Man and machine
Scott Morgan doesn't write music with the intention of being remedial, but his compositions as Loscil are coveted by his fans for their healing, transcendent and calming qualities. Morgan is okay with this, in fact, these days he too values these qualities in his music as respite from his other noisier work projects. Born and raised in the saturated Pacific Northwest, Morgan's music shares the fluidity and warble of water but never becomes sodden. In fact, despite dipping into darker shades at times and never straying far from Csound (short for computer sound), Loscil's output remains ascendant, organic and emotive.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started writing songs and playing in bands at 13. Our school band teacher let us use the band room at lunch hour. My influences in those days were bands like The Clash and Velvet Underground. Early in my adult life I moved to Vancouver, played in many more bands and started studying music at university which lead to learning about electroacoustic and computer music.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
School was a big one for me. I had some great instructors who really opened up the world of composition, music study and practice. It really opened my mind and helped me structure and focus my passion for music making. Certainly hooking up with Kranky was also a pivotal moment. The fact that Joel (Kranky) liked my work and wanted to release it way back when, opened a lot of doors.
What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?
The computer is my main challenge at the moment. It has been central to my work as Loscil, yet I would like to find ways to break out of that. I don't think I'll ever abandon the computer completely and I certainly enjoy the process of composing and producing with it, but I also would really enjoy challenging myself to remove it from the equation and see what happens. I have only really tried this once with Loscil and I found it really rewarding and successful but I consistently return to the machine out of ease and habit.
What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
I usually start with raw sounds. I like to amass a small library of sounds from field recording, sampling, processing or whatever and grow pieces out of those sounds. Sometimes I like to challenge myself with a really small palette of sounds or even a single sound and grow other sounds out of that kernel through editing and processing.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
I wouldn't say I subscribe to the true school of improvisation as it might exist in jazz but I do enjoy allowing a certain amount of improvisation into my works both when performed live and recorded. My live mixes are rehearsed but essentially improvised and when I do perform with players, their parts are often a blend of written and improvised.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
I suppose I see the relationship as fundamental. But I would also include time. Really, I think we humans are mimickers and composition is really just an act of mimicking nature. Obviously, music has taken on a lot more cultural meaning than just that but in its barest, most essential form, composition is the act of mimicking sound as we hear it in our environment.
Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?
Personally, I think music should always have a component that reaches beyond "idea" and communicates on a gut level. Call it emotion, spirit, feeling, whatever. While I think lots of music can be, should be and will be programmatic in that it embodies and communicates ideas, narrative or tangible meaning, there has to be some hidden magic there that invites active listening. This is the only transparency I aim to put into my music. But really, there are no rules, so whatever works.
In how much, do you feel, are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences – and in how much, vice versa, is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?
While subjectivity will always play a part in our interpretations, I suppose I believe there are some universalities when it comes to music. Perhaps that's just because I was brought up with movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. These days - more than ever - it seems the "global village" adage is true. Perhaps it's a naive notion, but I’m just not sure cultural differences contribute that much to how artists and audiences work and perceive sound on a fundamental level.