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15 Questions to Maile Colbert

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hello to you! let's see, how am i...excited about the future, thankful for the past...sort of caught between the two, the present has been about a lot of processing and production lately. right now i'm in Los Angeles, but soon to be moving to Portugal.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Oh dear...too much! well, i recently released my first solo album "Moborosi" on Twenty Hertz, and meeting Paul Bradley whom runs that label made some video for him for the Storung Festival in Barcelona where we both played...which inspired an installation we are currently finishing. i'm in the process of also finishing the last two songs on my next album, Day of experimental opera i'm making in collaboration with French composer Tellemake, with opera singer Gabriela Crowe singing the poetry of Ian Colbert (my brother). also working on the catalog for last years artist in residence at the Binaural residency in Nodar, Portugal...where i was participating creating a multi-media installation last Fall. and speaking of Fall just had a recent work released on the amazing Mandorla Label Autumn compilation. preparing for an upcoming performance with long time collaborator Carol Kim, Kadet Kuhne, and Mark Dresser. designing the sound for filmmaker Marcel Wepper's new film on Las Vegas, and concepting the upcoming video i will be creating for the beautiful group Celer. and, now officially i am happy to say in edit on my documentary on Autism. and somehow through all this moving to Portugal!

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
Well...crisis seems dramatic. i think there's some confusion and excitement and enthusiasm and apathy and gossip and support...and well, what often happens when in between times of clearly defined groups. but i don't think that's a bad thing. sure, there's more shit to shift through, but that's part of the fun. 

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

Only in the loosest of terms. i get so excited about so many different kinds of music...and being effected by certain elements in different kinds of music, it naturally works into my own little mish-mash of genre, technique, and instrument. i'm quite pleased "experimental music" has expanded to such an umbrella term over the last century...such a relief! otherwise i suppose to describe my work would be at least a paragraph! but...i think more and more artists are in this very position...perhaps that's the movement? "experimental" has been around for a long time...i appreciate that more and more composers under this are reaching back and exploring elements of classical and traditional. i think it makes for stronger and more emotive sound.

What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity? What “inspires” you?

It changes with the individual projects....something will catch my mind, i'll return to it again and again...a project forms, it turns, it gets exorcised...the project is completed, and at this point having a bit of a hyper-active inner-life i'm usually onto another thought and project! but i have a rule about completing...i always complete my projects. that way the process gets completed, and the work out to the world in some way or another. i don't do art for art's sake, i don't do it just for myself. it's a pleasure, but it's also work. i started making music studying sound physics, lately it's been memory that's been moving varies. there's so much that's so fascinating and complicated, i hope i'll always have that perspective. as long as i have that perspective, the whole damn world is inspiring.

How would you describe your method of composing?

Mish-mash. the freedom and constraint of not being classically trained has led to an exploration of so many sound and music making techniques. the method also varies depending on the particular project...but i would say the more taken path for me involves a collection of sounds...being field recordings, recordings with graphic scores of singers and instruments, various found sounds...then processed and placed. i do always start with a concept...i used to do more improv work but lately more and more have a concept or at least guiding feeling or thought behind.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Perspective. composition is active, whether organizing a song with a score, software, or with concentrated listening in a park.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Well...again, not being classically trained i'm sure there are rules and definitions out there i'm going against...but from my perspective improvising is still under composing as you are actively listening, thinking, organizing sound...unless it's completely chance, and even in that regard it's a choice. of course we start to get more into a discussion of semantics here...which is fine and important as well...i think the discussion is more important then coming up with a strict definition that will change with time anyway. these words of ours are such fluid little symbols.

What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
I guess i'm pretty simple...honestly it just means "new". someone trying something they haven't done before...a mix of methods that isn't so common, a voice that hasn't been heard in a while.

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?
Oh i love it! of course, it can get overwhelming with so many new toys and software coming out...and it's personally important to me that the technology is not the focus...but it's opened up so many paths of expression and a feeling for many that you can do so much!

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage? 
Again...i'm pretty simple. a live performance for me is a performance that moved me in the moment of experienced to the point of returning and wanting to return afterwards. so this really can be a beautiful work done simply on stage with a laptop...but i do think it's nice for an audience to have more sense heightened. with more traditional instruments there is movement that accentuates visually the passion behind what is being played. that's really hard to do in a non-comic manner with a laptop. so i like to work with video while i work with sound...weaving the visuals to accentuate the music and vice-versa. that's for solo shows. i often work with dancers and other artists to achieve this as well.

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
Well...i think these two questions are very different. i don't think anyone is exempt of a certain sense of duty towards those aside from themselves. no matter how much of a loner you might think you are, we are social animals. if we only do for ourselves, we will not survive. i believe artists have their place in society as much as a carpenter, teacher, caretaker. art is needed for a healthy society, for a cultures history. i don't think it has to be blatantly political for's all needed. people need to be taken out of their own little worlds, need a different perspective, a kick to the head, a good laugh or cry. art provides this. 

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
Oh i'd like to know that as well! i guess with time and patience. if you're looking for fame, experimental music is probably not your genre. but of course we all want to reach more people. i do think what an individual artist can do is not assume that certain folk will get it while other's won't. send your work to your parents, give your album to your neighbor. this is one of the beautiful things Binaural provides with its residency...your main audience you present to is villagers from a small rural village in Portugal. it was amazing. 

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

My former sound design student's very first sound projects!  

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?'s what i'm working on right now. i think it's healthy to dream big and try to do what you aren't sure you're ready for, exercise the plasticity of one's brain. i guess in that regard i'll never have a Magnum Opus...or...they will all be until the next project. but i would love to do something with acrobats on swings.

Moborosi (2007) Twenty Hertz

Maile Colbert at MySpace

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