RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

15 Questions to Juan José Calarco

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi, I’m fine, at home, warm, on a very cold night here in Buenos Aires.

What’s on your schedule right now?     
I have some collabs to be released soon, with David Wells, Nicholas Szcezpanic, a solo release on Koyuki and lots of uncompleted works.

How would you describe and rate the music scene of the country you are currently living in?
I guess it’s just as interesting and boring as you could find in any other country. There are some very interesting people and also a bunch of snobs pretending who knows what. Even though are several things happening and several people playing frequently, there’s no such thing as a sound art scene; we have a long history of electroacoustic and experimental music here but I can’t see any link with the kind of stuff we’re currently doing, at least in my case and among some friends I asked about it.

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

Somehow part of the sound art plus the musique concrete tradition, yes.

What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity? What stimulates you to write music?
I’ve been always interested in sound, working with tapes since my teen years and later with digital tools, focusing on the musicality of certain places or objects. The complexity (or simplicity) of the sound structures that you can find in urban (plus natural) environments; the way sounds blend and mutate are my main inspiration and interest; to follow their inmost developments and thereby, the memories of sound and the ways sound melts with emotions and creates them of its own accord. Most of the times, the ‘guidelines’ for my work come from the experiences of doing recordings or just walking through the city. To be more accurate in my answer,  I think, for example on a train trip some time ago, it was a very rainy afternoon and you could hear and see the water falling cascade-like over the windows, the sound of the railroads almost hidden by the huge hissing rain, creating a very grey and undefined mood. It might seem childish and silly but I don’t care, things like that really stimulate me to create my stuff. Obviously, the music I listen to is an important inspiring source too, nor only the stuff in this same field but a lot of different styles can be really inspiring.

How would you describe your method of composing?

I believe my approach to composition truly relates with listening to the city environments, trying to reconstruct them in an oblique way, the whole ambiences, the sudden changes that may occur, etc. but always unbalanced, distorted; I try to create some kind of narrative exploration of the material I’m working with, as pure extracts of living experience. From this sense of immediacy of the pure experience which fascinates me are the aural and corporeal impressions, all of which have something dreamy and irrational about it. The kind of things I’m currently more interested in are the details of landscapes, the reverberations of distant events in interiors and metal- and wooden structures and some others sorts of out of focus perspectives. On a couple of days I can be obsessed with powerful and ‘in-front’ sound events, those things regulary shifts, like in most people I guess. For any of these purposes I use mostly a sound editor, I just process and assemble my recordings in very simple ways.

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

Not sure. I think my work is truly related to the city I live in. Maybe it’s true what people say: That all big cities sounds alike. But I can’t see it that way. In fact, they look, smell and even feel different and this should be reflected, somehow, in my work.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?

Since my compositions comes from what the sound materials suggest me, I can’t see any separation. Anyway, it’s very important to me to organize the elements into a coherent whole, a musical one.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Well, my work doesn’t exactly involve improvising, maybe when I play with some object, but later the results are strongly edited and reconstructed. But, I'm always up for what working with a material may bring, and sometimes accidents can work miracles.

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

First off, I think new sounds, styles and approaches are the more exciting ones and I’m always looking for new things to listen to. At some point I think any artist (musician, writer, etc) should try something new, but in the way of their own views and likes, not the innovation ‘per se’.  I completely refuse any ideology of progress or modernist aesthetics. I’m not sure if all of the past century avant garde movements were so great as they’re usually rated, but I definitely think they’re a past which everyday seems more remote from us. Likes and taste are way more important to me than carrying methods or theories. I can’t think of a stronger restraint than mimicking an old movement (or a new one). Another issue is related to the trends usually emerging from the kind of tags record labels tend to like- I can see some uniformization obviously related with some labels' attitude as ‘for further send us the same as the previously stuff we had released, you know us, we have a certain profile’ and many people fall into this trap very easily. So, then you have hundreds of rather cold and academic-like works every one of them following the same aesthetics; discreet music, discreet titles, discreet cover art and that ultra tacky feel of music composed for (an imaginary) art gallery.

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?

So far, I haven’t try any multimedia work. We’ll see.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
The kind of performances I enjoy the most are those involving an important physicality on the level sound, to feel really ‘into’ sound, like a true vital experience. I remember the first time Pansonic played live here in ’99 they created such a powerful turbine-like drone that even the floor seemed to be shaking; I want to be clear I’m not talking about extreme noisy/painful music or power electronics or japan noise acts, but of something massive and hypnotizing. Think more of a death metal band or some dub or sound art or anything. A very good PA is seminal, but also the kind of sounds and dynamics you choose to manage, going very quiet live or try to deal with poor sound systems is pointless and frustrating to me. By this I don't just mean being loud, but to explore the physicality and sense of space as much as possible.

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?

Well, that’s quite an issue. For one, it’s the responsibility (or not) to promote our work. And then, there's the responsibility from the wider audiences, to try (or not) other things. I would love this kind of stuff to reach more people.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Hmmm... I hardly see myself in such a position.

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


Plano Vertical (Test Tube) 2007
Raíz De Invierno (The Locus Of Assemblage) 2007
[a4] (TIBProd) 2007
Tierra Abierta (Resting Bell) 2008
Dársena Interna (Mystery Sea) 2009

Juan Jose Calarco at MySpace

Related articles

Concert Review/ FM Einheit & Hans-Joachim Irmler
Live at Berghain, Berlin, November ...
James Wyness: Listening out for Tigers
James Wyness' "Figure and Ground" ...
Hiroki Sasajima: Focusing on fine Sounds
Hiroki Sasajima is, without doubt, ...
SLW: Go wild on 'Fifteen point nine grams'
Hardly anybody speaks favourably about ...
Juan José Calarco: "Dársena Interna"
The story needs to be ...
15 Questions to The Green Kingdom
When I visited Detroit some ...
CD Feature/ Yui Onodera: "Entropy"
Spooky stones: Onodera always goes ...
CD Feature/ Seaworthy: "1897"
Nescafe and thin blankets: A ...
CD Feature/ Gintas K: "Lovely Banalities"
A highway of micro-sonic flow: ...

Partner sites