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15 Questions to Anla Courtis

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I’m fine thanks, now here working in my home in Buenos Aires.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Mmm... a couple of things I guess. I’ve just finished “Antofagasta” an album made with field recordings from Argentinian Puna that will be released later this year. I’m now mastering another one with pieces for Unstringed Guitar and Cymbals and a double CD retrospective called “Las Sales Fundentes”. There are some collaboration projects to be finished like second albums by Culver-Courtis and Marhaug-Courtis. I’m also recording new stuff with groups Ül and with Daddy Antogna & los de Helio (project of the legendary drummer of Ave Rock). There are some releases appearing in the coming months including:
Mattin/Eddie Prevost/Bruce Russell/Alan Courtis “The Sakada Tapes”, a square 8” called “Llegaron...”,  “Frankfurt” CD, an ultra limited release with paintings by Tony Herrington, the Uton-Courtis collab, a live CD from the Japan Tour with Yoshimi P-Wee & Seiichi Yamamoto (of Boredoms, OOIOO, Rovo) and also Tokyo recordings with Tabata (Zeni Geva) & Masami Kawaguchi (Miminokoto). Finally I’m working on some music for experimental films, planing some gigs in diverse Argentinian cities and slowly assembling a triple album.

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist? Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
My biggest influence are all artists of all times before they were born. And even though it is difficult to answer the second part of your question I can say  - and I here have no choice - that at least I’m part of the movement of Planet Earth around the Sun, then the Sun around the Galaxy, then the Galaxy around the.... and the... around...the...........(ad infinitum...)

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
Crisis has been probably going forever since life always means some kind of crisis, but for sure that’s not so problematic. However my question would be: is there in fact such thing as “a scene”? For instance do you think people listening to something like reggae music are all really listening the “same thing”? I slighty suspect that we might have billions of scenes going on, maybe one for each brain cell of each listener... The other uncertain point is: what do you consider as “present”? But let’s forget for a second this is an email questionnaire and let’s continue with a prediction: I’m feeling I’ll say more about that subject in the coming answer. Next question please.

What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
Again the thing here is: What are you are saying when you say “new”? Considering it rigorously, something from ten minutes ago is not new. In fact you cannot even pronounce the word “new”, before you end to pronounce it will be old. So it would be fantastic to have truly “new” music, but unfortunately it won’t last even a second...

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
They are a nice couple. And they are sometimes in love! But obviously sometimes they're not...

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Well you can bring a chainsaw and try to separate it... but in my opinion is not necessary. In a sense, composition and improvisation are just concepts and I think of them mainly as ideal abstractions that are not completely available for anybody in the practice. For a “total” composition you’d need to control all possible parameters (including for ex. humidity rate, resonance of the auditorium, noise level on the audience, humour of the players, etc.) and for real improvisation you’d need a music “without memory”, which is normally impossible in both cases. You can always find some amount of improvisation on any “composed piece”, and some degree of “composition” on any improvisation. So then what we can only have is “more or less composed music” and “more or less improvised music”, that’s why going back to the chainsaw it would be pretty difficult to know where to start cutting...

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Difficult question. A good performance should have something special & powerful but it’s hard to say exactly what, since it can be something different each time. However I’d say a performance is really a performance when it can take you away from “normal time” and somehow put you - even for just a second - in a “different kind of time”, but it’s not easy to understand how this can happen, so there is some big mistery behind it. In any case, my own approach to performing on stage is simply try to treat sounds as living beings, feed them gently and let them grow slowly until they turn into a big garden of...

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as “music”. Would you draw a border – and if so, where?
Do you mean music borders can be measured? Should we buy a “musicometer”? It sounds a bit hilarious. But let’s put it clear, the term and what it currently means it’s nothing but a social “invention”. So if you can find enough people to believe that anything - it doesn’t matter how it sounds or even if it sounds - “is music” then that “will be music”. If not, then probably it won’t be considered as “music” today, but it doesn’t mean anything since in fact there are thousand of things that were refused in the past and now are perfectly accepted as “music”. But finally it’s just a word and nothing will really change if you call it or not that way. The main problem is to believe there is only one valid criteria to say what is music and what not, and even more problematic is to decide who is in fact allowed to make that decision for the rest of the planet. So instead drawing a border I’d rather spend the time building a couple bridges to connect non-music to music and music to...(what is coming beyond)...

