Name: Manuel Oberholzer aka Feldermelder
Occupation: Sound artist, producer, composer, label co-founder at -OUS.
Current Release: Feldermelder's Euphoric Attempts is out via -OUS.
Recommendations: Nachthorn LP by Maxime Denuc on Vlek; The Three-Body Problem, a book by Cixin Liu.
If you enjoyed this interview with Feldermelder and would like to know more about his work, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
Over the course of his career, Feldermelde has engaged in various collaborations, with artists like Sara Oswald, and Julian Sartorius.
[Read our Sara Oswald [and Feldermelder] interview]
[Read our Julian Sartorius interview]
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
When I was seven years old my father bought me a Commodore computer and I had Tracker Software on a Floppy Disc which came with it and from then on I was hooked.
Even though most people were playing games I was fascinated by being able to create my own tunes and record them to a cassette tape.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
Most of my ideas start as images or as a kind of imaginary shape in my head and I try to extrapolate the feeling these images emit into a sound or a musical pattern.
Music serves as a kind of memory for me. So there is a significant association between objects, places, shapes, memories and sound.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
I would probably reply to this question differently every couple of weeks, depending on my present challenges.
But generally speaking I am in a lifelong hunt for sound processes to help me imprint myself and my personal taste into my musical and acoustical universe. So my interests switch all over the place all the time.
But this hunt somehow to find myself seems to have no end, with daily breakthroughs and setbacks.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I don’t believe in identity really. I think this quest to find identity is the source of all our problems and misunderstandings.
Sure I was born in Europe but I can feel very close to any music. I was never really into music with vocals and so most music I listen to could come from anywhere and everywhere.
With this comes my understanding that sound is vibration in the air. We all have the same air. I am more interested in personality than identity.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Experimentation and reinvention are the basis of all that I do. Trying not to repeat myself, to evolve and to reinvent myself with every piece of work.
At least I try to.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
As mentioned in another answer, I am really interested in personality. In electronic music this seems to be, for me, the most important aspect. I want to hear music that just this one person could have made. I want to see the person in the composition, the sound design, the performance and the ideas. If this happens normally all the boxes are ticked.
A true person is always timeless and original. The terms music of the future and continuing a tradition seem irrelevant to me.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Definitely the computer. First, everything was a challenge but now everything is bliss. It is the brain of everything.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
My days vary a lot depending on what I am working on at the moment. But generally I get up early, drink some coffee, go to the studio, forget everything about time and space and suddenly I come back, like from a long trip, and it's three in the morning and I forgot to eat. So I run home to make some dinner. And it repeats.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
It's a game of trial and error and an ineffable feeling of when and what to pick from a recording to start something new. Or the moment you improvise something and suddenly you think 'this is it'. But how and why are very personal. If this happens everything later in the process is clear at that moment.
On my latest album Euphoric Attempts I tried to just have these moments of 'ahh that touches me'. But if it might touch anybody else later on doesn’t enter my thinking.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
Well I think that listening is always a solitary activity. But this is maybe just the way I am, feeling alone in a crowd even when listening to a concert.
Collaborative music making is for sure an enrichment and mixes up your routines and it is in many regards easier, at least to me. I am really picky with whom I play and collaborate, so if it is happening, this means I am already very comfortable with this person and so it's easy to let go.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I think everybody’s work is related to the world we live in. I am in a constant dialogue between the world that surrounds me and my personal work.
I think music is omnipresent in society but I think the value of elaborate music and works of art that take a long time to make have experienced a devaluation, in terms of the appreciation of what went into the process.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
I think the word understanding is too strong. I don’t think I really understand anything on a fundamental level. There is too much randomness and things happening that are out of everyone's reach and control.
In a sense, I ended my search for the idea of concrete understanding.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
I think science relates more to aspects of democratisation and accessibility of music. Music has been around long before we even knew what science was. But science has been an integral part in how music is produced and transferred between us all. Electronic music has always been a partner in our advances in the field of electronics and its underlying science.
So there is a kind of relationship, but I think that art dictates the way in which this operates and not science. I do believe that people working on new discoveries need to have an extremely creative brain to imagine where to find the next idea.
Science is the search to find out what was always there, while music is the quest to manipulate the elements in creative ways. While music has experienced constant change the science of the universe has always been the same and it's for us to discover the laws of the latter. Music seems to be different, in the sense of continual change and discovery going hand in hand.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Yes, I think so. Making a great cup of coffee has a clear message and sense to the act. Making music, especially instrumental music, doesn’t need to have a deeper sense to it. The music is the expression. There is nothing more to it or anything hidden behind it.
It's a very difficult question that makes me want to write a book about the subject!
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our eardrums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it is able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
From a physics perspective everything seems to be a waveform. Light has turned out to be waves, gravitational and otherwise. So it seems that manipulating waveforms is the underlying art form of the universe.
For me it is the purest art form out there, as it's a manipulation of the planet's atmosphere. It's just logical that something so strongly connected to our survival touches us so deeply.