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FOURM: A spiritual economy for minimalist sound works

img  Tobias

There was an announcement of the “Archisonics” book some time last year and then I lost track of things. Has it already been published?
Yes, I published it last year... very quietly... Andy Graydon was great to work with as his insights and writing really gave the whole thing its shape. And he certainly forced me to raise my game with regard to writing and sound. His work is something very special. It was a long standing ambition to get the Archisonics programme off the ground, and the book served as a small droplet upon which other ideas and insights might accumulate, in collaboration with others. It was originally going to be a solo project. My “magnum opus”, but then I realised that I need more time for my own work to mature and find its true direction, and also that it would be futile to try and encapsulate the themes of the project in one book and CD – indeed that would be almost impossible. It really is too big a subject. When I saw Andy interviewed in NVO’s “EXTRACT” book, I just got the sense that he would be a great person to work with... an obvious affinity with the built form, and a very intelligent and informed man. I’m very proud that this was the entry point for the whole project.

The Archisonics project is slowly coming to a close, which makes this a good moment to start drawing conclusions – and to start analysing in which way the aesthetics you were analysing are part of your own approach: A seminal field of research for Archisonics was how architecture can be translated to sound. Is that a question you begin with when writing music yourself?
Well firstly, the project isn’t exactly coming to a close... just this first phase of recording activity. The initial idea from the outset was to make it like a part-work... something that would resonate over a period of time, and gather momentum the more that people got involved with it, and the idea was (and still is) that it will encompass other fields of activity, not just CD sound works.

The artists that I invited to participate for the sound works all have a notable affinity with architecture and the built form, and in fact many sound artists are working in, or have a background in architecture or design, so it made sense to create a series of works where those artists could elaborate on the aspects of sound/architecture that interested them, and from that make some interesting connections, and build upon the whole Archisonics theme.

To my surprise, no architects or architectural organisations have yet approached me to give me their impressions of the relationships between sound and architecture, so another phase of activity may include an invitation to architects to contribute... maybe another book or CD/Book project in the future.

When making my own sound works, I think there has always been a connection with architecture in some way. For me, all creative activity is interconnected, and if you take time, some of those processes involved with architecture can be translated to sound/art/literature. One obvious example would be that for any creative form to be successful, it must involve an element of planning, or sketching. Then it must be built upon solid foundations, and after that the actual structure/drawing/song, or whatever, must have a form and structure, a “shape” if you like,  or “pattern”.
My conclusions for the project thus far are that my initial impetus has yet to be fulfilled completely. Goethe’s notion that “architecture is frozen music” has always fascinated me, and reversing that process, extracting sound/music from architecture has proven to be multi-faceted. The start point for me was always going to involve a literal translation... to “read” or interpret architectural blueprints as some kind of musical  notation... informed by processes of scale, harmony, rhythm, structure etc. But as the book states, we are merely at the beginning. The ways in which sound is manifested through architecture takes on many aspects, such as the multi-faceted physical, psychological, and phenomenological elements. Indeed  Andy Graydon’s diaristic explorations in the book opened me up to some areas that I hadn’t previously considered. It was a real learning curve, and I’m sure many others will have their own unique ideas as well. Luigi Turra, Shinkei, Heribert Friedl, Mise En Scene and Richard Garet, have all added their thoughts and musings within the context of the Archisonics 8cm series also... this is the beauty of the collaborative spirit. The real work begins when (and if) I get input from the architectural community, so bringing the whole project full circle. I sincerely hope that this will happen in the next few years... in the meantime, the project continues quietly until it becomes appropriate to take it further, and once again present it in some form to the public. I already explored a very rudimentary installation of the project at NETAUDIO last year, and although it wasn’t anywhere near what I would have wanted in terms of presentation, it served to motivate me to explore further. I am currently looking for a film-maker, or Flash artist to help produce an Archisonics DVD, so if any of your readers think they would be interested in helping out, then I would be happy to hear from them.

From reading about your current projects, I was under the impression that two words were essential to your work, ”organic" and “form". What is it that makes these aspects of music so interesting to you?
Those words perhaps summarise my whole reason for working in sound.., those that know my work will be very familiar with my fascination with form, and pattern in nature, and going back to my first sound installations as ECM323, I was keen on establishing tangible connections between sound and form, and how one could manifest through the other. At that time, I was exploring areas touched on by the Hafler Trio, although Andrew McKenzie’s work at the time was largely theoretical, and much of the audible material, whilst being imbued with genius, was largely bogus. One of his titles, “Of the Building of Forms by Vibrations”, was hugely evocative for me, and that title at the time piqued my fascination, and it is what sparked this whole area of investigation. So I began making work by projecting sound through various liquids. That was in early 1998, and this was presented at SONAR in Barcelona, (an installation film called TRACE) and this was immediately seized upon by other sound artists who went on and did similar experiments. Not wanting to be closely imitated, I moved my investigations forward by projecting sounds through powder. A re-kindling of experiments conducted by Chladni, and later , Hans Jenny. My fascination with audible forms was then brought to public attention in the Resonance magazine FEEDBACK issue, where I was utilising electronic feedback as an analogous system to feedback systems in nature, except to generate audible forms, rather than physical forms. I also presented some video feedback experiments (also called TRACE) alongside Joe Banks and Janek Schaeffer at The Rumble, curated by Banks at the Royal Society of British Sculptors in London.

