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15 Questions to Mico Nonet

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you?
Hello! I am doing well, though it is too cold to catch a fish.

Where are you?
I am in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the USA, land of foolish politicians.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Completing Mico Nonet's second album with an expanded ensemble, an album of duets with members of Mico Nonet, an ambient collaboration with another electronic musician, and a solo album of ambient guitar, electronics, minimalist drums...

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

It is a time of rapid change, where a diverse multitude of music floats unguided through vast portals. If there is a crisis, it is the low sound quality of the MP3, but this will correct itself as bandwidth and memory capabilities increase. The technological flip side is that musicians have low cost access to hi-resolution 24 bit home recording equipment, and that freedom has led to the release of all kinds of great music that might not otherwise have been heard.

Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
Mico Nonet embraces both the traditions of the analog ambient minimalist pioneers and those of chamber music. There is a growing chamber hybrid movement that bridges classical, electronic and post-rock that Mico Nonet is also a part of, though we didn't realize its size when we started "The Marmalade Balloon".

What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity?
The recording studio has always been my place to experiment, improvise and interact with other musicians. In the studio, sometimes I have a detailed concept, sometimes I just wander and try not to over analyze.

What “inspires” you?
I am inspired by the combination of forms, learning new instruments, interaction, the wilderness...

How would you describe your method of composing?
I don't consider myself a composer in the classical sense. Most people think upon listening to the "The Marmalade Balloon" that it was composed, but it was actually fully improvised, and then chopped into pieces and edited to produce the final result. 11 of the 13 songs started with me improvising a long ambient solo synthesizer/electronic piece on a single stereo track about 7 to 10 minutes long. Then one by one, I had the orchestral members of the group come in to my studio and improvise on top of my electronics. I would edit after each member's session, so the next player could improvise over both my original electronic track, but also over the parts the previous orchestral member(s) had played - this way they had the open space to improvise over just the electronics, and also the chance to lay down some parts along with whatever was already edited. This gave me the ability to cut and paste multi-tracked individual parts in a layered process to create the songs. The second album and duets in progress are being recorded with an entirely different process - group improvisations in a variety of ensemble sizes, no editing.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
For me, making sound is composing, as long as I remembered to hit the red button on the recording device. In addition to modular and polyphonic analog synths, some of the electronic sounds on "The Marmalade Balloon" are actually upright piano or Wurlitzer electric piano that I played and recorded and then reversed the recording and slowed it down to half speed, or otherwise manipulated - I do this with synth tracks often too - so the processing of sound is part of my compositional process also.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Not sure I would separate them completely. I lean towards music that is improvised, and performed by the people who originally created the music, over composed music where the performers must interpret another's ideas. I consider composing and improvising different yet related processes, as some composers admit to some element of improvisation in their composing process, and the creative moment is spontaneous to some extent in both methods of making music.

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

"New" is something unheard, frontier seeking. In the past few decades, "new" electronic music has sometimes arisen from either technological advances in instruments or recording, or hybridization and deconstruction of musical forms and cultures.

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?
Multimedia adds another dimension especially to a live music performance that includes electronics. What intrigues me the most is the potential for visuals to be connected to the music becoming another instrument in the group, used subtly not to overwhelm, but to add another dimension to the ensemble.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion?

When the musicians know their music so intimately that they are freed to fully express themselves in every note. The quality of the sound system and acoustics of the space also can greatly add to the experience.

What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Performing is one of life's great joys, playing music that you created with friends, hearing it together with an audience in a great sounding space - a connected experience.

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?
I think artists should make whatever naturally comes out of them - there is room for sociopolitical art, and art that just evokes raw emotion, and everything in between.

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
The internet is helping non-mainstream music reach a wider audience internationally, but pop music and soul sacrifice seem likely forever intertwined.

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

Chamber hybrids presented in a tour of reverberant mid-sized cathedrals, with multimedia visuals and minimalist ambient lighting.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
An expanded Mico Nonet, recorded in Dolby 5.1 surround sound in a giant cathedral improvised with an orchestra sized ensemble, synths being amplified throughout the space for the recording from hundreds of tiny old radio speakers, no two the same, spread out all over the floor. The ensemble's sound shifting from minimalist to enveloping. The release would be on HD-DVD or Blue-ray, high resolution 24 bit 96k surround sound audio, with connected ambient visuals, and live performance video. And also released on vinyl, pressed on 180-gram wax, 45 rpm. No MP3s.

The Marmalade Balloon (2008)

Mico Nonet
Mico Nonet at MySpace

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