Name: Georgia Rodgers
Current Release: Georgia Rodger's Tonewood is out now on SN Variations
Recommendation: Two books which together make a fantastic juxtaposition on theories about looking:
Seeing is forgetting the name of thing one sees: biography of Robert Irwin by Lawrence Weschler
True to life: twenty-five years of conversations with David Hockney by Lawrence Weschler
If you enjoyed this interview with Georgia Rodgers, visit her website for more information on her work.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started making electronic music when I was in my early twenties with MaxMSP and Common Lisp. It was the physics of sound and the different ways a sound recording could be manipulated and perceived that originally interested me.
Before this I didn't write music but I played percussion and drum kit in a lot of bands and orchestras from the age of about 10.
For most artists, originality is 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?
I don't remember trying to emulate any artists in particular. I liked to write my own DSP algorithms and listen to what happened, and then go back and tweak the algorithm.
The big transition was when I started to write for acoustic instruments after a few years, and then tried to figure out how they might fit into my existing processes (or not).
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I suppose it's important to me that my background is the physics of sound and listening, and I always try to come back to these questions when composing.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
This would be a similar answer to the question above, in that it felt difficult to compose for instruments without having a conservatoire/instrumentalist or university music degree background. But I think I have accepted this now and just try to do what I do.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I started off using ProTools, Max MSP and Common Lisp since this was what was taught on the courses I did at University. Over the years I have used a variety of software, often dependent on what I could get access to at a reasonable price.
Currently I am using Reaper, Supercollider, Sibelius and a beaten up old cello I got on eBay. I try to remember that you can have all the tools in the world but no ideas, or you can have basic stuff and create something wonderful. It's best not to get too hung up on tools and focus on what you want to do.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Max MSP was quite an ear-opener when I first started using it, just because I had never heard anything like that before, nor been able to create my own experiments fairly straightforwardly.
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 close collaboration very difficult - I like to sit and think my own thoughts for a long time whilst I am creating something. Having said that, working one to one with musicians in workshops has always been a brilliant experience, I've learnt so much from listening and watching their techniques, talking through ideas and how they might be developed, notated etc.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. 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 have a 9 to 5 job in scientific research so that gives me a pretty rigid timetable. I specialise in environmental noise and population health so it feeds back into my work in odd and surprising ways sometimes.
Music has to be worked around this but I generally work in intense bursts (getting a whole lot done in a weekend for example) and then I mull it over in the back of my mind during the working week and have another listen to it the next weekend perhaps.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
One that sticks in my mind is a performance in Scotland in 2016 by the Bozzini quartet of a string quartet I wrote. It was the first piece I ever wrote for instruments without electronics and it sounded great in that concert. It helped me believe I could write music for instruments.
It was based on the idea of breaking down the string sound into constituent parts, so it has three distinct sections: in the first section the musicians gradually increase the pressure of their left hand, so the sound changes from unpitched to pitched. In the second section the musicians all play open strings to highlight the different resonances of the instruments. And in the last section they use very high pressure in the right have to bring out the friction of bow on string.
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?
For me (and a lot of people I think) it's very difficult to get more than a couple of hours at a time to focus on music without distractions. So I've had to learn to fit in creative thinking wherever I can, even if it's whilst sitting on the bus mulling something over. I also know I have to be feeling positive to make something happen, otherwise I'll just give up in despair.
So after a lot of struggle I now know it's important for me to look after my overall wellbeing (going for a walk with my partner, talking to friends, eating properly) before I can achieve anything creative.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I know when my mind is racing sometimes putting on some music is the only thing that makes me feel better. I think of that as a form of healing so I know music can provide that.
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?
The reality of perception is that there aren't really different senses in the way we experience the world - everything is multimodal and you can't separate them.
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?
I don't think of what I do as overtly political, but of course that doesn't mean it isn't in some contexts. I suppose just by challenging norms you're being political to some extent.
We also all have a role to play in actively challenging underrepresentation of different groups in art and supporting those whose voices may not be heard.