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15 Questions to Federico Barabino

img  Tobias Fischer

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Pretty good, working harder every day. I am living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, moving around South America for some concerts or workshops all the time.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Well, I'm going to Peru in a few days to work in the mountains with people that don't speak my language. I'm there to pursue one of my biggest interests, sound itself, making some recordings for future compositions. There won't be any conection to the outside world for almost an entire month, so before I leave, I need to finish many papers and some music to present here in Argentina as soon as I return.

How would you describe and rate the music scene of the city you are currently living in?

There is a lot of musical activity here. The impro scene is getting bigger and I am extremely happy about that. Our time has come here, for real, amazing!. In 2010 I started a website at, which collects a lot of people working in this particular field in Argentina. Many musicians from around the world are traveling here for concerts. Of course, there are more underground festivals than big ones - but that's the way it's everywhere, isn't it?

When did you start producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started producing music in 1997, recording my first compositions on a portastudio. I still remember these moments. Those days, I played a lot with a friend on drums and me on electric guitar, so my first compositions were for that instrumentation. There was a magic, and there still is, to record music on tape, recording just one sound at a time, then another and another until my old four channel portastudio says it's enough. I discovered counterpoint and principles of harmony directly from practical experience.
My influence not always is music, however. Most of the time, I apply concepts from cinema, visual arts and literature. Of course, there are constants which I enjoy in each language, open minds, artists who continually push boundaries. From the beginning my passion was always the same: To play my own music.

What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
In the late 90s, I attended the conservatory of music, while working on experimental music. I could feel how my interest in exploring sound kept growing, I just wanted to spend my time playing guitar in many different ways. This was when my feedback works began, so my music became more personal and strange and  could not fine my place in a regular conservatory anymore. I started pursuing my own path and studied with different teachers in composition, counterpoint, harmony, etc ...

What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?

To work hard and keep moving.

What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
First, I like to prepare my home-studio. I need some kind of order around me, so I have no distraction and of course many free hours. Sometimes, when ideas come to me with particular clarity, I don't care about any of this, I'll just sit there and work. I start in a very simple way, listening to all the sounds around me. Then I play one sound  - and another one - while listening. I want to learn from my music, I want to figure out things I didn't know before. Composing, to me, means being surprised.
At the moment, I am working on a piece in different parts. I create only one of these pieces each year, and then I present it at various festivals and concours, where the work is completed by itself, without my physical presence. I like to explore the relation between the piece and the concert hall. You can follow the Serie Audio here.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Are improvising and composing really separate? I prefer to think they are parallel ways, with almost no distance between them. Improvising is getting better year by year, it is like chess, you can think in time. I play thirty to forty concerts each year as an improviser, with different musicians and in different situation there is always something new, it is like fresh air, even if the result is not what I intended it to be. I look for the same concept on my compositions. I need to see them always with new eyes.

How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?

Composing for me is the relationship between sound and space. The space is alive and I know that my music will be played inside of it. So I need to think about that relationship. All my latest compositions are exploring this particular aspect. Did you listen to how a sound changes, depending on the space? Thankfully, there are some composers who are exploring these aspects, like Alvin Lucier or Arvo Pärt.

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?
We need to listen without trying to understand and an audience should do the same. Because we are always comparing what we are hearing with what we have listened to before. And this process is not really listening. Processes are never more important than the result.

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?
I agree with all kinds of releases, but I think we need to explore the different qualities of each one. There is something about time ... how many digital records can you download in one hour? And then how many of them can you listen to in one hour? It is to easy make a click to download, but then you have many records on your hard disk and no time to listen them. I am exploring this idea by composing mini tracks to play at random on myspace and have some ideas to explore the netlabel situation too. We use computers for a lot of stuff all the time, always spending time online, clicking around a lot ... Music can not be the same in this context. To buy a record is more like a ritual. I like to go back home, sit down, open the record, enjoy the cover design and then just press play and listen to it. I released my last record here in Argentina on tape. A nice edition called "micropiezas para consola resignificada" on Jardinista!Recs and I hope to release something on vinyl soon.

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?

Every artists is creating something political, social and creative, even when they're not aware of it.

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?
We must not forget that music can be listened to live as well. Music-sites, blogs and downloads are alright. But the power of just one instrument played in front of an audience is still magic.

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?

Concerts and records are no longer enough. We should write more about our music, interviews, reviews and ideas. Our music is not just for people who can understand it, it is also for people who can feel a simple sound. And we need to talk to people in music schools and universities or at meetings. This isn't easy but we need to do it from the heart and open up the dialogue.

Please recommend two artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.

Jacques Tati 's films to listen with the eyes what sound can be. And Arvo Pärt 's compositions like "sarah was ninety years old " among others.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?

My music represents my own evolution, so my "magnum opus" is from my early works to the music that is going to come.

Federico Barabino Discography:
Zamba/ w. Don Campau (Lonely Whistle) 2006
Minimo (Smell The Stench) 2006
Argentinische Kroatische/ w. Z.Franjic (Listen Loudest) 2006
Metamorfs/ w. Charles Rice Goff III (Taped Rugs) 2007
Hallucination Cell/ w. Kenji Siratori (Hypermodern) 2007  
Celula/ w. Kenji Siratori (NosesoRecords) 2007
Ruido Is Not Noise (Ruidemos) 2008   
Garnish/ w. Don Campau (Lonely Whistle) 2008
Fleur Light/ w. Vitaly Maklakov (DNA Production) 2008   
Sensible (Listen Loudest) 2008
Sonido doblado (RH) 2008
Ongamira (Black Orchid) 2008
Merging Layers/ w. Günter Müller (Triple Bath) 2009   
Protestium/ w. Dogprodz & Flat Affect & Sklo (Glass Anvil) 2009
Solo En Vivo (Ruidemos) 2009
Solo en vivo II (FugaDiscos) 2009
Solo en vivo III (Ecto) 2009
Solo en vivo IV (Asimtria Net Label) 2009
Collaboration/ w. Cat.n.Bone (self-released) 2009
No-Input Mixer (TecnoNucleo) 2010
Doble Cuarteto - 4 guit. + 4 sax. (Jardinista!Recs) 2010
Since Electricity/ w. Guillaume Gargaud (Circlesandlines) 2010
Untitled/ w. A. Brandal (Test Tube)    2010
Micropiezas para Consola Resignificada (Jardinista!Recs) 2011
Can You Listen To The Silence Between The Notes? (Eh?) 2011
Waves/ w. MaCu (InnerCinema) 2011


Federico Barabino

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