Name: Delphine Dora
Occupation: musician/ vocalist/sound artist
Current Release: L'inattingible on Three:Four/Meakusma
Recommendations:Travelling in the Invisible by Charles Stépanoff / Ethereal Transects by Folklore Tapes
Website/contact: Delphine has a blog at delphinedora.wordpress.com and a Bandcamp page
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing my own music at 23. At that time, I listened mostly to folk music or singer/songwriter stuff, some pop music, some underground music too and some oldies. I was really passionate at that time about song writing that was honest and pure, I was really into music that gave me deep emotions. I can't really explain but discovering some masterpieces from the 60s-70s, some re-issues made a big impression on me.
Writing music was directly linked with recording and it was mostly to explore something unknown inside me that couldn't really be expressed with words. My first songs were in English (but directly translated from French) but after, I tried to explore more wordless music and an imaginary language.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. 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?
When I started composing and recording music, I never tried to imitate anyone in particular. I listened to a lot of music at the time but I don't think I was trying to imitate models or inspirations. I was trying to look for personal expression, something intimate. But the idea of conscious influences didn't work for me. That’s why at that time, I studied outsider art. It's true that in the West, we tend to consider art as the product of outside influences.
Let's say an artist is never isolated as such. He is always immersed in a given culture (whether popular or academic), it influences him (but this influence may or may not be intentional). In my case, there was neither a refusal to detach myself from particular influences, nor a stated intention to be influenced by anyone.
In my twenties, I was simply creating out of an inner necessity to give shape to what was going on inside me. I've always listened to a lot of music and I can't explain why I had this greedy need for music from a very young age, a voracious, almost obsessive curiosity to go out and find rare pearls, obscure things.
A lot of music has nourished me and allowed me to develop a personal style, not defined in a precise genre, but in a plethora of musical aesthetics. I've always found it extremely difficult to pinpoint precise influences, so I need to explore new territory with each new album.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My way of composing and producing music has evolved naturally from year to year, from record to record. When I started recording, I had no technical knowledge of how to compose and produce music. I simply recorded myself by pressing the record button on the recorder. Then gradually, I began to acquire a computer and to work on Garage Band where I started multi-tracking, recording one or more keyboard parts, objects, effects, but mostly several vocal parts. This way of working was my trademark for many years, then I started to enrich my sound universe when I switched to Logic Pro x. At that time, I started to invest in a little bit more equipment, like a better sound card, a tube amp for the piano, and monitoring speakers. I learned to compose with more music tracks and gradually mastered the basics of mixing. But it was with my last record, « l’inattingible », that I really made a qualitative leap where composition and production were suddenly intertwined.
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?
I started with a small keyboard and a tape recorder, I tried to capture my first songs with a Dictaphone. After that, I moved onto a computer with Garageband and I bought a microphone. Then I bought another keyboard, etc...
Once I moved into a house I bought a real piano with good microphones. Then I slowly invested in new gear over the years, like a good sound card or good pre-amp. I have small, cheap instruments like some Aeolian chimes, a melodica, flutes, violin. I recently bought a Nord electro keyboard with good organ sounds among all and a semi-modular synth (Behringer Neutron).
My piano and my keyboard are really important as are my microphones. One of my most important piece of gear now is my Zoom h6 that I keep with me all the time when I am outside to capture sounds from outside (natural ones or domestic sounds, or fragments of speeches). It's one of my main instruments to record sounds from everywhere and lots of different situations and it gives some new direction to my music.
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?
My use of technology is very intuitive and rudimentary compared to what we can do with technology now. I use technology more like a tool in my creativity.
As I’ve started post-graduate sound studies, I’m starting to learn new things that I have for so long neglected and my relationship to sound and technology has changed since. Technology and creativity are not opposite, I am conscious that the both can create sound worlds with myriad possibilities.
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?
I wish sometimes that my production tools were more complex to enable more sound possibilities. I don’t really use electronic pedals when I compose at home, only when I play live and I have a loop and reverb pedal for my vocals.
My computer is really important, I use it as a multi-track recorder, and composition tool. The software I use mostly are Logic Pro X, Ableton Live and now Reaper but I also have use for Audacity or Ocen Audio for editing. I wish I had more knowledge of complex software like Max MSP or Pure Data.
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?
Collaboration is very important to me. Not only does it allow me to explore new places that I would never go if I worked alone, it also allows me to explore new approaches and to go further into my artistic vision.
File exchange is fine but it will never replace a physical relationship between two musicians in the same room, the energy that can come out of that encounter. Indeed, for me, there is something magical about sending a file and not being able to anticipate the result. It's quite rare that I send instructions to the musicians I work with. Generally, I work with musicians whose universe I appreciate and who also appreciate mine. It's an absolute trust and I give them total freedom.
I like this idea of the time lag, the idea of surprise when you receive the file back from your collaborator, as if an initial material was transforming and slipping out of your hands, out of your control; it's this abandonment that can sometimes be life-saving.
It has also practical in terms of cost. For my latest album, L'inattingible, I worked with 14 musicians in different places and this record has been made possible through file exchange. I created the skeletons of the songs to which the musicians grafted their parts.
Through file-sharing, you tend to focus your attention more on sound and listening. Through playing together in the same room, it’s more about other parameters like energy, body, space, time, attention, that are absent with file-sharing. I couldn't do without this work in a common space, the energy that comes out of such work, the osmosis that occurs when we dialogue with each other. For me, a successful collaboration doesn't require a lot of talking before, it’s not necessary. Dialogue can be established through playing and a lot through listening and giving space to the other, and it's on this basis of play that we build a common form 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?
It really depends. I don’t think each day looks the same and I really don’t have a fixed schedule. I’m not a really morning person, and my day starts at 10 or 11 where I start by doing some morning exercise or answering emails.
I try to balance between several aspects of life during the day: the creative aspects (writing, researching, practicing music, recording, editing, etc…), the communication aspect, going outside (to walk or doing some field recordings), reading…to have a day more complete with a multitude of aspects. It’s hard to find balance because sometimes I can be quite obsessive, working for hours and for days non-stop. I can’t separate the music and other aspects of my life, they blend naturally and respond to each other.