So I think you can trace my current investigations to a line of enquiry that spans ten years or so. With Archisonics, these investigations continue, as I am attempting to unify two apparently disparate and unrelated forms, and draw comparisons, correlations, and inter-relationships between the built form and the auditory form. The word “organic” in most of my texts, really refers to anything that is naturalistic, or unplanned, fluid and without a definable boundary. The boundary-less form is also of great interest to me, and this was exemplified by chaos theory, with recursive systems, self-similar systems, etc. I was greatly interested by “Chemical Clocks”, but as there was no obvious sonic connection, that particular line of enquiry went on hold.


You recently collaborated with both label heads of Koyuki Sound, Shinkei and Luigi Turra. How different was the experience of working with these two artists, who operate within roughly the same musical territory?
I think it is now well documented that I have great respect for the work of these two artists in particular... we seem to have a very easy working relationship and love and respect each other’s work, so both releases (Hidamari/Metrics , and Meditation Space) came together really easily. I just knew straight away that both projects would work well, as both of these artists have an innate ability to work minimally, and this chimed with me from the outset. Shinkei and myself both (by co-incidence) submitted works that related to the fragility of glass buildings. So when his work and accompanying text came in, I had a feeling of great empathy with him... we had both come up with the same kind of theme. With Luigi, I had heard his work previously, and loved his approach. When I visited his Myspace page, and saw his influences, I knew that I should invite him to be involved. His love of Tadao Ando was the clincher, as I’ve loved his minimal architectural works as much as Mies Van Der Rohe, and some of the deconstructionist architects. All three of us have similar end results to our work, even though the technicalities may be a little different. We all operate very quietly, and perhaps sculpturally, reducing the works to their absolute essence, a level of absolute purity is being striven for. Perhaps one of the principle tenets of true minimalism.

2009 will be an important year for WHITE_LINE EDITIONS. How much can you already reveal about the upcoming CD projects?
Well this is now the third year for my Editions, and I have said to many people that WHITE_LINE was never set up to become a “Record Label” as such. I  don’t see what I do as “music” as such, and therefore actively resisted subscribing to the machinations and methodologies of the music industry. It just doesn’t fit what I wanted to achieve. I consider WHITE_LINE to be a publisher of art works, taking the form of sound recordings, images, installations, films and texts.

WHITE_LINE was, and always will be reserved for a very small and specialist audience who actively seek out interesting and quality minimalist sound works, with an eye for good presentation. I don’t advertise, I don’t send out review copies... the whole thing is sustained, energised and activated by the artists themselves, and the audience who buy the products, plus a reliable and trustworthy group of distributors. Aand thus far it has worked well. So WHITE_LINE, in a wider sense is truly a spiritual economy based upon an exchange of ideas, and hopefully great creativity. The whole project was a logical offshoot of my review site, and I felt that I wanted to make a good quality contribution to the scene, and curate a small publishing vehicle to engage with an intelligent audience. At the same time, it was also designed to help to promote artists whose work I love and admire, and warrant further attention, as well as being a vehicle for my own exploratory pieces. The Archisonics 8cm works for 2008 proved that there is an audience for this type of project, and if the “Best Of” listings in various magazines and sites at the end of the year are the litmus test, then the project has been a successful one.

As for 2009, I have been wrangling with making the transition to full-length CD’s, and bigger publishing editions... moving from 100 copies to maybe 300 -500 copies. I’m still at a crossroads with that, as I have cultivated an audience who are fast becoming friends, and many of us are on first name terms. I love that level of intimacy and connection with those who gain something from the works, and making bigger editions might dilute that special interaction. We will have to see. I also love the 8cm format... from an artist’s point of view, the 23 minute time frame serves as a great platform from which to explore shorter-form pieces, and consolidating their work into a smaller time scale is an entirely different discipline than album-length material.

I have very firm plans for the current group of artists involved, as well as expanding the WHITE_LINE roster further, I have approached Asher and Miguel A Garcia to present the first work for The White Series... a set of works designed around the artist’s impressions of the colour white. I can’t confirm any other details or artists yet, but it will be very interesting to see how this project blossoms.
February will see the release of the final part of the first phase of Archisonics recording activity... a very special release for me as it features Richard Garet  and Andy Graydon, they have both submitted very fine work indeed, and I am in awe of both of them for the quality of work, and scale of their activities. I also have a very definite plan to release a unique set of works by Linden Hale. Linden is an old friend who was with me from the beginning as part of ECM323, and he has also been a key figure in the success of my Level project, being responsible for some of the piano based samples that I worked from. Linden finally has a chance to have his own solo piano work heard on WHITE_LINE, and having just received the demo, it is going to be quite different from all my other releases, but nevertheless, very exciting as the editions move forward. I have one or two other projects planned for WHITE_LINE, currently under discussion, so nothing I can reveal just at the moment. I think generally, within the time constraints of my personal life, the editions serve the minimalist/experimental community well, and I hope that I can continue to release great quality, exciting projects and packages. My main aim being to increase the quality, rather than quantity of all my releases.

With regard to both my sound projects, I am able to finally realise a long term ambition by having work released on Non Visual Objects, a label I hugely admire for their dedication to minimalism. I have some of my best ever FOURM work nearly ready for them, and I think NVO will be something of a natural home for FOURM, outside of WHITE_LINE.  Level is going to continue in a much different way, being the more commercial, and better known of the two projects, it is time to take Level on a different trajectory, and hopefully break new ground, maybe do something a little more challenging. I also have one or two collaborations in the pipeline, not least a collaboration with Shinkei, Luigi Turra, and Joe Gilmore (formerly of VEND), that should result in a full length Double CD this year, if we can find a publisher.

Some recent releases on WHITE_LINE EDITIONS include a split between Heribert Friedl and Mise En Scene as well as collaborations between FOURM and Luigi Turra and Shinkei.


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