Name: Basak Gunak
Occupation: Sound Artist, Producer
Current Release: Beautiful Swamp on Compost
Recommendations: Clarice Lispector - The Passion According to G.H.
Lara Favaretto, Momentary Monument
If you enjoyed this interview with Ah! Kosmos, you can keep up with her work on her website, facebook account and soundcloud profile.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I have been engaged in music by performing the bass in different bands. It took time for me to learn the know-how of recording. Then I started producing. What drew me most was the possibility of transforming my feelings, images and imagination into sound. I remember how much I liked it when I encountered Rilke’s approach to music.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
The important thing for me is to transform my state of being into music as clearly as possible. When these feelings are translated into sound, they change their direction and transform. They grow out from us, at the same time outgrowing us and your language, your own voice, eventually develops. I think what might help this process of time is holding a space where one can create, continue learning, having mentors and being in a supportive environment.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning, I was finding myself lost in composition, production. Now I’m finding myself more in a flow while I’m producing. I improvise to create internally and bring out my state of mind. Sometimes I’ll get to a point where I feel confused. In these parts I try to use different approaches to handle it.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
It was a table that had a computer and headphones. It keeps evolving to be able to record instruments and process them. I’m getting attracted to adding synths, mics, vintage reverbs, compressors, Eqs ... But somehow in the last days, I also want to produce wherever I can with a very simple setup.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Technology opens a lot of opportunities. I love its potential, but it also comes with its frustrations that can drive one far away from connecting with the inside by being extremely distracting. As we become more intertwined with technologies, I care about thinking about how do we interact with them, which opportunities-challenges does it create. I also like to question the line between mechanical/organic and machines/people. I’d rather not reinforce these boundaries.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
For me, the composition of a piece is more about decision-making. It is beyond creating or generating sound, melodies, text, images, structure and order. Composition is about the organization/disorganization of elements in the piece. It needs critical thinking and creative thinking.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I find collaborations very expanding and also inspiring. I like talking and dreaming with other people - especially people from other disciplines. I find it stimulating to search for a ground where we can work together.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I try to have a fixed schedule but I’m having a hard time turning off the outside world. I try to have at least 4 hours of alone time in the studio with instruments or somewhere with my computer. During that time, I just like to be in flow and create and try to leave the state where I’m aware of what I’m doing.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
I would like to describe the process of “It Rains Without You”. It has an interesting creative process as it has changed a lot. There are more than 10 versions of it now.
The main theme of this piece happened one day and the name of the song came with it. But in the following days, I somehow couldn't reach the point where I feel good in composition. So many days passed and I was not in harmony with the initial mood of the song. So it changed its tempo and searched a lot where I it really feels at “home”.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Calmness and keeping the days structured helps me being productive. I like to be in a calm state of mind & heart. Then I can put myself in to composing. Meditating is helping me a lot to get closer to this state, as is being surrounded by good people.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Improvisation and composition has a very tight bond for me as improvising is the initial point of starting a composition in my creative flow. Playing live helps me develop a song and figure out what is not working in it. I like taking songs out of the studio and playing them live to experience how a song is resonating in a different space and between other bodies.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
I think there is a specific timbre that I subconsciously get attracted to. I try to create sound pools while searching for a timbre that is in my mind. When proceeding to composition, I try to keep in mind which elements I’m using where and why. Subtraction or silence then becomes one of the important parts of composition.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
I think it is influential how sound affects people beyond hearing. I also like to think of sound with its relation to memory. How sound is also triggering memory and its role in the construction of memory.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Art is so powerful that it can build up a connection between so many things. But I think art and purpose do not resonate together in the creative process. A piece finds its place in the human heart and meaning later; it emerges from the obscure part of the psyche and also transcends us.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
Music both carries its definition and its addressee. Because of that, it is always reaching out from its source. It abolishes being static, and it suggests a different temporality.