RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

Andy Graydon: Keeping limiting vocabulary 'at bay'

img  Tobias
Still, Graydon appears to be a happy man right now. Berlin is enjoying a second Spring these days, with a fresh stream of artists quietly flooding its wide-stretched territory after the tidal wave of hipsters and trend-oriented free-riders all but erroded its creative soil after the fall of the Wall. Graydon has gladly followed them on the promise of affordable studio space, a tremendous amount of cultural activity embedded into a society which is still capable of enjoying leasure time and a city with a lot of empty space. The German capital feels very much like a centre-less galaxy, and it easy to imagine how its polypolistic structure could cater to the needs of an eclectically interested artist like Graydon. “I appreciate that there is a genuine cultural suspicion here that a life of commercial exploitation may not in fact be the best way to run a society overall”, he says, “it's waning, but still exists in the details, like not being able to shop on Sundays.”

Graydon has already picked up work again (“I'm entertaining the idea for a new film project, and I haven't made a long film for quite a while”), which marks his previous full-length “At Bay” as the last musical statement to be issued from his former residence in New York for some time to come. Issued by Winds Measure Recordings, it sees him delineate a clearly defined space of his own, while touching upon several genres at the same time: Microtonal explorations are submerged by long, sustained stretches of metalically ringing drones, warm soundscapes blend into passages of almost complete silence and electronic effect processing meets field recordings and manipulated performances on his Ukulele.

On “Cloister”, Graydon uses a sample from Kenneth Kirschner’s “Post Piano” project, building an initially eleven-second fragment into a ghostly six-minute whisperfield topped off with granular scratches and crackles. “Ken is a friend of mine and I was trying to honor his approach to sound, noise, and a logic of reduction in my process with the piece”, he explains, “A lot of the work was filtering for noise, that is filtering and using noise canceling tools to focus on and accentuate both the noise of the room in the recording and the noise of the mp3 media itself.” As it was meant to be a humble hommage in a way, did Kirschner enjoy the finished result? “I think so”, Graydon says, “He still talks to me, at any rate.”

Graydon has traveled a lot over the past years and collected a well of source material from Hawaii, Washington State, Beijing and Gansu Province in China, New York City and Long Island, Berlin and Hamburg in Germany. As his work is both acoustic and cinematic, it would be easy to assume that this automatically places his compositions in the corner of location-specific music. In fact, only two of the tracks on “At Bay” are truly meant to express the feelings and ambiances of particular places and with titles like “Surroundings" (Hana, in Hawaii), and "Verite Entieres" (Governor's Island, New York), they don’t make a big secret of their aim either. The other pieces, including more obvious candidates for mood-related scenes, like the dimly glowing dream “Solid of Smoke”, however, deal with the idea of sound turning spatial in a completely different way.

“In all my work I'm interested in a migratory sense of listening -- a listening that moves constantly between positions of the photographic/phonographic, the spatial or equilibrial, and the musical”, Graydon elucidates, “And I'm interested in creating pieces that draw one kind of listening out from the other, in a constantly transforming process. So most of my recordings are worked on pretty heavily, often to focus in on a particular quality in them that can be filtered and brought to the surface. The title ‘At Bay’ in part refers to this process with sound: I often feel that what I have with any real-world recording is this wide, torrential manifold of sound, the sound of a place, and my work involves holding back a great deal of it, opening a tiny gap for only a sliver of it to pass, then expanding and transforming that minute detail. It's an aesthetics of withholding, in a way.”

You can clearly hear this aesthetics of withholding in action on “At Bay”. Instead of trying to make a momentous entry, these works seep into the listener’s awareness through the backdoor of the subconscious. Their lack of rudeness is no barrier to at once attaining the characteristics of a zone and functioning as minutely planned and distinctly developed compositions. Even though great importance is awarded to displaying the gradual shifts in timbral aspects of his materials, the album is not a cooly narcistic showcase in electronic techniques but an emotional album, which wants to be appreciated on the grounds of its immediate, elemental perceptional impact.

There is a good reason why his work is decidedly personal: Every place he has visited has left a mark and these footprints have manifested themselves in his unique sonic script, which Graydon describes as an ongoing process: “My youth in Hawaii has certainly shaped my attention and my interest in sounds, space, temporalities. And an interest in places, and their real or metaphorical transformations. My experiences since then, in Seattle, Chicago, New York, and now Berlin continue to underscore these interests, however. As I form an image of each new environment, and as I in turn am partly re-formed by passing through it myself, I'm able to see that early time more specifically, to see a bit more clearly how it is that I see things.”

The move to Berlin has certainly already started to make itself felt. Not only for the fact that it has inspired him to pick up the camera again, but also for a slew of interrelated projects, including a “project which begins with field recordings from exhibition sites in New York, but picks up the sound of each venue that it visits, in the form of a new record that enters the installation at the next location.” Avoiding limiting vocabulary, however, is sure to remain a constant in his oeuvre, as he points out at the end of our conversation: “Explicit imagery is in fact one of the things that often kills the autonomy of sound. In fact, sound is simply the more integrative, the harder of the two senses to break from the overall continuum of sensory experience. It was through my experience in filmmaking that I came into sound, but in many ways I ended up leaving cinema behind in order to explore the more full potentials of sound outside of its typical pairing with images.”

Homepage: Andy Graydon
Homepage: Winds Measure Recordings

Related articles

Shinkei & mise_en_scene: "Scytale"
Recoiling the cipher: A musique ...
Andy Graydon: Methodical Scratchings
Now in display in Berlin ...
CD Feature/ Tomas Phillips: "Six Notes"
A strip of microthoughts: Phillips ...
FOURM: A spiritual economy for minimalist sound works
If more people knew about ...
CD Feature/ Colin Andrew Sheffield: "Signatures"
Invitations to interpretation and fantasy: ...
CD Feature/ Gunter Adler: "Douches Dames"
Persistent changes conjoined with perceptive ...
Interview with Logoplasm
After you've immersed yourself in ...
Mise en Scene: Shay Nassi's White_Line duet with Heribert Friedl
Tel-Aviv based experimental Sound Artists ...
CD Feature/ Michael Santos: "The Happy Error"; The Green Kingdom: "Laminae"
Irresistible moments of bliss: Maple ...
Logoplasm: 'kane-i-kokala' blindfoldedly nominated for Qwartz Award
Semi-mythical Italian sound act Logoplasm ...
CD Feature/ Mirko Uhlig: "The Nightmiller"
Less notes: Fleeting figments and ...
CD Feature/ Luigi Turra: "texture.vitra"
Backwards translations: Turra has chosen ...
CD Feature/ Asher: "Intervals", "Cell Memory", "Graceful Degradation: Variations"
Methodical perfection: Three albums by ...
CD Feature/ Donald Bousted: "A Journey among Travellers"
Pleasantly unforseable serpentines: An imaginatively ...
15 Questions to 3 Pups Music
Some projects break apart at ...

Partner sites