds such as captured human speech in a field recording can set the agenda for a composition.
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?
The interaction between sound and visual stimuli as in video work is interesting to me and is an area I would like to explore more.
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?
My approach is completely personal and almost entirely narrative. I fear that work that tries to take on too overt of a social and political role may run the risk of being overly didactic. I do not consider myself to be an activist.
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?
Affordable home studios and the ability, through the internet, to network with others and disseminate your work have already changed so much about music, to my way of thinking. I would not attempt to predict the directions in which things may evolve next. I think I would rather be surprised!