Name: Manja Ristić
Occupation: Violinist, sound artist, curator, researcher
Current Release: Manja Ristić's Kairos & the Dwellers is out now on forms of minutiae.
Taro As Colour by Ithell Colquhoun – a study on the psychological resonance of colours. Find it here.
Music by Richard Barrett, from his astonishing opus for this occasion, I am suggesting a collaboration with ELISION Ensemble and a solo performance by Peter Neville. Find it here.
poetry by Bejan Matur, a Kurdish poet and writer from Turkey. If you are interested to hear a few recent words by Bejan about her work find here an interview given for the Poet Magazine- Find it here.
If you enjoyed this interview with Manja Ristić, visit her website for a deeper look at her work. Or follow her on Facebook and soundcloud for music and current updates.
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?
My music education started early, at the age of 6, and was very focused on classical music and performing the violin. By the age of 24 I finished two Academies (FMU – Belgrade, and RCM – London). Classical music structured my musical being.
Sometime in early adolescence I started discovering improvisational music and felt a strong attraction toward avant-garde arts. Belgrade's electronic music scene at the end of the 90s changed my sociable context (in the sense of belonging to the music scene), taking me from the traditional and hermetic classical milieu to the open and progressive artistic (post-war) scene. Improvisational music took over, slowly transforming into inter-media and interdisciplinary sound arts.
In this complex journey and in a particularly destabilized socio-cultural environment, my strongest influences were my friends and mentors, such as cellist Ivana Grahovac, or composer Jasmina Mina Mitrušić, and later in London my violin professor Dona Lee Croft.
My passion for music and sound is rooted in inexhaustible curiosity and openness and I believe what drew me to it is the transcendental aspect of it. Or to be more precise, the multidimensionality of its transformational energy traits.
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?
Striving toward highest aesthetics in classical music performance generated this solid but also paradoxical ability, to attune myself to a complex musical structure in great detail while at the same time creating a unique interpretation. Emulating others, especially in instrumental performance is a crucial phase of learning how to extend mental skills.
On the other hand, music as such can be stripped to become technical constructs that can produce very satisfying, even inspiring performances. That is why we have many extremely young performers capable of giving an emotionally mature performance, while the truth lies in the people who taught them the technicalities around it.
What can not be extracted from these constructs and “emulations” is the transformative power of music that asks for deeper psychological and a further transposed psycho-physical engagement which is well-rooted in one’s ability to handle energy traits both internally and externally. For many performers, these are semi-automatic processes, again. They fully depend on emotional maturity, cognitive development, and both intellectual and psychological articulation. I like to believe that this aspect (of mastering abstract communication through energy permutation) is the core-philosophical environment from which I am nourishing creative ideas, and which perhaps made me transition from an interpreter to a composer.
My artistic development was/is quite complex, and was/is unrolling in a complex socio-cultural environment (including extremes such as growing up during the civil war). It was/is marked by radical changes, although I subjectively observe it as nothing more than an ongoing process, switching from classical music interpretation to improvisational performance, maturing through a strong impetus toward conceptual thinking and landing on the sonic ecologies and sound related interdisciplinary research.
I don’t think I am interested in developing a unique voice, but rather aiming to be deeply involved in interacting, with the past, present, and possibly the future, and in that way deconstructing the buffer zone between the artist and her work, and constantly melting them into a cohesive way of living.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I consider identity transformative and infinite in both a social and self-conscious sense. It considers openness, integrative skills, and both a critical and creative mind.
In the creative process, identity behaves as a membrane, which supports both form and methodology. But it also brings the value of personal evolution to the table, for some creators' identity reflects intuitively, for others it can be rooted in awareness specificity and even shaped through some sort of spiritual practice or individualized approach to it. I am leaning more toward the second group I think.
Both fluidity and constant questioning are strong pillars regarding my identity evolution. Creativity then mirror-stresses or challenges this constant interplay between old and new identity constructs.
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?
This is quite complex for me since I spent most of my life mastering a classical instrument. What could be called specificity is a moment when I felt a strong need to become a multi-instrumentalist, also turning toward the exploration of unconventional instruments. Once this barrier was broken, I naturally moved toward investigating sonic traits of found objects, to finally land on most abstract acoustic sources such as electrical signals, magnetism, found sounds, and field recording. I use very simple tools, constantly reducing myself to a minimum of means, in this way giving space and more substance to the concepts and ideas to materialize, since I believe that those have a greater impact than aesthetics.
The switch from performing to active listening made quite a concrete influence on my choice of tools. And further conditioned creative outputs.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
As an example, the moment I discovered the power of an acoustic signal, electronic effects sort of lost their purpose in my electro-acoustic performance. With the custom-made integrated pick-up on my violin, I discovered the kind of sonic abundance which pedals were lacking. It culminated in the diversity of noise I found through extended techniques, that pushed me further to develop my own improvisational language.
Transitioning from improv and experimental performance to sonic ecologies then made a new step, when I concentrated more on the relations between sound and space and started employing contact microphones, hydrophones, and field recording as the main tools. So we can say that basically amplification was a game-changer for me.
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?
With what I have behind me in a sense of a musical career in a several different fields it is hard to make a distinction which of many ways to collaborate works better.
What I am sure of is that one fantastic way of collaborative creation is living and working together in a controlled environment and for a slightly prolonged amount of time. Yes, there are people you certainly don’t want to live with. But for me without a deeper connection built over time and without sharing life experience, collaborative art can not root in time and space and the outcome will be impersonal.