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15 Questions to Signals under Tests

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi. I’m good, thank you for asking. I’m based in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

What’s on your schedule right now?

Well, at the moment I’m in a perpetual state of performance based research at the University of Ulster, a position that I am extremely grateful to find myself in. I’m also preparing for a few live performances with John King, the other half of the “Signals under Tests” project. The most notable being the ISEA conference taking place on the 25th of August at the University of Ulster. After that, we will be busy recording our first album.

How would you describe and rate the music scene of the country you are currently living in?
The music scene in Northern Ireland is the best it has been in a very long time. We have some excellent musicians based in Northern Ireland. We have original bands making waves on an international basis. There are a lot of opportunities to perform in this country, whatever your genre or style. There seems to be new festivals every year catering for artists composing original music. It’s definitely a good place to be for music.

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

Not really. I’m sure many musicians in this country do feel that there is a musical movement, and there is certainly a tradition. That’s probably down to how local our community is. I’m sure it’s the same for other places in the world.

In terms of composition, what do you consider your main challenges?
I guess, like many musicians, it’s being content with your efforts. It’s a rare occurrence. :-)

How would you describe your method of composing?

I think my methods differ every time I sit down to write. At the moment, the exploration of musical cues in polyphonic guitar music is the core focus of my research. For probably the first time, I’m REALLY thinking about the attributes of each note that I play. It’s a very long but rewarding process. I enjoy notating a few motifs and improvising with them. This usually results in a piece of music in a recorded format.

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

Both of my parents are involved in the Irish traditional arts, so I was surrounded by Irish traditional music throughout my childhood. As a result you can hear a little bit of a traditional influence in my music from time to time. That’s probably the fullest extent of its reflection in my music.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?

Well, extremely important. They are intrinsic to one another. They have a symbiotic relationship. I believe a sonorous approach to music composition is the most rewarding. It is important to remember that it is the resulting sound that matters most.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
I never separate them. Improvisation is a form of composition.

What does the term “new” mean to you in connection with music?
It most likely means to strive to construct something unique, and ultimately every time you make a sound, it is unique. I must admit that I don’t think much about the term “new” very often.

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’d say enrichment rather than essence. It’s definitely intrinsic to our music. Introducing additional visual cues in the form of video projection is becoming increasingly of interest in our “Signals under Tests” project.  John is currently programming some pretty amazing visuals in “Processing” that will reflect the behaviour of our live audio. We’re pretty excited about that.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
You must be in the moment. 100%. I find that this is extremely hard to achieve. Although, being an organised individual helps a lot.

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
It’s not such a problem anymore given the new technologies at our disposal. There are many Internet communities, distributors, and labels that are ideal for an independent artist looking to get their music out to people into a specific niche. I think net labels are the way forward. They encourage online international community and collaboration.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
I would have artists of great diversity, with many opportunities for collaboration and improvisation. I think improvising with other artists is probably one of the most rewarding things you can engage in. Oh, and a Belgian beer tent. I’m quite a fan of Belgian Beer.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
Not yet. However, I do believe that I am getting there slowly but surely with my work with John. I am intrigued by Schoenberg’s envisioning of “Klangfarbenmelodie,” at least my understanding of it. Maybe that will influence how I will approach my composition in future.

Live at Verbal Arts (2009) Hippocamp

Signals under Tests

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