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Interview with Kyle Bobby Dunn

img  Tobias Fischer

Would you say the preference of the term “composer” over, say, “sound artist” denotes a particular approach to arranging your materials?
I suppose so. I'm more into arranging than anything else. They're just silly terms and labels. Taken a bit too seriously in my opinion.
I listen to classical music for pleasure and truly love a lot of it. Maybe some elements of that can be heard in my music but I wouldn't say I am really inspired by it. Certainly not the theory as I am almost as non-traditional as they come.

How closely are sound and composition related to you?

For me they've been in the same room for a long time. I am composing sound more than music. To me, sound is first and if it inhabits harmony, melody, it "can" become music. I once found that this annoying humming computer sounded harmonious with a simple piano fragment. Two basic notes, that when blended became a dazzling lull of complete existential sadness.

Do you think the fact that you enjoyed ”very little classical training” helps or hinders you in this regard?
Both. Probably. I like the idea of navigating in the dark sometimes but as you know you can run into a lot things and stub some toes in the dark. I think I like my approach and how I work because it's my own but it's very alienating at difficult at times. I'd probably have the same problems though if I had lots of musical training.

When working with performers, what kind of directions do you usually provide them with, then?
For the most part, the work is deeply embedded in my subconscious. I like to work with performers and players who can meet me half way at least, but there's often been some dictation and ridiculousness in the past. It's kind of like projecting thoughts and memories onto a stranger and having them interpret it musically. I'm surprised if someone actually wants to work with me again after our sessions or performances - but grateful.

What are your plans for your upcoming concert at a Brooklyn cathedral?

I usually hate playing live but it is an exercise of sorts. If I could play better spaces more often I'd like it more. This church in Brooklyn is my first performance at a space I am very happy about and will include all the elements I feel are appropriate to my music. I am working with a small string/horn ensemble and really trying to strip my usual process out of the mix.

Could you imagine leaving the acoustic sections more stretched out and going for a real cooperative approach between acoustic instruments and electronics?
Yeah that's what I think I meant about stripping out my usual processes and working closer with the acoustic resonance I love so much. I think a space and performance of this caliber will allow that. I performed 'Miranda Rights' which is from my 2008 Sedimental release, last fall with a nice string quartet that really stretched those acoustic possibilities and nuances of it perfectly. I wish every performance could be summed up in 15-20 minutes with that kind of power they delivered.

The idea being that you really want listeners to be able to concentrate on each single sound?
I think people are afraid of how quiet it gets and it does require more effort and a better sound system sometimes, but yes, careful attention yields best results for every piece.

Volume in general, whether it's about being quiet or loud, seems to be an  important aspect to you. Tell me a bit about that.
It's probably the most important yet difficult element I work with. I've found a few new ways of obliterating it recently and it's a lot like smearing. Sometimes it mirrors my odd breathing complexes and other times it's like letting thoughts just spew like exhaled smoke. Watching the smoke traverse into objects and the atmosphere is like poetic importance of volume to me. It is such a powerful thing and used unwisely in a lot of our daily listening and appreciation. Even in most of our music it is incorrect.

You’ve described your technique as a “complex process of recording acoustic sounds in certain settings and then arranging them specially in the computer”. What does that entail?
It's involved choosing specific locations that best suit the instrument, which can be more than one location, and then a tedious process of layering and reorienting the recordings with laptop. It's varied from certain works. 'Fragments & Compositions' and 'Six Cognitive Works' were the first albums I really tried acoustic processing with the most favorable results. But I remember back in 6th grade I recorded a choral piece with me and my cousins in an excellent in door swimming pool, no laptop - just a Hi8 video cam. It brought us some serious tears.

On “Rural Route No. 2”, you’re dealing with the theme of memories. How do “ghostly” feelings like these translate into a composition?

My music is almost entirely based on memory, as I think a lot of music is. Even the overall concept and idea of 'music' is based on certain memory structures. I like the more reflective aspects of working and chose to exert my memories into compositions that best resemble the memories in the form of sound.

Just as with Morton Feldman, your works seem to occasionally detach themselves from everyday reality.

Much like my feelings of volume and space in music, time is another really difficult thing. Its there but it's not there, you know? It's like an empty parameter for trying to figure things out. Someone like Johannes Brahms and Samuel Barber could compact years of feeling or sorrow in a few seconds or minutes. I am watching over 10 years when I hear some of Brahms notes and phrases. Feldman completely abolished time and space in his music. You don't just lose track of time or place in his music, you can lose track of everything. But, my music has a 'transportive' integer that tries to store time in itself so it can be like a place you can always go back to visit.

Some Feldman performances had a ritual feeling to them.

Sometimes it's like sharing rituals or windows with others in making this kind of music. I don't know. Feldman's music, just overall, has an unattainably haunting quality that a lot of people probably aspire to replicate and fail miserably with. Sometimes Feldman made too much of a point of pointlessness in life and music. Its relationship is rather tragic in many senses. I don't know how I feel about spirituality anymore.

Is there some kind of shape you would like your music to take in the future – a vision you may not yet be able to realise?
It's a lot like a living organic thing. It changes and grows or stunts on its own. I think it also dies like everything else. I realize where it's going, but that doesn't mean its a good thing. Like the future, it's probably not a good thing.

By Tobias Fischer

Kyle Bobby Dunn Discography:
You Made Me Realise (Housing) 2005   
Applications For Guitar (Housing) 2006   
Music For Medication (This Generation Tapes) 2007   
Six Cognitive Works (Kning Disk) 2007   
Fragments & Compositions Of Kyle Bobby Dunn (Sedimental) 2008   
Fervency (Moodgadget) 2009   
The Intimate Rituals Of (Songs From Under The Floorboards) 2009   
A Young Person's Guide To Kyle Bobby Dunn (Low Point) 2010   
Rural Route No. 2 (Standard Form) 2010

Kyle Bobby Dunn

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