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15 Questions to John Duncan

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
In Bologna. Very healthy, thank you.

What’s on your schedule right now?
At the moment 11 different projects simultaneously, all to be completed in the next several weeks and months, with a little travelling as well.

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?
No, these concepts and 'frames' are usually artificial and don't really mean much to the people I know and work with. There have been many influences, they're all important, and it's a long list...

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
Not at all.  There's a process, that continues.  It's as active as ever.

What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
Not alot.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
As inextricable.  Creating order from sound is how we listen, it's how we think, how the brain works.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?

Composing is done in private. Improvising is done in public. Again, both are forms of creating order so as elements of a process they tend to fuse into each other.


What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Usually I try to avoid having a stage. I prefer to be in the center of the space with the audience seated with their backs to me.

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?
No, of course not. 

Are “serious” and “popular” really two different types of music or just empty words without a meaning?
They seem to be both. Each implies an approach to music that is very different from the other, with different listening situations, audiences and intentions. In terms of placing value on one approach over the other, they mean nothing.

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?
Art always has this aspect by default. 

True or false: People need to be educated about music, before they can really appreciate it.
Both. False: people tend to find the music that really inspires them on their own; forcing something they don't like on them just turns into a form of torture. True: the more you know about a form of music or a particular maker, the more interesting it gets.

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?
In effect, that IS the current situation. Actually I think it's an improvement over the blatant ripoffs decades ago, much easier now to raise and settle a copyright issue. And since sampling is so easy to recognize, it hasn't discouraged people from making new work.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Films with soundtracks performed live.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours
would sound like?

Not yet.

Incoming (Streamline) 1995
The Crackling (trente oiseaux) 1996
Home: Unspeakable (trente oiseaux) 1996
Crucible (Die Stadt) 1998
Tap Internal (Touch) 2000
NAV (.absolute/Allquestions) 2001
Fresh (Allquestions) 2002
Phantom Broadcast (Allquestions) 2002
Infrasound-Tidal (Allquestions) 2003
The Scattering (edition ellipsis) 2003
Da sich die Machtgier... (Die Stadt) 2003
Tongue (Allquestions) 2004
Presence (Allquestions) 2004
Nine Suggestions (Allquestions) 2005

John Duncan

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