In how much, do you feel, are sonic environments shaped by cultural differences – and in how much, vice versa, is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?
I believe very strongly in the idea we create discourses that form the objects of which they speak (thanks Foucault), so therefore one cannot exist without the other.
The role of an artist is always subject to change. What's your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
This is a personal position I feel. There is no universality, and in some respects the position you take as an artist does not always relay the same information to the audience. I like to think art still has a role to provoke and probe the ways in which we find ourselves living today. Like I said before about Wilderness Of Mirrors, this record is very much an opportunity to invite conversation about where we are headed in the West. What are we building for those that come after us in a socio-cultural way and moreover what are we leaving for future generations on this planet. At what point did we come to place the idea of a budget surplus above those of actual humans. The ideological policies we see being expressed demand our attention, we need to think more and recognise that the a-priori understandings we have grown up with and considered as stable in the second half of the 20th century are anything but stable. Nothing is static, everything is possible, it just requires us collectively to desire it enough and work at making change.
Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What's your view on the value of music today?
This is a massive question, and one that really is changing day to day. I think the simple answer when considering value is what we understand that term to mean. If we’re talking about a commoditised value, then music is really in a trough. If we refocus the possible meaning for value and look at it from a more cultural perspective, it’s a more interesting question. I think music is still profoundly meaningful for a great many people. But I do think it requires a kind of self control or focus or perhaps even methodology to reach a deepness of listening to music. There’s so much to listen to, all the time, both new and old music’s coming to light, it can be a pretty amazing and overwhelming encounter.
I know personally I am trying to spend more time listening to certain records – for example music from friends like Ben Frost or Xiu Xiu, I’ve purposefully spent a bunch of time listening to their latest offerings. John Chantler’s new solo for Room40 I spent a tonne of time listening too. And then there’s the old stuff, I have recently gone back to a bunch of old folkways recordings, and early SWANS and Ministry records, so pleasurable to listen to. And Scott Walker… I’ve been trying to give Scott2 and Tilt a heap of time lately. That kind of repeated, focused listening, it opens new worlds again and again for your ears. I think this is perhaps where the true value lies for a recorded document, it remains the same, you change and when you return to it you’re a new entity, a changed being and the music is heard again with a fresh richness.
Please recommend two artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.
Well I’ve mentioned both of these folks, so makes sense to elaborate on why.
J.A Baker – I think my love affair with the writing of J.A Baker is fairly well documented now. Baker wrote The Peregrine, a book that honestly woke me out of a slumber. His writing, attentive, misanthropic and roaming reminded me of the power of the word. When used in certain ways, the word opens a kind of imaginative possibility that is seductive to the point of expiration. The Peregrine still draws me in, I am that figure, unknown, longing to be the bird.
Scott Walker – Now this might seem like an obvious suggestion, but I think on close inspection Scott Walker symbolises something all creative folk must aspire to. He has successful transcended creatively. He’s matched periods of his life with music as a form of expression and exploration. He’s tirelessly (and fearlessly) pushed his work compositionally and lyrically into places many others would fear to tread. His records are like mirco-universes, chamber operas of the most peculiar and haunting kind. He asks us to give away pre-conception and expectation in favour of thrill, horror and occasionally fear. Few artists make my hair stand on end like Scott does.
Visit Lawrence English's website at lawrenceenglish.com