Name: Jarboe La Salle Devereaux aka The Living Jarboe or simply Jarboe
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, composer
Recent release: Jarboe's re-issue of her 1987 album skin blood women roses is out via Consouling Sounds.
Recommendations: Everything Coltrane …
“Every Time We Say Goodbye” performed by John Coltrane (on the ‘My Favorite Things’ album).
The (non-denominational) Rothko Chapel which has fourteen Mark Rothko paintings (located in Houston, Texas).
If you enjoyed this interview with Jarboe and would like to find out more, visit her official website. It contains a wealth of information and will take you to all of her social media accounts.
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?
I developed an interest in music as a child because my father played the Hammond Organ and the acoustic guitar and also had a wonderful singing voice. I had lessons for years in voice and organ and guitar before I left home.
I started writing original music when I was in college. This was encouraged and also came naturally to me. So this is why I was drawn to music.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
I’m in the “evoking of states of mind response” to music. My approach is intuitive.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
My development has been one of listening to my intuition and following it in all of the above.
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.
Identity is fluidity. I’ve been called a shape-shifter, a channeler, a seeress … I know that a door may open to a corridor of discovery.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
All encompassed into Reflecting.
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”?
“Architecture” in music with current day sampling and also classical and jazz and other styles of compositions throughout time that reference other pieces of music - is part of the new and the old dialogue between musicians.
In those ways, music of the future and continuing a tradition are the same.
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?
With the aim of awareness and vocabulary expansion and knowing the body: Studying music. Singing in choirs. Listening to a wide variety of music. Reading books. Watching films. Practicing awareness. Practicing meditation. Practicing yoga. Running. Lifting weights. Being courageous.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I wake up early and do ten or more miles on the bike. I do deep breathing and yoga. I have water throughout the day and take vitamin supplements. I have vegetables and salads every day.
I spend an hour reading. If I work on music, I begin playing the keyboard and let my ear shape a composition that then brings lyrics. If I begin a drawing or a painting, I let it express itself through the movement of my hands. Both of these are from awareness even, if rising from the subconscious.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
A particularly special live performance was in Swans on the song “I Crawled” (released on the Swans Are Dead album).
I visualized this performance to be one of transformation through stages of exploration and annihilation and rebirth.
I interpreted this through several personae from “wandering” in a fragile vulnerability to a violent “possession”. My voice goes from breathy and spoken, then into “singsongy” little girl lost, then into heavy sub voice brutality.
All three personae are performance based from the body, not from outboard effects.
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?
Working with other musicians is good for releasing the urge to control. Letting go of control can develop fluidity and nourish one’s own musical output. Working with others has taught me to keep an open mind to an approach that develops in an unexpected way.
I think collaborating with many musicians of different skills and styles is especially important in the early stages of one’s development as it expands the musical vocabulary. These days I do one or two collaborations a year even if one song, yet I mostly write and record alone on a solitary path of self discovery / love.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I have been told many times by my listeners that what I do helps them. I think in this way it can be said that my work offers emotional support and music itself is a type of service provider to society.
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?
This support to help deal with life events through creative output has been a component throughout my own life via the feedback I have received.
In my own experience, the more personal I am in my work, the more universal then is the experience for others. There is also strength in one’s willingness to be vulnerable.
There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Music enhances the function of the brain.
Both instrumental music and music with voice create chemical reactions and release endorphins so moods and emotions are changed. Television and films have always used music in a scientific way if you apply this cause and effect.
Ultimately the reveal in that studied case is calculated engagement manipulation.
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?
Both making a great cup of coffee and writing and performing a piece of music require a level of skill no matter how relative and/or open to interpretation one interprets “skill.”
Through music, I go into a much deeper space than I do in so-called mundane tasks. Yet when doing every day tasks, I am frequently absorbed in a creative process in my thoughts that won’t actualize until later.
This means there is actually no division but unification. Music is always there in my consciousness.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
I’d say that audio frequencies create a chemical reaction in the body. The neurological center is stimulated by a path of synapses and neurons and brain plasticity