Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
(JC) Routine! Well, it really varies from day to day. I live a project-based life, so some weeks / months are more regularly scheduled with big projects, and others are a chaotic scramble! Definitely prefer night-time work to waking up early. A great joy in life is not setting an alarm clock.
(MSH) Routine sounds lovely, but is out of my current scope and lifestyle. However, every day absolutely starts with coffee. As a freelancer I am working on various projects every week if not day, so it is a constant cycle of working on different material and projects … and drinking more coffee.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
(JC) When making our record, Recordings from the Åland Islands, the approach was a mix of live performance, improvisation, and more traditional studio recording techniques. It was really important to capture the feeling of the recording more so than a perfect take.
Some of my favorite records are Miles Davis Get up With it, Franco Battiato’s Fetus and Clic, David Behrman’s On the Other Ocean and Unforseen Events. All of them, to me, have a combination of live-ness, human-ness, and structure / composition. You can hear the air in the room.
I was recently listening to a great episode on dublab where Frosty interviews people about Jon Hassell’s legacy and I loved hearing more about his process of multi-tracking every live performance.
[Read our David Behrman interview]
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?
(JC) A significant amount of the links I share or receive via text are youtube links to songs. I love it when a piece of music strikes someone so intensely that they immediately need to share it with you, or vice versa.
The other day, Ben Babbitt and I were losing it to the first track off of Yasuaki Shimizu’s Stardust. It’s so beautiful, you have to check it out. Ben said, “you can hear that he’s in love with music”. That’s the best thing you can hear. Also, when’s the last time you listened to AFX’s Analord 10? It’s too good! Would this be considered asynchronous communal listening?
(MSH) These days for me listening is largely communal, and creating is a bit of both. I think social interaction and the shared experience of listening or creating can’t be beat.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
(JC) Wow, this question is huge.
As an artist, I respond. I do feel there’s a responsibility that artists’ have to engage with the complexity that is the human experience, and I do feel that artists do that well. I remember a teacher once telling me, “not every work you make has to answer every question you have, rather than trying to say everything, say something.” That sentiment has definitely stuck with me.
In terms of musics’ role in society … well, I suppose the best I can answer this simply is to say, it’s not singular!
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?
(JC) I’m remembering a moment: It’s early spring in Chicago—basically still winter—the sky is so grey that it blends perfectly with the ground. The rain is light to light-medium. You’re walking to the bus without an umbrella, but your coat is water-resistant so only your face and hands are getting wet. You have your headphones in and the only sound you can hear is the peripheral raindrops and Peter Gabriel’s "Mercy Street". Just as you can start to feel the rain seeping through to your toes, the bus pulls up.
(MSH) Art is so fascinating and powerful because it can be used to express those big topics and feelings, and it is often the most impactful when you come across it without expecting it. Shirin Neshat’s "Turbulent" comes to mind for me as a work that I was very drawn to by its presentation and unique vocals- immediately made an impression with a strong and clear message.
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?
(JC) I’m curious if there’s an increase, or just more access / visibility given how connect our world has become.
With synthesis, it does feel like it exists at an intersection between science and nature. You’re bending electricity to have it resonate with humans. Going back to that album I mentioned, David Behrman’s Unforeseen Events, that work is incredible. The piece is made with ‘computer software designed to interact in real time with a solo performer.” You’re listening to a conversation between a human and a computer. It’s beautiful.
A lot of what I’m working with currently is sample-based. Vocal samples, brass, wind, and string samples all manipulated via synthesis. It’s been a really rewarding approach because you will often discover new melodic or rhythmic motion from a captured performance. And some times it’s things that you could never physically play.
(MSH) I think compositions that have a specific concept to them can be really fascinating, whether it is focusing on a formula of different frequencies, creating different binaural beats, utilizing site-specific sample material … It is great to read about how people find something more “fact based’ they are drawn to and then figure out how to create something out of it in a field that I would consider more emotionally based.
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?
(JC) Making pizza is an art form that I spent a large part of the pandemic learning. Some might call that task mundane, but I believe it to be far from. Serving a pie into the oven is a performance, you only have one chance to nail it, and if it lands in a more ovular form, then you might cut the slices differently. The nuance of temperature, hydration levels, toppings, flour-type all factor into the piece. I think there’s a lot of music out there that focuses expressly on the mundane, the quotidian, the details, and feeding ones self.
When you ask about the expression of ‘music’ here, I can respond a few different ways: music as performance, music as a compositional idea (written), or music as a recording process. Each allow for infinite ways to express and it’s hard to say that it couldn’t or wouldn’t be express through my day-to-day tasks. This is all to say that the intention or the ambition is often different, but the subject matter may take any form.
(MSH) At first thought I was considering a difference between the two, but then thought of a series of reminders on mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh (https://www.mindfulnessbell.org/archive/tag/Plum+Village+gathas) which reminded me that with intentionality, anything can be sacred, creative, and musical.
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?
(JC) Going back to much of what I’ve previously responded to, I’m personally, drawn to the feeling of the music equally or more so than the composition, technique, etc … You can hear emotion in the air, it gets recorded. That’s often why a voice memo or a practice tape resonates so well with people, there’s a raw, pure energy that’s captured. It’s beautiful!
(MSH) Regardless if synthesized or vocalized, there is a human behind the making of it the music, which will always capture and create a connection between creator and listener.