Name: Anne Paceo
Occupation: Drummer, composer, improviser
Recent release: Anne Paceo's S.H.A.M.A.N.E.S. is out via Drumzzz.
If you enjoyed this interview with Anne Paceo and would like to find out more, visit her official homepage. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from? What role do the often cited sources of inspiration like dreams, other art forms, personal relationships, politics, etc. play?
I don't really control my own creative process.
What is certain is that music is born when my mind is calm and I don't have a thousand things to organize. Every time it starts from a melody that will usually appear when I'm doing something else. It can be while walking in the street, when I am with friends, while shopping …
I've also noticed that a lot of music is born after I've experienced strong emotions and have the space to let them infuse. I often write music after great joys or sorrows. I think it's a way to exorcise things.
Traveling inspires me a lot too, but maybe it's just because it's a time when I can leave my head free and just be in contemplation.
To get started, do you need concrete ideas - or what some call a "visualization" of the final work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
In my work process nothing can be forced. I can't choose when I write music. It all comes from a melody I hear. Sometimes I'll hear a bit of it and then I'll look for the rest. But I think the most beautiful melodies and songs I've written have come from the first note to the last note in my head.
This was the case on my last album S.H.A.M.A.N.E.S. What is certain is that in all cases no note is left to chance.
Does your process include a preparation phase? Do you need your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you have to do "research" or create "first versions"?
On my last album I did some research beforehand. I have always been passionate about shamanic culture, ritual and religious music. When I decided to work on this theme I asked several ethnomusicologists to send me recordings of ceremonial music. I listened to these for months, then I let it rest.
Then life happened, my experience, my stories and the music was born. I spent a lot of time in my studio, digging into the sound material. I recorded my melodies and looked for ways to dress them up by recording drums, voices, fender rhodes and bass parts. It is this material that I gave to the group for the first rehearsals.
Previously I brought scores which allowed a great freedom of expression and interpretation to the performers. On S.H.A.M.A.N.E.S I had a very precise idea of what I wanted to hear.
Do you have certain rituals to get you in the right frame of mind to create? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, light, scents, exercise or poetry reading play?
I like to compose in very sunny rooms, mostly in the morning with the windows open - places where you can hear life around you.
On a lot of my demos you can hear sounds of the environment, birds, a bottle falling outside, the hum of the city. I think that gives them a certain charm.
Where do you start? How difficult is the first line of text, the first note?
The difficulty is that I never know when the first note will appear!
Once you have started, how does the work gradually take shape?
There are times when the whole piece is just an obviousness.
I remember the title "mirages" - I had this melody in my head, I sat down on the piano. I played the first 3 notes, laid down the first chord and then everything just happened, as if that melody had always been there.
Many writers have said that once they get into the process, certain aspects of the narrative slip away from them. Do you like to keep a tight rein on the process, or do you feel like you just follow things where they lead you?
When I'm working I often lose track of time, and even space. I totally immerse myself in the music, and then it's like I just become a transmitter and finally all these melodies come from somewhere else. It's a pretty sweet feeling.
There is a part of letting go in all this I think, each note leads to another one in a rather natural way.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative paths open up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you as well, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
Recently I wrote a piece for 6 baroque voices and a lute.
I started with this melody that came to me one morning when I was leaving my house, which I stretched out as I wrote. I wrote a lot and went back and forth a lot, restarting passages while trying to go in new directions.
In the end, I kept only the passages that seemed to me to be the most emotionally strong and the most relevant.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for yourself personally? Is there an element of spirituality in what you do?
Completely, but I think this spirituality is expressed even more strongly when I play my music live. I believe that the creative state is a form of letting go and extreme concentration.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends to be infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
In writing, it's a feeling that marks the end, the sense that there's nothing more to say, that the story has been told, and that the piece stands on its own.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it to you to let it sit and evaluate it later? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow yourself until you are satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practice?
When I write a new piece I'll live with it for a while, it stays with me, I listen to what I've done a lot, I sing it ...
Once the demo is done, it stays with me on a daily basis and I like to come back to it regularly to see if it still feels the same. Then when I bring the piece to the band I sometimes feel that something is missing, a new part or something else and in this case I work again at home until I find the right shape before bringing the piece back to the band again.
What is your point of view on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved are you in this process?
I think mixing and mastering are very important.
Mixing a record is like composing, you have to make choices about what you want to highlight or not. That's why I like to be present at this stage. It is part of the creative process in my opinion. For me the mix gives the real shape to the work. It's a bit like making sculpture I think ...
After finishing a song or an album and bringing it into the world, there can be a feeling of emptiness. Can you talk about this and how do you get back to the creative state after experiencing it?
In the specific case of my new album S.H.A.M.A.N.E.S I didn't really feel a void. There was the whole release to organize, to write the texts on the album, to coordinate the teams ... Then, at the time of the release of the album, there is the promotion of the album, the concerts, and finally I am quite busy.
I haven't really had time to write new music. I'll do it when it's a little quieter!
Creativity can touch many aspects of our lives. Do you feel that writing a piece of music is fundamentally different from making a good cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't express in more "mundane" tasks?
I think that music is there to express the unspeakable, to express emotions that we cannot put into words or gestures. For me, music is deeply magical because it comes directly to certain emotions.
There is this song "mirages", I never really explain where it comes from but at each concert some people in the audience end up in tears, in the same state I think as when I wrote it.
And then there is a form of sacredness in the fact of being on stage. I have the impression not to be able to touch that in more banal tasks.