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15 Questions to Murmer

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
i am currently in paris, in preparation for a performance tomorrow at the antenna festival. i've recently returned from a trip to valencia for another performance, and will be returning home, to north-western
france, in the next week or so for a bit of quiet. i am enjoying traveling a lot at the moment, but also appreciate the down time in between...

What's on your schedule right now?
i've been moving a lot for gigs and workshops around europe and the u.s., and will continue over the next year, returning soon to the uk, estonia, america, and some travel here in france over the summer. i've
been involved in a project called revenant with a number of collaborators over the last couple of years (john grzinich, yannick dauby, hitoshi kojo, maksims shentelevs, olivier feraud...) and a first document should be seeing publication in the next few months. it's a project which deals with site-specific sound actions, all acoustic and involving only materials found in-situ. so the project mostly depends on
finding suitable locations...

What's your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
i don't see any reason there would be a 'crisis.' people continue to think about and to produce sound; i don't see any lack of creativity. it all depends on how deep you're willing to dig.

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

i see myself as a folk musician. i have a history of involvement with traditional irish music, which people often find hard to reconcile with my experimental endeavors, but i see them as fairly similar. both are
very simply folk traditions - sonic explorations born out of a community on a very basic level, created for and by the members of that community within their own means, without connections to or reliance on official institutions. the only difference is that the former is an established community defined by geography and culture, while the latter is a developing community based on interest and networking - the internet has vastly changed the structure and development of 'communities' in our world...

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

simply sound. listening is the basis of all my work, and the basis of the workshops i give. listening is not so much a learned skill as a forgotten opportunity. it only takes conscious intention to marvel at the sounds all around us, and all i'm doing is presenting some of those sounds as an opportunity for people to recognise this opportunity. jeph jerman, the great american sound artist, once said to me, 'if someone
were to ask me what it is i'm trying to do, i would probably say that i'm trying to forget myself.' that's what listening can be.

How would you describe your method of composing?
i listen for density and tonal or textural compliments in sound; i listen for natural patterns, or specific qualities of spaces - i don't think i (or at least i hope i don't) have a formula all in all i look to remove myself from the final product - i would hope that my presence not be felt in the outcome of the compositional process, that the sounds take on their own weight and importance. i hope for the same outcome that i hope for as a listener, as jeph said, to 'forget myself.'

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
i'm not entirely sure i understand the question - but perhaps i could just say that in this context composition is in service of sound. when things go the other way i lose interest.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
not very strictly at all. that is to say, they are both part of the same process. and isn't improvisation just a spur of the moment composition? in any case, i don't use either label as a definition of my identity - i
don't call myself a 'composer' or an 'improviser', but i use both tools.

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

very little. is anything new? personal discovery is more important to me that a false notion of innovation.

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 have rarely seen visuals in the context of a sound performance that i thought were beneficial - indeed, i usually find them random and distracting. that said, when there is a well-explored link between the effects of specific visuals and specific sounds it can be successful and moving. i have used certain visual elements on certain occasions. and then there are other contexts - i have worked a lot with theatre and installation, and obviously, in these situations a 'multimedia' element is very important.

11.)What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What's your approach to performing on stage?
for me, live performance is about creating an immediate and visceral link between a performer, an audience, and a space. i come from a theatrical background, so for me a certain level of communication and contact with an audience is essential. i never work with a computer on stage, and this is specifically because of the screen, which as far as i'm concerned very literally constructs a wall between the performer and the audience. a screen is a very powerful portal - a person is not present in a space when they are absorbed in the world of their 'desktop', and that is not something i want between me and my audience.

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 don't think it makes sense to try to create such a rule - the expression of creativity is a very individual thing. in any case, the personal and the political are inextricably linked, so however selfish we might try to be, just by presenting work we are making a statement...

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
they are already reaching wider audiences, just through longevity. the publishers that we are dealing with can trace their roots back to the days of cassette trading in the early 80's, and now they are producing
compact discs in editions of 1000. not very much on a commercial scale perhaps, but a much, much bigger audience that 30 years ago, and it will continue to grow. the internet is obviously a wonderful tool as well -
remember, the music industry has only existed for the last 50 years or so, but there has always been music.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
all my friends... what's my budget? ; ) perhaps a series of site-specific performances, or of different traditional and contemporary folk musics, or a series of underwater performances, or live soundtracks for films, or animal-only performances, or... goodness, if anything's possible, who knows? i suppose it would all depend on the space, or other realworld constraints, to define what would work best.

Many artists dream of a "magnum opus". Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
i think every work is a current "magnum opus." each work should be a development and progression from the last, so each should be born of more experience and deeper exploration, no?

Picture by Hitoshi Kojo 

.murmer (Bake) 2002
Eyes like a fish (s'agita) 2002
Definition (absurd) 2003
They were dreaming they were stones (Ground Fault) 2004
Live in Boston (ctrlaltcanc) 2005
Husk w/ jonathan coleclough (icr) 2006
In their homes and in their heads (Drone) 2007
We share a shadow (Helen Scarsdale Agency) 2007


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