Are “serious” and “popular” really two different types of music or just empty words without a meaning?
Sorry, I cannot offer any answer about this matter at moment. But instead I can leave you a couple of questions: Can you think in a music without physic sounds? Something working straight to the mind, like just pure psychic music. What will be “serious” or “popular” then?

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’m not discovering anything if I say that Art always has a political/social aspect even if it’s not explicit. The way each artist deals with it is something personal and it seems there are not general recipes to trust. My personal choice is: swim in a water that at the same time is not wet and not dry.

True or false: People need to be educated about  music, before they can really appreciate it.

When you say “people” you are referring to the whole Humanity and the differences between one person and another are so huge that I don’t think there is enough space here to write about it. So then for for some people it could be false and for others it could be true, or true and false at the same time, or even anything else that is neither true nor false.  So it’s impossible to give a general answer. But to say something, education can be something really useful or the most boring thing on earth, and let’s remark I wouldn’t ever want to underappreciate the potential of first hand experience and intuition.

Imagine a situation in which there’d be no such thing as copyright and everybody were free to use musical material as a basis for their own compositions – would that be an improvement to the current situation?
Plagiarism-Answer: Imagine a situation in which there’d be no such thing as copyright and everybody were free to use musical material as a basis for their own compositions – would that be an improvement to the current situation?

Non-Plagiarism-Answer: Free use of musical material is just a tool and does not guarantee any improvement itself, but it can be glitterful sometimes.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
I’d organize the Astral Festival featuring: Pythagoras, J.S. Bach, Jimmy Hendrix, Yatsuhashi Kengyo, G.I. Gurdjieff, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, Jerry Garcia, Gesualdo,  Älgarnas Trädgård, T’ang Dinasty musicians, Lead Belly, Pandit Pran Nath, Dimitri Shostakovich, Hippasus, La Pesada, Henry Thomas, Giovanni Perluigi da Palestrina, Edgard Varèse, ancient Egyptian ensembles, Miguel Abuelo, John Fahey, Sperm, Béla Bartók, Juan Carlos Paz, Kurt Schwitters, Jean Dubuffet, Sun Ra, Bartolomé Mamani, Åke Hodell, Albert Ayler and many more names to confirm... It’ll have a vocal native section with Tuvan and TibetanThroat Singing, Indonesian Ketjack, Celtic Mouth Music and a selection of Shamanic Music from all times including: Selk’Nam, Inuit, Huns, Yupik, Navajo, Wichi, Paleosiberian, Tehuelches, Uralic, Bora, Finno-Ugric, Aucas,Yamanes, Mapuches, Guaycurúes, Huicholes,  Comechingones, etc. It would also include a Special Spotlight on Unknow Prehistoric Luminaries: the man/woman who discovered whistle, the first person to sing ever, the first collective group to appear, the inventor of the earliest instrument ever done, and more...

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
It’s impossible for me to think anything that way, it’s definitely too pretentious and when you approach things with that kind of purpose normally they won’t work. But beyond that, if your question points to what I’d like to do -even if it’s impossible-, then what I would probably enjoy doing is a piece using as main source the amplified sound of electrons, protons and neutrons...

Picture by Robotcowboy

COURTIS-WEHOWSKY “Return of the Stone Spirits” (2007) Beta-Lactam Ring Records
“Psi Gtr Avalanche” (2007) Smittekilde. Denmark.
BIRCHVILLE CAT MOTEL with ANLA COURTIS “Three Sparkling Echoes” (2007) Celebrate Psi Phenomenon
“Tape Works” (2006) Pogus Productions
COURTIS/MOGLASS/KIRITCHENKO (2006) CD. Nexsound/ Carbon Records/Tilt 1000+1/Gold Soundz/TibProd
-STROUNTES! Maria Eriksson, Mats Gustafsson & Anla Courtis (2006) Slottet
“Antiguos Dólmenes del Paleolítico” (2006) Sedimental

“Noiselovlive” (2006) Xerxes
“Tribute to Calcium”  (2005) Tonschacht
CULVER-COURTIS (2004) Riot Season
COURTIS-MARHAUG “North & South Neutrino” (2004) AntiFrost
“Recycled Music Tape” (2004) RRR
“Albumina Blues” (2001) Freedom From
“Poliestireno Expandido” (1996) Matching Head

Anla Courtis

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