5. An element of emotion
, you’ve recently had this performance with Midi Sprout
(Ed. - a project recently developed by a collective from Philadelphia named Data Garden
), which is making music from a plant. How does that work and how did you come to use it?
I was commissioned by the Science museum in San Francisco last summer to do a piece, and it was a part of the series, I was the last commission of the season. The one before me was Roscoe Mitchell
from Art Ensemble of Chicago
. And I took this piece of technology, called Midi Sprout, which is a piece of hardware that converts bio data into a midi signal. And so you use censors like the EEG
(Ed. - Electroencephalography
) censors, like you would put on your head for brainwaves, or put on your body to measure hard rhythms. So you attach them to plants, and the plant is outputting this bio data. This bio data is read by a piece of hardware and then converts into a midi signal which is then sent into my synthesizer. And so the plant was controlling aspects of the movement of the patch piece in the synthesizer. So that’s how that worked.
Are you going to incorporate this into your work? How do you think these new technologies can influence the way you make music?
Well, is something I would like to eventually implement into what I do compositionally. The one I had was a prototype, so they’re doing a final manufacturing just now. So, hopefully I’ll have one sooner than later, to experiment with. I think the way that they can change how people are making sound is by having an influence of another living thing that does not relate specifically to any sort of human system. It gives you this moment where you can … you can let go. You can trust that another organism will be implementing energy to create the sound and you can actually let the ego go for a minute. And I think that is something wonderful and something that people need to fully explore.
It is true that in the ‘70s the focus was dehumanizing and I felt that way, I felt that we were missing something, by going dehumanizing and letting the machines run, but not biological machines (or driven by biological elements, like Robert was saying). At that time it was more like what can we do with those machines and let them dictate what we are composing. And I felt that’s missing, I was always mixing elements of natural sounds or voices to bring together the technology and the human also, because I felt that music is closing itself in itself it’s a closed circuit. That’s why it is a bit hard for me, in the music of today.. When I hear these very simple beats, that are repetitive constantly, and you see people dancing, like a robotic dance, and forgetting the human element. It’s a bit hard for my head to see that. For example, you come from a culture that has polyrhythm, right? And these polyrhythms are very complex; 9 beats, 11 beats. The music from your country is very hard to follow; you can not just go and hack it into 1, 2 – 1, 2, which is the disco and the modern music. I think it does something to the human mind, that’s why people of your country can speak several languages very easily, compared to people of the West who speak only one language or two languages, because they don’t have the inner training of the brain to go poly-rhythms. I've seen that in Indian music also; those young people are crazy intelligent; they are not developed intelligent but they are crazy.. it’s just mind-blowing what they can do with their brains. The link between the dehumanization, the robotisation of music and loss of developing intelligence is very important to me. That’s why I always bring an element of emotion in the music I create.
Also, to add to that, I would say that I think what you’re saying is very correct. And I think that the reason why we see these sort of things is because in outside of the West, culturally intuition has more to do with any sort of understanding or carrying out the day-to-day life. And in the west you have this sort of states quo, something that is really strong and you must learn it this way. And you’re inside of a box. No matter what you do or what you say, the box remains. And that happens over and over again; ‘you have to do it this way, this is the only way’. No, that makes no sense. You should be able to trust your own intuition and make what it is to make, do what you need to do.
*photo credits: Ariel Kalma
and Margot Anand
, Corfu, Greece. 1980