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15 Questions to Joda Clément

img  Tobias Fischer

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hello, I am well. I am in Toronto.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Finishing up a couple records to be released this year: first is a solo record, coming out on Unfathomless (Mystery Sea’s sister label). It’s a new composition that I’ve been working on since 2005. The other release is a trio improv project, recorded at various locations in November with percussionist Jeffrey Allport, and Chandan Narayan, who plays autoharp + swaramandal. We’re mastering and preparing for a vinyl release, on Chandan’s Simple Geometry label.

Tonight I’ll be recording an improv session with Tomasz Krakowiak and Chris Strickland, tomorrow I’m going to Ottawa to perform with a folk duo called Tasseomancy in a church; should be interesting. I’m also curating an ongoing monthly concert of experimental music in Toronto, called Eminent Domain, which takes place at Somewhere There studio. If we get this grant we just applied for we’ll be moving to Mercer Union, a beautiful gallery space.

How would you describe and rate the music scene of the country you are currently living in?
I would describe the music scene in Canada as a lot of talented and friendly people who live far away from each other. Canada is a huge expanse of land and the major cities (cultural centres) are few and far between, so we don’t really have enough population density to generate much of a scene on a local scale, but somehow it seems inevitable that most like-minded individuals eventually cross paths, if you’re actively performing or releasing music.
Toronto, where I live, has a long history of sound art activity, but most people tend to do their own thing. I see it as very fertile place to be involved in sound art practices, as we’ve got a consistent history of people working in the field, but there are very few ‘known’ or largely influential artists as opposed to somewhere like the USA or Europe, where the shadow of history is almost unavoidable and the populations are quite dense.

Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
‘Environmental’ music, but it’s a family tradition. My father is a composer and I spent my first years in relative isolation, near Bancroft, Ontario, where he was making music with ‘environmental’ sounds and the same synthesisers I now use.
Back then he would haul a revox tape machine, a generator and lots of cable, to record sounds in the woods. As I got older and we moved the city, he would take me with him on recording missions, so it was like second nature for me to start field recording and making music with synthesisers. He also exposed me to lots of Brian Eno growing up, and eventually Erik Satie, and John Cage, and I see a common thread uniting those three artists in terms of approach and ideas, although it’s not outwardly apparent in their resultant music.
What began with my father’s influence has lead me to be comfortable working from a tradition, but not feeling as though I’m working within one. For example, my first album, Movement + Rest, is very much in the style of ‘ambient music’, because I had that music in me and worked very hard to articulate it as such, but I don’t think I’ll make another album that sounds like it.

In terms of composition, what do you consider your main challenges?

The main challenge is making choices, because ideally I side-step my conscious decision making process, allowing for idea to follow their own course, organically, so to speak. Very difficult.

How would you describe your method of composing?
Trial and error, with a large degree of scepticism and lots of patience.I follow my ears.

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

Where I was raised, up north, and my father’s musical practice are deeply reflected in my work but that’s more circumstantial than cultural, I guess. Now I live in the city, and I use a different palette of environmental sounds, but the sound(s) I hear in my head come from my formative years.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Sound is material, composition is the organization of sound(s).

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Not very.

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

Sounds not heard before.

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?

I enjoy multimedia projects, and I feel as though there is much potential in this area but it is not really important to me per se. I have collaborated with visual artists in the past and also have a history of installation work, but people often say: “oh, i see images when I hear your sounds. Have you ever thought of working on films?”but I am primarily interested in sound and I don’t wish to invoke any direct correlation between sound and image by working with sound as a medium, (otherwise I would make movies.)

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
I find live electro-acoustic music totally fascinating, but I especially I like being able to perceive the relationship between the sounding source and resultant sound, when there is unpredictable or chance elements built into a set-up.
This is essentially my approach presently I call it electro-magnetic feedback synthesis: I have my MS20 synthesiser, raw field recordings, and a harmonium amplified with electro-magnetic transduction, and using the auxiliary sends on my mixer, I can send any signal into either the synth or the electro-magnetic transducer, so I send the harmonium into the synth and the synth into the harmonium creating an infinite feedback loop, that is affected by changes in the atmosphere around the transducer, or changing any parameter; makes for lot of very unpredictable sound relationships and lots of fun to experiment with for me as a performer – which I hope makes for an enjoyable stage show.

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
Not sure. Lots of attempts have been made, but I think it’s just a matter of what one hopes to achieve with their practice.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Off the top of my head ...

Francisco Lopez
Olivia Block
Jason Lescalleet
Toshiya Tsunoda
Joe Colley
Bonnie Jones
Klaus Filip
Radu Malfatti
Loren Chasse
Tomasz Krakowiak
Akio Suzuki

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
I just finished it (to be released this summer), so I’m going to have to start
dreaming of a new one ...

Joda Clément Discography:
Movement + Rest (Alluvial) 2005
Silo 11 (Mystery Sea) 2006
Ostinato 11 (Oral) 2008
Ostinato 20 (Oral) 2008

Joda Clément

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