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15 Questions to Israel Martinez

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi! I’m fine and happy to start a new year with many projects. I’m living between Guadalajara and Mexico City.

What’s on your schedule right now?
I’m working on a composition for a site-specific contemporary dance and sonic art project called “Solar”, it will be presented on march at Mexico City’s Centro Historico Festival, one of the biggest festivals in Mexico. I’m also working on a multi-channel composition for a project called “Mexican Revolution’s Sonic Deconstructions”, it’s a commissioned work by Fonoteca Nacional (National Sound Archive), besides concerts, site-specific works and I’m waiting for the release of my new album “Nareah” which will be published in a few months by Aagoo Records from New York.

How would you describe and rate the music scene of the country you are currently living in?
There is an interesting scene for sound art and experimental music, also electronic music in general. I really appreciate the work of people like Rogelio Sosa, Lumen lab, Sergio Luque, Murcof, Mandorla, Fax, among a lot of talented people. Manuel Rocha is one of the most important sonic artists in Mexico and he has investigated and compiled the history of Mexican Sound Art and Electroacoustic Music. He recently published a three-CD compilation and booklet called “Mexico Electroacustico” and I’m really happy to be included in the CD about contemporary composers. I think that compilation could be really appreciated by lot of people worldwide. There are nice festivals like Radar, Transitio, Visiones Sonoras, Muestra de Arte Sonoro, Interface, among others covering a wide range of aesthetics from experimental, electronic and improvisation music to sound art and new media.

Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?

No I don’t. I come from the electronic music scene, but I’m interested in different ways of presenting music and art. I’ve been in workshops of electroacoustic composition because I really appreciate many of its techniques and thoughts but I prefer to work on a free aesthetic. I think I have one foot in electronic experimental music and another one in Sound Art as a free discipline that takes sound as source to different artistic purposes. There are other artists in Mexico working in this way, like Mario De Vega or Rogelio Sosa. I really enjoy the fact that my work can be presented in an electroacoustic music concert, a live session, improvising with another musicians, in a museum – gallery or in a site-specific project.

What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity? What stimulates you to write music?
Everything, specially my daily world, my own context, also the same richness of sound. I use the sound to “say something”, including the things that sound has to say for itself.

How would you describe your method of composing?

Depending the project, when I’m creating a specific sound art project I need to define the concept very clearly, then find, record and/or make the sounds, finally edit, listen and re-edit several times. When I’m just thinking in music, I prefer to improvise with any kind of sound source, from field recordings (acting as a improviser at the time of the capture of the sound) to voice, synthesizer or software. I record all my improvisations and then start to edit and create a narrative (which for me is equal to composing).

In which way, would you say, is your cultural background reflected in your work?

It is surely reflected, but I’m really influenced by a broad range of ideas, from very local aspects to global situations. I try to live with open ears.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
I think sound is a kind of composition, simple or complex. It’s the reason I think concrete sounds are an inexhaustible source of raw material for composition. Also, we can find a composition in any place. Sound is really powerful for me.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?

Sometimes improvising is part of a composition, as it is with me. For lots of musicians or improvisers, the final composition is the result of a jam session or an improvisational concert. In any case, it’s interesting for me. At this moment, I am using  improvisation as a compositional strategy, but I’m starting to work with my brother (Lumen Lab) in a new electronic improvisation.duo called Lost Martínez and we don’t have specific compositions but we construct live works performing with real-time processed sounds including voice.

What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?

Fusion, an open attitude and freedom.

Do you personally enjoy multimedia as an enrichment or do you feel that it is leading away from the essence of what you want to achieve?
Sometimes, I will use video fragments, very simple, a kind of minimalist landscapes. But nowadays, I prefer to perform without lights in the room. A dark space, no video, no external elements, just me, computer, controller, mixer, speakers and the audience. I think it’s beautiful.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
I like different approaches, but I think there is only a good performance if the final result connects sound with the audience. Sometimes in an improvisation the only happy people are the musicians, while the audience is feeling bored. I think the result justifies the medium and the tools.

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
If we spread the idea of sound as the base of many musical forms, more people could understand sonic arts and experimental music. The problem is that sometimes people into these scenes are very narrow-minded. An example could be sound design (including films), where people listen to sound as an “object” without prejudice between these abstract sounds and melodic stuff. Sometimes people say about experimental music “it sounds like film music”, maybe due to the abstract sound gestures – which I find interesting!

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
A wide range of aesthetics: one or two sessions including improvisation with electronic and instruments, experimental electronic music and noise. An acousmatic concert, a session with experimental pop and club-oriented music (Intelligent Dance Music and complex Techno). Furthermore a small exhibition of sound and new media, some installations or sound sculptures and finally a room dedicated to playing a selection of radio art, old sound art and electroacoustic music.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
Maybe that piece would have all the elements that I feel my present music doesn’t have. Or maybe it would just be a simple piece full of elegance and sensuality.

Cubensis (Filtro) 2005
Los Demonios de la Lengua (Umor Rex) 2006
Exorcizios (Abolipop) 2008
Nareah (Aagoo) 2009

Israel Martinez
Israel Martinez at MySpace

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