Work in progress

What do improvisation and composition mean to you and what, to you, are their respective merits?

Both approaches are complementary to me. The spontaneity of improvisation, like creating music in the moment alone or with fellow musicians is often challenging and interesting, although I tend to do less improvising nowadays.  Composition is a more solitary activity and a very slow process, at least from my perspective, but that allows more time to go into details and work little by little till you consider the work finished.  

Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?

I do like the idea that a sound performance can deliver an experience that will be perceived subjectively by the different people listening to it. It does depend of the context though. For instance sometimes a piece or performance aims to offer a strong physical experience in sound without any other intellectual meaning behind it, where other works might be based on more conceptual aspects that require extra information. 

How would you define the term “interpretation”? How important is it for you to closely work together with the artists performing your work?

In a musical context I guess interpretation is mostly about making decisions in how to perform a piece of music.

It is a fundamental aspect especially within an ensemble or orchestral context where there is often very little time to work on a score. For the execution of my own pieces, I especially like working with instrumentalists I know. If it is an ensemble I work with for the first time, then I try to have enough time to rehearse properly, which is unfortunately not always possible. Communication with the performers is fundamental. I also think interpretation has much to do with the mental and physical attitude on the stage. 

How do you see the relationship between sound, space and performance?

When it comes to live performance, the space plays a huge role. I consider space like an instrument. I’m interested in site-specific approaches with multi loudspeakers in strange architecture and bizarre acoustics like huge resonating spaces, old abandoned buildings, natural environments and so on. 

Experimenting with the placement of speakers and/or musicians in a space is interesting. The traditional setting of having the performers on the stage and an audience sitting in front of them can be very limiting. 

The role of the composer has always been subject to change. What's your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of composers today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?

This is a vast question, which would require a more complete answer that the one here…I remember an interview with György Ligeti where he was expressing a critical position and a rejection of all forms of ideologies and I sort of agree with him on that. 

Artists in general have a possibility to trigger reflections through their works whether it is music, cinema, literature, visual art or any form of creative processes. The mass media are very strong in producing waste therefore creative people have definitely an important role in developing challenging and interesting works in order to offer an alternative to mainstream culture. 

Thinking, learning, researching and exchanging ideas are important activities and I do hope as an artist, that I might contribute to encourage these dimensions.

 How, do you feel, could contemporary compositions reach the attention of a wider audience?

I’m not sure if there is a need to reach a wider audience. Nowadays even the most obscure works of unknown artists might be found on the Internet. On the other hand, I don’t like to see certain music, in this case so-called contemporary composed music, as something separate from other genres or disciplines. Before reaching a wider audience, the different scenes should exchange more between each other while also paying attention and being curious to what happens on the other side of the railroad tracks. Each niche or genre is sometimes closed minded and only concerned by its own stylistic range and limitations, resulting in specific scenes being totally unconcerned about other practices, which is a pity. This seems to happen in many sociocultural, academic and scientific contexts too. 

Composers have traditionally found it hard to secure a living with their art. What are the financial realities you're living with and in which way, do you feel, could they be improved?

So far I have had the chance to be able to survive with my works and I do hope it will continue to be the case in the coming years. 

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?

I actually don’t dream of a magnum opus at all. I try to do my best in every project, be it a low-fi performance in a basement or a big creation at an academic festival in a concert hall. I cannot imagine one big central work but more like many different projects revealing a specific path over the years. It’s a perpetual work in progress. 

To read and hear more about Antoine Chessex visit www.soundimplant.com

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